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House of Commons

Monday 16 July 2001

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Creative and Arts Education

1. Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West): If she will make a statement on her plans for improving creative education and arts education in schools. [2420]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Dr. Kim Howells): We are trying to ensure that all young people, whatever their means and background, have access to high-quality arts and creative education. We are working closely with various partners, including the Department for Education and Skills, the Arts Council of England and the National Foundation for Youth Music, on a range of policies to deliver that.

Dr. Naysmith: I thank the Minister for his reply. I am familiar with the work of Multi A in Bristol, which comes into the category catered for by a couple of the bodies that he mentioned. It certainly does good work in Bristol;

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I know that it would appreciate more funding, and I understand that the Minister is aware of that. Will he visit Bristol soon so that I can show him work in progress and further plans, especially in the context of Bristol's bid to become European city of culture in 2008?

Dr. Howells: I will certainly visit Bristol, which has always been one of my favourite cities. Multi A is making a tremendous contribution to encouraging Bristol schoolchildren, often from difficult backgrounds, to experience the arts, including dance, choral singing and the visual arts. I was glad that its director, Vic Ecclestone, received an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours list. My Department is encouraging the funding agencies to ensure that Multi A has sufficient funds to allow it to continue to operate over the next three years.

National Football Stadium

2. Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): What discussions she has had with those involved in the building of a new national football stadium for England. [2421]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): In the light of the Football Association's announcement on 1 May, the Government have asked Patrick Carter to conduct a review of the English national stadium project to examine whether it can be funded and managed at Wembley or, if that proves impractical, at another location in England. We expect to receive his report in late August, and I shall meet the key stakeholders shortly after.

Mr. Pike: My right hon. Friend will know that for many years I have pressed for a new national stadium for both football and rugby league. Whatever facilities there are in other parts of the United Kingdom, there should be a national stadium in London, preferably at Wembley. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Football

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Association and others have messed about with this and that it is becoming something of a fiasco? People in the football world want a solution as soon as possible.

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend has long advocated the case for Wembley, but the fact is that the projected costs of the project more than doubled during the planning stage. The FA has so far not been able to develop an effective business plan, nor has it secured any substantial financial backing. The Government support the FA's desire for a modern national stadium. However, the prime mover is the FA; the Government, in this context, are not a walking cheque book or a stadium developer. We must remember that any cost overruns that require public funding, often running into millions, represent money not spent on refurbishing inner-city sports facilities for our children who want the chance to be the champions of the future.

Nick Harvey (North Devon): In view of the continuing questions about Wembley or any other national football stadium and the linked problems with Pickett's Lock, does the Secretary of State not think it time that the Government took responsibility for taking the key decisions about whether we will bid for prestigious games? Do not the legacy of the Sheffield student games and the possible deficit of the Manchester Commonwealth games, and now the embarrassment of finding a stadium for the 2005 world athletics championships, mean that the Government should take decisions about whether we are going to bid for prestigious games? They should decide whether or not we have the resources to hold them; they should take responsibility and drive them through from start to finish.

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that any sports project on the scale of Wembley or Pickett's Lock can proceed only with Government support, but not, in every case, with Government as the principal or even substantial funder. There will always be infrastructure and other planning issues that require Government support to resolve them.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): If we are just talking about a national football stadium, it could be anywhere in the country; it does not have to be at Wembley. But if we are talking about a national stadium for athletics, and given that, as Beijing has now been nominated to hold the 2008 Olympic games, London could possibly be a candidate city for a later Olympic games, we have to look again at the deck solution for providing athletics facilities there. Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether or not she has ruled out, or whether she has an open mind about, the original design, which involved a deck proposal for athletics at Wembley?

Tessa Jowell: Patrick Carter's review is considering all options, but I am advised that any proposal to link a possible development at Wembley with the world athletics championships would be impractical, because a stadium would not be ready on time.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): I warmly welcome the right hon. Lady to her new responsibilities,

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and I wish her well and certainly better luck than, her immediate predecessor, whom I am delighted to see in his place this afternoon.

Does the right hon. Lady agree that of all the problems that have landed on her desk since taking up her appointment—the dome, falling lottery sales, regional arts funding and the Minister for Sport's views on tennis—the most pressing by far is the crisis over Wembley? I am in danger of agreeing with the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), but was it not wrong to kick athletics out of the Wembley plans, putting at risk £120 million of lottery funding and Britain's ability to host the 2005 world athletics championships? Does she agree that, if we wave goodbye to those championships, we can wave goodbye to hosting the Olympics for at least a generation?

Tessa Jowell: I do not accept that Wembley is the biggest issue facing me or my ministerial team. The biggest issue facing us is implementing the promises that we made to the people of this country on being re-elected on 7 June, key among which is getting sport back as part of the life of every child in the country and encouraging a generation of young sportsmen and women on to the ladder of success and opportunity; and the big sporting projects—whether Wembley, Pickett's Lock or any other—must be part of that strategy, not a distraction from it.

Sports Coaching Facilities

3. Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North): What plans she has to improve coaching facilities throughout the United Kingdom in all sports. [2422]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The development of coaching and coaching facilities is mainly the responsibility of a number of organisations, which receive Government funding, including the national governing bodies of sport, the Sports Council, UK Sport, Sport England and Sportscoach UK. The Government's plan for sport also includes a range of initiatives to provide significant new investment in coaching and coaching education, which will assist the grass roots and clubs. The coaching taskforce, which aims to initiate action to improve coaching at all levels, had its first meeting on 28 June.

Dr. Gibson: I start by assuring my right hon. Friend that his success in his new position will not depend on being able to answer pub-style questions. All he need know are the names of the manager and the coach of the all-conquering parliamentary football team—that is good enough. Will he seriously support a programme of major investment in coaching for all our schools and communities, based not just on producing superstars, but on developing the performance, skills, prowess and, indeed, enjoyment of everyone in our schools and communities?

Mr. Caborn: As my hon. Friend suggests, it is very important that we get the coaching right. That is why we look to the taskforce to produce recommendations. We are already committed to a programme of investment to create 3,000 full-time paid coaching posts by 2005, but I

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hope that when the report is produced in, I think, March next year, we will be able to have a debate in this place, or at least in the Select Committee or a Standing Committee.

I do know who the coach of the all-party football club is—it is none other than my hon. Friend himself, so there was a little self-promotion in the question. May I give my hon. Friends some advice? Do not take part in pub quizzes on the radio; it is very dangerous. Still, I am more likely to get the answers to pub quizzes right than the Conservative party is to pick a leader who will win it the next general election.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Despite the new Minister's protestations, does he not recognise that what he most needs are coaching and knowledge in relation to his responsibilities? Does he not recognise that, in the eyes of the entire sporting media and the entire population, he shot himself in both hands and feet before even reaching his first Question Time? Will he not further recognise that his attempt to rehabilitate himself in this weekend's Daily Telegraph was a case of not getting the name of one of England's recent rugby heroes right and of pretending that he organised a Lords and Commons cricket tour in 1995? That showed great disrespect to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), who actually knows something about sport—[Interruption.]—and as Max Boyce, another rugby legend of whom the Minister has probably never heard, would say, "I know because I was there"—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Caborn: I take no lectures from Conservative Members about sport and participating in sport. Yes, I played cricket with the hon. Gentleman in South Africa and, if he examines the record to which he has just referred, he will find out who exactly organised the tour.

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