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The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Department works closely with other Departments to set the policy framework, but decisions on the distribution of funding for sport and physical activity are the responsibility of our funding bodies, primarily Sport England and UK Sport. However, sports clubs that are badly affected by the recent flooding may apply to the Cumbria Community Foundation for assistance from the Cumbria flood recovery fund, which was set up in the county to help individuals and community groups. Individual sports governing bodies may also be able to offer financial support.
Keswick rugby union club has applied successfully for assistance to both the Cumbria flood recovery fund and to the Rugby Football Union's Football Foundation Trust, through which it has been able to access the Space for Sport fund.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that very helpful reply. Will he take a personal interest in Keswick rugby union club and its recovery? As a result of the recent flooding, the club house is under 6 ft of water, and a brand new one might have to be built. This is a well established rugby union club with a fantastic record of promoting youth rugby, which this Government totally support.
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Mr. Caborn: I will look at this specific issue. The club has probably one of the most beautiful rugby union grounds in the country, looking out across the Lake district. I have also been reading about its fantastic history. I understand that the Rugby Football Union is also taking a close look at the matter, and that financial facilities have been offered on an interest-free basis. Everyone is trying to put their weight behind the Keswick rugby club, and I hope that we can find a solution to what is undoubtedly a difficult problem.
The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I met senior representatives of the Museums Association to discuss funding for museums before and after making the spending review allocations. My most recent meeting with the president and director of the Museums Association was on 6 January this year.
Mr. Wiggin: In reply to the shadow Minister for the Arts, my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire), the Minister did not address his point about the strikes at the Science museum, whose director has said that
Estelle Morris: The director could not have been talking about the period when this Government have had responsibility for the national museums. Every single museum, including the Science museum, has had a real-terms increase in this spending settlement. Indeed, the Science museum's capital settlement for this spending review is set to double. That could never have happened under the Tories. What the museums really fearI have seen this in the pressis going back to the days of Tory cuts. That has not happened under this Government, and it will not happen.
Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the excellent work done by the north-east regional museums hub. Like many others, I welcome the free access to museums that was introduced by this Government. Is she also aware that excellent museums such as the Beamish museum in my constituency still have to levy charges and that they struggle from year to year to get local authority funding? Will she look into the funding of excellent museums such as Beamish when she is considering funding in the future?
I have looked at the situation at the Beamish museum, because it was brought to my attention by another of our hon. Friends. Of course some museums still have to charge for entry, but we have introduced free entry at those for which we have responsibility. There is no way we can go further than that. However, if my memory serves me correctly, the Beamish museum has benefited from part of the almost
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£7 million that has gone to the north-east for renaissance in the regions. I think that the museum has also put in a request for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. I shall be more than happy to look at this matter, and if I can be helpful, I will be, but we are not into taking museums on to the national funding list at the moment.
The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Government are driving forward a modernisation programme for all governing bodies, and we hope to make them all fit for purpose. The Football Association is no exception. I am pleased to say that, under the leadership of Lord Burns, the FA has instigated an independent review of its structure and governance. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wrote to the FA in August 2004, and I have been in regular contact with it since then. I also had a meeting with Lord Burns in January 2005 as part of his initial discussions with the key stakeholders.
Bob Russell: The Minister referred earlier to a handful of hooligans bringing the national game into disrepute at the weekend. Does he agree, however, that a bigger threat to the professional game in this country is the manner in which it is being run at the highest level? Does he also agree that the game is rotten to the core, and that it is time for the Government to hold a summit for all involved in it, so that we can save the professional game before those at the top destroy it?
Mr. Caborn: I totally disagree with that statement. The game is not rotten to the core. In fact, I would suggest that the component parts of football in this country are probably some of the best in the world. Our premier division is probably the best in terms of professionalism, and there are more than 40,000 clubs playing in the amateur game, week in and week out, under the Football Association.
Without doubt, there is an argument about regulation and governance, which has grown over the years, but Lord Burns will be looking at those issues very carefully. However, it is fundamentally wrong to say that our national game is rotten to the core. I believe that its component parts are very healthy indeed and would stand examination with those of any other football anywhere in the world.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham)
(Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Government cannot wash their hands of football and its governance? Football clubs are unique community institutions, and when a football club such as Wrexham, which is still in administration, faces its end, there are profound implications for the town. Will he therefore ensure that the many, many clubs that are under threat have an open system of governance so that the supporters who support them week in, week out know how much danger their clubs are in?
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Mr. Caborn: I fully agree with that. What the Football League has done in the recent past in considering fit and proper persons, as well as the whole question of the corporate and social governance of football, has been important. Quite a number of ground rules have been introduced to achieve some of the objectives that my hon. Friend has referred to. There is more transparency and better management, and it is not so long ago that we were talking about the collapse of ITV Digital and many doom-mongers were saying that half the Football League was going into administration. Football is resilient; it came out of that. It has had to refocus on where it came fromits communitieswhich I welcome, and I still believe that there will be some turmoil in football's finances, which will need managing through. That is why we need a good governing body in the Football Association and we also need those ground rules to be brought in. I know that the Football League and the premier division are discussing that to ensure that this game is transparent, credible and responsible to the fans and the community in which it operates.
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