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Sports Coaching

3. Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): What steps he is taking to give schoolchildren greater access to qualified coaching in the major sports. [135338]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): We announced earlier this year that we would double the funding available for the school sports co-ordinators programme. The additional £60 million that we are providing over the next three years means that the 1,000 co-ordinators whom we will have in place by 2004 will also have funding to buy in coaches and officials. High-quality coaching goes hand in hand with our desire to see more competitive sports played in schools and between schools and to give many more pupils the chance to play sport.

Dr. Ladyman: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that, if we are to harness the talents and sporting enthusiasm of every child, we need more sports co-ordinators and fully qualified coaching staff in our schools as well as new and improved sporting facilities? Will he confirm that the money for the co-ordinators that he has just told us about will not be taken from the additional money announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for extending school sports facilities?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of ensuring that good-quality coaching is available to pupils. One of the great tragedies of school sport in this country is the decline that came about as a result of the dispute that the previous Government had with teachers in the mid-1980s. We are now in the process of putting that right.

I can indeed confirm to my hon. Friend that the revenue funding that we announced to double the schools sport co-ordinators programme is revenue from the Exchequer. It is not the same fund as the prospective lottery money that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced at the end of September. We will provide £750 million to improve school sport facilities from the new opportunities fund, and we are proud to propose today, in the consultation document that we have launched, that that

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money should be spent. We asked Conservative Members whether or not they would cut that money if they came into government.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Although I welcome the Secretary of State's comments about improving sports coaching in schools, does he not recognise that the biggest decline in school sports came about because, for about 30 years, Labour spokesmen and Labour activists were against all competitive sport in schools? The Government are now trying to go two steps forward when he and his predecessors took us three steps back.

Mr. Smith: No, I would not agree. The two major reasons for the decline of sport in our schools over the past 20 years are, first, the withdrawal of teachers from after-school sporting activity as a direct result of their dispute with the previous Government, and secondly, the previous Government's presiding over a bargain- basement sell-off of school playing fields.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton): Although the interest given to sports in schools is encouraging and, indeed, welcome, quality coaching in some sports is done away from school--I am thinking of swimming. I have constituents whose children are making a wonderful grade in swimming but need assistance. Can we have some advice on how such people can obtain specialist coaching away from school in sports that are part of the school curriculum?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend raises an important point, which, together with Sport England, we are addressing. Swimming, along with games, gymnastics, dance, athletics and outdoor-adventure activities, is a national curriculum entitlement for school children at key stages 1 to 4. That means that those activities are a statutory part of the education of every child in this country. We must ensure that that education, training and coaching are as good as possible.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): Does the Secretary of State agree that fitter children get better examination results? If he does, does he further agree that it is unacceptable that children aged between 11 and 16 receive on average only 20 minutes' physical activity a week? If he agrees that that is so, as statistics show, will he explain how in an already overcrowded national curriculum more time will be found for children to undertake physical activity?

Mr. Smith: I certainly agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. Fitter children who engage in sport undoubtedly perform better in their academic work. That has been proved by study after study. Engaging in sport also makes children healthier and, incidentally, helps to curb anti-social behaviour. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and I are determined to increase the amount of sporting activity available to children, both within the curriculum and after school and at weekends. Both are important objectives. The school sports co-ordinators programme that we are implementing will help to achieve them.

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Football Supporters' Trusts

4. Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton): How many mutual football supporters' trusts have been set up with the help of Supporters Direct. [135339]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): Supporters Direct has assisted in the establishment of seven supporters' trusts to date, and has helped set up a further six trusts that are agreed in principle. Supporters Direct has received inquiries and requests for advice from groups representing supporters at a total of 85 football clubs in the FA premier league, in the football league and in non-league football. It is also in discussion with supporters' groups in other sports. That is not bad for two months' work.

Mr. Love: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. One of the seven trusts that he mentioned is at my local club, Enfield Town, which has also elected a supporter- director to the board. The chairman recently called the trust unrepresentative, which I believe reflects its growing influence. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a structure should be spread throughout sport? If he does, what measures will he take to publicise it further?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend rightly points to the progress at Enfield. As he points out, not only has a supporters' trust been established but a supporter-director has been elected to the board. Most football clubs at which supporter-directors have been elected and supporters' trusts have been established have warmly welcomed the formal participation of supporters in the running of the club. I certainly hope that football clubs and, indeed, clubs in other sports will recognise that the direct involvement of supporters in the running, decision making and financing of their club is only to the clubs' benefit, because, after all, supporters are the lifeblood of a great football club.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): We welcome the right hon. Gentleman's news and we wonder whether he has also sought football supporters' views regarding the European Commission's attempt to invade our pitch by ruling that the football transfer system is illegal. Does he agree that supporters' loyalty to their football team applies equally to players, that fans are unhappy when good players leave, and that fans will lose the most if their team is impoverished or ceases to exist because the current system is scrapped? Does he agree with our Football Association, football league and premier league that any new transfer and contracts system must ensure that players honour their obligations, that opportunities to break contract are strictly prescribed, and that smaller clubs are properly compensated for the transfer of talented young players to bigger clubs?

Mr. Smith: For once, I agree absolutely with everything the hon. Gentleman says. The matter is one that we have discussed with football authorities and supporters, as well as with our fellow European Governments. We believe that, although the current transfer system is by no means perfect, rewarding clubs for the investment that they make in players and ensuring

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that money cascades down from larger, richer clubs to smaller, less wealthy clubs are important aspects of the system and values that we should try to retain.

Millennium Dome

5. Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): What discussions he has had with local authorities in east London and the Greater London Authority about the future of the millennium dome. [135340]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): The matter is, of course, one for the competition team. Throughout the competition process, the competition team has involved and informed east London and Thames gateway organisations, including local authorities and community groups. Frequent consultation with the London borough of Greenwich has featured throughout the competition process. Following the withdrawal of Dome Europe from the competition process on 11 September, my noble and learned Friend Lord Falconer, sole shareholder of the New Millennium Experience Company, has met representatives of the London borough of Greenwich. The Greater London Authority and the London borough of Greenwich will be fully involved in any future planning application for the dome's future use.

Mr. Wilkinson: I am grateful for that reply. Will the hon. Lady provide an assurance that, if the dome has to have recourse to yet more public money, not only will there be full consultation with the borough of Greenwich and the Greater London Authority, but Parliament will be fully informed in advance? Will she give a further assurance that, if a wind-up takes place and more public money is needed, she will come to the House and make clear how much is required? Furthermore, will her noble and learned Friend Lord Falconer do the honourable thing and resign?

Janet Anderson: Before he made his final, cheap, point, which I shall treat in the manner it deserves, I was beginning to think that the hon. Gentleman was approaching the subject in the spirit we expect of all parties. I assure him that we shall continue to keep the House fully informed. The New Millennium Experience Company is satisfied that it has sufficient funding to carry through trading until the end of the year. He will know that we are engaged in discussions with Legacy plc about the future of the dome. I am sure that he does not expect me to predict the outcome of those negotiations; however, I can say that we hope to be able to make an announcement very soon.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservatives' constant attempts to make political capital out of the dome ring hollow, given their part in setting it up? Does my hon. Friend also agree that although all alternatives for the future of the dome must be considered, it is essential that the dome remain

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in existence? We must find an alternative that will ensure that. Does she agree that it has already become almost an icon building, and one that should be maintained?

Janet Anderson: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. I remind the House that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) who, sadly, is not in his place today, said:

I only wish that Opposition Members would take the same view.

My hon. Friend is right. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's official spokesman confirmed today that, in his view, the dome is an important part of the regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members will listen for a moment, they may learn something about the regenerative effect of the dome. The Government are the first to acknowledge that the dome has not been the success for which everyone hoped, although it has had more than 5 million visitors. We should not overlook what has been achieved. The dome is a vital contributor to the development of the Greenwich peninsula, and has already brought considerable regenerative benefits to Greenwich and the wider Thames gateway.

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) asked earlier whether local authorities had been consulted. Greenwich council predicts that 30,000 permanent jobs will be created in the borough of Greenwich within seven years as a result of the investment in the peninsula. Perhaps Opposition Members would rather those jobs had not been created. I am sure that the electors of Greenwich will be listening carefully to them today.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton): For once, I shall give the Minister some all-party support. There is no doubt that the original motivation for the dome was the regeneration of that part of the Thames, and I hope that she will continue it. I am glad that Nomura has backed out of its bid, so there are no more beer-swilling concepts of leisure developments there. Will the hon. Lady please make sure that the Legacy bid is taken seriously? It is an opportunity to build a science park there and to help smaller companies. I hope that the negotiations are progressing as well as she suggested, so that an early conclusion can be reached.

Janet Anderson: I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman. Although I cannot predict the outcome, the Legacy bid is interesting and exciting. The hon. Gentleman is right that we need an early conclusion. I can confirm that we have been having discussions with Legacy plc, the remaining bidder from the final shortlist of two, and the competition team is currently analysing the proposal from Legacy. I cannot predict what the outcome will be, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that we want an early solution and we will make an announcement shortly.

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Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): Will my hon. Friend congratulate the national botanic garden of Wales, which is also backed by the Millennium Commission, and has just exceeded all expectations by--

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady might try to pick another question, as that does not relate to the one before us.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): Will the Minister now treat the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) in the manner that it deserves, and answer it? Does she think that Lord Falconer should resign?

Janet Anderson: Lord Falconer is doing an extremely good job. The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no.

Mr. Ainsworth: We will see whether that opinion still holds on Thursday, when the National Audit Office report is published. On regeneration in east London, will the Minister confirm reports that the chairman of the New Millennium Experience Company has told Ministers that the site could be worth at least £300 million more if the dome were taken down?

The Secretary of State is the chairman of the Millennium Commission. He may be sitting there pretending that it is nothing to do with him, but surely he has a duty to salvage whatever is possible from this disastrous year? With growing doubts about the viability of the deal with Legacy, would it not be better--would it not, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), "maximise the national gain"--to invite bids for the site with or without the dome--or is £300 million a price worth paying for the sake of new Labour's vanity?

Janet Anderson: I can only say that I am not aware of any such advice from the chairman of the New Millennium Experience Company. I repeat to the hon. Member that we, in common with local authorities in the Greenwich area, consider the building very much part of the area's regeneration. That should be taken into account.

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