HL Deb 18 July 1983 vol 443 cc977-8

2.45 p.m.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have in mind, in conjunction with local authorities and private consortia, to advise and, where necessary, assist leisure centres to ensure their most efficient use in sporting, recreational and artistic activities.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the Government are anxious to ensure that all leisure centres are managed in the most efficient way, including the use of private sector expertise where appropriate. The Sports Council is always willing to help and advise local authorities and private consortia on the best ways of achieving this aim, and is also able to give grants to help operators improve their facilities.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that helpful Answer. Is he aware—I am sure he is—of the continuing problems of leisure these days, and thus the need for properly managed leisure centres to encourage sport, the arts and everything else thus connected? Can we be assured that this is not a kind of "Yes, Minister" plea for large public funds? Will he elaborate a little on the amount of contact between the Sports Council and these leisure centres, bearing in mind the large grants which private funds are making into leisure centres sports and the arts generally? Finally, has he any news of the EEC Development Fund in this respect?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, as far as the third part of my noble friend's supplementary question is concerned. I have no information on the EEC grant, but I shall write to him. I should like to make the general point that sport is important to the whole community and local authorities must continue to play a major part in the provision of local leisure facilities. However, having said that, I hope that all local authorities will look at their facilities carefully and will always ensure that they are managed efficiently. This may mean opening such centres for rather longer hours than they would normally wish to do; it may mean attracting grants for refurbishment, for example, from the Sports Council; or it may mean doing the same thing with a mix of private enterprise and other parts of the public sector—for example, longer use of sports facilities in schools.

Lord Sandford

My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask my noble friend two questions. First, does he agree that when the district audit has completed the study that it is doing in this general field of the provision and management of leisure centres we shall be in a better position to assess these matters? Secondly, would he provide us with a fairly comprehensive Written Answer to a Question, if I were to ask one after the Recess, on progress (which I believe to be all too slow) in the dual use of educational buildings for leisure and recreation?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I cannot comment on the district auditor's report—a document which is still not completed, let alone published. On my noble friend's second point, yes, certainly, if he would like to put down a Question for Written Answer I should be delighted to answer it as fully as possible.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, will the noble Lord give an assurance that in the disposal of Forestry Commission land with a substantial recreational facility, these will be preserved in the plans for disposal?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, with respect, that is rather a different question because leisure centres entail buildings.