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1.44 pm

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): We have had an interesting morning. Although we are few in number, as all speakers pointed out, the debate has been good tempered and of good quality. We heard a little bit of cricket history, from which we learned a lot.

It is not often that a debate is watched by one of the greatest sporting teams in the world--the Australian rugby league team was listening to our every word earlier. I am not sure what that will have done for the team's knowledge of sport in this country, but it gives me an opportunity to welcome the fact that we are hosting the rugby league world cup and to pay tribute to all the work that has gone into organising that event. I hope that the best teams will be in the final at Old Trafford in a couple of weeks, and that one of them will be England--but saying that might raise objections from hon. Members.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have returned from watching the Olympics and Paralympics and other hon. Members have referred to watching them on television. Those who care deeply about sport have been invigorated by the results at the Olympics. Although we were not given much notice of this debate, we all had the same notice, and it is important that we are not complacent but build on the strength of our Olympic and Paralympic success. Therefore, our commitment to maintain--and, indeed, strengthen--the lottery funding for elite sport and our world-class performance programme is important.

The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) did not question our commitment to maintaining that funding, but asked where the extra money would come from, as did the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway). It is important that I clarify that matter. There is now simply more money in sport than ever before. Of course, we would all like there to be even more money, and it is absolutely clear that this country needs long-term investment in sport--and we are beginning to see that long-term, sustainable investment in sport.

Hon. Members will recall that the Chancellor announced the doubling of Exchequer funding for sport. From April, £4 million will go directly to the United Kingdom Sports Institute via UK Sport. Until now, people would have had to apply to each of the home countries for funds--the vast majority of which come from Sport England--to help towards the completion of the institute.

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That direct Exchequer funding will release extra money from the home countries sports councils and the lottery sports panel during the next three years. That money can be used in whatever way those organisations see fit.

As hon. Members have said, all our athletes at the Paralympics and Olympics drew attention to how much that support allowed them to have warm winter training and the back-up of sports doctors, scientists, medical experts and psychologists, all of whom gave those talented people the extra help that made the difference between winning and losing medals. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the Gold Coast camp for all our Olympic athletes was the envy of many of our competitor countries.

We are committed to maintaining that funding. There is more money in sport than ever before, and the Government have to set strategies and targets. Clearly, we want those in sport to decide how they should spend that money. That is precisely why we have set up the review, which is chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). It is important to deal with those aspects of lottery funding that did not work so well.

Last week, I met the performance directors of all the Olympic sports. They praised the amount of money involved, but of course some things could be done differently and better with less bureaucracy and red tape. That will ensure that the money is targeted so that there are no anomalies by which people in one part of the United Kingdom receive different funds from those in another area for representing the British team and the country. The small review group should come up with such proposals soon and reconsider ways in which to ensure that the institute works with different regional centres. We look forward to its report, which will appear by the middle of next year.

I shall respond to various points raised in our debate. I thank hon. Members from both sides of the House for their general support for the principles of "A Sporting Future for All". It is generally accepted that it sets a clear strategy to meet the relevant needs. The implementation groups that we set up contain people from sport. They do not specifically represent governing bodies or education, but involve people from local government, sport, governing bodies and community groups. The aim is for those groups to produce an action plan, and they are about to make a report.

For the first time, many people in sport feel empowered and able to express what they believe is needed to turn "A Sporting Future for All" into a reality. The report will go to me and, at least with regard to its education aspects, to Ministers in the Department for Education and Employment. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell), who discussed joined-up government, will be interested in that.

Several hon. Members discussed the collaboration between my Department and the DFEE. There are close working relations between the Departments at ministerial and official level, although civil servants from different Departments can often speak in different languages when discussing the same things. The appointment of Sue Campbell, the chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, has helped the collaboration between the Departments and there is now a much greater understanding of what is meant by physical education, school sport and good-quality physical education provision. The implementation groups,

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which contain a wide range of expertise, are considering, for example, whether it is better to spend two hours on good-quality physical education or a longer period on physical education of not such good quality. Their results will bring about a sea change in attitude and in the relevant structures.

A crucial feature of "A Sporting Future for All" is that it recognises the need to begin with schools--even at pre-school--but it stresses that one cannot suddenly say, "Youngsters leave school, after which everything else is fine and will be looked after." There has been a good system at the top, and the situation may be improving at the bottom, but the situation in the middle--the link between schools and sports clubs, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Ryedale--is crucial. That was stressed in the document and by the implementation groups. When the report is published, we expect it to contain some imaginative ideas that will make a difference. We cannot deliver without close co-operation between the schools and sports clubs.

That brings me to the role of sport co-ordinators. It is important that they work with sports colleges as they are the pinnacle around which all the other schools in an area will operate. The families of children in primary and secondary schools will be involved, and the sports colleges will lead the way by raising physical education standards in sport in schools and the local community and by using sport as a vehicle to raise a school's academic standards.

Mr. Bob Russell: Is the Minister flagging up the possibility that the minimum requirement of two hours physical education in the school timetable, which is already missed by 75 per cent. of children, will be diluted? That would remove the aspiration, let alone the achievement, of the two-hour target.

Kate Hoey: Absolutely not. The two-hour target is a firm aspiration, to which my Department and the DFEE are committed. The strategy and the work of the implementation groups, school sports co-ordinators and the sports colleges are geared towards providing good-quality sporting and physical education opportunities in schools. The additional £750 million for the improvement of facilities will also be used in that effort.

We must not get too hung up on the question of two hours, as there could be one hour 55 minutes or two hours and five minutes for sport. I want every child to have a good opportunity to get involved in physical education and learn about the things that it can give them so that they can get involved in sport. Some of that will happen in school, but some will happen after school hours, given the time that it takes to organise competitive matches. However, the two things must go together and physical education teachers, especially those who become school sport co-ordinators, will have the role of working on existing links.

Governing bodies have development officers working in the locality, as do local authority sports development officers, but no one is making it all fit into a coherent pattern. That will be the role of school sport co-ordinators. Having visited many sports colleges and seen the fantastic work that they are doing, I think that they will be a model for the way in which we can improve opportunities.

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The hon. Member for Colchester talked about matters that, in effect, have been covered by the Bill on amateur sporting clubs introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) under the ten-minute rule. I have made no secret of the fact that we need to look at the way in which our amateur sports clubs are penalised when, perhaps, other amateur cultural organisations are not. We are in dialogue on that matter, but the final decision, as with many matters, lies with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There has been important cross-party support for that measure in relation to all sports, and it would be a terrific morale boost if it were introduced. However, there are many difficulties that we have to try and overcome in giving more support at grass-roots level.

The hon. Member for Colchester mentioned PPG17 and the important issue of the protection of sports facilities in private or corporate ownership. I hope that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will publish a revised draft of that documentation for consultation. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the recent Green Paper on local government finance which, for the first time I believe, made specific reference to sport, as its annexe dealt with seeking views on rate relief for sports clubs. It is important that hon. Members read and react to that document.

The hon. Gentleman is right that the British Olympic Association does not get Government funding. Only two countries in the world do not get direct Government funding. Many use the BOA as an overall body for sport in the same way as they use UK Sport and the sports councils. The position may change, but the BOA has cherished its independence from Government. For example, when Margaret Thatcher tried to prevent our sporting team going to the Moscow Olympics in 1980, it was able to stand up and say that it would go if it wanted to. There has been no argument in favour of changing the BOA's position, but it could happen.

We congratulate the BOA on the huge amount of money that it has managed to raise. It has done a terrific job with sponsors and supporters. All the sponsors who saw the success of the teams who went to the Olympics and Paralympics will be very pleased indeed that they put their name to that. Those who did not sponsor the teams may well hope that they can get involved in sponsoring the teams for the next games in Athens.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Cryer) told a nice story about his two children looking forward to the next Olympics and wanting to know when they were going to start. I realise that the Commonwealth games are two years away, but we should tell them how important they are. When I was out in Australia, it was interesting to discover how many Australians thought that the Commonwealth games were really important. They will come with a united Australian team, but we will compete as home countries and might not, therefore, have the same success in the team events that we had at the Olympics.

Work is going on to make the Commonwealth games an important sporting event for the nation, and for Manchester and the north-west in particular. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has provided additional money to ensure that we have high-quality opening and closing ceremonies. It is always difficult to think of

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emulating an event as successful as the Sydney games, but we will produce the Commonwealth games differently and make them a high-quality event.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend mentioned boxing, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy). I have been a great supporter of amateur boxing. Boxing clubs in my constituency get youngsters into a disciplined atmosphere that provides them with skills and attributes that they would not get at that age in many other sports. I share his disappointment that boxing is no longer a school sport. I recently met the English Schools Boxing Association, which is considering areas of the country that might pilot boxing schemes. I am sure that it will read his comments with interest.

I was also pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch said how important it is that the money from television is going to the grass roots through organisations such as the Football Foundation. We have to find ways to get money from the very rich sports into sport at a lower level. The Football Foundation is only a start and I hope that, as television money increases, more money will be put into it. Cricket, tennis and rugby also put substantial sums into their sports. We need to look at the longer-term future of sport and consider how we can get money into those sports that do not attract huge money from television.

My hon. Friend mentioned cricket. That sport also receives a great deal of criticism about what it has done over the years for its sport at the grass roots. I have been very pleased with the enormous amount of work that the England and Wales cricket board is doing around the country. We hope that money will be put into those sports that have not modernised because they have not recognised how sport has changed. It makes a difference when governing bodies realise that they can no longer assume that people will come to watch their sport. There are so many other opportunities for young people, and much more has to be done. The governing bodies have to get out there and sell their sport.

I join the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) in paying tribute to the work of Sportsmatch, which does a terrific job. I am very pleased that, as part of the Exchequer funding, we have been able to increase the Government's contribution to it. Sportsmatch makes a difference and helps to provide excellent local community facilities. I also join the hon. Gentleman in supporting the work of the Youth Sport Trust.

Just yesterday--I think it was reported in the news today--I launched with the Youth Sport Trust and Nike their report on girls in sport, which the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) mentioned. The report is important. The support of the sponsors has meant that a great deal of research has been carried out. They are now going to schools throughout the country. They have the results on why young girls are turned off sport and physical education. Some of the problems are practical, such as what girls have to wear and attitudes to showers. The report has been welcomed by physical education teachers. It is important that we get results from it because too many young women are missing out on having an interest and involvement in sport, which might last the rest of their lives.

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The hon. Member for Bromsgrove mentioned women's sport. Increasing numbers of girls and young women are playing football, rugby and a range of other sports that traditionally have not been seen as women's sports. I am pleased that I have been able to give those sports as much support as possible over the past year.

In an interesting speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham made clear the similarity between our two constituencies. I strongly agree with what he said about the power of sport in communities, and the difference that sport can make to people's lives. I also agree with him that so-called minority sports need assistance. I try hard to spend a lot of time listening to spokesmen for such sports, who often have useful ideas about what could be done to make a difference, with not huge but quite small sums.

Rowing, which was cited as a minority sport, has now become one of our most successful sports--

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