Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Elite Athletes (Funding)

2. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): If she will make a statement on funding for elite athletes. [46091]

4. Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): If she will make a statement on funding for elite athletes. [46093]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I am sure that the whole House will want to send good wishes and good luck to the 40 athletes who will shortly set off for the winter Olympics in Turin, representing the GB team.

We have allocated £98 million to support our world-class athletes for the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic cycle. We are also supporting the development of new, young talent and the so-called performance pathway in
30 Jan 2006 : Column 5
non-Olympic sports such as rugby and cricket. For example, we are investing £17 million over four years in our most talented youngsters through the talented athlete scholarship scheme, which covers 46 able-bodied and disability sports. To date, 1,000 young people have participated in that programme, and among them will be the Olympic stars of the future.

Richard Ottaway: I am not sure that that answers the question. The Secretary of State is circumventing the whole issue. Can she get a grip on this? Having trailed the whole issue for several months now, is not she embarrassed that the British Olympic Association has had to open an overdraft facility to fund elite athletes? Can she explain the real reason for the delay in the announcement, not the one that she has just given us? Has she forgotten, has the Treasury changed its mind, or is there a spat between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor?

Tessa Jowell: I regard that as simply a bit of bluster. UK Sport funds elite athletes. Since 1997 and since Sydney, the rate at which our elite athletes are funded has increased by more than 33 per cent.

Let me deal with the question behind the hon. Gentleman's bluster. I suspect that he was groping towards asking what we intend to do about further funding for athletes up to 2012. We are negotiating with the Treasury about the proper and appropriate amount of funding but we are determined to invest for the long-term future performance of athletes—in 2008, 2012 and 2016. We shall not return to the Tory boom and bust—a bit of money now and none in the long term.

Mr. Lancaster: Elite sport is already established in Milton Keynes. The city is home to the national hockey stadium and the national badminton centre. Is the Secretary of State aware of the good work of SportsAid, an organisation that raises money from the private sector to help fund our athletes? What action is she taking to help promote such organisations, the work of which so closely complements the role that the Government should play?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and I welcome the opportunity to congratulate SportsAid on its excellent work and the young athletes who benefit. We wish to pursue precisely that sort of model, which looks to private sponsorship and other sources of funding beyond Government to ensure that we continue the investment in our elite and our up-and-coming young athletes so that they have the best chance of success for themselves and their country.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): It is stunning that there has been a 33 per cent. increase in elite athlete funding since 1997 and I commend the Department for that.

Before the Berlin wall fell, East Germany and Russia had by far the most successful Olympic athletes. One reason for that was that they tested their young children at school at the ages of seven and 11. Through the Department of Health's initiative, we have the opportunity to test our children at the age of 11 in the near future. Would it be possible to add a heart test
30 Jan 2006 : Column 6
for athletics—in the broadest sense—and a hand-eye co-ordination test at 11 so that we could begin to ascertain how many children could make the grade later?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Work in schools, and the £1.5 billion that is invested in creating sporting opportunities and competitive sport for every child in school, allows precisely such talent identification and thus potential nurturing of children who show exceptional talent. My hon. Friend is right that one has to have the capacity to spot talent early and subsequently provide the resources and facilities that young people need to reach their potential. Our record since 1997 shows that we are doing that.

Mr. Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent, South) (Lab): My right hon. Friend has already mentioned future talented athletes. What specific message can I take back to the likes of Brad Garside in my constituency, a very talented under-16-year-old, with a potentially great future ahead of him, to show that we are genuinely on the side of talented young athletes for the future?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend, who should point to the success of the talented athletes programme, under which young athletes are already beginning to win medals and perform showing enormous evidence of potential and talent in competitions in a wide range of sports. When I last examined the figures, some 46 sports were represented in the programme. That sends a clear signal to talented athletes throughout the country that we shall invest in them and remove obstacles, especially to families who cannot afford to fund their children's talent. We want to ensure that no talent is wasted. That will benefit the country and our prospects for 2012.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): May I associate my party with the Secretary of State's good wishes to the GB winter Olympic and Paralympic teams? The London 2012 bid was won by a commitment to enable young people through sport, and if that commitment is to become a reality, two things need to happen. We need to put more athletes on the rostrum to act as role models, and we need to ensure that more young people are able to play sport. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) has touched on the first issue, but why is the Physical Education Association today complaining that the number of PE teachers is to be cut by one fifth by 2007?

Tessa Jowell: I was right with the hon. Gentleman for the first 30 seconds of his question; we share that analysis. However, I find his figures on PE teachers hard to sustain against the evidence that we now have 400 school sport partnerships right across the country, with PE teachers who have been properly trained in the art of teaching physical education, rather than teachers who double up with their other subjects—as has happened in the past—and who see PE as a kind of voluntary extra to which they contribute their time. I would be very happy to meet representatives of the Physical Education Association to discuss their concerns, but this does not for a moment detract from
30 Jan 2006 : Column 7
the fact that we have school sport for two hours a week in 64 per cent. of our schools. That is a record to be proud of and on which we intend to build.

Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): Funding for elite athletes is one criterion for measuring how supportive the Department is being, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the 33 per cent. increase to which she referred. Does she agree, however, that the funding of facilities is equally important? Will she tell the House what help the Department is giving to facilities around the country?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The evidence shows that, as we try to get more young people taking part in sport, good quality facilities are an absolute prerequisite to their willingness to do so, and to sustain the habit of participating in whatever sport they have taken up. We will have spent £1 billion of lottery and Exchequer money over the past three years. New sports halls and school facilities are being built across the country, and old swimming pools are being replaced by new ones. Facilities play a critical part in the Government's drive to get more young people taking part and excelling in sport.

Lottery Funds

3. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What steps she will take to ensure that lottery funds are distributed to the four original good causes. [46092]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The share of national lottery funding for all four good causes is guaranteed until 2009, and each cause will continue after 2009. But the public also want community learning and health projects, and we will not let them down by going back to the 1993 priorities.

Mr. Amess: That is splendid news. In the light of the Minister's answer, will he confirm that the National Lottery Bill will not erode the traditional independence of the way in which the lottery spends its money, that there will be no political interference, and that the Big Lottery Fund represents additional funding entirely based on the core principles on which the lottery was founded?

Mr. Caborn: Absolutely. The hon. Gentleman's first question was about independence. At the time of the Report stage and Third Reading of the National Lottery Bill, which is now in another place, we spoke to all the lottery distributors. They have agreed to show in their annual reports how they have delivered additionality. That information will be made available in both Houses of Parliament—[Interruption.] If hon. Members would like to commit the Opposition's time to a debate on that additionality, we should be more than pleased to respond to it. On the hon. Gentleman's second point, the lottery was set up under the previous Conservative Government led by John Major, and it is a first-class institution. However, it needs to be refreshed from time to time, and we have conducted a wide consultation on the issues. The MORI poll of 2000, and a subsequent YouGov poll, have shown that health, education and the environment were the areas that the general public
30 Jan 2006 : Column 8
wanted to see their lottery money spent on in future. So that is what we are doing in the new Bill; those three themes will be the main recipients of the money from the Big Lottery Fund.

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): In my constituency of West Lancashire, the national lottery has supported 266 wide-ranging projects, from the Dark Horse Venture educational programme to the renovation of play areas and, very importantly, brighter future workshops in which disabled young people refurbish mobility equipment. That is all very welcome, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential to make it easier for constituents such as mine to access lottery funds and to ensure that they get their fair share? Will the guidance provided by the proposed lottery funding website play a part in spreading the benefits of the lottery right round the country, and especially to places such as West Lancashire?

Mr. Caborn: The answer is yes, and my hon. Friend makes a valid point. As good as the lottery was in 1993, one of the big problems was the fact that it was very much capital driven and driven by the big schemes. Systematically, we have been bringing the lottery fund distributors more in tune with what people want and making things easier. The Big Lottery Fund will be, as it were, a one-stop shop. I hope that the information on the website will enable people and organisations to apply for lottery funding. Whatever the answer is to an application, it will be found by going through that one-stop shop, which is what the Big Lottery Fund will be. I hope that the new forms that are being designed will give assistance too. Even the smallest organisation should be able to apply with some ease to access lottery funding in future.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): In the week when the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), has argued that our public libraries should not be allowed to close, why is the Minister not insisting on lottery funds being used for the arts and heritage? The Government have promised us many times that we are engaging in a big conversation, so will he explain why he has ignored voices not only from Parliament, but from communities across the country, which want the Big Lottery Fund to target expenditure on the four original good causes?

Mr. Caborn: That is interesting, because on the one hand the Conservatives say that there has to be independence, but on the other the hon. Gentleman says that the Government should instruct. However, let us park that one and I will answer the question. I should inform him that we have been out on the widest consultation and that what he has said is just not true. About 69 per cent. of those in the MORI poll said that they wanted spending on health and 55 per cent. said they wanted spending on education. The YouGov poll also involved the question of the environment. These are the concerns of the British people; that has been tested by MORI, YouGov and, indeed, a very wide consultation.
30 Jan 2006 : Column 9

The hon. Gentleman has been listening too much to the Centre for Policy Studies and his colleague, Ruth Lea, who got it totally wrong. Mind you, that is not new conservatism, is it? He is fundamentally wrong.

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): People in my constituency are concerned about the sustainability of good-quality projects that have been funded through the national lottery. In a recent national poll, Kenfig Pyle Community Youth was acknowledged as the most inspirational project involving working with young people, but it will close later this year unless new funding can be found. Can we look at opening up those unclaimed prizes and making that money available to help projects such as KPCY, which has been critical to cutting crime in my community?

Mr. Caborn: On the specific issue, with which I am not au fait, if my hon. Friend wants to come to the Department for discussions I am more than willing to meet her. Prize money is recycled back into the good causes, as is the interest accrued on the underspends in the distributors' bank balances. On both counts, we are ensuring that the money goes to good causes.

Next Section IndexHome Page