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House of Commons

Monday 3 February 2003

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

School Sports

1. Mr. Michael Foster (Worcester): What plans she has to extend the provision of school sports co-ordinators. [94790]

5. Phil Sawford (Kettering): What action she is taking to promote sport in schools. [94795]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): PE and sport are vital to the Government's view of the development of young people in terms of their health and educational achievement. That is why my Department and the Department for Education and Skills are investing £459 million over the next three years to transform PE and school sport. We have set ourselves the challenging target of taking the percentage of schoolchildren who spend at least two hours a week on high-quality PE and school sport from some 25 per cent. in 2002 to 75 per cent. in 2006. That money will more than treble the number of school sports co-ordinators to 2,400—school sports co-ordinators are the linchpin of the partnerships that drive participation forwards—and will nearly quadruple the number of primary link teachers to 13,500. I shall today place in the

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Library the initial results of the survey of school sports co-ordinator partnerships that took place at the end of 2002.

Mr. Foster : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. She will know of my support for Worcestershire county council's bid for a school sports co-ordinator to cover the Worcester city school pyramids, and I hope that her Department will look favourably on that. Does she think that school sports co-ordinators should be concerned with participation in sports, or with the unearthing of talent such as another Beckham, Botham or Paula Radcliffe, or both?

Hon. Members : Both.

Tessa Jowell: In response to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, the answer, which we heard echoing round the Chamber, is that they are intended to do both—to ensure that sport becomes part of every child's life at school and to create the opportunities for children with talent and ambition to progress. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his advocacy of school sport on behalf of his constituents, and I very much hope that there will soon be a partnership in an area near him.

Phil Sawford: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that she is doing to encourage sport in schools, and welcome the £900,000 that is being provided through the new opportunities fund for the Montagu school in my Kettering constituency. The difficulty that we face is that the project requires £1.2 million. Will she look into that and offer some advice on additional funding to ensure that the project can go ahead?

Tessa Jowell: If my hon. Friend would like to write to me, I shall certainly consider the costs of his project. The partnerships are funded at more or less equal cost,

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but if particular problems are being encountered in his local partnership, we shall of course attempt to solve them.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): I welcome the extra money, in particular for the development of Canterbury high school as a sports community college. However, will the Secretary of State address the real scandal—the continuing sell-off of school playing fields, which happened under successive Governments and has accelerated under this one?

Tessa Jowell: We have been here before. The hon. Gentleman should know better. It is absolutely not the case that the rate of school playing field sales has increased. Any proposed sale of a playing field has to navigate very tight tests before a decision to allow it to be sold is taken. Whereas under the last Government about 40 playing fields a month were sold, it is now no more than a trickle, and they are sold only where there is no sporting case for keeping them.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) made a fair point. If the Government's commitment to sport in schools is "second to none", to use the Secretary of State's words, why have 115 major school playing fields been sold off in the past four years?

Tessa Jowell: Because in many cases, new facilities have replaced those playing fields. When we last debated the matter, I made the Government's commitment clear: more than £1 billion from the Government and the lottery will be invested in facilities for sport over the next three years. The Government are therefore putting their money where their commitment is: into the development of community facilities for children and the wider community.

Gate Studios, Elstree

2. Claire Ward (Watford): What representations she has received on the listed building status of the Gate Studios in Elstree; and if she will make astatement. [94792]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): The Department for Culture, Media and Sport received 10: nine in favour of listing, and one against.

Claire Ward : I am disappointed in English Heritage's decision. Its judgment is flawed in this case. The Gate studios have the oldest surviving sound stage of its type in the country. It dates from 1928 and has remained unaltered since it was erected. It played an important part in the British film industry. Of course, Elstree and Borehamwood constitute a major part of film and television in this country.

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English Heritage has not examined the case properly. I ask my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to reconsider and ascertain whether it is possible, on the grounds of the rarity of the sound stage, to get English Heritage to list it.

Dr. Howells: English Heritage assessed the Gate Studios complex in 2001 and advised that it did not fulfil the criteria for listing. After careful consideration of the evidence, my right hon. Friend decided to accept English Heritage's advice. However, she has suggested that she is happy to reconsider whether to add the building to the statutory list if further new evidence of architectural significance is sent to her.

National Museums (Free Entry)

3. Helen Southworth (Warrington, South): What assessment she has made of the impact of free entry to national museums. [94793]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): In the first year—2001–02—of free admission, visitors to national museums that previously charged increased by more than 5 million; a growth of 70 per cent. That resounding success has been mirrored in all the regions that have sponsored museums. In the north-west, visitors to sponsored museums increased by 74 per cent. to almost 2 million.

Helen Southworth : I thank my right hon. Friend for that welcome news. People throughout the country appreciate the increase in visitors to national museums. What further steps does she intend to take to ensure equity of access for all social groups in the country and in the regions, so that people in Warrington get the same benefit and opportunity as people in Westminster to enjoy the wealth of our national museums?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend asks an important question, which represents the next stage of access to museums. The answer is in two parts. First, we want to ensure that museums are more open and inviting to people from a wide range of backgrounds—wider than the groups that have perhaps traditionally visited our museums. Early figures show some success in that. Museums will be encouraged to be more open through the terms of their funding agreement. That links to their increasingly important educational role. Secondly, I hope that a new contract between national and regional museums will lead to much greater co-operation and sharing of skills, thus improving the quality of what is on offer, sharing collections and making regional museums even more inviting to the widest range of people.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): That is all very well, but as one who commends the Secretary of State on free entry, I draw her attention to the gross underfunding of some of our museums, such as the British Museum. Will she deal with acquisition grants? Does she know that many of our great national galleries and museums are unable adequately to fund purchases?

Tessa Jowell: I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises the progress that has been made. Every one

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of our national museums and galleries will from next year receive a further increase in its funding, including the British Museum. Of course, every cultural institution—indeed, almost every part of our national life—could do with more money, but what we have done in the six years since we came back into power in 1997 is to increase year on year the amount of money available to museums and galleries. That is linked to the incredibly popular policy of free entry, ensuring that the treasures in our national museums and galleries are truly enjoyed by all.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): The House will know that I have an interest in this matter. Given the Secretary of State's continuing refusal to allow our national museums to choose whether they charge or not, thus denying them an extremely useful potential source of funding, will she undertake to review the museums' acquisitions grants on a year-by-year basis, to enable them to participate in the increasingly expensive and competitive international art market, and to help to save treasures of national importance from going abroad?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman will know—or perhaps he does not, in which case I will tell him—that paintings to the value of some £35 million have been gifted to museums and galleries as part of the special scheme that allows the gift of pictures to be offset against inheritance tax. That is an important way of renewing and refreshing the collections. Our museums and galleries also go out to private sponsors and benefactors in the private sector. This is an area in which the Government can make an enormously important commitment, and our top priority is to ensure that our museums and galleries are free at any time to anybody who wants to visit them. Our approach contrasts with that of the Conservative party, which introduced charges and saw a collapse in the number of people who could afford to go and enjoy those paintings.

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