HC Deb 20 December 1999 vol 341 cc509-11
5. Mr. Gareth R. Thomas

(Harrow, West): What plans he has to increase support for disabled sport. [101999]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey)

Through our Sport for All policy, we are determined to promote sport for people with disabilities. In this financial year, more than £1 million of Exchequer funding will go to sport for people with disabilities, which is an increase of about 28 per cent. In addition, from November 1997 to April 2000, the British Paralympics Association will have received more than £1.8 million from the world-class performance funding programme.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Will she join me in congratulating the local partnership of Harrow council, Harrow Mencap and Harrow special olympics committee on successfully securing Millennium Commission funding to develop a new and expanded Harrow special olympics in September next year aimed at disabled children and children with learning difficulties in my constituency and the neighbouring area? Is not that precisely the type of partnership that we should encourage to promote access to Sport for All? What other action has she taken, and what further action does she propose to take, to promote such partnerships?

Kate Hoey

I certainly want to congratulate everyone in Harrow involved in that partnership to ensure that Sport for All really means sport for all, including people with disabilities. Since I became Minister, I have made a point of visiting as many of the disabled events around the country as possible, including the cerebral palsy European athletic championships. I was pleased about the launch of the English Federation for Disability Sport. For the first time, disability sport is speaking with one voice. A united voice for disability sport will be heard, especially by the Government.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Like me, the Minister has had a long-standing commitment to helping with disabled sport. Is she embarrassed by the fact that, before she became Minister for Sport, the Government's raid on the national lottery resulted in sport's total share of lottery funding falling from 28 per cent. to 18 per cent? Is she concerned that the Government's obsession with their pet project is having a knock-on effect on disabled sport, which is dear to her heart as it is to mine? Will she ensure that that cut is reversed in the Government's future programme? Will she also try to ensure that, in future national sporting projects, including the Wembley fiasco, proper facilities are available for disabled sportsmen and sportswomen?

Kate Hoey

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman has been, because he should be aware that more than £1.9 billion from the national lottery has gone into sport over the past five years. Money from the new opportunities fund is going to after-school activities, which include sport. People involved in sport at the grassroots feel much more confident about its future because of national lottery funding and because the Government are determined to make sport a huge priority among our other priorities. Within that, disabled sport—about which the hon. Gentleman, like all hon. Members, feels strongly—will be protected.

Mr. Andrew Reed (Loughborough)

Does the Minister recognise that sport for the disabled—along with, probably, many other kinds of British sport—is particularly successful in terms of the winning of gold medals? Should we not ensure that people take up sport as early as possible, especially in our schools? Will the Minister ensure that the schools co-ordinators who will be appointed later this year and next year have a specific responsibility to ensure that sport is played by disabled people from an early age? Will she also ensure not only that such sport is played between schools but that facilities are available locally so that disabled people can continue to play subsequently?

Kate Hoey

My hon. Friend is right: what happens in our schools is the bedrock, or foundation, of our country's sporting future. I hope that the co-ordinators will consider their job to be promoting sport between schools throughout the country and ensuring that sport for disabled young people is just as high a priority as sport for everyone else.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

We appreciate the money that has been invested to help those with disabilities to participate in sport, and the Minister will know of the thrill felt by people, young and old, who now have that opportunity. In her capacity as Minister for Sport, is she keeping in touch with those in devolved regions to ensure that equal opportunities prevail throughout the United Kingdom?

Kate Hoey

The hon. Gentleman is right: it is crucial for all of us in the United Kingdom to work together to ensure that people with disabilities can fulfil their potential. Part of the role of the "sports cabinet" is to bring together representatives of different parts of the United Kingdom, and to prevent the difficulties envisaged by the hon. Gentleman. The aim is to unite in ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities, and we are clearly going to do that.

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