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House of Commons

Monday 24 April 2006

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


Mr. Speaker: I call Rosie Cooper—not here. I call Alison Seabeck—not here. Perhaps hon. Members should know that they should turn up on a Monday.

The Secretary of State was asked—

Olympic Sports (Shooting)

3. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): If she will make representations to the Olympic committee to introduce full bore target rifle shooting as an Olympic sport. [64570]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): It is obviously the transport, Mr. Speaker.

There are no current plans to make representations to the International Olympic Committee to introduce full bore target rifle shooting as an Olympic sport. Indeed, there would be no immediate opportunity for us to do so. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic programmes have already been confirmed by the IOC. The 2012 programme was decided in Singapore last year, after the IOC announced that the games would take place in London. I understand that the IOC will meet again in three years' time to decide the Olympic programme for 2016.

Mr. Bone: I am somewhat disappointed by the Minister's response. The Government have imposed restrictions on British sportsmen in certain shooting events. If target rifle shooting had been incorporated in the Olympic games—it is legal to practise the event in this country, we excel at it and we won medals in it at the Commonwealth games—that would, in part, compensate. Will the Minister reconsider and urge the Olympic committee, for whatever Olympics, to include target rifle shooting?

Mr. Caborn: I do not think that we have put those restrictions on. Three out of the 17 shooting disciplines were affected by the ban on firearms. I acknowledge that strong representations on the matter have been made. They have been forwarded to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and are being seriously considered. The hon. Gentleman acknowledges that when we held the successful Commonwealth games in Manchester, we made special arrangements so that all the disciplines
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could take place and, indeed, people could practise them. The strong representations that have been made are justified.

On a lighter note, I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), on doing the marathon in four hours and 37 minutes yesterday. It was a bit churlish of Black Dog to say that he was likely to pull out, and it would be good if Black Dog mended his ways by making the gesture of doubling my hon. Friend's sponsorship.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): May I ask a small favour of my right hon. Friend? If one looks at all the international, world and Commonwealth games over the past 20 years, one sees that shooting has been the most successful discipline—more so than rowing. However, the people who won gold, silver and bronze medals never received a single honour—not an OBE, CBE, or MBE—from not just this Government, but any Government. Can that situation be changed, and will my right hon. Friend reflect on it before the next honours list?

Mr. Caborn: May I congratulate our team that was out in Melbourne, because it increased the medal take from five gold, six silver and eight bronze medals in Manchester to six gold, eight silver and five bronze medals? I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will be soliciting a lot of support from throughout the House for making nominations for those who won the medals. As he knows, Back Benchers and others can make such nominations, so I will expect to see some nominations coming in for those people who did extremely well in the Commonwealth games in Melbourne—I am talking about representatives of England, if I may say—and did our country proud.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): But there is an illogicality because if I have read the UK Sport funding submission correctly, it gives shooting £4.8 million each year, but the participants are not allowed to train in this country. I am sure that everyone in the House realises the sensitivity of the issue post-Dunblane, but is it not now time, especially in view of London 2012, for the Minister to support us in granting an exemption for target pistol shooters at the Olympic games?

Mr. Caborn: I have just explained that of the 17 disciplines—I think that that will come down to 15 disciplines—that were operational, only three were affected by the ban. My officials and I have been in dialogue with the organisations to find out whether we can come to some arrangement. As I said earlier, when the Commonwealth games were held in Manchester, we facilitated the training for all the 17 disciplines and the events that took place. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is considering whether we can come to some arrangement to give the three disciplines practice facilities in this country and I will report back when he has made his decision.

Mr. Speaker: I understand that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Alison Seabeck) was in the Chamber although not in her seat, due to an injury. I will therefore go back to Question 2.
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Sport England

2. Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport) (Lab): If she will make a statement on the work of Sport England in the south-west. [64569]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): Obviously, you are very magnanimous, Mr. Speaker, as we all, particularly those of us on the Front Bench, expect.

I am pleased to report that Sport England has made a significant impact on the development of sport in the south-west. I pay tribute to the south-west sports board, under the leadership of Ged Roddy and Jim Clarke, the chief executive. They have overseen the investment of about £150 million into grass-roots and community sport in the south-west since 1997, including £1.3 million invested in sport in Plymouth since 2004. In 2005–06 that meant that in the south-west 29 projects were awarded a total of £3.8 million from the community investment fund, which has in turn generated £12.3 million of partnership funding.

It was the foresight of the south-west sports board and the regional development agency that led to investment in Weymouth of over £4 million, which played out very well in our bid for the Olympics, as the sailing centre there is probably now one of the best in the world. Those bodies have been very proactive in this area.

Alison Seabeck: I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. I was not as quick as usual. I would like to    say that the injury happened in a sporting circumstance, but unfortunately it was caused by a hoover.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. I accept that Sport England has had some significant successes in sports development in the south-west, but I have concerns about its impact on the development of swimming. The south-west has well below the national average number of swimming pools per person, and as I speak we face the closure of another swimming pool in Plymouth on health and safety and cost grounds. What is the Department doing to assist Sport England in targeting local authorities and aiding them to develop affordable swimming facilities? "Affordable" is the key word because we all understand how expensive swimming pools are, but we also know how vital they are.

Mr. Caborn: For the record, since 1995, when sport funding began to come from the lottery, Sport England has invested £43 million in the south-west in projects related to swimming and diving. That is out of a total of £181 million, so about 23 per cent. has been invested in swimming in the south-west. Sport England is in discussions about the development, and indeed the redevelopment, of swimming complexes in Plymouth, including a 50 m pool.

My hon. Friend makes a good point about affordability, and we are encouraging local authorities to look at all sports facilities, particularly swimming, to make sure that they are in the right place and of the right standard. We are also asking them to have, where possible, schemes that encourage swimming, which in some areas may well mean subsidising the cost. I know
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that subsidised schemes in Birmingham and Glasgow have been highly successful in attracting people into swimming.

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