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House of Commons

Monday 8 March 2004

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]



Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Sports Facilities (Funding)

1. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): If she will make a statement on the funding of sports facilities from lottery funds. [158916]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Lottery funding continues to transform sports provision, but, as everybody knows, receipts are falling, so the Government are reforming Sport England to ensure that lottery money is most effectively used. Facilities and other funding will be based on sport's own priorities and have a true regional focus. The driving force for that will be greater sustainable participation in sport and physical activities.

Mr. Amess : For too long, my constituency of Southend, West has languished in the bottom group of beneficiaries from lottery funds, despite the excellent quality of the many applications that have been made. Will the Minister explain why, two years ago, the Government indicated that £750 million from the New Opportunities Fund would be fast-tracked to sport, yet only £230 million has found its way to our schools, of which only £8.5 million has actually been spent?

Mr. Caborn: Under the six-year programme, £581 million of the £750 million is to be invested, through local education authorities, in sports facilities. We are the first to admit that, had Sport England been up to it—unfortunately, it was not—we should have invested through that medium. Over the past two years, I have been engaged in the reform programme for Sport England, which will work through the governing bodies and the new regional sports boards; the 75 local and regional funding streams have been transformed and the

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process will be much more bottom-up, influenced by sport, as well as by people in the regions and in the governing bodies.

John Cryer (Hornchurch) (Lab): The Minister may be aware that my Hornchurch constituency has done extremely badly from lottery funding for the kind of facilities referred to in the question. Will he give an assurance that future bids from Hornchurch and from the London borough of Havering will be looked at fairly and, preferably, approved?

Mr. Caborn: Overall, the Department and the distributors have been trying to ensure that lottery funding is much more sensitive to local needs and that distribution is fairer. As I said in my previous answer, sports governing bodies and the regional sports boards will be the major distributors of the money, to ensure that we respond to the needs of sport and of community development. Sport England will be the community platform from which schemes will be developed.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con): Does not the Minister recognise that the Government have removed sport's legitimate expectations from the lottery? When they took office, they reduced the proportion of lottery money going to sport, but made sure that lottery money went to many unpopular causes, including the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. As a result, there has been much less lottery money for sport, and the Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), who pointed out that only £8 million of the £750 million promised three years ago has been spent, shows that the Government have no idea about joined-up thinking. The money that sport was led to expect it would get is tied up in red tape in the Department for Education and Skills. It should have been given to Sport England and delivered to sport—the Government have broken their promise.

Mr. Caborn: When the hon. Gentleman reflects on his question, he will find that it has many contradictions. Sport England receives 16.7 per cent. of lottery funds and the New Opportunities Fund receives about 33 per cent. A considerable amount of that money has been invested in sport. The £750 million for local education authorities to which the hon. Gentleman refers is actually going into sports facilities—

Mr. Hawkins: It is not getting there.

Mr. Caborn: It certainly is getting there. The hon. Gentleman should have been in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Colin Burgon) last Friday and seen the all-weather pitches and the developments for tennis and basketball in Dronfield, just outside Sheffield. Over the next 18 months to two years, 1,700 schemes will be coming on stream as a result of New Opportunities Fund investment in new sports facilities.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend ensure that better funding is spread throughout the north-west? In Chorley, we have a very

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good athletics club but a running track is much needed. How much funding can be made available through Sport England for that scheme?

Mr. Caborn: When I took this job, we had 75 different funding streams. We have acted in an adult way and taken a systematic approach, involving those responsible for sport—the governing bodies—and the new sports boards, which have a much wider constituency than had previously been the case, and the funding will be invested strategically and systematically. I am sure that my hon. Friend will make strong representations to Andy Worthington, the chair of the new north-west regional sports board, who will listen to the case so as to ensure that the scheme is delivered within the time scale that my hon. Friend wants.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): At the Labour party conference in September 2000—some four years ago—the Prime Minister said:


By anyone's standards, the Labour party conference in 2000, plus three, gives 2003 and £750 million. In 2002, the Minister said in a very fine speech that he once made:

it to happen

However, in a written answer in the House of Lords on 8 January this year, the Government were forced to admit that they had allocated £750 million, that they had so far committed £230 million, but that only £8 million had been spent, despite the Prime Minister's promise in 2000. When will he start putting his money where his mouth is?

Mr. Caborn: I am not taking lectures from that lot opposite, who were closing 40 playing fields a month when we came to power and had no sports strategy at all. We are spending £750 million, but we happen to be just a little bit behind schedule, so it is a bit rich of Conservative Members to criticise us.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): The Minister should not worry too much about the Tories, who gave £13 million towards the Churchill papers. I want to draw his attention back to the baths at Bolsover. I know that he is dealing with Chorley, Sheffield and all those other places, but will he give me an assurance about the proposal to save the baths at Bolsover—a declining area following the pit closures? The last bath was closed because of subsidence. We have got a first-class case. Do not bother about that lot over there—bother about Bolsover.

Mr. Caborn: I assure my hon. Friend that the east midlands sport board will take on board his interesting point. Many of the sports facilities in his constituency and, indeed, in those of many of my other hon. Friends were developed through the pits and the big steelworks. Many of those facilities were lost, but, as my hon. Friend suggests, we are trying to bring them back into community use. In fact, that investment in the

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community is governed by the community. I will take what he says to the east midlands sports board, and we will discuss it again.


2. Colin Burgon (Elmet) (Lab): What plans she has to meet football representative bodies to discuss player behaviour. [158917]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): I have no such plans at present. Players' behaviour is primarily a matter for the football authorities, but the Government invest substantially in football's development and do not wish poor behaviour to be imitated. I have discussed the issue in the past with those in the sport. Indeed, I wrote to all football clubs at the beginning of the 2002 season, drawing their attention to what teachers have been telling me as I have gone around the country: that what happens on the pitch on a Saturday is copied in the playgrounds on the Monday. I believe that professional players of all sport, but particularly of football—our national game—should take that advice from this country's teachers.

Colin Burgon : I thank the Minister for that reply. I know that he shares my sadness about the regular reports of the behaviour of a significant number of professional footballers over the past year or so, but I want to be positive about the game. When he meets the football authorities will he use his influence to promote the idea of a John Charles fair play award at either national or European level? The Minister, as a Sheffield United supporter, knows a bit about football. John Charles of Leeds United and Wales was never sent off or booked in his career. In many respects, he represents the age of innocence for our national game. What support can the Minister give to all those of us who want John Charles's memory to be honoured properly?

Mr. Caborn: All hon. Members recognise the contribution that John Charles made to football. I know that my hon. Friend is a Leeds supporter and that John Charles played for that team for eight or nine years and was an outstanding footballer who graced many pitches at national and international level. My hon. Friend's suggestion about a fair play award is made at an appropriate time in the development of football in this country. A fair play award, using John Charles's name, is a good proposition—it could probably do a lot—and I will take it up with the national and international football authorities, as John Charles was noted internationally for the way he played the game.

Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con): Will the Minister also take time to encourage clubs, such as Charlton Athletic, that do a great deal for schools and whose younger players do a great deal of community work to offset the image of those who are more interested in nightclubbing and floosies? They do a great deal to encourage young children in community schools to take a proper interest in the sport.

Mr. Caborn: I could not agree more with those sentiments. Unfortunately, a minority—it is a minority—of footballers misbehave, but every football

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club in the premier league and the first division is part of the playing for success initiative, which brings young people into centres to learn about information technology and uses the power of football to attract young people to learning and being good citizens. We must commend what football has been doing; it is unfortunate that it gets only bad publicity, as it has in the recent past.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that sport is a channel for positive behaviour and that we need facilities for sport to take place? If so, he will understand my dismay at the fact that the £15 million scout centre at Bucknall Park in my constituency is still closed. Will he use his good offices—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I did not call the hon. Gentleman on Question 1. He cannot try again on Question 2.

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