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Miss Kirkbride: Does the private Member's Bill propose to require women to pay the same membership fee as men at all clubs? As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, at many clubs, although perhaps not at the ones that he mentioned, women pay a concessionary fee. Many women much prefer that, as paying the full fee would add considerably to the family budget.
Mr. Wyatt: I am aware of that. I am aware, too, that there are differences of opinion on the issue between public and private golf clubs--which may be the specific example of which the hon. Lady is thinking. As she will know, there are stories--possibly apocryphal--about dogs, but not women, being allowed in clubs.
We are talking about equal access to buildings and facilities. At some private clubs, although women pay equal subscriptions, they are not allowed to tee-off on a Sunday morning. Such practices are anachronisms. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, there is a blazer brigade whose thinking is of the 18th and 19th centuries. The brigade has predominated in tennis, which has always been a class-driven sport. It is very sad that the brigade has realised only now, after 30 years of
Sport changed my life. I urge the Government to consider funding an Olympic sports channel, so that thousands of children may have access to it, on the internet and on digital television, and sports can change their lives, too.
Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): "Government support for sport" is the title of today's debate as it appears on the Order Paper. Although that support is getting better, there is still a very long way to go. For years, successive Governments have held sport in low esteem. Although I do not want to be unfair to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport or to the Minister for Sport--both of whom, I know, are doing all that they can to give sport a higher profile--the stark reality is that, collectively, the Government do not give sport the importance that it deserves.
Here we are, on a Friday morning, in a near-deserted Chamber, debating an activity which--in scores of sports--is enjoyed by millions of our citizens. There are countless millions who would like to see a lot more done for sport, including those who no longer participate in sport and those who, as a result of infirmity, were never able to do so.
Today, we have at least moved to the main arena. The previous debate on sports, six months ago, occurred on a Thursday, on the practice pitch of Westminster Hall. It was held on the same day as the local elections, when it was known that the Commons would be as deserted as it is today. If the Government really want to promote sport, and to show that their heart is in providing substantial support to sport, they are hardly conveying the right message by the way in which they table sport as a subject for debate in the Chamber. Why is sport not given prime-time billing in the Chamber?
Having pointed out the Government's down-playing of sport, I join the Secretary of State in saluting those of our sports men and women who flew the flag for our country in the recent Olympic and Paralympic games and brought back from Sydney the best gold medal tally for 80 years--in a previous era of Liberal influence.
Without amending the broad thrust of my criticism of successive Governments, I would say that what investment there has been by the previous and present Governments clearly helped to improve the UK's success--and I am delighted to acknowledge that. I trust, though, that there will be no resting on laurels--just think how much more could have been achieved with even more investment.
Mr. Russell: It is not all about winning international competitions. There is more to sport than catering for elite athletes, important though it is to support our elite performers, together with those with the potential to reach the top. What we need is sport for all, to coin a phrase from yesteryear. The more participation we have by the population at large the more likely we are to produce champions.
In summing up, will the Minister state when Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education and Employment last met to discuss the appalling failure to ensure that pupils undertake even the minimum required level of two hours of physical education every week? Will the Minister confirm that, according to the Office of Standards in Education, 75 per cent. of pupils do not have the minimum two hours each week? What are the Government doing to ensure that this performance standard is achieved within the normal school day?
Are all Government Departments signed up to what the Secretary of State said this morning about Government support for sport? Can Ministers recall when an education Minister last proclaimed that sporting achievements and academic standards go hand in hand? Indeed, when did an education Minister last make a speech promoting sport in school and stressing in particular the importance of ensuring that every pupil achieves the minimum two hours physical education every week?
The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to give the impression that Ministers at the Department for Education and Employment took no interest in sport. Indeed, the Minister for School Standards recently joined me at a conference on the importance of school sport, organised by the sports councils and attended by some 300 people from all over the country. My right hon. Friend and I made statements that were absolutely joined-up.