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House of Lords

Wednesday, 19th July 1995.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of St. Albans.

Lord Nelson of Stafford —Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.

Olympic Games: UK Representation

Lord Gisborough asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider it desirable for the United Kingdom to be strongly represented at the Olympic Games, and if so what measures they are taking to achieve this.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): Yes, my Lords. The Government actively encourage governing bodies of sport and the British Olympic Association to send the best possible team to the Olympic Games. The Sports Council is to allocate £1.25 million to support our top athletes' preparation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Atlanta next year. Longer term measures to boost sporting excellence in this country and strengthen representation at future Olympic Games was set out in the Government's sports policy statement published last week.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is it not unfortunate that in the build-up to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games the Sports Council is reducing its support for the main events of the Winter Olympic Games by over 60 per cent., particularly at a time when we have world championship medallists, we have children among the top three at international level and the highest-ranking skiers we have ever had?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the matter of disbursement for competitive sport at this level is a matter for the Sports Council. The Sports Council has assessed these matters. As my noble friend pointed out, that has led to a reduction in the money it provides. Of course, money from the Sports Council is not the only money that can be made available for competitive sport at this level. The council is currently exploring with the British Ski Federation and commercial interests the possibility of sponsorship in this area.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the Minister mentioned the Government's new sports policy and the creation of a new British Academy of Sport. In the statement announcing that policy the Government said that they would ask the Sports Council to invite bids for the £100 million of lottery money to fund the new academy. Is the Minister aware that Section 26 of the National Lottery Etc. Act speaks of the need to ensure that they do not solicit particular applications? Can he explain that breach of the Act, that hijacking of the lottery? Do the Government now view lottery money as a political

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pool to finance pre-election initiatives? Is he aware that the lottery Act states that the proceeds of the lottery are to be for five specific good causes? Is he aware that the present Government do not come within that particular definition?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I do not dissent from the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, of good causes in regard to the lottery. It goes without saying that the Government are a good cause, but not one covered by that particular piece of legislation. The noble Lord runs ahead of himself in this regard. The Government are fully aware of the legislation to which he referred.

To quote from the recently published document, Sport—Raising the Game,

    "The Government therefore wants to see established a British Academy of Sport. While it is not for the Government to set up and run such an Academy, this Policy Statement lays down the challenge to the sports world and points the way forward".

That entirely answers the point that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, raised.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may refer further to his document which states that the Government have asked the Great Britain Sports Council and its successor bodies to invite bids by 31st March 1996 from the sports world to establish the British Academy of Sport. I believe that that is a more direct involvement than perhaps he stated.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, perhaps I may elaborate my reply. The sports policy states:

    "To take this initiative forward, the Government has asked the GB Sports Council and its successor bodies to:—(i) bring forward proposals by the end of September 1995 setting out what the structure and content of the British Academy of Sport might be; (ii) to consult widely, inviting views by the end of the year on the ideas that emerge and on how the academy might be set up; and (iii) following consultation to invite bids, by 31 March 1996, from the sports world to establish the British Academy of Sport".

That is the challenge which the Government have put to the Sports Council. Let us see what response to that challenge there might be.

The Viscount of Oxfuird: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the 16 year-old winner of last year's overall British ski championship, Miss Sophie Ormond, is unable to ski for Britain due to lack of funding. In two years' time she will apply, and probably obtain, a French passport and ski for France. That will be directly as a result of French recognition and the support that she will receive during those formative years. Is that not bad for this country?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Oxfuird for drawing the attention of the House to the case of Miss Sophie Ormond. It is precisely in order to deal with that kind of case that the Sports Council has called a meeting to endeavour to raise additional money for skiing.

In this country we are sometimes the beneficiary of such changes. For example, recently in the Tour de France Max Sciandri, a British cyclist but previously an Italian cyclist, won a stage. Another example is Greg Rusedski, the tennis player.

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Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the government sport's policy emphasises team games? While many of us are enthusiastic about team games—the Prime Minister had a wonderful photo opportunity on that aspect last week—the Olympic Games consist largely of individual efforts. In schools and in many athletic clubs the emphasis is now more on the individual. There should be more of a balance. Does the Minister agree that there is too much emphasis now on team games? The Question refers to the Olympic Games. Therefore, there ought to be a change of emphasis to include events in the Olympic Games.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I do not accept the strictures of the noble Lord. Sport is a curious mixture in many instances between individualism and team playing. Depending on which sport one refers to, that balance may adjust. However, it is made quite clear in the statement that the Government are concerned both in regard to team games and individual sports.

Lord Orr-Ewing: My Lords, I must declare an interest, having raced on behalf of Parliament against the Swiss Parliament for 40 years. However, I now have to confess that I have hung up my boots—or those that I hire. Is my noble friend aware that between 1.5 million and 2 million Brits go skiing every year? Is he aware, too, that watching television also promotes that sport? We originated downhill racing—as with so many other sports—for the world to follow. Bearing in mind that this country started the sport of skiing, it seems to me amazing to cut back two-thirds of the sum available in 1994 from the Winter Olympic Games. Cannot something be done to promote that effort and to support the school children who now enjoy it?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, who is a well known skier. It is important to be clear on one distinction. It is not the business of the Sports Council to subsidise people's winter sports holidays. The Question refers to competitive skiing at the highest level. It was because the Sports Council felt that we were not going to be successful in that regard that the sum of money was reduced in the manner in which the noble Lord describes. That does not mean to say that it is the end of the matter. Under this Government, more money is going into sport than has ever been the case. Things like sponsorship, to which I have previously referred, may well provide a substantial increase over and above government funds.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo: My Lords, will the noble Lord recognise the tremendous work undertaken by the Animal Health Trust into heat stress in equestrian sports, in preparation for the next Olympic Games? Will the Government support our equestrian teams which are going to Atlanta in the future and give them all the support and help they need?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as I said in my original reply, the Sports Council is allocating £1.25 million to support our top athletes' preparation.

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ACP Countries: UK Aid

2.49 p.m.

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries will have to protect themselves from the consequences of changes caused by the reductions in United Kingdom contributions to the European Development Fund (EDF).

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the ACP will have no need to take such measures. The total size of EDF VIII is broadly the same in real terms as the last.

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