HC Deb 01 March 1999 vol 326 cc723-4
3. Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North)

When the new opportunities fund will be able to accept applications in respect of out-of-school-hours activities. [72090]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

The new opportunities fund was formally launched on 29 January. Applications for the out-of-school-hours child care programme will be invited in early March and the out-of-school-hours learning activities programme will open for applications in early April.

Dr. Gibson

Will my right hon. Friend tell us what steps he is taking along with colleagues to engender enthusiasm among the teaching profession for out-of-school initiatives? Will he also encourage the teaching of politics, particularly of the left-wing sort, in the after-school clubs, to prevent for ever in Norwich such phrases as "There's no racism here"?

Mr. Smith

There is already enormous enthusiasm in schools throughout the country for the out-of-school initiatives, and many local communities and schools are champing at the bit to get in their applications. As for the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I am afraid that I cannot give him comfort on the teaching of any one political view in the after-school clubs. However, I very much hope that the clubs will include a wide variety of learning activities as well as sport and drama, all of which help greatly to fulfil the development of individual children.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the amount of the "raid"—his word—to bolster the new opportunities fund at the expense of existing good causes, including sport and the caring charities, will be fully £3.7 billion by 2005? Does he understand that that raid simply replaces core Government spending responsibilities?

Mr. Smith

No, and no. I do not recognise the £43 billion figure that the hon. Gentleman cites. He will know that it is firmly expected that each of the existing good causes for the arts, sport, charities and heritage will receive £1.85 billion during the present franchise of the lottery. That is what they were promised at the outset—in fact it is better—and that is what they will receive.

Mr. Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston)

I recall my right hon. Friend in 1998 praising the value of children's play, saying that he would get support not only from his Department but from other Departments. What progress has been made to date?

Mr. Smith

We have already ensured that a number of lottery distributors, including the Sports Council, the heritage fund and the National Lottery Charities Board will be able to fund children's play initiatives—indeed, those bodies are already doing so. We have issued a leaflet to organisations involved in children's play to explain how they can gain access to those funds and, as part of the next round of new opportunities fund initiatives, we have proposed a green spaces and sustainable communities initiative, which will specifically include funds earmarked for children's play.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

Can the Secretary of State ensure that such provision is available for people who live in rural as well as those in urban areas? The difficulties of children in rural areas are, first, that there are fewer people with whom to participate; secondly, unit costs are higher; and, thirdly and most importantly, it is difficult to get to and from the school and home. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that his programme tackles those issues?

Mr. Smith

Yes. The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely valid point. Like the other lottery distributors, the new opportunities fund has a duty, under the new directions that I have issued, to pay particular attention to the needs of areas of social deprivation, which specifically include such areas in rural as well as urban settings.