HC Deb 27 July 1998 vol 317 c10
9. Mr. Michael J. Foster (Worcester)

What steps he has taken to encourage the participation in sport of people with disabilities. [50775]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Tony Banks)

The English Sports Council is working with the Government to change the culture and structure of sport to ensure that all sports providers offer a wide range of opportunities to people with disabilities. People with disabilities must be able to choose when and how they wish to participate, and opportunities should be provided for people with disabilities to be consulted, represented and employed at all levels of sport.

Mr. Foster

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he join me in congratulating the people who work with the many voluntary bodies, such as Worcester disability sports group and Cheslyn Hay Otters, which not only encourage people with disabilities to participate in sport, but help them to achieve and excel in sport?

Mr. Banks

Yes, I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the disability groups in his constituency. The English Sports Council works through the National Development Agency for Disabled Sports, which serves as a first-stop shop, providing information and advice nationally and regionally. Encouraging excellence for sportsmen and sportswomen with disabilities is a considerable priority for the Government. On Wednesday, I shall be at the launch of the football task force report on disabled access to football grounds and, on Thursday, I shall be in Leicester to open the world cup football championship for those with learning disabilities—if anyone wants to see some excellent football, they should come along. There are some tremendously skilled sportsmen and sportswomen out there; the mere fact that they have disabilities is no bar to their performing at the highest international level.

Mr. Tom Levitt (High Peak)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Disability Rights Commission, which was announced last week, is a major step forward for disabled people in terms of access to sport, as it will guarantee access, not only to employment, but to goods and services? Will he assure the House that his Department will work closely with the commission to ensure that disabled people's rights to access to sport are promoted?

Mr. Banks