HC Deb 22 November 1999 vol 339 cc325-6
1. Mr. Phil Sawford (Kettering)

What action his Department has taken to promote the role of arts and sport in tackling social exclusion. [98967]

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

In the spring of this year, we published the policy action team report, which demonstrated with a host of practical examples how effective arts and sports activity can be in tackling social exclusion. Last month I held a national conference on social inclusion to discuss with local government and partner organisations how the Department and others in the culture and leisure fields can best follow up the work of the policy action team. The Department, our sponsored bodies, local authorities, lottery distributors and the voluntary and private sectors will all play their part.

Mr. Sawford

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on promoting the role of arts and sport in combating social exclusion. Is he aware that there are many examples of that already happening and will he join me in congratulating Kettering rugby football club on its fifth annual mini-tournament, held yesterday, which involved more than 750 young people between the ages of seven and 12 from all sections of our community? Will he consider joining us at next year's tournament?

Mr. Smith

I certainly echo my hon. Friend's congratulations to Kettering rugby football club on what was clearly an excellent event. I shall need to consult my diary to see whether I can take up his kind invitation. This is indeed a good example of how arts and sport can play a real role helping the process of social cohesion and regeneration.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

Is the Secretary of State aware that throughout the country museums, galleries and libraries are under unprecedented pressure, with many teetering on the brink of closure? Will he concede that access to and participation in sport by young people is imploding under this Government, with 30 per cent. fewer physical education teachers being trained and, as Sport England has shown, the highest number of playing fields under threat since records began?

Mr. Smith

That is a bit rich from a party that presided over the selling off of well over 5,000 playing fields during its time in office. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has failed to notice the £15 million of funding that we have put in place for the designated museums throughout the country through the new challenge fund: the first time ever that national funding has been made directly available to regional museums in this country.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has also failed to notice the £270 million that is going to help libraries through the new opportunities fund. Perhaps he should get his facts right before asking such questions.

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