§ Mr. Spring
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many school playing fields were sold(a) between 1979 and 1997 and (b) from May 1997 to date; and how these figures were collated. 
§ Mr. Charles Clarke
The Department did not collect information in the form requested before 1 October 1998, when section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 came into force. However, sports bodies suggest that under the previous Government 40 playing fields a month were being sold off. Since 1 October 1998 an average of 8 applications a month have been approved. Because of the tightening up of the rules, local authorities are usually only putting forward proposals which meet our very strict criteria which have been further strengthened by new guidance we published on 7 June.