Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
MONDAY 23 APRIL 2001
BICHARD, KCB, MR
60. What have you done to enquire from Railtrack
whether there would be opportunities of this sort?
(Mr Rickett) I am not aware that we have enquired
of Railtrack but we shall let you have a note on that if you want.
61. Do you think it would be a good idea?
(Mr Rickett) There must be issues about safety where
you are encouraging such activity next to railway lines which
are in use as opposed to using disused railway lines for cycle
62. I hope at least you are encouraging the
(Mr Rickett) Indeed; yes.
63. It does seem to me that there are opportunities
on those railway lines which are in use. I am sorry to hear you
have not investigated that at all, because I would have thought
that was clearly another opportunity.
(Mr Rickett) I said that I had not personally. I do
not know whether the Department has or not. I shall have to check
64. May I begin by complimenting both Mr Crisp
and Sir Michael on the joint working on the free fruit in schools
initiative which I think is a terrific initiative and is one which
I hope will set good eating practices in place for our children
in the future? I know it is at the moment only a pilot scheme.
Can you tell us when the feedback from that will be coming through
and when it might be put out nationwide?
(Mr Crisp) I am not quite sure I have that piece of
information here. We can certainly get it back to you.
65. I think it is certainly going out to the
health action zone schools at the moment.
(Mr Crisp) Currently it is in place in 500 schools,
so we have 80,000 children receiving free fruit. We intend, subject
to the pilot, to roll it out by 2004, but I cannot tell you off
hand the staging posts.
66. If you could perhaps provide a note on that
it would be interesting.
(Mr Crisp) Yes, we can do that.
67. Sir Michael, can you just remind us of the
rate at which schools in 1997 were applying to have their playing
fields sold off?
(Sir Michael Bichard) About 40 a month.
68. That is the figure I have.
(Sir Michael Bichard) I was just hesitating about
69. Can you tell us what the figure is currently
for applications per month?
(Sir Michael Bichard) About three a month.
70. That is the figure I have as well. What
are your Department doing for those schools who have no playing
field facilities? It is one thing to stop the rotand I
commend you and the Government for what you have done in stopping
the rotbut it is another to have a full active strategy
to begin creating sporting opportunities for school children whose
schools do not have those facilities.
(Sir Michael Bichard) We are certainly providing,
with the help of DCMS, the National Lottery and the National Opportunities
Fund, a very substantial additional investment which can be used
for sports and arts facilities of all sorts.
71. As a Department, have you begun to identify
systematically the deficit which exists within local educational
(Sir Michael Bichard) We would regard that as a matter
for local education authorities to manage themselves. After all,
they have a responsibility to manage the educational assets.
(Mr Rickett) We are consulting on a revised draft
of planning policy guidance note 17 on sport, open space and recreation.
That is going to set out a new systematic approach for local authorities
in establishing provision and need for open space and recreational
facilities, starting with a requirement that they should assess
the need in their area, having regard to the standards of provision
recommended by sports governing bodies, the National Playing Fields
Association and other interest groups and then set standards of
provision which reflect their local circumstances and then make
provision in their local development plans.
72. If I am not mistaken though, that applies
rather more to the provision of public open space, parks, recreational
facilities which are available to the wider public.
(Mr Rickett) Yes.
73. What I am trying to pursue with Sir Michael
is the specific deficit in schools.
(Mr Rickett) The two overlap.
74. Indeed they do overlap but it does strike
me that unless there is some clear central guidance which states
that this should be drawn up, that deficit should be identified,
then it is very difficult to target the resources, Sir Michael,
which you alluded to which Mr Young's Department and your own
would be seeking to put into the provision.
(Sir Michael Bichard) We would expect local authorities
and indeed schools themselves to be well aware of the importance
of providing playing fields and opportunities for young people
to participate in sport. Therefore we would expect them without
any central guidance to be looking to fill the gaps where those
gaps exist. The National Lottery in particular has made available
a very substantial sum of money, not all for schools, but some
of it available for schools to create new playing field opportunities.
75. I thought we were together on this but we
may be diverging here. That seemed to be more a defensive argument.
Let me try to phrase it differently to see whether I get a different
answer from you. I do assure you that it is intended to be entirely
positive and in line with what I take it you gentlemen are trying
to achieve with this report. Do you not think that if we are really
going to address the shortage, then we have first of all to discover
what it is? It is no use simply saying schools should be worrying
about that themselves, or local education authorities should be
worrying about that themselves. Of course they are. If this is
going to be tackled as a national problem, then it does take Government
Departments to quantify the deficits which exist, would you not
(Sir Michael Bichard) The easiest answer to that of
course is yes, because then we can move onto the next question
and you know that I am on your side. However, what I was trying
to say was that the primary responsibility for this must rest
with local authorities and you may be right that we can highlight
national problems where they exist and in highlighting them hopefully
encourage local authorities and others to plug the gap. One has
to be careful not to believe everything can be resolved and every
problem can be resolved from the centre of Government.
76. In that case I am afraid you have just laid
a rather large elephant trap for Mr Young. Am I not right in saying
that given that sport is your Department's responsibility you
have singularly failed as a Department to ensure that it is a
statutory responsibility for local authorities. Given that Sir
Michael is saying that this is the responsibility of the local
authorities, the problem is surely this, that there is no statutory
responsibility on local authorities to be providing these services
and when one is in a climate where local authority funding is
being cut, when local authorities are severely constrained in
the monies that they have available to them because of the initiatives
they have to pursue, those are the very areas which are not statutory
responsibilities that then do not happen.
(Mr Young) It is certainly true that there are no
statutory responsibilities on local authorities in relation to
sport, but that does not mean, in our view, that local authorities
are not taking up the challenges very effectively and with great
enthusiasm. In discussions with the Local Government Association,
all local authorities have agreed to produce local sports strategies.
In the recent document we published called the Government's Plan
for Sport, there are propositions for each local authority to
audit the sporting and recreation facilities in their areas. The
combination of an audit of existing facilitiesand I shall
come to the opportunities for them to enhance those via the Lotteryand
the local strategies should make for very effective sport strategies
for each local authority area. It is true that there is no statutory
duty. The particular opportunity we have given them under the
Lottery is this thing called the space for sports and art scheme,
which is specifically for the development of new sports and arts
facilities in primary schools, though we are also insisting that
those are available for the wider community as well. Similarly,
under the green spaces initiative, where they apply for community
playing fields, we are also insisting that those are available
for schools. There is the overlapping connection which Sir Michael
77. Do you think that it would be a good thing
if local authorities did have a statutory responsibility to ensure
sporting facilities for local residents?
(Mr Young) Ministers of both recent Governments have
decided not to impose such a duty. I am not sure I want to state
a personal view, but the current Government and previous Governments
did not wish to impose such a duty. I cannot go any further than
78. Yes, it would probably be difficult to do
so. Let me go back to Sir Michael. I do not know whether you were
here yesterday, Sunday, watching the marathon go by. I was. Maybe
you were participating in it?
(Sir Michael Bichard) No, I am afraid I was not participating.
79. Neither was I. I saw the runners go past
and it made me think of the paragraph in this report which says
that our occupations nowadays lack so much physical activity as
to be the equivalent of running a marathon a week. I found that
quite a staggering calculation. I should like to know who worked
it out, but presumably it is in kilojoules somewhere. Given the
reduction in physical activity and given all that we have heard
and discussed today about the importance of getting people into
a pattern of physical recreation young so that they continue that
into later life when their jobs are clearly not giving them the
same amount of exercise, do you not think that it should become
part of the school day that there is some form of physical education
(Sir Michael Bichard) Every child aged between five
and 16 has a statutory entitlement to physical education.
7 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 25 (PAC
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 25 (PAC 00-01/176). Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 3, page 26 (PAC 00-01/168). Back