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Mr. Chris Smith: Is the hon. Gentleman telling us that he would proceed with the platform solution at Wembley for athletics, at a cost of £40 million, taking six months to construct, six months to take down and leaving Wembley completely out of action for the whole of that period?

Mr. Ainsworth: The Secretary of State well knows that the Select Committee looked hard and long at the issue, and that is what it recommended. In an attempt to obtain the best, the British Olympic Association, in particular, has driven out the good. Although no one thought that the original design for Wembley was perfect, it was at least a solution. At the moment, it appears that we have none. Something rather than nothing is the response to the Secretary of State's question.

The consequences of the right hon. Gentleman's decision have yet to be fully played out. There is the matter of the £20 million repayment to Sport England by Wembley National Stadium Ltd. Under the terms of the original lottery award, Sport England had--or has--the right to reclaim its full £120 million in the event of a breach of conditions, and it was a condition of the grant that the new Wembley stadium would host athletics. However, Sport England was not an original party to the deal, which was reportedly spawned in Downing street and ratified in the Secretary of State's Islington home. Under the deal, a price tag of £20 million was arbitrarily determined as the cost of kicking out athletics. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that not a penny of that money has yet been paid? I wait in vain for an answer.

The Secretary of State has insisted--as he did again today--that a further £40 million will become available for athletics as a result of savings that come from clearing athletics out of Wembley. That is a phantom figure. The real savings, as he should know, are closer to £15 million. Assuming that the Islington deal is fulfilled, £35 million will be available for athletics, not the bogus £60 million that he has talked about.

Mr. Smith: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's figures are completely wrong. The cost of constructing the concrete platform at Wembley was variously judged at between £17 million and £22 million. For the sake of argument, let us call it £20 million. What he is leaving completely out of the equation is the need to construct a warm-up facility next to the stadium, which in any sensible location would have required the purchase of the land. That is where the other £20 million comes from.

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Mr. Greenway: Well where is it?

Mr. Ainsworth: My hon. Friend asks a good question.

In the meantime--this is pertinent to the Secretary of State's remarks--I understand that the consultants who were appointed to investigate the viability of a new athletics facility at Lee Valley have made a preliminary estimate of £95 million for building costs. That raises serious doubts about its viability. I note what the Secretary of State said about feasibility studies, but they will not build a stadium, and time is pressing if it is to be up, running and ready to use by 2004, when the International Amateur Athletics Federation has said that it will need it. Therefore, our ability to host the 2005 world athletics championships is at risk, as officials from Sport England conceded earlier this week. We can also wave goodbye to any hope of putting in a credible bid to host the Olympic games in London.

Even if the plans for Pickett's Lock go ahead--I hope that the Secretary of State's optimism is well founded--and it becomes a stand-alone athletics facility, what would be the implications of that for facilities elsewhere? The Minister might like to deal with concerns about that. What are the implications for athletics at Gateshead, Sheffield, Birmingham, Crystal Palace and so on? The Secretary of State's handling of the redevelopment at Wembley has been nothing short of a disaster. Instead of consistency, clarity and leadership, we have had to witness vacillation, contradiction and misjudgment.

There is a case for saying that the Government should keep out of sports developments and trust the private sector and independent sporting bodies to get on with the job. There is a case for saying that a major national project involving hundreds of millions of pounds of lottery money, major infrastructure improvements, large-scale regeneration and, at the end of it all, the hope of hosting the Olympic games deserves the full attention, support and encouragement of the Government. There is no case at all for what has happened. There is no excuse for a Government's dipping in and out of major projects, failing to co-ordinate, failing to consult, intervening sporadically, and doing so ineptly and on hasty advice.

There is no excuse for incompetence, but incompetence has become a bit of a trademark of this Department--take the bid to host the world cup earlier this year. The football authorities had put together a fine bid which, like the redevelopment of Wembley, we fully supported. The cost of the bid amounted to about £10 million. I congratulate Sir Bobby Charlton and Alec McGiven--and the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), who cannot be with us today because, he tells me, it is "Newham's day in the dome". I sincerely hope that he is enjoying himself. I know how much he would like to have been here.

I congratulate all those people on the immense hard work that they put in; but we now know that, in the opinion of the Minister for Sport:

All I can say is, "Thanks for telling us after the event." Might it not have been a little more honest to do so before?

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What of the UK Sports Institute? Progress on that has been achingly slow, although there has been some: the Secretary of State told us a bit more about it today. We all know the official version in the Government's annual report, which states:

That was subsequently corrected by the Prime Minister to read:

Not even the most proficient of all the Government's spin doctors could conjure up a facility of that kind in Sheffield. The Government seem to have forgotten that they did a U-turn on Sheffield last year, and that the headquarters of the UK Sports Institute are to be in London.

The foundations of our future as a sporting nation lie with our children. I warmly commend the way in which Trevor Brooking, chairman of Sport England, has championed the cause of sport in schools. He does so with great passion and enthusiasm. I also commend the excellent work of the Youth Sport Trust. The TOPS programme in particular should be singled out for recognition: it includes the tots and TOP start programmes, which are aimed at very young children.

The Youth Sport Trust has reached 3.5 million young people in the last year, and has levered in half a million pounds of private sector money from sponsors such as Nutella, Medisport and Nike. I very much welcome their work. On the other hand, we have received numerous complaints from schools that the growing burdens of the national curriculum are marginalising the time available for sport. Research at Exeter university has shown that the majority of 11 to 16-year-olds get less than 20 minutes of proper physical activity in school each week.

In a debate last May in Westminster Hall, the Minister for Sport rightly said:

How signed up is the Department? A recent MORI poll commissioned by Sport England confirmed that the amount of time attributed to school sport and physical education is in decline, as is the time devoted to individual games such as hockey, gymnastics and swimming. The decline in swimming is particularly worrying, given its capacity as a life-saver. Earlier this week, a report by the Office for Standards in Education suggested that one in five pupils could not swim 25 metres by the time they went to secondary school. That is simply unacceptable.

A survey funded jointly by Sport England and Leeds Metropolitan university revealed that more than half a million hours of physical education had been lost in primary schools--squeezed out to make room for numeracy and literacy. I have nothing against numeracy or literacy, but sport, with its attendant benefits to health, personal development and academic performance, should form an integral--not peripheral--part of any sensible, holistic approach to education.

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Under the Conservative policy of free schools, which would get the Government out of the classroom and give real authority to schools and parents, we would expect to see more time being made available for sport.

Mr. Bob Russell: If a Conservative Government would get out of the classroom, how could they insist that free schools provided more time for physical education?

Mr. Ainsworth: I am coming to that very point. The whole policy of free schools is intended to allow schools to determine their own priorities, in consultation with parents.

The hon. Gentleman may know that Sport England research has found that eight out of 10 parents believe that PE is as important as academic work. Sport is the most popular choice for after-school clubs; 96 per cent. of young people say that they like participating in sport; and fitter children achieve better exam results, and are less prone to truancy. There is the answer to the hon. Gentleman--[Interruption.] If schools are going to set their priorities, they are going to listen to the evidence. The hon. Gentleman's laughter suggests that he has no confidence whatever in head teachers, governors or parents, and does not trust them to know what is best for their children.

We welcome the development of the school sports co-ordinators programme. However, it would be interesting to know from the Minister--the Secretary of State may have mentioned this; if he did, I apologise for having missed it--how many of those school sports co-ordinators are in post. We also welcome the extra money for after-school clubs. We believe, however, that sport will not secure the place it deserves in children's lives in the absence of a radical reshaping of the education system to give real freedom to schools. To reflect parental wishes, we would require Ofsted to provide a greater and more detailed qualitative assessment of the provision of sport and PE in primary and secondary schools, and to report on the amount of competitive games undertaken in and between schools.

Obviously, if young people are to benefit from taking part in sport, they need sports teachers and places in which to play games. There has been a disturbing spate of reports about the recent fall in the number of people taking PE courses at teacher training colleges. Another report says that as few as six hours in the initial teacher training programme are devoted to PE. I am sure that the Minister wants that deficiency to be addressed.

We have already discussed the question of school playing fields and the availability of space. It is worth remembering that it was a Conservative Government who first made Sport England a statutory consultee on proposals to dispose of playing fields. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, the present Government were elected on a pledge to stop the sale of playing fields, and they have not done so--as a parliamentary answer given by the Minister for Sport on 23 October freely admits. We believe that there is still a need for a proper database of recreational space. We would extend statutory consultee status beyond Sport England, and we would like the bodies charged with representing the interests of sport to be involved earlier in the whole planning process.

I believe in praising the Government when they do the right thing. I therefore welcome proposals that more public funds for sport should be devoted and devolved to

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governing bodies. By and large, they are best placed to determine their own priorities. But sport needs to look at ways of streamlining its own governance. Here again, I agree with the Secretary of State. It is not satisfactory that we now have more than 400 national governing bodies representing about 112 different sports. If there is to be a proper or even coherent dialogue between Government and sport, there is work to be done on both sides.

Earlier this year, we mounted a major consultation exercise with all the major sporting bodies. They acknowledged the need for reform. What they want from the Government, above all, is leadership, which is not the same as ownership. The Conservative party offers sport leadership without ownership.

There is a need for Government to get their act together. The Central Council of Physical Recreation believes that 17 different Departments have an impact on sport. We promise a Sports Minister with real clout who is able--with the authority of the Prime Minister--to co-ordinate policies throughout all Departments whose activities have a bearing on sport.

We are delighted to endorse the national action plan for women's and girl's sports and physical activity, launched with the Women's Sports Foundation in conjunction with Sport England, and we look forward to the Government following suit. Today, I was interested to note a Youth Sport Trust report which tells us that many girls drop out of sport aged 13 or 14. There has been similar evidence in other recent reports. Reasons given are humiliating clothes--the gymslip syndrome--and a focus on less popular sports. I mean no disrespect to netball when I say that I have never understood why there are not more opportunities for girls to play, for example, cricket or football. Schools need to deal with that issue.

We believe that all sports could take a leaf out of football's book in making a determined effort to rid sport of any remaining remnants of racism. All sports should kick it out.

For as long as it is necessary, we will work with the Government to support improvements in sporting provision--but we look forward more to having the opportunity to provide in government the leadership that sport wants and needs and that we are ready to provide.

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