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Sport/Fitness Training

6. Linda Perham (Ilford, North) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to promote better health through sport and fitness training. [158921]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): The key objective of the Government's investment in sport and physical activity is, indeed, to improve the health of the nation. The activity co-ordination team, which I chair jointly with the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson), who is responsible for public health, is also preparing a three-year delivery plan on sport and physical activity. I hope that the paper will be published shortly.

Linda Perham : I thank the Minister for that information. Given that participation in sport and fitness activity in the UK is low among the adult population, does he agree that right hon. and hon. Members should lead by example, perhaps by joining the excellent Westminster Gym, which has helpful, professional and friendly staff who can assist Members in getting fit to fight for their constituents?

Mr. Caborn: I saw you, Mr. Speaker, smile at that question. Many of us could do with a good dose of the gym. My hon. Friend is right: we have an excellent gym in the House of Commons, and it can be recommended to many in the House who might wish to join it. About 10 weeks ago, my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary introduced in the gym facilities and equipment for disabled people. More disabled people are using fitness suites and there is acceptance of disabled people in that area of operations. That has happened in the House of Commons gym. I commend what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Given the look that the Minister gave me only a few seconds ago, I should tell him that at 7 o'clock this morning I was in the gym.

The Minister tells us that the delivery plan is due shortly. Will it be based on the current active participation target of 70 per cent. to be achieved by 2020? The figures show clearly that it will not be achieved until 2042. The Wanless report said that it was nonsense and Sport England has effectively dismissed it. What action will the Government take? Will they scrap the target, as they have done with the child participation in sports target, or will we see real action to achieve a target that currently there is no sign of the Department meeting?

Mr. Caborn: The target still stands. I know that the hon. Gentleman will agree that we are trying to ensure that our nation becomes much more active. About 30 years ago, a child took part in 70 per cent. more physical activity than a child does today. That illustrates the real problem. Wanless clearly said that it is not that we are absorbing more calories but that we are engaging in considerably less activity. That poses a challenge to many. Architects, for example, should ensure that they incorporate stairways in their designs. Town planners should understand that it is desirable for pedestrian walkways to be a feature of their designs. Investment of

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about £2 billion in sports facilities and coaching, for example, is a move in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether we shall achieve the 70 per cent. target, but we can make inroads into that if everybody starts to attend gyms such as that in the House of Commons.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that we cannot meet targets for sports and leisure training without swimming pools and leisure facilities? Three swimming pools in Hackney have closed recently, culminating in the closure, apparently indefinitely, of the Clissold Hall leisure centre. It was one of 12 millennium projects and it opened two years late and was four times over budget. Will my right hon. Friend see what hope he can offer my constituents, who instead of seeing more facilities are seeing fewer?

Mr. Caborn: I cannot comment on the detail of my hon. Friend's question. I can say only that there are more swimming pools in this country than ever before. Although there are fewer pools in the public sector than there are in the private sector, there has been a massive increase in facilities in both sectors. If my hon. Friend wants to write to me giving the details of her points, I shall try to answer them. It is disappointing when facilities are closed, but if that was done as part of a modernisation programme, which many local authorities are going through, that must be weighed against what my hon. Friend has said.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet) (Con): The Minister will know that back in 2001 his Department had a so-called public service agreement to increase the time that schoolchildren spend on sport or physical exercise. Will he confirm that his Department's annual report last year confirmed that the time spent on such activity had declined? Is it not a matter of urgency that the Government get a grip on this issue and come forward with a programme to ensure that our children spend more time on sport or physical exercise?

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman is right in that the level of activity that we found in our schools when we came to power in 1997 was deplorably low. We have now committed ourselves to providing, in the period up to 2006, two hours a week of quality physical activity for every child aged five to 16. The investment programme for that is under way, and we will have 400 sports colleges and 3,000 school sports co-ordinators. At the moment, 225 of those sports colleges are up and running and some 1,300 co-ordinators are in place. Money is in the budget for that, and we are rolling out the programme according to plan.

Olympic Games

7. Eric Joyce (Falkirk West) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the impact on Scotland of a successful UK bid for the 2012 Olympic games. [158922]

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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I am grateful for the support of the First Minister, Jack McConnell, for the London Olympic bid. He recognises the excitement and energy that the Olympics would bring to every part of the United Kingdom. In testing public opinion before the decision to bid, we found that the level of support for bidding was higher in Scotland than almost anywhere else in the UK. Scottish athletes will enjoy the great boost to sport that the Olympics will bring. Hampden will be used as one of the football venues, and training facilities will be needed for the many visiting athletes. Of course, the tourism profile of the whole UK will be higher, which can only be good for Scotland.

Mr. Joyce: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. She will be aware that there are a number of super, high-level facilities in Scotland, such as the national swimming academy in Stirling, the judo centre of excellence in Edinburgh and the rowing centre of excellence at Strathclyde university. Does she agree that a successful Olympic bid, or even simply an Olympic bid, would enhance the possibility of the success of a Scottish bid for the 2014 Commonwealth games?

Tessa Jowell: I agree with my hon. Friend, who will know that the four home countries are working closely together through the sports cabinet to plan and support bids for major international events such as the Commonwealth games, when the time comes. I know that Scotland is interested in the Commonwealth games, and we welcome Scotland's support for bringing the Olympics to London.

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): The best way to have an impact in Scotland is to give Scotland a voice. The Secretary of State is currently setting up a forum in London to give people in London a voice. Why not extend that to other parts of the country so that the whole country can have a say in the way in which the bid is put together? In that way, people can be reassured that their part of the country will be included.

Tessa Jowell: That is a very important point, and Barbara Cassani and other members of the bid team have been travelling all round the UK to have precisely those discussions. She had a good, constructive meeting with the First Minister in Scotland. The key to the success of our Olympic bid will be to achieve a high level of enthusiasm not just in London, but radiating right round the United Kingdom.

National Gallery

8. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): When she last met the director of the National Gallery to discuss the work of the gallery. [158923]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met the director of the National Gallery on 9 February 2004.

Mr. Dalyell : Goodison recommended tax relief on lifetime donations of works of art to national museums. What is Government thinking on that recommendation?

Estelle Morris: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I pay tribute to Goodison and the Goodison

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committee for their work in the report that they have put before us. The current situation is that the committee's recommendations are being discussed and consulted on by the Treasury, the DCMS and other interested parties. I am afraid that we will have to wait for a future date to take a decision on that matter, possibly as part of the spending review. However, the report has certainly informed our thinking on that important issue.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): I declare an interest as the person who founded the development office at the National Gallery. I am therefore fully cognisant of the reluctance among National Gallery staff and trustees to have deaccession rights. Has the Minister had discussions recently with the gallery's director—and with other museums—on the possibility of the trustees being invested with such powers? Although the director is aware of the demands of potential donors such as Sir Denis Mahon, with his Guercinos, he feels very strongly that they should not have those rights. That should be looked into. Has the Minister had those discussions?

Estelle Morris: No, I have not.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Further to the question asked by the Father of the House, may I press the Minister a bit more? When she last visited the National Gallery did she look at the little labels beside the paintings and notice that many of them are on private loan, which means that they could be put up for sale at any time and leave the country? If our national treasure is not to be raided, can she push the Treasury hard to extend tax concessions so that we can ensure that more of those paintings stay in the United Kingdom?

Estelle Morris: I take my hon. Friend's point, but there has already been substantial investment to make sure that we keep as many works of art as possible in this country. Many in the House will welcome the fact that "The Madonna of the Pinks" is still in the National Gallery, will shortly go on tour and has been saved for the nation. However, we will never reach a point where we can save every single work of art in this country that we would like to save—that is not the real world. At the start of his question, my hon. Friend was almost disparaging about the fact that works of art from private collections are on loan. I think that that is a good thing, but we will keep a wary eye open, make sure that we offer incentives and build on the progress that has been made.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Does the Minister accept that if the National Gallery and other great museums and galleries were allowed to go down the road to deaccession that would deter many private lenders and donors? Does she also accept that there is unanimity among the directors about the wisdom of the report by Sir Nicholas Goodison?

Estelle Morris: On the latter point, the directors were represented on the committee and made a good contribution to it, so I accept the strength of their backing for the report. There have been two comments in Question Time about the tricky issue of

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deaccessioning. It is a live issue, and I have heard debates among museum directors in which both sides of the argument were expressed. The Government have not engaged with that debate, and have no plans to change the current regulations. On a personal level, however, if it is a live issue among museum directors, I am pleased that it has been brought into the open—it is a debate in which people interested in museums and galleries and others will want to take part. However, I want to make it clear that that debate was not initiated by the Government, and we have no plans to change the legislation in that respect.

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