Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Sport (Social Exclusion)

5. Mr. David Lock (Wyre Forest): How his Department is working with the social exclusion unit to ensure sport plays a role in combating social exclusion. [46315]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Tony Banks): My Department is working closely with the social exclusion unit. The last meeting took place as recently as 16 June. We see great potential for sport to play a part and we have already announced that we are working on a comprehensive strategy on sport which will, among other areas, address the problems of social exclusion. Sport is a great motivator, as we can see at the moment; it has a role to play in youth social inclusion.

Mr. Lock: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Football Association has taken great strides over the years to foster

29 Jun 1998 : Column 7

social inclusion through having schools of excellence for young footballers in clubs throughout the country? However, will he join me in expressing dismay at the FA's recent decision to limit schools of excellence to premiership and league clubs, thus leaving conference clubs such as Kidderminster Harriers in my constituency out in the cold? The 165 boys at that club will have no school from next year. Will my hon. Friend join me in urging the FA to think again and use his office to encourage it to take a broad approach towards tackling social exclusion in football through schools of excellence?

Mr. Banks: Obviously, football has a great role to play in programmes for social inclusion and I share my hon. Friend's disappointment that the Kidderminster Harriers club was not granted a licence to operate as an FA centre of excellence. However, that is a matter for the FA, and the technical control board that is responsible decided, for a variety of reasons, that it would not recognise Kidderminster Harriers' scheme.

I know that my hon. Friend has been campaigning, and I am more than ready to use my good offices to bring together my hon. Friend, the Football Association and Kidderminster Harriers so that we can explore that matter. We want football to flourish in Kidderminster and elsewhere. It was a great disappointment that, three years ago, Kidderminster was unable to join the football league because of its inability to meet the ground requirements. I shall certainly use my good offices to assist my hon. Friend and his club, and he is doing a great job in assisting it in the House today.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Is the Minister not embarrassed by the fact that, last week, the Secretary of State introduced a new form of potential social exclusion--the social exclusion of those who are keen on test cricket, who may well be unable in future to watch it on terrestrial television? As someone who, as a Back Bencher, was a scourge of the tabloidisation of British politics, does the Minister not recognise that two days of adverse headlines have resulted in a wanton act of appeasement of the main proprietor of the tabloid?

Mr. Banks: I could never be disappointed in the actions of my right hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman has a strange approach to this issue. Sky Television criticised my right hon. Friend's decision, while the British Broadcasting Corporation broadly welcomed it. Most importantly, the England and Wales Cricket Board welcomed the decision. Hon. Members must understand that the problem is how we get more resources into cricket while maintaining the maximum access through television. The money that the ECB will receive through Sky if the deals go ahead will enable cricket to be developed at school, county and local levels, which is why the Secretary of State made the right decision. It was a brave decision, but I am sure that it will lead to the development of greater cricketing ability in this country, which, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees, we desperately need.

2006 World Cup

6. Ms Claire Ward (Watford): What discussions he has had on the 2006 world cup bid; and if he will make a statement. [46316]

Mr. Banks: I hold regular meetings with the Football Association. I have discussed the 2006 bid with key

29 Jun 1998 : Column 8

members of the FIFA executive committee, here in London and in their home countries, and the Government will continue to play a full part in the 2006 campaign.

Ms Ward: Does my hon. Friend agree that the criminal activities of drunken hooligans must not be allowed to knock off course England's world cup bid? Does he deplore the decision by the authorities in St. Etienne to allow all-day drinking, particularly in the light of the statement by the spokeswoman for the prefecture in Lens that the ban on alcohol was the main reason for the relative lack of trouble in that town?

Mr. Banks: I condemn unreservedly the behaviour of the small criminal element that caused trouble in Marseilles. When those who were imprisoned arrive back in this country, they will be dealt with using further restriction orders. Those who think that they may have got away with crimes in Marseilles should know that footage is still being examined. The French authorities will take action against them, and we support them entirely in that.

I cannot join in my hon. Friend's criticism and condemnation of decisions about drinking that might be taken in St. Etienne. It is amazing that a police officer in France, who said that the French want to keep their bars open so that they can keep the world cup festivities going, was condemned here by our tabloids as a lunatic who has escaped from an asylum, as if it is French people's fault that some of our fans cannot hold their drink. Drinking a lot is no excuse for trashing a town or beating up people. The French must be concerned about their town and their welfare, and I am happy to let them make their own decisions. I understand that there will be a press conference later this afternoon and the French authorities may change their decision. We should undoubtedly welcome that, but what a sad comment that is on the minority of English fans who still cannot mix football with drink.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): But will the Minister be any more effective in getting the world cup to come to the United Kingdom in 2006 than he has been in trying to get more than the derisory 2,000 seats for the next football match in France?

Mr. Banks: That is very good, but I am not Tone the Tout; I do not actually have tickets at my disposal. As hon. Members will know, I took a decision not to go on the ground that I somehow knew that this situation would develop. Obviously, the ticket allocation for England's match in St. Etienne is derisory, but the arrangement was made some time ago.

The blame lies with FIFA for allowing 60,000 tickets to go to French nationals, who clearly have not taken up their allocation but instead have sold them on the black market. A number of national associations did not need their tickets, but, instead of sending them back to FIFA so that they could be passed on to countries such as England, Germany, Holland, Japan and Argentina which needed them, they dumped them on the black market.

Hon. Members should not blame me. I would have loved to be responsible for ticket allocations. I might even have found one for the hon. Gentleman--or not, as the case may be. We must ensure that, after this is over,

29 Jun 1998 : Column 9

FIFA carries out a thorough investigation so that this shambles is not repeated either in 2002 or in 2006, when England will host the world cup.

Heritage Lottery Fund (Access Fund)

7. Laura Moffatt (Crawley): What plans he has to ensure that the Heritage Lottery Fund's access fund benefits projects targeted at disadvantaged people. [46318]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): I am delighted to welcome the museums access fund, which will improve access to museums and galleries and will, of course, as part of its work, support access for those who are disadvantaged. I have recently issued new policy directions to the Heritage Lottery Fund, giving increased emphasis to the need to use lottery funding to promote access to the heritage for people from all sections of society and to take into account the scope for reducing economic and social deprivation.

Laura Moffatt: Does my right hon. Friend agree that access is not just about physically getting into a building? The many access groups throughout the country will be very willing to assist with this new direction, which I know they welcome very much. If we are truly interested in fairness for those on low incomes, the unemployed and those with young children, we must ensure that they can get into these wonderful buildings. If we are truly interested in equality, we must pay particular attention to that.

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Getting as many people as possible to enjoy the riches in the great storehouses of this country is one of the major objectives of Government policy. It is why, for example, we were delighted to announce at the time of the Budget that we were maintaining free admission for everyone to great national collections such as the national gallery, the Tate and the British museum.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): In that case, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the British library will not charge for admission?

Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman may not have heard my speech at the opening dinner of the British library last week, when I welcomed the fact that access to the reading rooms for ordinary readers would be free.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton): I thank my right hon. Friend for his support and encouragement for help for disadvantaged people from the lottery fund. Is he aware that many of our local communities would like to help disadvantaged people in any way they can? Will he give them some advice on obtaining lottery funding to help disadvantaged people? It is important that we consider what is happening within our communities and what assistance should be given to them.

Mr. Smith: In a few months, we will be launching a pilot scheme in the east midlands, where the lottery distributors will join together to provide a fast-track scheme for local community organisations that wish to

29 Jun 1998 : Column 10

put in bids for small grants to help their own neighbourhoods and communities. I hope that that scheme will roll out nationwide from April next year.


Next Section

IndexHome Page