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House of Commons

Monday 30 January 1995

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Competitive Sports

1. Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he is taking to encourage competitive sports among young people.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat): A priority of my current proposals for restructuring the Sports Council is to ensure that sports governing bodies develop and implement structured programmes for young people. My Department and the Department for Education are also looking at a number of other initiatives to ensure that young people take part in competitive sports in schools, and an announcement will be made in due course.

Mr. Marshall: Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the English cricketers on their magnificent victory, and wish the English rugby players every luck on Saturday so that they can show that they are good Europeans by trouncing the French? Does he agree that the message would be even better if in primary schools a greater emphasis was placed on competitive sports instead of on sports such as aerobics?

Mr. Sproat: I certainly echo my hon. Friend's congratulations to the England team; it was a magnificent performance. On the question of competitive sports in schools, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education are currently working together to produce what I hope will be some happy proposals.

Mr. Maxton: Does the Minister agree that the best place to encourage sport of all sorts--whether competitive or not--is within the schools, and that that can be done only by mobilising the enthusiasm, expertise and time of teachers? Does he agree, however, that the time when teachers could be exploited to take part and do those things in their own time, without being paid, has long gone, and that therefore he must look at a structure that will ensure that they are properly paid for the work that they do?

Mr. Sproat: Yes, I certainly agree that the best place for young people to learn is in schools, and I certainly agree that the co-operation and enthusiasm of teachers is extremely important--in fact, it is absolutely

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essential. As far as payment is concerned, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education.

Mr. David Evans: The Minister knows very well that the lot opposite do not believe in competition in anything, whether it is public utilities or school sports days. Can the Minister assure me that we will not have competition in volleyball and other sports like that, but real competition in football, cricket and rugby, so that we might build on the success that we had in cricket this very day?

Mr. Sproat: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It is quite interesting to consider that, of the schools attended by the England team, in Adelaide this week, half of them no longer play any cricket at all--it may be more; I will have to check that. My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the importance of proper competitive games in schools.

Disabled People (Arts)

2. Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what discussions he has had with the Yorkshire and Humberside regional arts board about improving arts opportunities and facilities for the disabled.

Mr. Sproat: The Government are committed to access to the arts for people with disabilities--as members of audiences, as performers and as employees. My Department works with the Arts Council in pursuit of that objective and the council liaises closely with individual regional arts boards.

Mr. Rooney: I thank the Minister for that reply, but does not he consider the work of Access for Disabled People to Arts Premises Today as extremely important and very good value for money? In those terms, does he agree that its grant of £43,000 last year was miserable?

Mr. Sproat: I agree that the work of the ADAPT trust is extremely important. Its grant last year went up by 10 per cent., which is something for which we should all be grateful.

Mr. Chris Smith: The Minister cannot be proud, however, of the fact that many arts facilities in Yorkshire, Humberside and elsewhere are not, as yet, fully accessible to disabled people. Nor can he be proud of the fact that the disability unit within the Arts Council was ended last year, as a direct result of Government cuts. Will he now give a guarantee that when the ADAPT grant comes up for renewal in June of this year, it will at the very least be kept at this year's level?

Mr. Sproat: I look forward to hearing what the various members of the trust have to say about the grant; we shall consider that on its merits. What the Arts Council did with its unit was entirely a matter for the council itself. It decided that, instead of one unit examining the issue of disability in the arts, all its departments should consider the issue. That is what is now happening, and I think it a very sensible way to proceed.

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Press Regulation

3. Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when he proposes to publish his White Paper on the regulation of the press.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Stephen Dorrell): The White Paper on privacy and media intrusion will be published when we have completed our consideration of the issues raised by the proposed criminal and civil remedies.

Sir David Knox: I commend my right hon. Friend's caution, but does he not think that the time has come for the White Paper to be published, especially in view of the low standards currently applied by many newspapers?

Mr. Dorrell: I certainly agree that the time for consideration must be drawing to a close. No purpose is served by indefinite delay, and I very much hope that we shall be able to present proposals in the not too distant future.

Mr. Soley: Is the Secretary of State saying that we really have reached the stage of drinking-up time in the last chance saloon?

Mr. Dorrell: No; I am saying that we are thinking about it.

Mr. Jessel: May I remind my right hon. Friend that, when the Select Committee on National Heritage considered privacy and the media two years ago, the Lord Chancellor personally gave evidence to the Committee and said that we should recommend the appointment of a press ombudsman?

Mr. Dorrell: My hon. Friend mentions one of many current proposals. As a member of the Select Committee, he will know that many ways of improving the performance of the press in respecting individuals' right to privacy have been suggested. It is not a matter of controversy in the media; indeed, it is written into the Press Complaints Commission code. The question is how that undertaking can be given more tangible form.

Disabled People (Access)

4. Ms Lynne: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans he has to meet groups representing disabled people in the near future to discuss access to buildings.

Mr. Dorrell: Ministers in my Department meet groups representing disabled people regularly. The most recent such meeting was between my noble Friend Lord Astor and the Holiday Care Service on 25 January. The Government's White Paper, "Ending Discrimination against Disabled People", makes it clear that disabled people will be consulted on the detailed implementation of its proposals. My Department will play an active part in that consultation process.

Ms Lynne: Is the Minister aware that access means not only the provision of ramps but the availability of information in Braille, audio descriptions and allowing people to take guide dogs to arts venues? Is he aware that training and employment opportunities in the arts

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for disabled people are also important? Does he agree that the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill is woefully inadequate in all those contexts?

Mr. Dorrell: I agreed with everything that the hon. Lady said until the last sentence. I do not agree that the Government's Bill is inadequate in dealing with the issues that she has correctly raised. She is right to emphasise that a disability policy in the area for which I am responsible must consider the rights of both employees and potential audiences; it must consider all the ways in which disabled people come into contact with sport, the arts and the national heritage. That is my Department's commitment.

Mr. Corbett: Is the Secretary of State aware of what some theatres, galleries and museums in London have done to provide tape guides, Braille signs and audio aids? Does he accept that, none the less, access to buildings, performances and exhibitions remains inadequate? Does he know, for example, that six out of 10 drama schools have no physical access for people with disabilities, and that some 40-odd colleges are little better in that regard?

What will the Secretary of State do to help provide more cash for organisation such as ADAPT and the arts and sports councils to end discrimination against people with disabilities? Will he also monitor progress made on access with the money allocated to good causes from the national lottery?

Mr. Dorrell: The hon. Gentleman rightly mentioned progress made by the museums sector in London. He might also have mentioned progress made by the national museums sector in the north-west. Museums and galleries on Merseyside, which are part of that sector, have set up a disability access group to implement priorities there, and the museum of science and industry in Manchester--which I visited before Christmas--has taken a number of steps to improve access to exhibitions of artefacts and processes. The progress is not confined to London, nor should it be.

In terms of resources to improve facilities for disabled people, the Sports Council distributes substantial quantities of money to the British Paralympic Association, the British Sports Association for the Disabled and to the United Kingdom Sports Association for People with Learning Difficulties. Therefore money goes specifically to assist access for the disabled.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the lottery is potentially a further new source of cash. That is why in his guidance to lottery distributors my predecessor emphasised the importance of the access-for-the -disabled theme and why I fully intend to carry forward that commitment.

Astley Castle

5. Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he will take to safeguard the future of Astley castle in Warwickshire.

Mr. Dorrell: Discussions on the future of Astley castle are taking place between the owner of the building, the local planning authority, English Heritage

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and the Landmark Trust. My officials are monitoring developments but I see no reason to intervene at this stage.

Mr. O'Brien: While I accept that discussions are going on with a view to finding a private sector solution to the problem of Astley castle, which is falling into dilapidation and is of national historic importance, does the Minister agree that private sector solutions have failed in the past, that it would be wrong for the burden to fall on the council tax payers of north Warwickshire of a castle that is of national importance, and that the Government must consider whether it is appropriate, if the private sector solution fails, to exercise their statutory ability to intervene and save that castle?

Mr. Dorrell: As the hon. Gentleman knows there are powers in the hands of the local authority and there are reserve powers vested in me to ensure that listed buildings are maintained to an acceptable standard that reflects their national importance. Local authority powers and those vested in the Secretary of State are intended to be reserve enforcement powers because the law makes it quite clear that the primary responsibility for maintaining listed buildings rests on the owner. It is to secure that outcome that negotiations are proceeding between the district council and the owner of the castle.

Training Centres

6. Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans he has to establish further training centres for national sporting excellence in cricket and other sports, along the lines of the Australian Cricket Academy.

Mr. Sproat: I am concerned that sporting structures should exist to enable our young sports men and women to reach their potential and I shall certainly be sharing the results of my recent fact-finding visit to Australia with the appropriate sporting bodies, including the cricket authorities.

Mr. Hawkins: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Given that today we are all celebrating our team's wonderful fightback and victory, does my hon. Friend agree that, if we, like the Australians, had a cricket academy, we might have won the first three tests as well and not simply be celebrating a victory after the opportunity of winning the series has gone? I thank my hon. Friend for his encouragement to the team as reported in The Daily Telegraph, because it has obviously been successful.

Mr. Sproat: I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. The way in which the England team has conducted itself after appalling injuries and the kind of vicious criticism to which it has been subjected is remarkable. I congratulate Mr. Atherton on his cool concentration and confidence. My hon. Friend asked about cricket academies. The cricket world is rather divided as to whether they help. There is already a cricket academy in Yorkshire and the MCC helps young cricketers in London. I shall certainly consider what Mr. Rod Marsh and others showed me in Adelaide to see whether we can use it to advantage.

Mr. Skinner: Why does not the Minister pay a special tribute to the two Derbyshire players, Malcolm

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and DeFreitas? Will he bear it in mind that there are training centres in every coalfield for competitive and individual sport? They are run by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, but with the privatisation of British Coal, every single village that has produced cricketers and footballers for England and for many clubs and counties throughout Great Britain has been placed in peril. I ask the Minister again whether he will guarantee that CISWO will be safe from the hands of those who have privatised the coal industry and whether he will ensure that those sporting areas are kept in our villages.

Mr. Sproat: The hon. Member raises an extremely good and important point. With my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, I have done everything I can to protect those facilities, and I continue to do so. I hope that an announcement will be made shortly. I had the pleasure of sitting between Mr. Malcolm and Mr. DeFreitas at the test match in Adelaide. They said that the most important single thing that I could do would be to ensure that cricket was played in schools again, and I agreed.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman: Is my hon. Friend aware that the sporting structures to which he refers already exist in Lancashire schools, which have produced players of the calibre of Atherton and Crawley? Will my hon. Friend please note and take heart from the fact that a number of young cricketers are coming up in those fine schools in the footsteps of Atherton and Crawley? Will my hon. Friend please urge other schools to take example from the excellent coaching that takes place in Manchester grammar school and Lancashire Royal grammar school, and to follow their example?

Mr. Sproat: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the success of Lancashire players and to the good things that happen in so many schools in Lancashire. We want even better things to come from schools everywhere.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: Does the Minister agree that, in the pursuit of excellence in sport, we should not leave out football? Although the incident involving Mr. Eric Cantona last week may have been shameful, we should not forget that football is the national game of the United Kingdom, and that it gives a considerable amount of pleasure to many people Saturday upon Saturday throughout the season?

Mr. Sproat: Yes. The hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point. Many people look up to footballers. I hope that the football authorities will deal in a proper manner with Mr. Cantona and others who are tempted to behave like him.

Mr. Pendry: Before the Minister proposes centres of sporting excellence along Australian lines, will he consider again the narrow focus that he proposes for the new sports councils of two or three dozen core sports? Surely centres of excellence can become effective only when set against the other Australian aim of sport for all--their aim should not, as he proposes, be sport for the few. Otherwise, he will marginalise many sporting groups, not least those for the disabled.

Mr. Sproat: The hon. Gentleman misunderstands what we are trying to achieve in the Sports Council. I

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do not want the Sports Council to spread itself too thinly--I think that it recognises about 117 different governing bodies of sport--but to concentrate on sport for young people and on elite sport and excellence. That does not mean that we shall not do a lot about other matters as well, but a little concentration by the Sports Council on those matters should help everyone.

Mr. Cormack: Does my hon. Friend accept that many people, including those who have served in the teaching profession, believe that coaching and supervising competitive sports are an integral part of the job and do not deserve extra pay?

Mr. Sproat: I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education will consider that view closely.

Tourism, London

8. Mr. Simon Coombs: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement on his plans to promote tourism to London.

Mr. Dorrell: London's performance in tourism is important both in itself and as the gateway to the rest of country. I therefore announced on 29 November increased funding for London, to be matched by the private sector.

Mr. Coombs: Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it remains the general policy of the Government to promote and to encourage the dispersal of visitors to all parts of the United Kingdom? If that is still the case, will he use his best endeavours to encourage bodies that are charged with responsibility for the promotion of tourism in parts of the United Kingdom outside London, to advertise and promote what they have to offer to visitors when they are in London, on the basis that it is a great deal cheaper to tell Americans about the rest of Britain when they are in London than when they are dispersed in America and the rest of the world?

Mr. Dorrell: My hon. Friend has taken an interest in the subject for a long time and he has got the point precisely right. The biggest audience of overseas visitors to the rest of the UK is people who, as part of their visit--it may be their first visit or part of a visit to London and the provinces--are in London. London as a tourist destination is an essential part of the success of our tourist industry. That is why, as the first stage in the development of our tourist strategy, we are seeking to reinforce the marketing of London as a tourist destination.

Mr. Austin-Walker: Does the Minister share my view that it is important that visitors to London should be encouraged to see sights on the fringes of London? Is he aware that 100,000 people a year visit the Thames barrier, which has been described as one of the eight modern wonders of the world and which is a superb advertisement for British engineering skills? Is he further aware that the National Rivers Authority proposes to close the visitors centre? Will he ensure that resources are made available not only to refurbish the exhibition there--it is now 10 years old--but to ensure that the centre stays open?

Mr. Dorrell: If the hon. Gentleman cares to write to me about the visitors centre at the Thames barrier, I

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shall be glad to examine the matter. The hon. Gentleman is of course right about promoting the development of tourist destinations on the London rim. Places such as Hampton court and Greenwich are major tourist attractions which are outside the centre of London, and the more visitors we can attract to them, the better pleased the Government will be.

Mr. Harry Greenway: Will my right hon. Friend do all he can to persuade visitors to London to stay on the outer rim rather than concentrating on hotels in Mayfair? They would be made welcome and comfortable in Northolt, Hanwell and other parts of the borough of Ealing and would find it easy to get into London during off-peak hours. Would not all involved benefit?

Mr. Dorrell: My hon. Friend raises an important point, which he makes in his own way. The key message for Londoners to take on board is the importance to London's economy of the tourist sector as a whole. Roughly 200,000 jobs in London depend directly on tourism, which contributes nearly £5 billion to the city's economy. It is therefore an important sector for us to develop.

Disabled People (Cinemas)

9. Mr. Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he is taking to improve access by disabled people to cinemas.

Mr. Sproat: The Government's Disability Discrimination Bill was introduced to Parliament on12 January 1995. It seeks to introduce a right of access for disabled people to goods, facilities and services, including cinemas.

Mr. Hanson: Is the Minister aware that, in a recent survey of 96 cinemas in London, only 22 were found to be accessible to disabled people, and that many disabled people now face the humiliation of being told that they are fire risks? Many of my hon. Friends share the view that the Disability Discrimination Bill does not go far enough. If the hon. Gentleman agrees with that assessment, what plans does he have to influence his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to ensure that the Bill allows disabled people to enter London cinemas in the near future?

Mr. Sproat: I was not aware of the exact statistics, but the hon. Gentleman is correct to say that the majority of cinemas do not have the facilities that we would like. In fact, only 25 per cent. of all cinemas around the country do, but a survey of facilities for disabled people is currently being updated by the Cinema Exhibitors Association and when we have the results, which we hope will be shortly, we hope that they can be fed in to consideration of the Bill.

National Lottery

10. Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans he has to impose an upper limit on the amount of money available to individual prize winners in the national lottery.

Mr. Dorrell: None.

Mrs. Campbell: Why is not the Secretary of State prepared to regulate winnings? Is it not better for 17

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people to win £1 million than for one person to win £17 million? Does he not feel that it would be better to spread the benefits to give individuals a greater chance of winning?

Mr. Dorrell: No, I do not agree with that at all. The hon. Lady is focusing on the wrong issue. The key issue is what structure of lottery prizes will raise the largest sum of money for good causes. There is a wealth of evidence from around the world to suggest that the approach taken in our lottery is better targeted at raising money for good causes than that suggested by the hon. Lady or, it must be said, by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry).

Mr. Waterson: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the dogma that people should be rich but not too rich is one of the many things that the new and old Labour parties have in common?

Mr. Dorrell: One of the entertaining things about listening to spokesmen from different parts of the Labour party is learning where different spokesmen draw the line on where true riches really begin--they cannot seem to agree.

Disabled Athletes

11. Ms Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has made to the Department of Health regarding provision for athletes with disabilities in the Disability Discrimination Bill.

Mr. Sproat: The Department of Social Security is in contact with all relevant Departments, including the Department of National Heritage, in taking forward the Government's policy in this sector. In addition, the Sports Council responded to the consultation document issued by the Department of Social Security in July 1994.

Ms Eagle: Is the Minister satisfied with the level of provision for disabled sport in the Bill? Will he reassure disabled sportsmen and women, in the light of his failure to mention them at all in his statement on the restructuring of the Sports Council, that his plans and the Government's plans, as presented in their Bill, include disabled sportsmen and women and do not marginalise them?

Mr. Sproat: We are strongly aware of the need for the Sports Council and other bodies in sport to take into full consideration the needs of people with disabilities. The Sports Council gives out more than £500,000 every year. In addition, the Foundation for Sports and the Arts, the Sports Aid Foundation and the sports match scheme all take fully into account the needs of people with disabilities. As my right hon. Friend said earlier, when the lottery letter went out last year from his predecessor, it specifically mentioned the need to take into account people with disabilities.

Mr. Lidington: Is my hon. Friend aware of the tremendous opportunities that are already being given to many disabled athletes by the Ludwig Guttman sports stadium at Stoke Mandeville in my constituency? Will he confirm that it will be open to the operators of that stadium, or any other sports body, to seek funds under the national lottery provisions to improve their facilities to help disabled athletes?

Mr. Sproat: It is a marvellous facility, and it would be eligible for lottery funding.

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Disabled People (Arts)

16. Mrs. Golding: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what discussions he has had with the West Midlands regional arts board about improving arts facilities for the disabled.

Mr. Sproat: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney).

Mrs. Golding: The West Midlands regional arts board has an excellent record of promoting disability arts. Will the Minister study its policies, which not only give access to the disabled, but help the disabled to get jobs in the art world? Will he then promote those policies through his position in Government?

Mr. Sproat: The hon. Lady is absolutely right in congratulating the West Midlands regional arts board on what it does. It spends something like £94,000 a year on improving the lot of persons with disabilities in the arts. I know that, in its latest corporate plan, it specifically put forward ways in which it could help further those with disabilities. It sets an example which could well be followed by many another.


17. Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what measures have been undertaken in recent years to attract more visitors to Britain; and how successful those measures have been.

Mr. Dorrell: My Department has provided funding of £33.2 million this year to the British Tourist Authority to conduct marketing campaigns through its 20 overseas offices to bring people here. Early estimates suggest that, during the first 10 months of 1994, 17.5 million visitors came to the United Kingdom, up 7 per cent. on the same period in 1993, which was itself a record year.

Mr. Spring: Can my hon. Friend assure the House that, in areas where British exports are booming, especially in the far east and Latin America, not only is knowledge of the excellence of British goods and services available, but the tourist potential of Britain in those expanding market places is fully known?

Mr. Dorrell: My hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to the opportunity for this country to extend its tourism marketing effort beyond some of the more mature markets towards some of the emerging markets. My hon. Friend identifies two promising candidates.

Departmental Staff (Disabled People)

18. Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many of the staff in his Department are disabled; and what proportion this represents of the work force.

Mr. Sproat: The latest available figures show that 13 staff employed by my Department, excluding our two agencies, identify themselves as disabled. That represents 3.6 per cent. of all staff.

Mr. Pickthall: If 3.6 per cent. is the correct figure across the Ministry, at least the hon. Gentleman's Ministry is doing a proper job on the quota. Why,

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therefore, are the Government to abolish the quota in advance of the provisions of the new Disability Discrimination Bill being bedded down?

Mr. Sproat: I am happy to accept the congratulations of the hon. Gentleman on what the Department of National Heritage has achieved. The second part of his question should be discussed as the Bill progresses through the House.

VE Day (Tourism)

19. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what benefit to the tourism industry he estimates will accrue from the Victory in Europe commemoration.

Mr. Dorrell: The tourist boards estimate that events to commemorate VE day may attract up to an additional 10,000 visitors from overseas and perhaps as many as 1 million additional domestic visitors.

Mr. Waterson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he accept the view held by many people in this country, including ex-service men and women's organisations, that the difficult and delicate decision to include German representatives and exclude Japanese representatives at VE and VJ commemorations is absolutely right?

Mr. Dorrell: Yes. I can well understand that there is obvious sensitivity around those matters, and not everyone will feel wholly at home with the decision that has been taken. However, I believe that it is the right decision.

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