HC Deb 13 September 2004 vol 424 cc972-5
6. Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley)(Lab/Co-op)

If she will make a statement on the launch of Sport England's Active Places online database. [187897]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn)

Active Places is a free-to-use, comprehensive online database of sports facilities in England. It provides details of more than 10,000 facilities, including swimming pools, synthetic pitches, health and fitness centres and ski slopes. Active Places was officially launched on 11 July, and I invited every Member of the House to attend a demonstration of it at Room C at 1 Parliament Street between 10.30 am and 1.30 pm on 14 July. A flyer was also produced, telling Members how to access the database on their constituents' behalf. So every Member was informed, but unfortunately only a few could attend the demonstration. Doubtless it was pressing parliamentary business that prevented them from attending, but I have no doubt that Sport England will set up other demonstrations for any Member who requires one.

Ms Munn

This is an excellent database that provides lots of information, but as it is developed, can consideration be given to asking providers of sports facilities to clarify the cost of such facilities, because cost is often a key factor in families, children and young people deciding whether they want to access them?

Mr. Caborn

Very much so, and we shall obviously act on any such constructive suggestions. As I have said, the number of facilities listed on the database—involving some 10,000 locations—is limited, but the database will be continuously updated and we shall add further locations.

There has been debate about the closure of playing fields and various facilities, and this database will show for the first time ever what facilities we have, where the hot spots are and where we need to invest. In fact, all Governments have previously been investing in a strategic vacuum, because we have lacked the basic data that show where we really need to invest in sports facilities. This database will be one of the tools to give us that up-to-date information, so that we can make informed decisions on such investment.

Jim Knight (South Dorset)(Lab)

I, too, have visited the website. It is excellent in as far as it goes, but it misses out certain key sports—in particular, those that are actively pursued in my constituency. The Minister has visited the skateboarding centre in Weymouth and the sailing centre. Indeed, sailing is the Olympic sport in which we were most successful, and I am lucky enough to represent four of this year's medallists. Is there any prospect of sailing, windsurfing and skateboarding being included on the website?

Mr. Caborn

I thought that my hon. Friend was going to talk about Olympic sailing centres—I think that they are on the website—but he refrained from doing so; nevertheless, I take his point. This is the first attempt to compile a Domesday Book of sporting facilities, so that we know what we have and where it is. We will continue to expand the website, and if any Member wants to write to Sport England explaining where, in their view, there are information deficiencies, please do so. This is a partnership, and we want to ensure that everyone in England has access to all the facilities and to up-to-date information, particularly through the website. Constructive comments and criticism will be welcomed.

8. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)(Con)

What the implications for North Yorkshire will be of London's Olympic bid. [187899]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

The hon. Lady will be aware that Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency, encouraged the Government to back the bid for the 2012 Olympics. We will work with it and with RDAs throughout the country to ensure that North Yorkshire and the whole UK will benefit.

Miss McIntosh

I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady for that reply. The constituency of her colleague the Minister for Sport and Tourism is going to get some magnificent facilities, and I wonder what lies in store for North Yorkshire. Can we look forward to a 50 m pool or an athletics track in Thirsk, Bedale, Boroughbridge, Easingwold or perhaps Poppleton? Otherwise, we will have to travel a remarkably long distance: to Sheffield, or indeed to London.

Tessa Jowell

I thank the hon. Lady and I know that there will be an effort, conducted under the auspices of Yorkshire Forward, to bring the whole region together and ensure that it is proactive in marketing its benefits, perhaps attracting holding camps and other facilities for visiting teams. The opportunity for initiative is there to be taken across the whole of the UK. I would urge regional development agencies throughout the UK to take the initiative as Yorkshire Forward has done.

Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby)(Lab)

I remind my right hon. Friend that in Euro 1996, during the successful football championships, North Yorkshire was used to house some of the competitors. I urge her to ensure that the RDA and tourism bodies learn the lessons from that particular experience, bearing it in mind that some of the best hotels and facilities are located on the Yorkshire coast.

Tessa Jowell

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there are opportunities for hosting preparation camps, and enormous wider tourism opportunities, already demonstrated in respect of the north-west on the back of the Commonwealth games. There will be something like 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs generated by the Olympics, and the opportunity extends to firms across the country to tender for that work. The opportunities are there: the important thing, once we know that we have won the bid, is to seed them.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley)(Con)

Much as I applaud the lottery funding of athletes in North Yorkshire, may I ask the Secretary of State if she agrees that it is amazing and a disgrace that, here in London, the National Gallery's fantastic east wing project is currently being funded almost entirely by non-UK nationals, while £2.6 billion of unspent cash—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is miles away.

9. John Barrett (Edinburgh, West)(LD)

If she will make a statement on the London bid to host the 2012 Olympic games. [187900]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

London's presentation to the International Olympic Committee during the games in Athens went very well, and our Prime Minister was the only Head of Government of the 2012 candidate cities to be there. The bid is making excellent progress with planning permission granted last Thursday for the Olympic park in the lower Lea valley. The Olympic applications are some of the largest ever to have been considered in the country, but it took just eight months from the submission time, which is an incredible achievement and an excellent boost for our efforts internationally to sell the case for bringing the games to London.

John Barrett

One problem about the London bid identified by the International Olympic Committee is the lack of enthusiasm in the nations and regions about it. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that the far-flung nations and regions do not suffer as parts of Greece suffered this year? It was a particularly bad tourist season because people believed that Athens was overbooked, overpriced and overheated.

Tessa Jowell

The hon. Gentleman asks an important question. The bid team has addressed the importance of engaging people right across the UK through the establishment—under the leadership of Charles Allen, who made such a success of the Manchester games—of a nations and regions committee that will do just that. We need to spread the benefits of the bid all around the UK.

This is one of the rare issues where cross-party support is crucial, and we hope that it continues—we will be damaged without it—because we all recognise the fantastic benefits that the bid could bring to our country. Every single Member in the House can be an ambassador for our bid—in our constituencies, selling it to people young and old and to those who have never even turned on the television to watch sport before. Everyone has a fresh memory of the inspiration, created even by sitting and watching the television, that the Olympic games uniquely bring.

I sat in Athens to witness the opening ceremony, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism witnessed the closing ceremony. The Greeks' sense of celebration and pride in their city was palpable. It was wonderful to be part of it and I could not help imagining what it would be like if we had the games in London. That is what we have to strive for and, if we work together to achieve it, it is within our grasp.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)(Lab)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that London's bid would be immeasurably strengthened if we highlighted successful world championship events that have been held here in Britain? I draw her attention to the sterling efforts of the Badminton Association of England in rescheduling the world championships last year in Birmingham because of the SARS epidemic. The association demonstrated that even in such inauspicious circumstances a British sporting authority can run a world championship to great applause from everyone who participates, and especially those from countries in Asia. Will she use that example to strengthen our Olympic bid?

Tessa Jowell

I absolutely agree, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the particular efforts that she made to secure those world championships. It is exactly that kind of self-confidence that we need. We are a country whose towns and cities are able to stage world-class sporting events and make them a great success. She is right to say that bringing the badminton world championships here strengthened the prospects of our London bid.