Previous SectionIndexHome Page

11.46 am

Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham): I particularly welcome the funding package announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, which will enable school children up and down the country to receive the quality of sporting education that is deserved by all.

There is no doubt in my mind that sport for young people is a big piece of the jigsaw that is urban and community regeneration. Sport is an integral part of community life for many communities--it is the focal point. Sport is far more than incidental in turning around neighbourhoods with multiple disadvantages, whether in inner-city or rural areas. Through sport, we are not only able to tackle the symptoms of social exclusion but to crush its very causes.

Many of my constituents will celebrate today's announcement by my right hon. Friend, because plans to invest an additional £1 billion in sport between 2001 and 2004 is a signal of aspiration and ambition for our children and our country. It brings to an end the mediocrity that was the brand image of sport under the Conservatives. For 18 years, the Tories neglected our schools, selling off their assets, their sports grounds and facilities, leaving deprived schools with degraded facilities and low expectations. This investment is a breath of fresh air blowing through the decrepit gyms that the Tories left behind.

The wider effects of low investment in sport are clear for all to see. It is perfectly obvious that play promotes children's development, learning, health, creativity and independence. I say this because I am sure that I would

10 Nov 2000 : Column 587

not have the confidence to be in this place today were it not for the role of art and sport in my formative years. I received my school education in urban, inner-city London and in suburban middle England. How surprised I was when, at 11, I left London and the cement playgrounds that are all too frequent here for the playing fields of East Anglia. Too often, in the past, we were content for urban children and children in industrial areas to be satisfied with their Gameboys, Mars bars and Walkmans, rather than hockey sticks, footballs and swimming pools.

Miss Kirkbride: Surely the hon. Gentleman's comments reflect what Conservative Members have said. In inner London, which tends to be run by Labour authorities, he played on cement grounds, but when he moved to the Tory shires of East Anglia, he found green fields.

Mr. Lammy: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear that the guidelines and framework adopted by the Conservative Government led to that problem. That Government also imposed significant cuts on sports provision, and we do not want a repeat of that. That is why I welcome today's announcement, because I want to see a Tiger Woods, a Cathy Freeman and a Michael Jordan coming from constituencies such as my own.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will look at the role of universities and colleges in supporting and promoting sport in this country. Clearly, in the United States and Australia, universities and colleges play a big role in coaching and providing the stars of the future. Although universities have not been mentioned today, I hope that they will play an integral role.

Everyone in this House will appreciate that it is an honour for me to represent a constituency that can boast some of the finest footballers in London; the club down the road at Highbury notwithstanding. Those footballers are local heroes, not just because they are skilled players, but because they unite and inspire people in my community. Most of those men began their lives in parts of the country not dissimilar to Tottenham. They are inner-city lads who had talent, but also support and encouragement and, above all, investment made in their skills and abilities. That is what I want for all British children and that is precisely the commitment that the Government are making.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will know that the appetite for investment runs deep. I wish to give three examples of sporting projects in my constituency that will benefit from today's announcement. A few weeks ago, I attended a basketball match between a local team called Interbasket and a team from Teesside in the north-east of England. My team lost, sadly, but the dedication and camaraderie shown by both teams--coming as they did from deprived communities--was a joy to witness. It was a joy because I was not in America, where this sport and the skills of its stars have been a beacon of light in some of the worst urban environments in that country. I was in my home, in Britain. I was delighted that because of Interbasket's partnership with our local council and local schools, it will benefit from today's announcement. I hope that the Department will continue to promote minority sports such as basketball.

10 Nov 2000 : Column 588

Last week, I attended a youth amateur boxing club tournament, with the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche). The event was sponsored and paid for by Tottenham Hotspur football club and supported and organised by our local police service. That is a tremendous credit to my constituency; a partnership that has ensured that young men in my constituency can harness their energies in a constructive and regulated manner. Those young lads will benefit from today's announcement.

Only this week, I visited a school in my constituency, Park View academy. Until two years ago the school was subject to special measures, but it is now turning the corner through the Government's excellence in cities programme. That school is in a groundbreaking partnership with our local football club and the council. Later this month, Park View will be celebrating the official launch--by the Spurs captain, Sol Campbell--of its own coaching academy, run by staff of the club at the school. That has provided a positive role model for children living in the area.

Investment in people is fundamental to the health of my community and that of many others in this country. I commend my right hon. Friend's announcement today.

11.56 am

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): Madam Deputy Speaker, I join other colleagues in offering my congratulations to you on being chosen as Deputy Speaker.

Like other Members, it may not be possible for me to stay for the entire debate. Four weeks ago, I gave birth to a 9lb 1oz baby and I am afraid that he is a more effective tyrant than a husband or party Whip can ever be. I need to get back for his requirements and I hope the House and the Minister will forgive me if I am unable to stay for the full debate.

In many ways I commend the Government on their investment in sport. Sport does not need to be a party political issue, although some of the remarks from my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) on the complicated picture relating to the distribution of lottery funds have resonance. Nevertheless, the money going into sport is extremely welcome.

My speech is somewhat hypocritical, because when I was at school, I shared some of the views recorded in the report about the kind of clothes that we had to wear. I remember the horizontal rain on the playing fields while I was forced to go out in my shorts, thinking that I hated hockey and never wanted to play it again. We need practical solutions to encourage girls to participate in sport; bearing in mind what they have to wear might be one of them.

We should encourage sport in schools because its important overall effects cannot be disputed. Personal development is aided by team sports, which I am glad to see being reintroduced in schools. The benefit to health is also extremely important because, sadly, we are producing a nation of couch potatoes. The use of computer games and the fact that fewer children walk to school are other reasons why participation in sports in schools is important.

We were glad to hear the Minister confirm from a sedentary position that she has the full support of the Department for Education and Employment for the

10 Nov 2000 : Column 589

Government's proposals. Sport England, however, has said that the curriculum is a barrier to participation in school sport, and she should be vigilant on that. Much remains to be done, and we should monitor the situation. Improvements are still needed.

We welcome the £750 million for sport in schools. I echo what others have said about the importance of coaching. In these litigious times--not always helpful to the public purse or individuals--we all understand why teachers do not want to take sporting lessons without proper qualifications and an understanding of how to teach sport. However, we must ensure that there are enough teachers to give physical education lessons and coaching in tennis, football or whatever might engage the interest of youngsters in a sporting career, whether for Spurs or for a local football team. Young people who take an interest in sport at school enjoy healthier lives later. The Government's proposals are welcome, therefore, and the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport will take a keen interest in them. Thus far, I can agree with what has been said today.

The Conservatives, none the less, continue to be concerned--as is the Select Committee, which endorsed the views of my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey--about whether the correct decisions have been taken on Wembley. The Government's manifesto contained a pledge to bring the Olympic games to the United Kingdom. I fear that that is unlikely to receive a tick in the Government's report. That would be a great disappointment to us all, and the decision taken on Wembley makes it even more unlikely.

The best available option was a Wembley complex for all sports, not just football. We welcome development of a new national stadium for football, which is needed, as well as development of a stadium for other events. It is hard, however, to see how the Pickett's Lock proposal adds up financially, and there are questions over whether it will be constructed in time. The Secretary of State was being disingenuous when he told us of savings. The £40 million that he said would be available for Pickett's Lock lies in the future. The figure of £20 million for purchase of the land was hypothetically based on our bidding successfully for the Olympic games. If we do not, there will be no saving of £40 million.

Next Section

IndexHome Page