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Junior Football and Rugby

8. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth) (Lab): What support her Department gives to junior football and rugby. [222743]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): As part of our national strategy for physical exercise, school sport and club links, the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union are receiving a little more than £750,000 each to allow them to build sustainable high-quality links between school sport partnerships and accredited clubs. In addition, on   the football side, the Football Foundation has supported projects worth a little less than £300 million, with support from the FA Premier League, the FA and Sport England.

Mr. Edwards: Does the Minister share my pleasure and admiration when he sees hundreds of young people playing football or rugby in different parts of our constituencies? Those games are supervised by coaches and there are facilities that were just not available when my generation was playing football some time ago. Does he appreciate that those who administer junior rugby and football often incur considerable costs, especially travelling away from home and in respect of logistical problems? Any help that the Minister's Department and the equivalent in Wales could give would be gratefully appreciated. Finally, will he join me in congratulating—

Mr. Speaker: Order. There are far too many questions there.

Mr. Caborn: Thank you for that protection, Mr.   Speaker. My hon. Friend knows that our commitment to two hours of quality physical activity and sport for every child, every week from the age of five   to 16 is probably one of the biggest investment programmes in school sport that there has ever been—[Hon. Members: "A grand slam"]—and it has to be added to the £60 million investment going out to various governing bodies to develop club to school links, which is another major investment. [Hon. Members: "Another grand slam."] My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the welcome for the new coach's certificate. It is the first time that all governing bodies have signed up to a national coaching certificate that is providing some of the quality coaches that we need. I do not want to go on too long, Mr. Speaker, but I want to say that when I first took up this job, no national sport was headed by a British coach, which was an indictment of our coaching system. I hope that we can continue to change it in the years to come.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): While I welcome the figures that the Minister mentioned about grass-roots football, does he agree that the sums of money in the   highest reaches of professional football are so substantial that more should be done to draw it down through the lower leagues and into grass-roots and school football?

Hon. Members: Grand Slam!

Mr. Caborn: I would agree with the hon. Gentleman, but remind him that the distribution of money out of the
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premier leagues in English football is as good as any in Europe. That does not mean that it is good enough, but the European leagues have not invested £20 million as the Football Foundation, the FA and the Government have done. We are talking about £60 million each year going into grass-roots sports via those three sources of   funding. The premier division is playing for success   and has developed community programmes. The contribution is therefore considerable. It could do better—that is for sure—but I must commend what has been done to date as probably the best contribution in Europe.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab/Co-op): But does my right hon. Friend accept that the sum of money he has told the House about is inadequate to deal with the needs, say, of my local rugby union football club, Camelot, which runs women's and girls' teams as well as men's teams? The links to schools are not necessarily strong in some areas, so it is important that people's struggle to provide flourishing facilities is given more support than my right hon. Friend has currently been able to announce.

Mr. Caborn: A number of my hon. Friends have asked me from a sedentary position to congratulate the Welsh on the grand slam, which I do. The team played some fantastic rugby not only in the final, but also in the games running up to it—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I hope that satisfies my hon. Friends.

What my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter) said is absolutely true, but I   suggest that investment in sport, which deals with social inclusion, health and education in our communities, will continue. There is no doubt about that and I hope that some of the issues raised by my hon. Friend will be addressed; but we are changing the whole structure of the sport so that there is more participation and more of a bottom-up approach, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have said. That is what the   regional boards are starting to deliver through the county partnerships.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Many people in both the Football Association and the   RFU would say that the greatest support that the Department can give both junior football and junior rugby would be to help the clubs by reducing bureaucracy. The Minister himself clearly agrees. On Friday, he said that Labour had listened to the concerns of front-line staff about too much bureaucracy. If that is to be anything more than just more talk, will the Minister tell the House exactly which organisations he intends to reduce or axe altogether?

Mr. Caborn: May I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Front Bench as the Opposition spokesman for sport and tourism? It must have been quite a shock for his   Front-Bench colleagues. The previous spokesman announced their manifesto on a Friday, was criticised on the Sunday and walked away on the Monday. Probably the reason he walked away was centralisation. The hon. Gentleman talked about bureaucracy. All the Opposition want to do is to bring sport back to a Ministry of sport. That is their recommendation. We have been removing bureaucracy from the system, as
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I   have already said. The number of employees at Sport England went down from more than 600 to 200. We have streamlined the whole regional structure and most of the governing bodies accept that.

Heritage Lottery Fund

9. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): How much has been distributed by the Heritage Lottery Fund in each year since 2000. [222744]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the following amounts in each financial year from 2000–01 until 31 January 2005: £326.6 million, £350.7 million, £367.2 million, £341.1 million and £268.1 million.

Mr. Boswell: Does the Minister accept that there is a degree of discomfort about the apparent cut both in support from the lottery, by the diversion of funds for   other purposes, and in the core grant to English Heritage? Is it not time that Ministers abandoned their preconception that the heritage is the private fiefdom of the privileged and understood the important economic and social contribution that it makes, as well as its contribution to our history and the fact that it is actively enjoyed by people of all walks of life?

Estelle Morris: The hon. Gentleman fails to see that since the Labour party has been in power more people, from a wider range of backgrounds, have accessed heritage than ever before. There has been no diversion of funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund to other purposes. The percentage is clearly set out and agreed by the House, and we have kept to it. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman should consider what the HLF money has been spent on; there have been a number of education and widening access projects. Indeed, the HLF has managed to preserve the heritage of our country and to ensure that more people have access to it. That is a record of which to be proud and I am happy to congratulate the HLF on it.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The Minister will know that there has been much talk of a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund from commercial west end theatre owners to try to refurbish some of the most beautiful buildings that we have in London, which are one of the major reasons why many tourists come to this country. Does she believe that it would be suitable to give £125 million to bring those theatres into the modern era, so long as we can ensure transparency in how that money is spent and decent access for ordinary people to go to those theatres?

Estelle Morris: I accept that money needs to be spent on the west end theatres, which bring a lot of money to the capital, and theatres throughout the country. I   accept that something needs to be done. My hon. Friend will be aware of the difficulties of giving lottery money to the private sector, but I have made sure that those involved are working together and I know that the west end theatres will put in a bid. It is up to the Heritage Lottery Fund and, indeed, the Arts Council, to which they have also put in a bid, to respond. If they respond favourably, no doubt they will make sure that
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mechanisms are in place to ensure that the money is   properly spent, but that is a matter not for the Government but for the appropriate lottery boards.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) is right: the Heritage Lottery Fund has lost out enormously since the New Opportunities Fund was created in 1998 to supplement health and education spending. In fact, I   can give the exact figure: £800 million. Will the Minister give an assurance, as the Conservative party has, that Britain's heritage will continue to be a major recipient of lottery funds after the current licences expire in 2009? Does she not agree that it is time to take the Government's hand out of the lottery till?

Estelle Morris: The hon. Gentleman should know that, last Thursday, we outlined the period in which consultation on the future of the lottery distributors will take place. The results of the consultation will come in by June next year. I am sorry that he has just suggested that he is not prepared to listen to the results of that consultation and that, no matter what anyone says, his mind is made up. That is a pity. The lottery is an excellent initiative, but it is right that, from time to time, we consult the people who buy lottery tickets—that is where the income comes from—to ensure that they still agree with the way that the money is being spent on their behalf. I look forward to that consultation—and I, for one, definitely support the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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