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Mr. Russell: I am delighted to hear that and I look forward to the next debate on sport, when the Minister will no doubt be able to give us the excellent news that the Government have put their aspirations into action, and that every child--rather than 25 per cent. of children at present--will get a minimum of two hours' physical education a week during school time.
The Government are all too quick to talk about wanting to raise levels of examination successes and higher expectations with league tables and other measurements of academic achievement, but they are not enthusiastic about encouraging sport in schools.
Such is the over-emphasis on academic results--regardless of anything else, it would seem--that we are producing a generation of young people hundreds of thousands of whom are missing out on what is known as informal education, of which membership of youth movements and sports clubs can play such an important part in developing the young adults of tomorrow as citizens with a rounded education and attitude to civilised society. Frankly, we need less emphasis on life in the
I know that the Government are making a lot of noise about appointing schools sports co-ordinators, but they will be few when one considers how many schools there are. By 2003, it is intended that there will be 110 designated specialist sports colleges, but there are 3,560 state secondary schools and 18,234 primary schools in England. Surely sport should be for the many, not the few. If the Minister will not agree with me, will she at least agree with the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which says:
The figure of £750 million could also be topped by the new Wembley stadium if costs for this as yet to be started debacle continue to rise. The last figure I read was that it would cost £660 million. Wembley is turning into a new dome-style fiasco. The Government are replacing the most famous stadium in the world with a horrendously expensive modern structure, which will still be served by hopelessly inadequate transport links.
I make no apology for pursuing concerns that I have raised before--that we are producing a generation that is less fit than previous generations with the result that we have a health time-bomb ticking away that in due course will overwhelm our already hard-pressed health services. People will suffer from breathing, mobility and heart problems at an earlier age than my generation because they have not had sufficient physical education during their formative years at school.
It also needs to be said that there is evidence that young people who take part in sports--not necessarily those who excel but those who do it for enjoyment--find that being fit and healthy benefits their academic achievements. It makes sense to be healthy. But far from helping our young people, the Government will next year make it more difficult for voluntary youth organisations, thanks to their proposed tax on volunteers, otherwise known as the Criminal Records Bureau. I support the establishment of the bureau, as, in a collective sense, does everyone associated with the youth movement, but to expect all potential volunteers to pay £10 for a check to be made to see whether they have a criminal record and are therefore unsuitable for youth work, is a financial deterrent to volunteering.
I want to explain why I think that the £10 is wrong, and I do so in the certain knowledge that every voluntary youth organisation that I know concurs with my view. I suspect that most organisations keen to recruit new volunteers will pay the £10 rather than leave the volunteer to pay it. Across the youth movement collectively, which includes many sports clubs, that will lead to millions of pounds being taken out of budgets for young people in order to pay for the bureaucracy of the Criminal Records Bureau.
There is an easy solution. If the Government are serious about encouraging people to volunteer to help in the youth movement, including in those clubs catering for a wide range of sports, they should agree that there should be no charge for volunteers. Now that really would be a positive measure of Government support for sport.
Will Ministers today give a pledge that they will raise this issue with the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary? This tax on volunteers should be dropped. The cost should be met by the Government, not volunteers or youth groups, many of which are already struggling to survive in the face of escalating costs.
Mr. Greenway: The hon. Gentleman knows that I have much sympathy with the sentiment that he is expressing, but I wonder whether his party has done any research into what the measures that he advocates would cost.
The Government can give further practical financial assistance to sports clubs by cutting the 17.5 per cent. VAT on sports club building works. Two days ago, the Chancellor announced his intention to cut VAT on church repairs to 5 per cent. Let us follow his spiritual lead and likewise reduce VAT on sports clubs. The CCPR reports that it has been calculated that the Government take four times more money from sport in taxes than they return through central and local government combined. Perhaps sports people could learn a thing or two from pensioners and fuel protesters.
Mr. Hawkins: Have the pledges that the hon. Gentleman is giving as his party's spokesman been fulfilled where his party is the junior partner in coalitions? Have any of his colleagues in Scotland and Wales persuaded the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly to do any of what he is advocating?
Sport England makes the plea that either the Recreational Charities Act 1958 should be modernised or tax exemptions should be introduced to help to secure the future of many community and amateur sports clubs across the country. It says:
Mr. Greenway: I can help the hon. Gentleman. There is a different policy in Scotland, and many of us think that what applies there should apply in England and Wales, but I suspect that his party's Treasury spokesmen will be as difficult a nut to crack as my party's and the Government's.