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House of Commons

Monday 16 April 2007

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Sport England

1. Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): If she will make a statement on the reform of Sport England. [131504]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): Sport England now holds a clear position in the sporting landscape with a primary focus on sustaining and increasing participation in community sport. It does this through promoting, investing and advising on sporting pathways, including sporting facilities. The new chair and chief executive are continuing the reforms to ensure that Sport England becomes a world class delivery agency, including delivering—as the hon. Gentleman will probably agree—the great performance yesterday in Bahrain in which young Lewis Hamilton set a record of three podium appearances in his first three races. I sent him a letter today wishing him well for the rest of the season.

Stephen Hammond: I am grateful for that reply and I am sure that the whole House would wish to send our good wishes to Mr. Hamilton. Despite the lengthy reform review of Sport England, it has just suffered a £56 million cut, which the chairman, Mr. Mapp—the Minister’s lifelong friend—said was a cut too far and a true loss to community sport. He also seriously questioned the legacy from the 2012 Olympics. Does the Minister disagree with his lifelong friend?

Mr. Caborn: The answer is simply yes. Sometimes friends fall out, and we fell out on this occasion. I remind the hon. Gentleman that under this Administration in the past five years, investment in community sport has increased by 40 per cent., and Government and lottery investment in sport and physical activity has been £4 billion since 1997. The new National Sports Foundation has attracted some £21 million investment, which is way beyond what is being done through Building Schools for the Future or the investment that local authorities are making in sport. Community sport has never had greater investment than at present, even with the small reduction in lottery funding as a result of the Olympics.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend assure me that his tiff with Derek Mapp of Sport England will in no way affect the application that I made many years ago for a swimming baths at Bolsover? I hope that my right hon. Friend can tell me that everything is going well and that we are close to the date of an announcement. Perhaps he and I will be able to go for a swim together, and Derek Mapp might be able to come along too.

Mr. Caborn: The cheque is in the post—on one condition, which is that my hon. Friend starts coaching an Olympic champion for 2012 from north-east Derbyshire or Chesterfield. I have no doubt that the new facility, which will—I am sure—now be realised, will start to provide benefits not only to the community, but to the elite swimmers in the area.

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Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Does the Minister agree that Sport England suffers from two considerable structural handicaps? The first is that the amount of lottery money it gets has declined dramatically from the 25 per cent. envisaged by the Major Government to some 13 or 14 per cent. today, after the Olympic raid. The second is that it tries to deliver sport on a regional basis, whereas the Central Council of Physical Recreation says that sport in this country should work on a national and a county basis. Is it not time to follow the example of the Australians, who have had dramatic success in that area by delivering increases in mass participation through the sport governing bodies, based on schemes delivered in the communities?

Mr. Caborn: It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman gives only half the story. When I spoke to the Federal Sports Minister in Australia a few months ago, he was very envious of what we have been able to do in our schools in terms of participation. In 2001, some 2 million kids were doing two hours of quality physical activity or sport a week. Today, there are 5 million. That is 6 million hours every week done by our children in our schools, and that is linked to the two extra-curricular hours.

What the hon. Gentleman does not say about lottery money is the contribution that has been made by the new opportunities fund of £0.75 billion which has facilitated more than 2,000 refurbished or newly built sports facilities up and down the country. The hon. Gentleman should give the whole picture, not part of it.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend is being very generous today, can he ensure that there will be a cheque for Chorley, which is looking forward to a much needed sporting village? What help and support can my right hon. Friend provide through his Department and Sport England to ensure that Chorley can be proud of quality facilities for the future of sport?

Mr. Caborn: My hon. Friend does not have quite the charisma of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—when he has had a little more time in the House he may be able to persuade as much as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. Jesting apart, the community sports hubs are one of Sport England’s developments in bringing in private sector investment in sport that we have never had before. Indeed, over the next period, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) and beyond, under the leadership of Derek Mapp at Sport England, we will see a significant increase in investment through the private sector in good quality sports facilities up and down the land.

Coastal Town Tourism

3. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What recent representations she has received on tourism in coastal towns; and if she will make a statement. [131506]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): I regularly have meetings with representatives of the tourism industry, which includes the British Resorts
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and Destinations Association and the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions.

Mr. Amess: As Southend residents are already suffering because 20,000 people were left off the national census and a Select Committee report suggests that the Government have absolutely no strategy for assisting coastal resorts, will the Minister tell the House whether the Select Committee was right or wrong, and what further assistance the Government are prepared to give Southend residents?

Mr. Woodward: First, my Department clearly has responsibility only for tourism in relation to coastal towns. However, I acknowledge the work of the Select Committee, and we welcome the report’s recommendations and are considering them. The hon. Gentleman might like to consider having a word with his unitary authority, which I believe is Conservative-run, as year in, year out, it has spent less on tourism: in 2002, it spent £835,000 but at the last recorded account it had cut that to £554,000.

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): Apart from the Government’s proposals for casinos, which will obviously increase costs in local communities, with increased crime and increased gambling addiction, what other plans do they have for the regeneration of coastal resorts?

Mr. Woodward: I am sorry to have to say that I absolutely disagree with that.

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): Does the Minister agree that one of the problems—and one of the reasons why people choose to take their holidays abroad rather than in our excellent coastal resorts—is that often our hotels and bed and breakfasts are expensive? Does he share my concern about the practice in a lot of bed and breakfasts of charging on a per person basis, rather than hotels, where the charge is on a per room basis, which often means that people end up paying more for their holiday than they expected?

Mr. Woodward: It is always interesting to hear Opposition Members making an argument against a free market. None the less, tourism this year will be worth about £86 billion to the economy. The numbers of visitors coming to England and travelling within England are at record levels; and in relation to the original question, I would point out to the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) that in 1998 tourism in Southend was worth £135 million, but in the most recent figures, for 2004-05, the figure went up to £217 million.

2012 Olympics (Lottery Costs)

4. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What assessment her Department has made of the likely effect of the cost increases for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games on lottery good causes funding for grassroots sport. [131507]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I obviously gave careful and close consideration to the impact on community sports clubs
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and facilities, and would like to set out clearly the assurances I have given them. First, there need be no impact on current lottery-funded projects, so secondly, no current lottery-funded community sport project need lose its funding. Thirdly, I remind the House of the commitment I have entered into with the Mayor of London: after the games when the land is sold there will be a profit-sharing agreement which will mean that the first call, after the London Development Agency has been repaid, will be that the lottery, too, will be repaid. Those are the commitments. I understand the concern in community projects, but my message to them is that we have addressed those concerns.

Jo Swinson: I thank the Secretary of State for her reply. Obviously, we all want the Olympics to leave a positive legacy for sport in our communities, but Sport Scotland has reported that the recent spiralling costs of the Olympics will lead to a further £7.3 million cut in funding for grassroots sport in Scotland. How can the Secretary of State talk about real benefits from the Olympics for grassroots sport when owing to her budgeting incompetence grassroots sport will face real cuts?

Tessa Jowell: Presumably the hon. Lady subscribes to the manifesto on which she and her colleagues are standing in the Scottish election and which bears directly on the question; it welcomes the opportunity of the Olympics to boost participation through investment in community sports. That is precisely what the Government are ensuring.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): In 1908, we introduced gold medals for culture in the Olympics. Can my right hon. Friend reassure us that there will be no cuts in the cultural part of the Olympics and that over the next four years we shall still be able to innovate?

Tessa Jowell: The answer is definitely yes. My hon. Friend frequently comes up with imaginative and innovative ideas, and I hope that he will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and I continue to have the benefit of his thoughts on this issue. It is important to view the Olympics not just as a great opportunity for sport, but as a great national and international opportunity for arts and culture. The cultural Olympiad begins next year, when Liverpool is the capital of culture and we become the host city after the Beijing games—it is a great opportunity for the whole country.

Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): The Secretary of State has assured us that there will be no cut in current plans for lottery expenditure as a result of the Olympics, but can she give me her assurance that there will be no cuts in promised lottery funds, which might withdraw the funding for really important community projects, including the Stonehenge visitor centre?

Tessa Jowell: I cannot give the same sort of categorical commitment because the whole purpose in establishing agreement on lottery funding as we did was to ensure that present commitments were met. What will be affected—but not until 2009—are prospective commitments and future plans. However,
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because of the safeguards that I outlined to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), those matters will be revisited once the lottery is repaid in 2013. It would not be convincing for me to give a categorical and blanket assurance, but I would expect that the vast majority of commitments currently entered into by the lottery will be seen through, regardless of the take in 2009 that will affect future commitments and future plans.

Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State pay tribute to those unsung heroes in sport—namely, local volunteers such as my constituent, Martin Devlin, whose boxing gym is bursting at the seams? Would it not be ironic if the greatest sporting spectacle that this country will ever have seen—the Olympics—were to deprive that boxing gym of its much needed extension? Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss the matter further?

Tessa Jowell: I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend, for two reasons. First, I hope to hear more about the community boxing club in his constituency, which is obviously providing an invaluable service; and, secondly, in order to underline the important potential for boxing as a sport—a particularly underestimated community sport—for young men. More broadly, I would like to provide reassurance that the lottery contribution to the Olympic special cause is not bought at the price of excellent community projects such as the one that my hon. Friend mentions.

Mrs. Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): Essential local services in my constituency, such as NeighbourCare and Speakeasy Advocacy, provide important and fundamental services to the elderly and people with learning difficulties, but they are already finding it difficult to secure lottery funding. What assurances can the Secretary of State give me and the people of Basingstoke that that situation will not get worse if there are further miscalculations about how much the Olympics will cost us?

Tessa Jowell: There have been no miscalculations about how much the Olympics are going to cost. The budget has been set and it will be kept to. I would say to the hon. Lady that it is completely unrealistic to ask for the sort of categorical assurance that every single lottery application will be met. It depends on whether it meets the criteria for the lottery distributors and so forth. What the Government have done is to assemble an Olympic budget that will stand the test of time and deliver a legacy for this country. What we have not yet heard is what the Opposition’s alternative might be.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): I hear what my right hon. Friend says about lottery-funded schemes, but will she comment on the suggestion that Sport England is to divert £26 million from the sort of schemes mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn) into the Olympics? Can she give us the same sort of reassurance on that front?

Tessa Jowell: Yes, I can give my hon. Friend the same sort of reassurance. I do not recognise the figure that he mentioned, but as ever, I would be happy to meet my
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hon. Friend or help him to meet the chairman of Sport England in order to put his mind at rest about that.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Between now and 2012, the total cut in the lottery funding budget for grass-roots sports amounts to nearly £500 million. How does the Secretary of State square that with seeking to persuade the House that there will not be a reduction in participation for grass-roots sports? The Minister for Sport may say that Mr. Derek Mapp, who has been much quoted already, is wrong to suggest that the cut to Sport England is a cut too far. Is the Secretary of State therefore surprised that Sport England is now reducing its target for people participating in sport by nearly 200,000?

Tessa Jowell: I simply do not recognise the claim of a cut of £500 million. That is the kind of financial probity that we have come to expect from the Liberal Democrats, which is why I am afraid that —[ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. When the Secretary of State is replying to the hon. Gentleman, he should be quiet.

Lynda Waltho (Stourbridge) (Lab): Although I welcome my right hon. Friend’s assurances so far about current budgets, I received over the Easter recess several lobbies from grass-roots sports clubs, so the message is not getting through—something encouraged in some cases by what one might call mischievous local election candidates. Will she consider giving a written assurance or a co-ordinating body an assurance, so that local organisations will get the message properly?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend has done an enormous amount for her constituents in trying to get the message out clearly and to win community sports facilities, both through the lottery and other sources, for her constituents. Yes, I will certainly take any suggestions that she thinks might be helpful to overcome some Opposition Members’ misrepresentations.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): In her statement to the House last month on the revised 2012 budget, the Secretary of State gave the broad headings for the new figures, but since then has failed to supply a more exact and detailed breakdown of costs. When will she provide an open, honest and transparent budget as a matter of urgency?

Tessa Jowell: The Olympic Delivery Authority will publish its budget, which will be set out in full. At every turn, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have been open and transparent in ensuring that the Opposition have access to the figures and, as importantly, that Londoners and people who will be affected also have access to them.

Mr. Swire: That will come as some news to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson), who is still waiting to hear from the right hon. Lady about this precise matter.

We have seen speculation in the media in recent weeks and in off-the-record briefings that the Chancellor is set to remove responsibility for the Olympics from the Secretary of State’s Department. If that were to happen, what does she think it would say
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about her handling of the games? Would she not take that as a personal failure and a humiliation for her Department?

Tessa Jowell: One of the jobs of government is to deal with issues, problems and challenges as they arise, rather than being diverted by some of the rather fanciful speculation in the papers.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): May I ask my right hon. Friend to ignore the whinging by Opposition parties, which were quick enough to jump on to the bandwagon for the Olympic games and now want to criticise? But may I go back to something that she said in her original answer about the knock-on effect of moneys going to other areas? In Scotland, we would very much like to see some of that money, particularly in Glasgow for our bid for the Commonwealth games in 2014.

Tessa Jowell: As my hon. Friend knows, we expect to make a formidable and very important bid, and we will do precisely the same if it is one for Glasgow as we did for the Commonwealth games for Manchester. Of course, as I have said many times from the Dispatch Box, it is absolutely vital that we ensure that the whole country has the opportunity to benefit, as the people of the country have given such strong support for the Olympics.

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