HC Deb 14 April 1976 vol 909 cc565-7W
Mr. Cartwright

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what conclusions he has reached on the proposals for regional sport and recreation councils which were the subject of his Department's consultation letter of 29th May 1975; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Denis Howell

After extensive consultations I have decided to promote the establishment of Regional Councils for Sport and Recreation, as successor bodies to the Regional Sports Councils. The new councils will provide a forum for consultation among local authorities and user and other affected interests, assisted by the relevant government agencies and Departments, in relation to sport and all forms of outdoor recreation; and, in particular, will develop regional recreational strategies to serve as a framework for the development of policies and proposals in statutory structure and local plans.

The councils will be fully autonomous bodies, subject to direction neither by Government itself nor by agencies of Government; but their rôle will be purely consultative and advisory and they will not infringe in any way the statutory duties of other agencies and authorities. Nor will their establishment affect existing arrangements whereby local authorities deal directly with the Sports Council, the Countryside Commission and other bodies on specific matters.

I have placed in the Library a more detailed statement of the terms of reference of the new councils and of the way in which they will be constituted. In preparing that statement I have had particular regard to the need to achieve a satisfactory and balanced representation of interests, while at the same time allowing scope for variation in the light of local circumstances; and to considerations of efficiency and economy.

I intend that secretarial support shall, in due course, be provided jointly by the Countryside Commission and the Sports Council. However, this must await the establishment of regional offices of the Countryside Commission—a development which must regrettably be deferred in present economic circumstances. In the meantime, the Sports Council have agreed to provide full secretarial services for the new councils, keeping closely in touch with Countryside Commission staff on matters concerning them.

I shall shortly announce the names of the chairmen-designate of the new councils who will initiate the necessary consultations leading up to the formation of their councils. The Regional Sports Councils will continue to operate until the new councils are ready to start work.

I should like to take this opportunity of paying a warm tribute to all those who have contributed to the invaluable work done by the Regional Sports Councils over the past decade and more. They have shown us the way forward and I am confident that the new councils will be able to build effectively on the foundations that they have laid.

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