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Mr. Hawkins: I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is important to recognise the involvement in sport of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon. I trust it is in order for me to say that I hope the national lottery will one day be renamed the Major lottery.
I agree entirely with Sport England that more needs to be done. Like other Conservative Members, I am glad that the Government are showing a commitment to sport. I do not seek to criticise the current Minister for Sport: I know that she is personally very committed. What concerns me is that, with the best will in the world, she does not always persuade all her ministerial colleagues, and that not enough is being done to persuade the civil servants in particular.
As Sport England has pointed out, recent Ofsted figures, independently analysed, show that at key stage 1--ages five to seven--an average of one hour 20 minutes a week is devoted to PE or sport. At key
Conservative Members have consistently called for the reintroduction of what was our policy, and was enshrined in law. We want sport to be a compulsory part of the curriculum for those aged 14 to 16. We think the current Government were entirely wrong to end that, and I hope that one day it will indeed be reintroduced, although that may require a future Conservative Government--and, hopefully, we shall have one very soon.
I pay tribute to all that Sport England has achieved. Since 1994, it has distributed more than £1.3 billion to more than 3,200 sports projects, benefiting 62 sports in every part of the country. In my constituency, it assisted much local fundraising by my constituent Margaret Bartlett and her colleagues, and helped the Lightwater playing fields association to establish the new Lightwater leisure centre, opened by Trevor Brooking not long ago.
Tennis was mentioned earlier. Over the past few months, I have had the great pleasure of being involved in the opening of two new sets of courts. His Royal Highness Prince Edward opened the Bagshot playing fields association's new courts, and I--along with the current mayor of the borough of Surrey Heath--opened the Camberley lawn tennis club's courts. It is wonderful to see all those new facilities being opened, but one has to recognise that even more could be done if even more lottery bids succeeded. If Sport England finds that it has less money from the lottery than it had a legitimate right to expect, there will be a problem.
I heard what the Secretary of State said about his announcement about the new taskforce and the new analysis of world-class performance by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). It is interesting that the Secretary of State said that he was announcing that to the House today. I found that slightly surprising, given that all hon. Members were sent a briefing from one of the sporting bodies saying that they welcomed the fact that the right hon. Member for Copeland was taking on that role. That release was issued four days ago. It may be good to have a review--although I hope that it will not involve any junkets--but it is extraordinary that the Secretary of State claimed to be announcing something to the House when it was in a press release, issued four days ago, given to sporting bodies and then incorporated in their briefings to us in advance of the debate. Conservative Members have many times expressed concern at the fact that announcements are often made outside the House when they should be made to it.
I pay tribute to the people who were involved in our Olympic success. All of us have welcomed it. The school that I attended when I was fortunate enough to win a free place on the basis of the 11-plus--it was then a direct-grant grammar school--has its first Olympic gold medallist. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know the school well because your son attended it, too. Tim Foster, one of the successful gold medal-winning four, is an old boy of Bedford modern school. Rowing was one of the sports that I did not get involved in at school. I pay tribute to all
Steve Redgrave has paid tribute to the fact that, under the Conservative Government, the lottery came into existence. He said that he had to win his early gold medals out of the five all on his own, without any support. It is the lottery that has transformed our world-class performing athletes, whose success we saw. It must not be forgotten that all that is down to the initiative--against much opposition from both inside and outside this place--by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon.
I turn to the problems with Wembley, although it is not something on which I have particular expertise. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride), who sat through and participated in the Select Committee's analysis of that latest Government fiasco, has spoken about it, but I am concerned that all the problems of Wembley and the potential problems that are alleged to exist with Pickett's Lock in the Lee Valley could turn into as big a fiasco as the dome. I hope not, but I would like to have seen a lot of the money that has been wasted on the dome go into sport.
It was announced that £7 million was being provided to assist volunteers in sport, but that pales into insignificance compared with the amount of public money that has been wasted on the dome. At the Sportsmatch event, I talked to John Crowther of the Lawn Tennis Association about all the things the organisation was doing in tennis. On the radio this morning, I heard Roger Taylor, a distinguished and successful former British tennis player--I remember watching his many matches at Wimbledon and his brave performances over the years when I was a child--talk about the importance of tennis facilities in the inner cities. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) made a distinguished contribution. I agree with much of what he said about the importance of sport in the inner cities. Roger Taylor himself said that he began playing tennis in a public park in the city of Sheffield. We must not forget the needs of inner-city children. A lot of the money that was wasted on the dome could have been far more profitably spent on inner-city sport and sport generally.
I was lucky enough to attend a moving event in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn), who cannot be here today. Three of the wards in my constituency are part of Guildford borough, so I was invited to a sport-for-all day at the successful Guildford Spectrum sport centre. It was an extremely moving occasion. We had a very large number of disabled children, some of whom, I hope, will some day be Paralympians.
I have been very involved in raising money for Paralympic athletes, and I hope to continue doing so. I have also attended national sporting events for disabled athletes preparing for future Paralympic games. We should recognise the particular dedication shown by all the volunteers who help disabled athletes.
There are concerns about many sports. The hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) and I share a passion for rugby. We also recognise that many problems have been caused by the apparent collapse of the Andrew plan and the resignation of Rob Andrew, which I greatly regret. I hope that rugby, a sport about which I care deeply, gets its act together soon--as, happily, cricket has recently done.
I apologise to the Minister for the fact that, like many hon. Members, I am unable to stay for the replies to the debate. As I told her this morning, I have a constituency surgery today that was arranged long before I knew of this debate.
There is a great deal of good going on in United Kingdom sport. This has been a good debate, and I hope that we have more like it. I also hope that every hon. Member will remember that, even if they are not interested in sport, most of their constituents are.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): As someone who makes no claim of any type to sporting prowess or even to sporting knowledge, I should like to say what a great pleasure it has been to listen to the debate and to learn much from hon. Members on both sides of the House. I include in that not least my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), who demonstrates his general commitment to sport by acting as vice-chairman of the all-party sports group.
I was also glad to hear from the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), who claims in his constituency one of the finest football teams. Although it was not his maiden speech, it must be close to it, and he should be congratulated on it. He has a distinguished future ahead of him, perhaps as the Opposition spokesman on sport. I hope that he will be in that position in the next six months or so, after the general election.
In saying that, I am not for a moment suggesting that I am not looking forward to the day when the Minister for Sport is promoted to the shadow Cabinet as the shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and is replaced as shadow sports spokesman by the hon. Member for Tottenham.
I should like to take this opportunity to mention several constituency matters--although I hope to be able to draw some general conclusions from specific cases in my constituency. People might think that North Wiltshire has less distinction than Tottenham, for example, in the sporting world, but they would be quite wrong. Anyone who had the good fortune, as I did, just before the summer to attend Wembley for the final of the Football Association vase would have seen Chippenham Town come a very noble second to Deal Town as it was pipped at the post by one goal.
Such sporting prowess is achieved by the factors that we have been hearing about in this debate: the training and practice made available to both boys and girls--I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath on that--in towns such as Chippenham, where we are fortunate to have two first-class comprehensive schools, both of which have excellent sports fields.
The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is currently considering whether to allow Hardenhuish school, in Chippenham, to sell part of its playing fields for the building of new houses. The sale would achieve some very worthwhile improvements in schools across my constituency. If the sale is allowed--I hope that the Secretary of State will make a decision on
By contrast, as I mentioned earlier, the Liberal Democrat-controlled North Wiltshire district council has, this week, given planning permission for 595 houses in Corsham in my constituency, which will be built at least partly on a former Ministry of Defence sports pitch. Although the pitches themselves will be saved, the ash running track around the side is to go, as are the changing rooms. The houses will be built on a large greenfield site and the general amenity provided for the children of Corsham will be severely diminished. Again, I appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, who I know will be considering the district council's application for permission shortly, to give careful consideration to whether he should allow the development to go ahead. My view is that he certainly should not.
By contrast, in Chippenham 500 children play football every Saturday on what can best be described as a waterlogged and deeply unsatisfactory set of pitches. Again, I call on the Minister to give every encouragement to the district council, the county council, which is building a new school nearby, and others in the town to find a way of providing some decent sporting facilities for the children of Chippenham. If we do not do so collectively and individually, I fail to see how we can possibly hope for the prowess that was demonstrated by Chippenham Town at Wembley before the summer to continue.
One aspect of sporting prowess that we in north Wiltshire can claim, apart from football, has not been mentioned during today's debate. Equestrianism was an area of sporting prowess at the Sydney Olympics and much of its excellence is down to constituencies such as mine. Part of the Badminton great park is in my constituency. Many hon. Members will not be aware that the largest publicly attended sporting event in the world is the three-day event at Badminton. The Minister acknowledges that she does indeed know that. It is contested by Minneapolis, I believe--