HC Deb 10 June 1971 vol 818 cc365-7W
Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now make a statement about the future of the Sports Council.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The Government have decided to seek from Her Majesty the Queen a Royal Charter for the establishment of an independent Sports Council with executive powers. Her Majesty will also be asked to approve the grant of Royal Charters to new independent Sports Councils for Scotland and Wales which will replace the existing advisory bodies. This decision has been taken after careful consideration of all the factors and representations made.

It is the Government's intention to foster the development of sport in all its aspects, to stimulate the provision of more and better facilities, and to ensure that these, and those which already exist, shall be used to their fullest capacity. The Sports Council has a leading part to play in this; but it is not enough for the Sports Council merely to advise. Accordingly, the Government have decided to enhance the Council's status, give it independence and extend its role, so that it may be enabled to take positive action to further this policy.

The members of the Sports Council, which will include Scottish and Welsh representatives, will be appointed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales. I am pleased to be able to announce that Dr. Roger Bannister has accepted my right hon. Friend's invitation to become Chairman on a part-time basis.

Exchequer aid will be given to the new Sports Council to carry out its tasks and help to meet the growing needs of sport. Parliament will be asked to provide additional funds for this purpose. The new Council's functions will include the provision of appropriate grants for sporting organisations, activities and projects; assistance to British representative teams competing in international sports activities and the handling of links with international and foreign sporting bodies; the provision and management of national sports centres; and the forging of closer sporting links with and among local authorities, the Armed Services, private enterprise and the large spectator sports.

The new Scottish and Welsh Sports Councils, whose members will be appointed by the respective Secretaries of State, will be responsible for sports matters in Scotland and Wales, including the administration of grant aid.

The new Sports Councils will have discretionary powers to make grants to local authority sports projects of a specialist nature or of wider than local significance. Direct grant aid from Government sources for the capital provision of purely local club facilities will, in general, be discontinued, but the funds now used for this purpose will continue to be available to the Sports Councils, which will have discretion to make such local grants in special circumstances.

It is intended to retain the nine regional Sports Councils in England, with certain extensions of their functions. The new structure will also include arrangements for governing bodies and other national sports and recreational organisations, as a group, to advise the Sports Council and be represented on its membership. Detailed arrangements will take some time to complete, but I hope that the new Sports Councils will become operative before the end of the year.

I should like to pay tribute to the valuable work the present Sports Council has done in the six years of its existence. On behalf of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, I would also like to pay tribute to the work of the existing Advisory Sports Councils for those countries.

I shall be inviting the C.C.P.R., which has done such good work for many years, to join in setting up a working party to consider its place, and the role of its staff, in the new arrangements.