§ Mr. Whittingdale
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport pursuant to her statement on 15 November,Official Report, column 336, what the basis was of her statement that 5,000 school playing fields were sold off between 1979 and 1997; and how many school playing fields have been sold since 1997. 
§ Tessa Jowell
No data were collected centrally on how many school playing fields there were in either 1979 or 1997. My estimate of about 5,000 playing fields comes from two sources. First, the Central Council of Physical Recreation published a paper in 1984 "Sports Fields at Risk", which indicated that some 3,630 areas of recreation land recorded on Land Registers were at risk 375W of disposal. A more meaningful way of quantifying the area under threat at that time is to translate this figure into about 5,000 school playing fields of sports pitch size.
Second, the then Department for Education and Employment estimated that an average 40 playing fields a month were sold subsequent to the previous Government encouraging the disposal of playing fields in April 1996 by relaxing the Local Authority Capital Finance Regulations. Even if disposals had been running at only half this rate from 1979–1997, the total would have approached 5,000 disposals.
Data collected under this Government were announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport on 10 June this year, Official Report, column 1006W.