Sport and Recreation

– in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 9th July 1984.

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Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire 4:16 pm, 9th July 1984

I beg to move, That this House, whilst recognising the contribution of Her Majesty's Government to both international and national sport, nevertheless considers that greater priority should be given to encouraging people of all ages to participate in sport, recognising and promoting excellence in sport, and co-ordinating the efforts of the various governing bodies of sports; and further considers that in recognising the value of a fit and healthy nation, Her Majesty's Government should actively encourage offices, businesses and factories to include sports facilities and the use of those facilities in the work place. In choosing the subject of sport and recreation as my subject for the debate this afternoon, I was moved by a number of considerations, not the least being the importance of the subject and the fact that the House has not debated sport since the debate on the White Paper on "Sport and Recreation" on 6 April 1977.

When we pause to consider that every newspaper carries several pages daily on sport; that the television and radio have several hours of sport coverage weekly; that few people do not take an interest in some sport; that even fewer do not have a sporting hero; and that more and more people have increased leisure hours which are either enforced through unemployment or gained through efficiency and higher technology, we realise the importance of sport and the need to debate the subject more than once every seven years.

It is not just this Government and successive Governments who have paid insufficient regard to sport. The House has neglected this major interest of vast numbers of people. Sport is part of the national heritage and culture. We are the nation who gave the world the three major team sports of cricket, football and rugby. When our sporting representatives are successful, the whole country shares in their success, our national morale is uplifted, our world standing improves, and even our businesses feel the benefit. Even the House will feel the benefit of it in future. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) carries the best wishes of the House with him as he goes to the Olympic games in Los Angeles at the end of the month. The House is proud of him and of all British teams, and we wish them every success.

Many hon. Members will recall our pride when England won the World cup in 1966 or, more recently and closer to my constituency, at the success of Torvill and Dean in the ice-dancing championships this year, or the way in which Ian Botham almost single handedly won the Ashes in 1981.

The benefits of participation in sport are numerous. It brings much needed exercise, which medical research has shown to be essential for a long and healthy life. It encourages competitiveness and achievement, which are necessary for a healthy nation. There has been a phenomenal growth of interest in sport. The House will be pleased to hear that active participation in sport has doubled since 1973.

The statistics for the major sports sound impressive. There are 1,947 clubs that play rugby union, and it is estimated that about 500,000 people participate. In England alone 20,000 cricket clubs play amateur cricket. The Amateur Swimming Association estimates that 300,000 people swim competitively and almost 9 million people swim for fun. There are 2·75 million people who play football at all levels for a registered amateur club, about 40,000 clubs and 92 football league clubs. There are 1,300 athletic clubs with untold numbers of participants. The London marathon attracted 16,992 starters. There are 1,319 men's golf clubs with 490,000 registered members, and 1,165 women's clubs with 91,000 registered members. It looks as though women have a better chance than men of getting on the greens.

Those figures sound impressive until one examines them and becomes aware of two factors. First, those actively involved in sport amount to between 10 and 15 per cent. of the population, of which the lower figure probably represents those who participate regularly. Secondly, there is an imbalance between male and female participation.

We must look first to schools to enthuse children with the desire to participate in sport. Equally it is in schools that individual sporting talents will first surface. I am under the impression that sports education has suffered in the same way as general academic education has. Too often teachers fail to stretch their pupils to achieve their best, and where talent exists it is neither spotted nor nurtured. Schools must bring sporting activities to everyone, but we must ensure that that is not done at the expense of talented individuals. Sadly, many schools make no effort in the pursuit of excellence and as the physical education curriculum expands, standards tend to drop.

It is surprising that the Department of Education and Science has no strategy for sport in schools and no general policy. It is left to individual local education authorities. The Department of Education and Science should have a policy on sport and it should make a thorough reappraisal of sports education, which should include giving greater priority to sport in schools, because our youth is consistently under-achieving.

There should be greater co-operation and co-ordination between schools and sports clubs, and schools and centres of excellence so that enthusiastic children who have developed a love of sport may continue to participate after they have left school and so that talented children have access to real coaching during their school days. Local education authorities should and must be prepared to make a financial contribution towards the coaching of talented children to provide equality of opportunity for all. At the moment it is discretionary within the local education authorities, but they should and must give that help.

The Football Association is worried because many local authorities are disposing of sports grounds that have been declared surplus by schools. If they become built up, that is the end of sports facilities in their areas. An added and worrying feature is that too few local authorities make any real effort to organise the dual use of their facilities to allow the general public increased access to indoor and outdoor school facilities.

Although children may have participated in sport at school, when they leave school their enthusiasm often wanes or ceases. I need hardly reiterate the social value of sporting activities to an unemployed youth or to combating youth crime. That important area was highlighted and discussed more than 20 years ago in the first and less notorious Wolfenden report. It was called the "Wolfenden gap". I am delighted that the Sports Council is taking a major initiative to fill that gap. A major campaign entitled "Ever thought of Sport?", which is specifically aimed at 13 to 24-year-olds, is being launched in the new year. The campaign is to be jointly funded with private industry. That is a sensible move by the Sports Council because private industry can and is more than willing to help in this area. The Sports Council has undertaken a major advertising campaign to encourage young people to participate in sport.

Although I praise the initiative, I wish to give a word of warning: such a campaign cannot exist in isolation. Young people often need a kick in the right direction. As part of the campaign local clubs should be encouraged to go into schools and youth clubs to explain their existence and recruit school leavers. They must act positively. As part of that campaign they should be encouraged to hold open days, and local authorities should participate in advertising those open days. Furthermore, hon. Members can participate in the campaign by talking about it, attending open days of local clubs and generally helping in advertising the events.

The "Ever thought of Sport?" campaign could have another offshoot because our best athletes develop during their late teens. David Hemery, the Olympic hurdler, is writing a book which shows clearly that the greatest achievers are often the late developers.

If we bridge the gap between the school leaver and the young worker we come to the next group to which successive Governments have given little or no thought and certainly no priority. I refer to the fitness and health of our working population. Japan and the United States of America demonstrate the reality of the Latin maxim "Mens sana in corpore sano" which comes from Juvenal's "Satyres". It means, "A healthy mind in a healthy body". In countries where workers in offices and factories are encouraged to take physical exercise and to participate in sport, there is higher productivity, less absenteeism through ill-health and a greater corporate spirit. A fit man is undoubtedly a better worker and, as one would expect, the Japanese are unlikely to miss that trick. Japanese companies are prepared to have sports facilities at work because they are given the financial incentives through tax policies to do so. The Japanese Government are farsighted in this area. We need only consider by how much the national health bill would be reduced and how much more revenue there would be from greater productivity to understand the long-term savings that a fiscal policy that included a sport and recreation input could bring. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer), who is an expert on the subject, will have much more to say about this if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Please let us have at least a broad strategy for sport in the workplace.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

Is my hon. Friend worried, as I and many other hon. Members are, that playing fields belonging to companies are being sold for development in some areas? What influence could the Government bring to bear on those companies to retain those playing fields rather than selling them in highly lucrative development deals?

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

I take my hon. Friend's point, which is similar to the one that I made about schools. Once those facilities are lost, they are lost for ever. The Government should consider financial incentives to encourage companies not only to create facilities but to retain those that they already have.

In the time available I cannot deal with every aspect of sport, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will say something about the Government's 50-plus campaign to promote fitness in the aged. It is a welcome attempt to persuade 'the older person to take up sport as part of retirement. The campaign is good, but it needs more direction and impact.

I shall deal now with the pursuit of excellence in international sport and, inevitably, politics in sport. In this Olympic year our thoughts turn to Baron de Coubertin, who saw the Olympics as part of the need to strive for advances in a "spirit of international countries." Sport was seen as a way to break down national barriers and as the typification of an international and universal language. Any challenge to that universal language was taken seriously by Governments. One recalls the enormous controversy over the bodyline bowling in the test matches between England and Australia in 1933. Tension became so great that a cable was sent to the MCC from the Australian board of control stating: Body-line bowling has assumed such proportions as to menace the best interests of the game, making protection of the body by the batsman the main consideration. This is causing intensely bitter feeling between the players as well as injury. In our opinion it is unsportsmanlike. Unless stopped at once it is likely to upset the friendly relations existing between Australia and England. Such feelings have not completely died. More recently a cable was sent from the New Zealand to the Australian Prime Minister after controversy during a one-day cricket match, when Trevor Chappell bowled the last ball of the match underarm to prevent New Zealand from getting the six runs it needed to win.

There is still anxiety about maintaining the sporting ideal, but it is becoming increasingly subordinate to commercial demands and political restraint. Naturally, sport cannot be completely removed from politics, just as politics cannot be completely removed from sport. That fact was clearly acknowledged when the Gleneagles agreement was reached. However, we must not allow sporting interests to be subordinated to political pressures. Politics can run alongside sport, but they cannot run at the expense of sport and should not be allowed to do so. If they are, the cohesion of international sport would be lost and the universal language would be destroyed.

The greatest damage to international sport is undoubtedly caused by the numerous boycotts imposed upon games by outside political pressures. The boycott of South Africa is just the tip of the iceberg. There was a boycott of the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow, and the Soviet reprisal at the coming Olympics in Los Angeles. Boycotts are not new. In 1948 the newly-created state of Israel was banned from competing in the London Olympics because it might have led to a boycott by Arab states. Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands boycotted the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne due to the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the presence of an unrepresentative Hungarian team at those games.

In 1982, 108 British athletes—men such as Allan Lamb and Andy Irvine — were placed on a blacklist because they had sporting links with South Africa. Black countries agreed not to participate in competition with teams that included men on the blacklist. Thus the rebel cricketers who toured South Africa in 1982 were banned. Perhaps more worrying is the rumour that coloured Commonwealth countries have enough votes to ban England from the 1986 Commonwealth games because of those links with South Africa. The idea, though preposterous, is possible.

It is our duty to prevent the universal language of sport from being destroyed by external political factors. Recommendation 4 of the first report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on the 1980 Olympic games stated: In view of the growing exploitation of the Olympic Games, as a forum for political protest, Her Majesty's Government, in co-operation with other interested Governments, should take measures to ensure the long-term future for the Olympic Games in conditions insulated as far as possible from international political controversy and should support an internationally coordinated effort to find a site or sites for the Games which will fulfil this effort. That seems to be the best way of dealing with the problems of successive Olympic games.

If we stopped competing with all countries that have bad records on human rights, there would be few countries left to compete with. The carrot is a more effective weapon than the stick in encouraging countries to improve their domestic conditions. It is better for those countries, for oppressed people and for sport itself that we should continue the dialogue of sport by playing with those countries.

My motion recognises the Government's contribution to sport, and it would be churlish of me not to pay the highest possible tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister. While I was researching for the debate I came to realise increasingly the minefield in which he operates and his great achievements within the limitations and restraints imposed upon him. Those restraints are properly imposed in a democracy, because sports have self-governing bodies and he can try only to influence their decisions. We all want political involvement in sport, but we do not want political interference.

The Minister operates largely through the Sports Council, and I am extremely impressed by the great changes taking place in that body, which I understand he instigated. Under its new director-general there is a more businesslike approach to problems and a real attempt to place its grant money at the sharp end where it counts—in coaching and development, training and international participation.

The problems are horrendous. For example, five different governing bodies in athletics receive grants totalling £55,000, roughly half the amount spent on coaching and development. Cycling costs £93,700 in administration alone, and only £19,700 goes on coaching and development. The list of sports with a number of governing bodies is endless, expenditure on administration is enormous and little goes on coaching development or training.

While we must accept that a grant may be necessary for the administration of a sport, the dissipation of that money among several bodies representing one sport cannot be justified. I know that the Sports Council accepts that and that some major changes in the right direction are taking place.

But we must give credit where it is due. Many of the sports themselves appreciate the administrative problems and the costs that they have raised. For example, the secretary of the Amateur Athletics Association writes: We are well aware of our shortcomings in athletics and we are doing our best to rectify them in two or three years, but this is something which has grown over the last 100 years of my Association's existence. While we must change the allocation of the grant, this is a situation which we can all understand.

We are seeing greater rationalisation and attempts commercially to exploit our national sports centres to provide added funding for them as centres of excellence. Two of the centres are partly dependent on local government funding—Crystal Palace is dependent on the Greater London council and Holm Pierrepoint, the boating centre, is dependent on Nottingham council. I understand that when the GLC is abolished the Government will fund the difference. That is no bad thing. We all remember the disgraceful behaviour of the jumped-up chairman of the GLC's recreation committee the other day, and that changeover cannot come soon enough. I echo the words that I used a few moments ago. That is a blatant example of political interference, not political involvement.

In an attempt to find out what is wrong and why we are not achieving as we might expect, I spoke to a number of organisations to which I am greatly indebted for their assistance. Among the answers is a common theme that past Governments have failed adequately to help sports financially and have at times worked against those sports organisations.

The British Olympic Association rightly complains that not only is it almost unique among nations in receiving no funding from the Government, but it is also taxed on its earnings. In the last five years that organisation has paid £375,000 in taxes. The British Olympic Association points out that this is greeted with incredulity by the Olympic associations of other countries, and even the wealthy United States of America Olympic Association has the legend on all its literature Your contributions are tax deductible". It should be a source of national shame that some of our greatest athletes have turned, and are turning, to foreign business men and institutions who enjoy such financial relief for help to achieve honours for this country.

I speak not only of tax relief, because the Government must be aware that the Treasury takes large amounts, directly or indirectly, from sport while returning little. The Football Association has pointed out that as long ago as 1968, in a Government survey by Sir Norman Chester, it was said that by creaming off 25 per cent. tax on football pools without putting some of that money back into football, the Government were making that tax invidious. Since then, the tax has increased to 42·5 per cent., from which the Government get more than £200 million annually.

Photo of Mr Neil Macfarlane Mr Neil Macfarlane , Sutton and Cheam

I am sorry to interrupt at this stage, but my hon. Friend will be as anxious as I am, as will the House, to understand precisely what the taxation element is. It is important to know at this stage, because in recent weeks reports have given misleading information that has caused unnecessary concern. I must make it quite clear that voluntary donations, whether from the public or commerce and industry, to the British Olympic Association or any other sports organisation are not liable to corporation tax. Corporation tax is payable only on trading profits, usually from sponsorship deals, sale of goods and income from investment. I am certain that my hon. Friend will want to get this absolutely right.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

I am grateful for that clarification, but at a time like this, when the British Olympic Association needs every penny it can get, could it not have tax exemption on its own earnings?

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

I do not think that the Minister's intervention relates to football pools income, which is taxed directly and has nothing to do with corporation tax.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

I know that my hon. Friend has an interest in other areas of sports taxation. He is most concerned with the betting levy on horse racing. Some money from that levy is ploughed back into the sport, but that does not happen with football pools.

This goose is laying a very rich egg, which should be preserved and fattened in the interests of both the Treasury and sport.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

I accept that, but one can fatten the goose so that it lays lots of golden eggs.

Could not the Government put some of the money from football pools into preserving Wembley stadium, our one national football stadium? Seen against the grants given by the Sports Council, these sums of revenue appear very large indeed. The Amateur Athletics Association tells me that we are light years behind Europe in facilities, especially indoor facilities, for athletes and for training purposes. In the whole of the United Kingdom, there are only 87 synthetic tracks, one indoor track and four reasonable indoor training areas. In this regard we even lag behind Finland. The AAA has pointed out that, despite the lack of facilities, athletics can claim to be a successful sport.

With a planned facilities programme nationwide, we are entitled to ask how much more successful we would be in athletics. The AAA points out the obvious when it says that without more Government funding we shall continue to lag behind Europe for many years. With that I wholeheartedly concur.

The Hockey Federation makes the same point. It says that a gap is now developing between the United Kingdom and Europe, especially the Netherlands which has 48 synthetic cover pitches. Germany has 50 such pitches, and even Spain and France have many more than we have. The federation points out that now that hockey is increasingly played on pitches with synthetic covers, we lack the experience of playing on those pitches and, therefore, are at a distinct disadvantage when we play against other countries.

While many of the more popular sports can turn to sponsorship and television for their current expenditure, capital spending on adequate facilities is quite beyond them. This very lack of facilities inhibits the pursuit of excellence or sends our best athletes abroad for their training. Torvill and Dean, for example, are German-trained. Our ice skating success has not been matched by facilities.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

They are British-trained in Germany.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

Yes, I accept that. I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Every one of our gold medallists in the recent past has trained abroad. This is simply because ice rinks are run by local authorities which look to participation, and therefore the elite cannot get on to the ice until after 11.30 pm to train, and hence they go abroad.

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that arrangements were made by Manchester council to build a national skating rink with a national school in Manchester precisely for the training of ice skaters? It did not go ahead because the National Skating Association of Great Britain refused to move its headquarters from London to Manchester, and a great opportunity was lost with the consequences that he is rightly outlining. But credit should be given to Manchester, which wished to do it.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

I am grateful for that intervention. I was not aware of that. It illustrates some of the fuddy-duddy attitudes of some of the sports organisations. It is very sad to hear that that occurred. It is sad for the sport. It did no service to ice skating if those facts are correct.

If we are to achieve the best from our sportsmen, there must be more political involvement. The British Olympic Association asks for that. It also asks for greater consultation with sporting bodies before political decisions are made. It asks for a greater supportive role from the Government.

The association points to two areas where the Government could be more supportive. The first is in medicine. It says that in comparison with other developed sporting nations, certainly in eastern Europe but also increasingly in western Europe, the United States of America and Australia, the medical support given to top athletes in those and other countries is far and away greater than that which British athletes receive.

The association carried out a survey amongst the 26 governing bodies of Olympic sports, and their needs were clearly defined in three areas. The first is a service which could enable athletes to get back into training and to fitness as quickly as possible after injury. The second is a physiological testing service which would enable athletes and coaches to monitor the training and fitness of athletes over an extended period. The third is a screening which would enable athletes' health to be monitored to ensure that, prior to the exhaustive programme of exercise which athletes undertake, scientific evidence of their physical health could be obtained.

The Government's support in the area of sports medicine is badly needed, and the British Olympic Association would also like a greater sympathy in the National Health Service for the needs and requirements of top sportsmen.

The second area pointed out by the association is in unemployment and social security benefits. Here the association points out that young athletes and competitors not only devote tremendous energy and time to performing at their sports but, in so doing, they jeopardise careers and the very means of earning their livelihood. The DHSS has discretionary powers, and the British Olympic Association would ask that the Government direct the Department to instigate a supportive and sympathetic attitude towards high-level competitors which would obviate many of the problems in this respect.

I also put in the converse plea. I ask that, where individuals or organisations have put a lot of finance into sport, the sporting organisations should be less hostile to, and more sympathetic and understanding of, that person. That is the matter referred to earlier by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) about Manchester and the proposed ice skating rink. In respect of this I do not necessarily speak of Mr. Packer's cricket circus, although that comes to mind. I refer to Donington park race track, which was famous in the prewar era.

In the 1960s a Leicester builder named Tom Wheatcroft bought the track to house his museum of motor sport. He also set about renovating, restoring and improving the track. Recently he spent a further £5 million of his own money in bringing the track up to grand prix standards under the auspices of the RAC. Donington park is now one of the finest tracks in the world.

One would have thought that, having brought these incredibly good facilities to the midlands, Tom Wheatcroft would have been thanked heartily and welcomed with open arms by the motor sports world, but not a bit of it. Tom Wheatcroft's request for Donington park to be considered for the British grand prix for racing cars has been allowed, but only for 1988 and only after much debate and a writ. We have to wait five more years for a grand prix in the midlands—I include this year, with the grand prix still to be run—whilst the sport continues to be dominated in the south by Brands Hatch and Silverstone.

If that were the end of the story, Donington park could and would wait. However, if Silverstone and Brands Hatch are to get the major British grand prix for the next five years, Donington park should at least be the venue for the European championship or any second grand prix which may be allocated. I say this because the RAC, a body for which I have the greatest liking and respect, must be not only fair but seen to be fair in the allocation of these major events. At the moment Donington park is not having these secondary events allocated to it, either.

Again I pay tribute 'to the Minister and thank him for his interest, advice and support in my efforts to see that Donington park is treated justly. I shall go on raising the matter until it is treated justly.

Donington park would also like the Auto-Cycle grand prix, the title to which is held by the Auto-Cycle Union. That grand prix is held at Silverstone, and the ACU does not even want to discuss it. These titles are vested in these bodies as a trust by the international organisations. It is their duty to dispense that trust equally and fairly amongst those who have the facilities to run the sports and wish to do so.

It may be financially advantageous to the ACU and certainly to the owners of Silverstone, who must lobby the ACU with considerable success, to have the grand prix there year after year. But it is neither fair nor just to the other tracks which wish to stage the event, and it must be a breach of the ACU's trust as holder of the title to behave in this way. Behaviour of that kind is not good for the various regions, it is not good for the spectators, and it is not good for the sport.

Having put in my local plea, I turn finally to the implications of sport for our export trade. I mentioned that at the beginning of my speech, and I end on it because I feel that it justifies all my pleas for greater Government support and assistance for sport.

Both the British Olympic Association and the Football Association place great importance upon the relationship between sport and exports and have sent me a memorandum on the subject. The Football Association tells me: I believe that an area where we still miss out very sadly in this country is our involvement in world football. This may well apply to other sports, but about that I am more uncertain. In football there is no doubt that sending coaches from this country abroad, even for relatively brief spells, and attracting individual coaches from developing countries to attend courses in this country, could have a tremendous influence on substantial purchasing power. I believe that although the Minister for Sport has made certain effort in this direction, far more could be achieved and it would not only confirm our position as the most important country in world football, but would undoubtedly have material effects on our balance of payments. Football is an important sport in this country, but in very many of the 146 countries included in the World Football Federation, it is virtually the only team sport. Many overseas countries such as West Germany, Korea and the United States use their sporting organisations to develop a network which enables them to benefit from trade opportunities with countries worldwide. The pattern of high-level sportsmen going to countries, developing links, followed by trade delegations and a massive influx of that country's products, is a pattern that one sees repeated time and again, especially in West Germany. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister has himself, when leading delegations abroad, placed a great emphasis on selling our sports goods and equipment. However, I am sure that he would agree that in Britain such opportunities tend to be lost for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that our sports goods trade tends to be dissipated among a large number of small companies which seldom combine to afford effective trade opportunities. Secondly, the various Government Departments charged with the task of assisting and developing trade links form a maze of bureaucracy which those involved in the sports trade have difficulty in negotiating. Thirdly, the varied Government Departments which have the opportunities for creating trade with other countries in sports goods and facilities themselves sometimes appear not to be working in harmony. We need a co-ordinated committee to develop that aspect. With the increase of leisure and the increased universality of sophisticated sports facilities and equipment, that aspect could prove vital to Britain's trade prospects.

I have only been able to touch upon some of the many problems facing sport. If I am able to summarise my speech, I say this. Faced with greater leisure, we need greater Government involvement in sport. I hope that I have been able to show that such involvement is clearly cost effective, first, in terms of health. A healthy and vital nation saves National Health Service expenditure and increases productivity and national earnings. Let us have a campaign for doctors to prescribe sport in preference to Valium. Secondly, it is cost effective in terms of revenue raised in taxation from sport either directly or indirectly. Thirdly, it is cost effective in terms of exports. Last, and by no means least, it is cost effective in terms of the national morale. Successive Governments and Parliaments have not given the right priority to sport and they ought to.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

At least nine Back Benchers want to catch my eye before half past 6, when the Front Bench spokesmen are hoping to catch my eye. The debate must finish at 7 o'clock and that leaves 90 minutes for Back Benchers. I think that the House can do the arithmetic.

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath 5:02 pm, 9th July 1984

I usually play 45 minutes each way in my speeches, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but, in view of what you have said, I shall try to have a truncated match.

Two aspects of the motion need to be discussed. One is the international purpose of sport and the other is its social purpose. I express the appreciation of everyone here for the opportunity to join in the debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) on having the luck of the draw, and I am grateful to him for his decision to raise this matter. He is right in saying that it has been far too long since the House last discussed sport and had sufficient time to do so instead of relying on the opportunities given at Question Time when a particular incident cropped up from time to time. The fact that such incidents do crop up in many of the questions that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned shows that there is an enormous potential political importance about sport today, much greater than in previous years, which, in my experience, as I think the Minister will know, the world outside does not appreciate. A Minister with responsibility for sport cannot occupy that office, dealing with the Foreign Office, the Home Office and various other Departments of State, without wondering from one day to the next what particular catastrophe he will be called to deal with next.

I join the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West in extending good wishes to our Olympic team, as I am sure every hon. Member will wish to do, and certainly to the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) who has been selected to cox the British eight. We wish him and his colleagues well when they go to Los Angeles. He had a great and illustrious career in previous Olympics. If he manages to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I hope he will, he will be the first Member for a long time who will proceed directly from speaking on sport in the House to representing the country. That is a considerable distinction that we are pleased to acknowledge.

There is enormous interest throughout the world in the great festivals of sport, whether they be the Olympic games, the Commonwealth games, the World cup, European competitions, and so on. That is not sufficiently well understood. Many hon. Members are absent today because they probably regard sport as a frivolous pursuit for the House of Commons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sport captures the imagination of the country and, indeed, the world. It is in international sport alone that the people of the world come together.

If one visits the Olympic village and sees there people from 140 nations living together — the youth of the world—for six weeks, competing against each other and developing friendly relationships, one understands what international sport is about. Sportsmen are entitled to reflect that in no other sphere — business, commerce, education or the arts—do we provide the opportunity for the youth of the world to come together and to live as one. That is the contribution that sport makes to international understanding—the understanding of humankind—which is not made anywhere else. That is the significance of this debate, and we need more such debates. The only other time that that happens in the Commonwealth is when Commonwealth Prime Ministers come together or during the Commonwealth games. If we begin to understand that, we begin to understand the role of sport in the world.

I notice that the Football Association has recently said that it wants to attract back one of the European competitions—the European Nations cup. I hope that the Minister, who understands the importance of international sport, will be able to say that any approach from the Football Association along those lines will be sympathetically considered by the Government.

One immediately thinks of the next great international sporting festival to be held in Britain — the Commonwealth games at Edinburgh in 1986. As I understand it, the Government are not making any resources available to Edinburgh this year compared with what was made available for the Commonwealth games in Edinburgh 1970. I can understand that much was built for the 1970 games, but I hope that the Government will give as much financial assistance as they can, especially for the much needed cycling velladrome. If the Minister does not know the answer to that now, will he consider with the Commonwealth Games Council of Scotland and the Edinburgh district council the need to ensure that they have a cycle velladrome for the 1986 games so that that event, like athletics, swimming, boxing and so on, can be properly held?

The Commonwealth games in Edinburgh have a question mark over them because of the statements made by other countries about possible boycotts arising from the behaviour of South Africa. It is important to say this year as well as any other—I said this in 1980—that boycotts of international sporting festivals are unjustified. That is true, for the reasons that we attacked Her Majesty's Government in 1980 for the boycott of the Moscow Olympics. I say it now because those of us who attacked the Government then have an obligation today to say that we are equally opposed to the boycott of the Los Angeles games by the Russians or anyone else, such as the African countries.

When the Commonwealth Prime Ministers last met, I was encouraged by the fact that they put out a pronouncement that seemed to suggest that they accepted that international sporting boycotts were not the way to deal with the South African problem. I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will take an initiative, which may be necessary, to talk to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers about the threats that have now been made. During the period of the Olympics, the future of the next Commonwealth games will be decided. I hope that the Prime Minister will remind her colleagues throughout the Commonwealth of the stand that they took when they met in Australia and of the fact that it is important, if the Commonwealth means anything at all, for Commonwealth nations to come together in Edinburgh in 1986.

I understand the South African problem, and I do not intend to spend too much time on it today. South Africa is unique in that it has discrimination among sportsmen on the ground of colour alone—

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath

I am afraid that it does. I know that the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) will speak later, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman must remember that it is not Governments who have put South Africa out of international sport, but the sporting bodies themselves. It started with the Olympic committee, went on to FIFA in football, then to cricket, and it has gone from one international body to another. The reason is simple. It is offensive to any genuine international governing body to have half or two thirds of its members discriminated against by a member country. For that reason, the sporting bodies have banned South Africa from international competitions.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the opposition to South Africa is because, as it says in the Gleneagles agreement, there should be no discrimination based on race, colour or ethnic origin—a policy that the right hon. Gentleman supports. Can he name one sport in South Africa in which selection is based on apartheid and race, colour or ethnic origin?

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath

It is not necessary for me to do that. When I was Minister with responsibility for sport, I laid down five or six principles that I said South Africa had to meet before it could return to international sport. Such things as the pass laws and discrimination make it impossible for large numbers of ordinary South Africans to join clubs to get the coaching and the participation that they need. That discrimination at the grass roots of sport prevents natural talent coming to the top. These facts have to be taken into account.

I do not wish to pursue this subject too far, but the hon. Member for Luton, North knows that when the rugby press correspondents last went to South Africa they were greeted with a speech by the South African Minister of Justice in which he made it crystal clear that in no circumstances would South Africa change its laws to allow equality for all sportsmen. One pays tribute to correspondents, such as Clem Thomas, who wrote articles saying that they went hoping to see these great changes that had supposedly taken place, but came back devastated by that speech. Those are the facts of the matter.

The point is that South Africa is using astronomical sums of money to bribe sportsmen from various sports to go to play in that country. Sums of as much as £70,000 a time are being offered to sportsmen to go to play in South Africa, but they must know full well that their presence in South Africa undermines the livelihoods of fellow professionals there. That shows why sport takes such a serious view of the problem.

I pay tribute to the Cricket Council—which said that if it allowed the so-called rebels to go to play in South Africa, that would undermine the livelihoods of other professional cricketers on the circuit. The council was standing up for sport as a whole, which is important. As I have said outside the House, if the Rugby Football Union were truly international in its governing and had representatives with power, the countries which play rugby would be taking the same decisions as FIFA and the IOC have been forced to take.

I come now to another subject, on which I hope I shall get more agreement from the hon. Member for Luton, North. I have the temerity to draw attention to my report on sports sponsorship and its international implications. I thank the hon. Member for Lewisham, East, who served under my chairmanship for two years, for his considerable assistance. We looked at many problems. You will be glad to hear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall not go through all the recommendations, but I must ask the Minister whether the Government have had an opportunity to form conclusions on the recommendations that we addressed to them, particularly those that affect the multinational sports organisations now operating in international sport.

My committee was extremely concerned about what we called the conflicts of interest and the interlocking financial arrangements that were not properly disclosed to the governing bodies of sport. Some of these we mentioned and went into in detail—in particular, Adidas and the International Management Group of Mr. Mark McCormack. Our concern was not that any one of these activities by these organisations was wrong. It is obvious that Adidas and IMG do much good for their clients. Otherwise, clients would not go to them. They raise the standards of international sport and improve the benefits to sportsmen, which is an advantage.

However, in our report we point out the problems with the IMG and its involvement with Wimbledon and the British open golf championship. Mr. McCormack represents nearly all the top players taking part in the events, the governing bodies that are staging the events, the marketing interests, and the governing bodies in negotiations with television authorities in this country. He is also involved in international television negotiations and is linked with the presentation of sport here and how it is sold abroad. He represents other interests as well, including, sometimes, the commentators on televised events.

It seemed to the committee that there must be a conflict of interests in all that and that it was wrong for one man or one organisation to represent so many different interests in some of our great sports. The committee did not have the power to send for people and papers or to do the sort of full investigation that it would like to have done. We gave Mr. McCormack the opportunity to appear before us, but he did not avail himself of that opportunity. Mr. Dassler of Adidas did appear before us and gave us answers that are mentioned in the report. I do not agree with that company's policy, but I pay tribute to Mr. Dassler for appearing before us at a lengthy session. Mr. McCormack did not feel able to do that.

The committee found that there was a case for an investigation to be conducted by the Government into all those interlocking interests. At the very least, all those interests between various companies ought to be disclosed so that the international governing bodies know what is going on. I hope that the Minister agrees with that and will refer the matter to the Office of Fair Trading.

The importance of the issue has been highlighted in the past week by articles in The Guardian and the Daily Mail. The BBC has offered £9 million to televise athletics over the next few years and the IBA has offered £10 million. A legitimate discussion is taking place in athletics about whether the quality of the BBC's uninterrupted coverage, with no advertisements, is the right approach or whether the sport should take the extra £1 million. That is a matter for the sport to decide.

However, I understand that if the IBA gets the contract, Mr. McCormack will offer £4 million to carry out the packaging and all the advertising. That is a serious situation. We shall see at Los Angeles a foretaste of what might happen. It is said that, because Governments no longer impose restrictions on sponsors advertising during the events that they sponsor, people such as Mr. McCormack will buy up all the advertising time before, during and after the events. In the newspaper articles to which I referred, he says that not only does he want to have his athletes running in the events, but he wants to organise the sponsorship and the advertising on television before, during and after those events. That ought to be unacceptable to the House. It is against the public interest to have one man or one organisation with such power. The sports bodies should be careful to maintain their independence at all times and not to have the finances of their sports removed from their control. I am glad to see the Minister showing some agreement and I hope that he supports my views.

The main thrust of the motion is the social purpose of the sport. I am disappointed at the Minister's attitude to appointments to sporting bodies. When I had his job, I went out of my way to make appointments from a broad spectrum. I was disappointed when the two vice chairmen of the Sports Council, Mr. John Disley and Mr. Bernard Atha, were removed by the Minister. That was wrong. It seems that we are not maintaining a general political balance. Mr. Disley is one of the few people left in sports politics who understand what the relationship ought to be between the Government, the Sports Council and sporting bodies. I attached the greatest importance to getting that right, and things have gone wrong because that balance has been lost.

For example, I am pursuing the reasons for the enforced resignation of the director of the Sports Council, Mr. Emlyn Jones, who, according to the chairman of the Sports Council, was required to resign by the Minister. The Minister denies that, and we do not know what is the truth. The chairman says one thing and the Minister says another. It is known that Mr. Jones was required to resign. There should not have been such interference.

Even worse, the new vice chairman of the Sports Council is a leading Conservative councillor, whom I first appointed to the council in my pursuit of balance. Having got rid of Mr. Jones, the Government then got rid of the deputy director, Mr. John Coghlan. At a stroke, the two principal executive officers of the Sports Council were removed by one form of political interference or another. That was wrong and regrettable.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) to the Opposition Front Bench. I know that he takes a great interest in sport, which is welcomed by all the sports organisations and certainly by me. I hope that he will pursue with the Government the financing of local authority facilities now that the GLC and the metropolitan counties are to be abolished. I have a list of 43 undertakings being financed by those councils. We want an assurance from the Minister that the money that those authorities were providing will be provided by the Government.

I gather that the Sports Council has estimated that £5 million is needed for work at Crystal palace, but the Central Council of Physical Recreation estimates that at least three times that sum will be required in all. Whoever is right, I hope that the money will be forthcoming to ensure—

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

May I underline that point? I understand that the Sports Council is talking about an extra £5 million from the Department of the Environment to cover everything, including the GLC's current contribution to the Crystal Palace national sports centre and the contributions of the GLC and the metropolitan counties to sport generally. Compared with the money that those authorities are spending, the estimate of £5 million is woefully inadequate.

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath

My hon. Friend is right, and I should correct a figure that I gave earlier. The CCPR estimate is £18 million.

If we had been debating arts today, there would be three times as many hon. Members present. The arts grant is £101·9 million, but the Sports Council grant is only £30 million. I think that that gives us an idea of the lack of balance on this aspect of the matter.

Sport for all, for the unemployed and for youth, is vital. I cannot understand how the Government fail to appreciate the importance of sport to the large numbers of unemployed. This month in my constituency between 80 and 90 per cent. of those leaving school in a multiracial area are going straight into unemployment, to join 50 per cent. of last years' school leavers and 40 per cent. from the year before. They have time on their hands, and there are no resources available to them. Yet the Government are urging that playing fields should be sold.

A year or two ago, the Minister announced a joint study of these matters by his Department and the Department of Education and Science. That study seems to have sunk without trace. What was the result? Can the Minister assure us that the Government understand the vital social importance of sports provision, especially in areas of growing unemployment, such as the inner cities? It is desperately important that sports facilities and coaches should be provided. The Government must understand the social purpose and the philosophy of sport.

This subject embraces political opinion on both sides of the House. We understand the social importance of sport and want to see it provided for. If facilties are not provided for the youth of our country—especially the growing number of unemployed young people—the cost to the country as a whole will be great.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North West for providing the opportunity for me to make this speech.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North 5:34 pm, 9th July 1984

I am delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), although I shall not at this point pursue his controversial remarks on South Africa. I shall merely put it on record that he has himself said that all the five points that he put to the South African authorities and the Progressive Federal party had been met. That being so, I fail to see how he can continue to take that line.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his long and detailed study of sponsorship in sport, to which the House and the Government must pay attention. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) and wish him well in Los Angeles later this month. I thank both the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend for an excellent report.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) was sensible to take the good advice of his many friends that this subject should be aired. It is true that we do not talk about sport enough here. I hope that my hon. Friend will not take it amiss if I do not entirely follow the views expressed in his motion. As he himself says, we need more Government involvement in sport and less interference. I suspect that if we followed my hon. Friend's policy to the letter and the line, there would inevitably be an enlargement of the responsible Department and more involvement by the Treasury, and perhaps a feeling in national and local government that there was interference from above.

The Conservative party is a party which stands on its own feet, and I fully support the words in the motion about encouraging companies to give their employees more facilities. That would help to create a healthy nation. That is probably the better part of the motion, which we are most grateful to my hon. Friend for putting down.

I cast no aspersions on my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in saying that the position of Minister with responsibility for sport is one that is always in question on the Conservative Benches. Thank heavens, the Minister at present responsible for sport has acquitted himself admirably throughout his term of office.

I should like to concentrate on international sport. I believe that heavy political influence is being brought to bear on sports selection throughout the world. It may be ironic that this debate should take place just before the Olympic games. The last major debate in the House on sport —here here I must correct my hon. Friend—was in January 1980, as the right hon. Member for Small Heath reminded us. The Prime Minister then put forward a motion justifying the Government's opinion that our athletes should not go to Moscow. On that occasion, as a fairly new and green Member, I supported my right hon. Friend in the Lobby. That was an action which I now bitterly regret. I was totally wrong to support the Government, and the Government themselves were quite wrong in penalising sportsmen because of the political distaste which we all shared for the Russian involvement in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, on that occasion, as so often, the sportsmen were pitched to make clear the wrath of our political masters. I believe that the Government's action led directly to the tit-for-tat in which the Russians and the Eastern Europeans have now boycotted the games in Los Angeles, probably reducing those games—apart from rowing—to a second-class spectacle, to the sadness of everyone in this country and throughout the world.

What is particularly sad is that youngsters from behind the iron curtain have been denied the opportunity to visit a free nation and mix with young sportsmen and sportswomen—as our young sportsmen were denied the opportunity to visit Moscow. They have been denied an opportunity to swap ideas and to gain some idea of how the other half lives — to share different cultural and political opinions.

That is the tragedy of Los Angeles. Western sportsmen would have had an opportunity to influence the Russians and Eastern Europeans, showing them the freedom which we in the West enjoy. The House and the Government agree that contact on the field is an effective way of spreading our diplomatic favours in a peaceful situation rather than in the cold world of diplomacy. We have lost an opportunity—as we did at the Moscow Olympics—for our ambassadors of sport to spread our gospel and to break down the barriers between our two countries.

The heavy political influence on selection in international terms is the more to be regretted because of recent events. I should not be so naive as to suggest that sport and politics do not mix. This is a complicated question. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West said, the Government have a duty to involve themselves, but not to interfere. It is our job to begin to dismantle the political barriers which, regrettably, now exist in sport and not—as we have done by our adherence to the Gleneagles agreement—to support those barriers.

I do not want to dwell on the question of the Gleneagles agreement, but there are one or two points which I should like to make. We should not forget that the "Commonwealth Statement on Apartheid in Sport", to give it its full title, was not ratified by this House. The Government of the day never sought the approval of the House of Commons. It was never ratified by the sportsmen. As far as I know—although the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath, who was in office when the agreement was signed, may be able to correct me—no sportsmen were consulted. The agreement was never ratified by the British people. It has had a devastating effect on some sportsmen, both here and in South Africa.

My views and my opposition to the agreement are well known to my hon. Friend and to the House. My hon. Friend understands that my views are shared by many hon. Members, as is evidenced by an early-day motion which has been signed by 108 Conservative Members. It expresses support for the English Rugby Football Union's visit to South Africa. It has been shown in successive opinion polls that never less than 70 per cent. of the public find the Gleneagles agreement abhorrent. I understand the circumstances of my hon. Friend and the Government in regard to that agreement, but I hope that it will be amended.

One of the Minister's first loves is cricket. Indeed, he excels at the game. Like many others, I am sure that he will have found watching the English side being decimated in two test matches harrowing. We must ask ourselves whether the matches are fair. Fairness is one of the hallmarks of British sportsmanship. Is it fair that four or five—some people believe it is more—players of great ability are forced by the rules of international cricket, and, indirectly, by Government influence, to stand aside while our test side suffers humiliation? The men who went to South Africa in 1981 did so perfectly legitimately, as do thousands of British business men each year, to pursue their trade and to be paid accordingly. They broke no law, but were penalised for going. When people cry "Foul" about that, they have every reason to do so.

The decision was made by the Test and County Cricket Board. The International Cricket Conference went to South Africa in 1979 and after an extensive visit, recommended that an ICC team be sent to South Africa to see whether the conditions which the right hon. Member for Small Heath described with eloquence, but, if I may say so, with ignorance, exist. It went to see whether organisation is based on race, colour or ethnic origin. The ICC found that those conditions, as set out in the Gleneagles agreement, did not apply and that therefore an ICC team should be sent. Players were banned by the Test and County Cricket Board for three years. Principal among the prosecutors on the ICC and influencing the Test and County Cricket Board were none other than the West Indian board of control and the Indian board of control.

Photo of Mr Neil Macfarlane Mr Neil Macfarlane , Sutton and Cheam

I apologise for interrupting during this important element of my hon. Friend's speech, but in the interests of accuracy the House should examine closely what he has just said. I understand that the recommendations which my hon. Friend has mentioned were not voted on by the whole ICC. The House would find it strange to think that Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Caribbean islands and India would send representatives to South Africa. It is true that some representatives of the ICC went on a fact-finding tour and then reported. That tour was not wholly sponsored by the ICC, nor was it ratified. My hon. Friend will be the first to realise, bearing in mind the realism that he deploys on these occasions, that that would be very unlikely.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

My hon. Friend is right. The full ICC was not represented on the visit, but it had the blessing and the official title of the ICC. The strange thing is that the report was never published. It is still at Lords gathering dust. One can only surmise that it was never made public because the ICC was not entirely happy with its conclusions. The West Indian board of control strongly objected to players who went to South Africa. Indeed, it suffered from that later. The direct result is that the English XI has been weakened and that selection of our national team has been influenced by another cricketing authority. That has shades of Mr. Vorster who, in 1968, refused to accept Basil d'Oliveira. He had some influence on the Marylebone Cricket Club selectors at the time. The wheel has come full circle.

I should be out of order if I were to say that the Test and County Cricket Board's decision was influenced in some small way by the Government and their adherence to the Gleneagles agreement. I take the point that the right hon. Member for Small Heath made, and which my hon. Friend the Minister often makes, that the original bannings of South Africa were made by the sports authorities. Since then, however, the goal posts have been moved—not by the sportsmen or the sports authorities, but by politicians. Sportsmen and sports administrators are now hog-tied by an agreement over which they have little influence and which they did not approve.

A topical item has come to my notice and should be brought to the attention of the House. It concerns the 1985 Whitbread round-the-world yacht race. A joint services yacht had been entered. Unfortunately, a grant of £290,000 towards the 1 million costs which was promised by the Ministry of Defence has been withdrawn because the yacht was to have called in at Cape Town, as will all of the others. I shall quote the Government's view as expressed by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement on 29 June: A service entry in the round-the-world yacht race would be incompatible with the Government's policy on links with South Africa since it would involve a stopover in Capetown for service men on duty and would carry the unavoidable risk of competing with South African entries, thereby contravening the Commonwealth statement on apartheid in sport"— [Official Report, 29 June 1984; Vol. 62, c. 556.] The yacht would be going round the world in an international competition. Cape Town is just one of the places where the yachts will stop to be refurbished, where crews might be changed and where provisions will be taken on board. It is disgraceful that, because of one stop and a petty-minded decision, the young men and women involved will be denied a wonderful opportunity. In no way does the stop contravene the Gleneagles agreement, as the competition is not a direct one between Britain and South Africa. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will reconsider his decision. It is ironic that, only last December, 180 personnel who were employed by independent contractors but who were working for the British Government passed through Cape Town and Johannesburg on their way to the Falkland Islands. If their stopping in South Africa was acceptable, I see no reason why the yacht should not stop there. The grant should be reinstated.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

Does my hon. Friend believe that Commonwealth Governments should together change the Gleneagles agreement, or does he go further and say that if they do not Britain should pay no further attention to it?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

My hon. Friend has great perception, for I was about to turn to that issue. Perhaps the time has come for the Government to take the initiative and to try to bring some influence to bear on the Commonwealth. Everyone knows that the Government are tied by the Gleneagles agreement, which was honourably signed and which has been honourably supported by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport. However, the time has come for some adjustment to be made to the agreement.

It has been recognised in the House that selection in South Africa is not now based on race, colour or ethnic origin. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West said, South Africa should be given the carrot rather than the stick. Some recognition should be given to those brave sportsmen, sportswomen and sport administrators in South Africa who have tried desperately within the laws of their land to select their teams by means of a process that is not based on race, colour or ethnic origin. That must not be forgotten.

My hon. Friend the Minister will understand that boycotts and sanctions are now beginning to inflict real harm upon those in South Africa who were intended to benefit from them. I have found a somewhat strange ally in a former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), who, in "Politics of Consent", writes: To begin with discard all hypocrisy and double standards. However repressive the South African regime, it is no more repressive than dozens of other regimes from the Soviet Union downwards. This fact does not excuse South Africa but it is reason enough not to make her the sole inmate of an isolation war. The habit of doing so is both intellectually and morally dishonest … We should either boycott all nations or none of them. I can see no point in empty moral gestures … I regret the imposition of sporting and cultural boycotts, as I do not believe in shutting down human contact, but the exertion of influence by economic and political contacts is a legitimate tactic. My right hon. Friend was Foreign Secretary until very recently, but there has been movement in South Africa, with a visit here by Mr. P. W. Botha, and it seems that the Government have a somewhat warmer approach to South Africa. When my hon. Friend has talks and negotiations with the various sporting bodies, both international and national, I ask him, in all sincerity, to try to find a chink of light in the present rather sad situation and to bring hope to many thousands of sportsmen.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , North East Cambridgeshire 5:53 pm, 9th July 1984

The arithmetic of the debate when it was thrown open to the House was that the nine of us who wanted to contribute to it would each have 10 minutes. The seven of us who remain are now left with less than six minutes each. That is our allocation if we are to be honourable. I shall do my best to abide more closely to time than those who have preceded me.

Mine will be a rather more domestic and mundane view of the motion than that taken by others. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) on introducing it. I have the impression that it seeks to deal with participation and co-ordination between sporting bodies and the encouragement of businesses to provide sporting facilities. We at Westminster are involved with and employ about 3,000 people, and yet we have no sports facilities except a rather tatty gymnasium with a sauna bath in Norman Shaw, North. We have no football pitches, sports grounds, facilities, swimming pools, squash courts or tennis courts. I am not sure whether we have any right to speak about the provision of sporting facilities.

It seems that we have a national philosophy that it is not nice to try to win. Our children are always encouraged to participate in sport but no great prize is given for achievement. We are beaten by the South Africans at rugby football and we do miserably at cricket. There are those who say that they do not know what will happen when the next test match begins. I know what will happen; we shall do as miserably as we did in the previous two tests.

We do not have one man in the tennis top 20 and no woman in the top 10. I pay great tribute to Mr. John Lloyd and congratulate him on his success. I would hate to be the only person not to wish well the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan). I hope that he returns with at least nine medals. Even at bowls we lose to Hong Kong and at football we cannot beat the Danes.

In our pursuit of excellence, we must try to create an infrastructure that enables even younger people than at present to involve themselves in competitive sport as they do in the United States, where a child of eight years on the east coast will occasionally have competed in swimming, for example, with children of the same age on the other side of the country. I remind the House that that is a very much larger country than the United Kingdom and that its national sporting events are much harder to organise than ours.

We have more per capita injuries in sport than in any other civilised nation. One of the reasons is that we keep our medical achievements, which in some instances are considerable, very much closer to factional interests than other countries. In boxing, for example, we have one or two experts who are brilliant at dealing with cuts. Those experts do not teach others. On the contrary, they want to keep their skills a secret so that the other man will bleed while their man recovers. We have certain football trainers who are excellent at dealing with knee injuries and others who are competent at handling other forms of footballing injuries. The Government should encourage these experts to share their knowledge.

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West wants more money directed to sport or more Government interference. When I asked the Prime Minister to provide more funds for the Open University, she accused Opposition Members of trying always to get the Government to spend more money and of then complaining about taxation.

It would be right for the Government to take the view that sport is related to health. The concept of the National Health Service was triggered when medical officers examined those who had volunteered for the Boer War. They found that few volunteers were medically fit. That is when the nation began to take an interest in the health of the citizen. It is on that ground that I ask the Minister to consider the cost effectiveness of funding sport.

Greyhound racing is a viable sport and yet there is extraordinary elitism within it. Some tracks are licensed by the National Greyhound Racing Council and many are not. There are the most admirable flapping tracks in my constituency but if anyone runs his dogs on those tracks they are not allowed to run under the same name on other tracks. I suppose that that is an example of apartheid. The NGRC has a monopoly in knackermeat and the trainers in my constituency who train on flapping tracks cannot buy horsemeat or sub-quality meat for their dogs merely because the tracks are not licensed.

I have spoken for only a few minutes, but I shall do the honourable thing and resume my place so that others may participate in the debate.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East 5:59 pm, 9th July 1984

It can be argued that the international sporting world is heading for a crisis. The motion refers to at least six areas of sport whose futures are beset by major problems. At its worst, the Olympic movement heads remorselessly from boycott to boycott. We have moved from de Coubertin's early idealism to the power of multi-million dollar deals, from amateurism to shamateurism and from well trained competitors to the laboratory race to produce drug perfected automatons. Furthermore, international participation at any level increasingly becomes the product of political decisions. Our debate has already concentrated on the Gleneagles agreement, on whose gossamer clauses the success or shambles of the 1986 British-hosted Commonwealth games hangs delicately in the balance.

In national sport, limited financial support leaves promising recreational schemes on the drawing board, while the internal politics of sport often make this House tame by comparison.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) called our attention to governing bodies. Here we find men of outstanding ability and commitment who in our generation have held together —and promoted—the sportsmen of today. But they, regrettably, are few in number. For every Sir Arthur Gold or the late Sir Denis Follows there are 20 members of governing bodies who have never been to see their Olympic hopefuls in training. The generation gap is nowhere more evident than here.

The pressures on today's athletes are a far cry from what they were 15 years ago; so much greater is the need for them to have the support and understanding of those who serve them — and serve them they should — on governing bodies, for it is the sports men and women who come first. Those who have the honour to serve them would do well to remember that without them their own role holds no relevance. It is to that issue and to the promotion, marketing and development of sport at its grass roots that those people should be committing themselves in looking to the future.

We need more young people on our governing bodies. Men and women who will retire after this year's Olympics should be urged to participate at the top level of sports administration: in fact, there is a duty on them so to do. The world of sport has given much to them in personal satisfaction and support, and the least they can do, having received so much, is to give a little back. Tomorrow's stars and today's participants, especially at the grass roots, and, above all, the governing bodies will then benefit.

I have already had the privilege in an Adjournment debate of drawing attention to the drug abuse in sport. The excellent Sports Council initiative has moved forward a stage since then. Its new code does much to stamp out that form of cheating in sport. My regret is over the failure of some governing bodies to have acted urgently with the commitment to find new punishments to fit that sporting crime.

An independent court of appeal, guided by the International Olympic Committee and governing body's lists of banned substances, and sitting under the aegis of the Sports Council's drug abuse advisory group, is essential. Then a ban for life, and nothing less, for the guilty should be imposed.

I have had the honour of being a steward of the British Boxing Board of Control since I came down from university. My comments on boxing, interventions aside, should take five minutes and 27 seconds, which would keep me on target for a gold medal in Los Angeles and a new Olympic record. More important than anything, I might find favour with those hon. Members who still wish to speak.

I have seen the standards of medical supervision in professional boxing move forward dramatically. Boxing in Britain leads the world in assessing, maintaining and developing standards of medical control. It is we, the British, who introduced the universal boxing passport two years ago, now carried by all boxers under the aegis of the World Boxing Council and containing specific medical and boxing records. It is we who have sought to improve the state of boxers' fitness and the degree of medical control.

Every boxer has an annual medical examination. Every boxer is seen by the board's medical officers. Every boxer is examined at the weigh-in, prior to going into the ring, and after the fight, win or lose. Every boxer who loses inside the distance is automatically suspended for 28 days and must then pass a full medical examination. Every fight has two doctors at the ringside, and CT scans are now often used. That is not the world of yesterday's boxing booths. Furthermore, despite the considerable powers of the press —and television fees—the BBBC puts the interests of the boxer first.

John Conteh was pulled out of a world title fight by the board. Charlie Magri's Zambian opponent in a Commonwealth title fight recently was withdrawn even after the weigh-in, and despite Zambian medical clearance and television's wishes to the contrary. Leading boxers have been retired — Vernon Solas and Jackie Turpin come to mind.

Yet the British Medical Association made its decision after an emotive speech to its 1982 conference by Dr. Butten, who had never seen a boxing match nor produced any relevant statistics. The report emanating from the conference found boxing guilty and challenged the sport there and then to prove its innocence—a staggering way to proceed in this country. Therefore, it came as no surprise that the board did not participate in the report. The board's history of willingness in assisting in investigations has been proved on many occasions, not least with the Robertson report for the Royal College of Physicians. The report on reaction time and the BB isoenzyme report are two current examples of the board's assistance. Nothing in the BMA report addressed itself to British professional boxing today.

The sad reality is that many sports are dangerous. Between 1969 and 1981, 480 people died in sport, according to the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. Among the 480 were two professional boxers and three amateurs. Does the BMA want to ban all sports where danger exists? What of mountaineering, horse riding, football and rugby, where in each case the figures for deaths are higher? Indeed, what of smoking and drinking? Yet all involved in boxing should welcome this second-rate report, for one reason alone: it focuses our attention on the continual need to improve our medical standards. This British boxing has done and will continue to do.

Abolition will drive boxers abroad. I remember well the lightweight Williams, who failed our eyesight tests, gained a licence to box in Belgium, and is now back here with poor vision, having suffered a detached retina. Yet all those matters are secondary in this House to freedom of choice. Unlike compulsory seat belts, banning boxing is like banning the motor car. With enhanced medical control, we have already voluntarily put on our seat belts. As long as the boxing world strengthens its controls in the interests of boxers, this widely popular sport should go from strength to strength.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Bonsor Sir Nicholas Bonsor , Upminster

I am sorry to spoil my hon. Friend's record for brevity. I warmly endorse his remarks on boxing. Perhaps he would agree that it would be sad to move on without mentioning the admirable role played by amateur boxing as a social function, particularly in deprived areas. It is a wonderful way of keeping young people out of trouble and channelling their aggressive instincts into worthwhile sporting ends.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I wholly endorse my hon. Friend's intervention. If it were not for the excellent control—not least the excellent medical control—of the amateur sport of boxing, we would not have the professional sport that we have today. It is a sport that does a great deal, especially today, to encourage youngsters who lack direction to come into the boys' clubs countrywide and to be assisted in developing strength, determination and personal courage. Amateur boxing has given great assistance which should be recognised throughout this House, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point

In the next few weeks many people will be able to witness our Olympic achievements. As they do, I hope that they will find time to reflect on the need for vision and enlightened thinking for the future of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic games, for it is in the hands of those on the IOC that the future of the games lies. The prospect for 1988 in Seoul looks bleak.

In my view, possibly the only successful future for the games lies in the establishment of a permanent site, run and policed by the International Olympic Committee, financed out of the vast income of television fees, and established by all nations along the lines of the Vatican model. That idea must be examined further, at the very least. Greece comes immediately to mind, for historical reasons. Finland comes to mind for its great staging of the 1983 world athletics championships, and because of its position as a window to the east and west. Both countries should be strong candidates for consideration.

With a permanent site should then come open games, to get rid of the hypocrisy that now exists in regard to payment of athletes. An IOC charity, as the due recipient of the millions of dollars received during the games—and particularly through television—could support sport and recreation schemes world-wide, along the lines of a sporting international development association. Perhaps de Coubertin's ideals can find a new forum in a very different and fast-changing world, perhaps not, but the onus is on the shoulder of each member of the International Olympic Committee to look forward and to save what has been, unfortunately, an otherwise sadly backward-looking movement for international participation in sport. The two consecutive boycotts have done much damage to the Olympic movement.

I should like to record my deep appreciation of the support that I have received from colleagues on both sides of the House in the debate and outside, as well as for the hundreds of supporting letters from constituents. They already know the feeling of sport and politics mixed, as the previous Conservative Member of Parliament for my seat was Mr. Christopher Chataway, a sportsman who is far more capable and far better than I shall ever be. I take those letters and gestures of goodwill not as support for me but for all our athletes who are heading for Los Angeles. My humble and sincere thanks to all of them.

Photo of Mr John Forrester Mr John Forrester , Stoke-on-Trent North 6:10 pm, 9th July 1984

I join in congratulating the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) on choosing this subject for debate, and wish the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) good luck at Los Angeles. The speakers have dealt with a wide range of topics, but I shall contain my remarks to four or five points and deal with them briefly in view of the time.

Everyone now accepts that, at a time of increased leisure, more facilities are needed, if only because Satan finds work for idle hands or, in the perhaps better words of the motion, there is great virtue in having a fit and healthy nation. Everyone agrees that there is a chronic shortage of facilities for sport and recreation and that successive Governments have failed to meet that need. At times it seems that deficiencies in services are not necessarily noticed, but there comes a time in history when that shortage can no longer be ignored. The time for improving our sporting facilities has come upon us. The key to solving the problem is finance. Because of the Government's restrictions and rate-capping proposals, many local authorities are very cautious about starting capital projects which may lead them into revenue problems and penalties.

I shall raise a constituency point which illustrates the problem of many older cities. Stoke-on-Trent had five public baths. In recent years we had to demolish four of them, because of old age or mining subsidence, or a mixture of both. The remaining pool ought to be demolished. We have replaced them with only one modern public baths and a pool especially for the disabled, for which a large amount of money was raised by public subscription and effort. Clearly, a new baths is desperately needed. We also have a chronic shortage of indoor dry sports facilities.

Stoke-on-Trent has been very fortunate in the amount of money that it has received from successive Governments for land reclamation. I pay tribute to them for that. But much of the reclaimed land is unsuitable for hard wearing sports use, because of its poor quality.

Like many other cities, Stoke-on-Trent has failed to achieve inner city area status, although we know not why. We, too, have the problems of the older industrial cities. Cities like ours have been denied funds by which we could have renewed or upgraded our facilities. The other source of income may be the Sports Council, but, of course, it is short of money. It does not have enough money to go round; certainly not enough to do what it knows must be done. If we are to make real progress in the provision of sporting and recreational facilities, money needs to be found from somewhere and local authorities have to be confident that they will not incur penalties.

The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West referred in his speech, as the motion does, to the need for encouragement of businesses to provide facilties. I wholeheartedly support that. There are many good facilities at the moment, but, as has been mentioned, many firms face financial constraints and must make savings in non-profitable sectors. Some of them have gone out of business.

It would be a tragedy if those workplace sporting facilities were lost to the community. I understand that the Sports Council is investigating the possibility of joint use schemes with public bodies. I hope that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary will encourage them—I see that he is nodding agreement—as that will be a way of saving the existing facilities and encouraging firms to create more, for the good of us all.

Another area that is giving cause for concern is that of facilities in schools that are listed for closure because of falling rolls or reorganisation. If those sites were sold and the facilities lost to the community, I am sure the Minister will agree that that would be a grievous loss. It is clearly a national problem and I hope that the Minister will encourage a national solution. I accept that not all school facilities are used to their fullest extent after schools have closed. We should encourage that sort of use, but the trend seems to be for county councils to close down facilities to save money and not offend those who ask them to make cuts.

I have always been a firm believer in encouraging excellence in sport and extending our facilities to produce more stars. Anyone who comes home with a medal for any of the sporting activities encourages more spectators to watch his particular sport and encourages the younger generation to take part and to emulate him. If we are to breed champions—this is essential in sport—we must use the stars of today and give them the facilities. The standards that have been achieved could be maintained and enhanced for the future. Success breeds success. It adds to national pride and satisfaction. The desire for victory continues and the poeple want to feel that they are a part of it.

I shall now deal briefly with the subject of hooliganism, which besmirches the football scene particularly. We would be missing the point if we thought that hooliganism was entirely the result of unemployment. The problem was there in the more affluent days before the recession. I say to the Minister that, if there is evidence that political groups are using these events to practise their evil creed, we should take even stronger measures to deal with the problem.

Many clubs have done what they can to segregate rival supporters and to shepherd them to and from the stations. I can never understand why it is considered sensible to have alcohol on sale inside football grounds. I wonder whether we should adopt the Scottish experiment of banning alcohol from grounds, and from coaches and trains going to and coming from matches. There is no doubt that it is a serious problem. Banning alcohol sales may be just one of the ways in which we can tackle it.

We must look to the future. The Minister has, I believe, been made aware of a scheme that was put forward by Councillor Doug Brown in Stoke-on-Trent. To explain it briefly to hon. Members, the scheme is called "Match Mates" and involves competitions or matches between schools close to the times when two football league teams meet. Matches are arranged in the town where the league match is taking place, and are between teams from several schools. Lunch is arranged for the children by their parents or teachers. They are given tickets to watch the football match in the afternoon.

The intention is to teach youngsters that competition and friendly rivalry in sport does not necessarily have to involve violence on or off the field. The idea has received tremendous support from leading football clubs, local authorities and business people who have sponsored various events. However, the scheme needs a regular source of income. I believe that it is worthy of Government support. If it is a success, that will not be evident for some time. I hope that the Minister will give the scheme his full support—

Photo of Mr Neil Macfarlane Mr Neil Macfarlane , Sutton and Cheam

I am happy to say that the hon. Gentleman's constituents have written to me about that and are coming to see me to discuss it.

Photo of Mr John Forrester Mr John Forrester , Stoke-on-Trent North

I am grateful for that. I hope that the Minister will give the scheme his full support and encouragement.

Photo of Mr James Spicer Mr James Spicer , West Dorset 6:20 pm, 9th July 1984

I shall follow your advice, Mr. Speaker, and be as brief as possible.

I should like to declare my interest, first as chairman of the company Fitness for Industry, which, in the words of that old television advertisement, is "probably" the best company in this field in the country. Secondly, I am a member of the South West Regional Council for Sport and Recreation. Thirdly, I am the chairman, secretary and general dogsbody of the "rather tatty gymnasium with a sauna bath", referred to by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud). I reject that description absolutely.

I noticed that the hon. Gentleman dwelt on the word "sauna" with a sinister implication. We would offer him a fair and free assessement in our gymnasium. I promise him that it would be the hardest afternoon's workout that he has ever had. I hope that he will take advantage of that kind offer. At the same time, I pay a great tribute to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who played such a major part in helping us to get that gymnasium off the ground seven or eight years ago.

My particular interest in all those three differing fields is based on the absolute fact that prevention is not only better than cure, but cheaper in terms of cost, both to the individual and to the state. Activists in sport pose no problem, but they comprise only about 10 per cent. of the population. The other 90 per cent. are a problem. How do we encourage them? How do we get them off their backsides and doing something positive outside instead of sitting and feeling that they are participating by watching sport on television?

With regard to fitness and sport, at the top end of the scale there is absolutely no problem. Schemes are run and financed by the British United Provident Association and other companies. In the House we have an excellent medical practitioner who tells us, "Look out. You are a stone overweight. Take some exercise and watch your diet, otherwise you will be in trouble." However, for the great mass of people such provisions are not available. Too often, the first time that people go to see a doctor he will say something like this, "What a pity. If only you had come to me a year or 18 months ago, we might have been able to do something about it, but sadly it is too late now and I am afraid that you will have to live with the consequences of failing to take advice." But that advice was never given because those people could not afford to take it. The interest is there, but sadly there is no provision.

The Minister will know that last year we ran an experiment in Bournemouth over five weekends with the Health Education Council and the Sports Council. It was a great success—500 people took part and most came back some three months later, having taken advice both on diet and exercise. It is a great pity that the Health Education Council could not afford to follow that up. It is now left to private companies such as BUPA to go out into the field with their teams, go round the factories and do fitness checks on a smaller scale than the major ones, taking 20 or 25 minutes. However, at least those companies are reaching a wider audience.

I refer further to the role of private companies. Mention has been made of company sports fields. We should recognise as fact that there is a changing pattern of provision of and need for sporting facilities. Some 25 years ago most companies worked a five-and-a-half-day week. At 12 o'clock on a Saturday the company would close and, if employees wished, they could go to a sports ground which had been provided by the company and participate in sport for the afternoon. It was a perfectly normal thing for them to do. Round London and in the major towns these "old style" sports grounds exist in great numbers, but because of the changing pattern of involvement they have become white elephants and are not required in the same way.

Such grounds represent valuable real estate for companies and shareholders. I do not share the view that it is incumbent upon private companies just to stay in the business of keeping sports grounds open, when no one else is prepared to back them up. There can be no blame on companies if they try to obtain planning permission for those grounds. However, what we really need is a major campaign to advise on possible alternatives to straight building development. I know that the Minister is dealing with that. I hope that the matter will be given greater urgency in future, because unless action is taken we shall lose valuable sports sites to building. We want much greater joint usage by the general public and company employees, with positive financial input from both the Sports Council and private companies. The business expansion scheme could provide a tremendous amount of capital for grounds that fall within that category.

Massive sporting and recreational facilities are administered within the public sector. In many cases joint usage is working well and increasing year by year. Most local authorities make the point all the time that they are firmly behind that policy of joint usage. They want school playing field facilities to be used at the weekends. However, the trouble is that that is not always followed up by the headmaster or headmistress of the school, who tend to look upon school playing fields as their personal domain and do not want the general public spoiling it at the weekends. There are problems in joint usage, such as supervision at weekends and holidays, but progress could be made and there could be greater usage if the will existed.

I return to my starting point that prevention is better than cure. So much could be done to lower the incidence not only of heart disease but of many other sicknesses directly related to unfitness. More people need to be made aware that physical fitness is not just an end in itself, but brings in its train a more rewarding and happier life. That is our task. We have seen how it can be done in the United States and how we could cut back on the incidence of heart disease. Let us follow through on the lines indicated by the Minister.

My final word is to the Minister. I thank him, on behalf of all of us who are involved in sport in any shape or form, for the work that he is doing overseas. If we are to obtain greater recognition for sport in this country, we must show those who are not very interested that there is an export market for people who train overseas students and for our sporting gear. My hon. Friend has done a great job. I ask him to keep it up.

Photo of Mr Tom Pendry Mr Tom Pendry , Stalybridge and Hyde 6:28 pm, 9th July 1984

I have been squeezed out of the debate once again. I remember speaking on this subject some years ago. The then Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), spoke for a long time. The trouble is that he speaks so much sense that one has to forgive him, but because he speaks for such a long time many people are squeezed out of such debates. I shall be brief, as I do not wish to cut the time available to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham).

I congratulate the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) on introducing this subject for debate, because he has done the House a great service. In the 14 years that I have been a Member, there have been only 15 debates on this subject—most because of Back-Bench initiative. There have been 10 Adjournment debates, three debates during Government time, one debate during an Opposition Supply day and one private Member's motion in 1970. I hope that the business managers will recognise the importance of this subject and give more time, especially to Back Benchers, to make contributions on this important issue. I look forward to hearing the remarks of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 6:30 pm, 9th July 1984

I congratulate the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) on giving us the opportunity to debate issues that are important to millions of people—the participants and spectators who enjoy sport so much. The hon. Gentleman cited statistics on sport and participation. He might have said also that about 11 per cent. of all television time is taken up with the presentation of sport. The hon. Gentleman was right to stress the need for the House to face these issues more frequently. I agree with the hon. Gentleman and with my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry).

In introducing the debate, the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West complained that the Department of Education and Science has no strategy for sport. I believe that he said also that the same was true of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Employment. It is important to make the point that, if we are to look more thoroughly at the way in which we approach sport policy, it should be done on an independent departmental basis. Clearly, Government Departments have a role to play. I wish the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) and his colleagues well in representing Britain in the Olympic games in Los Angeles.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I have not had the opportunity to add my felicitations to the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan). I am sure that my hon. Friend will extend his good wishes also to Mr. Ken Livingstone's secretary, Sue Bailey, who will be the cox on the women's boat.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to that young lady. The Opposition wish all the British participants well in Los Angeles.

One of Britain's significant contributions to the world has been organised sport — its invention and the codification of the rules of many sports. Many people—this disappointment has been reflected in the debate—recognise that all is not well in many of our sports. It is a matter of record that Britain is falling behind many other nations in terms of performance in team and individual sports. One of the reasons for that is the fact that other countries have a far more systematic approach to what might be described as a national leisure policy. Britain is possibly the only major industrialised country that does riot have such an approach to sport and recreation.

The 1984 Henley centre report, which made a number of forecasts and a valuable contribution to debate on the se issues and the patterns of leisure, predicted that greater demands would be placed on sport and leisure facilities because of longer annual holidays, a shorter working week, earlier retirement, more part-time working and, inevitably, but importantly, a high and apparently permament level of unemployment. The report predicted that there would be a significant increase in active outdoor pursuits and indoor sports. Spending by individuals on leisure activities accounts for 27 per cent. of consumer spending, which is equivalent to almost 8 per cent. of GNP, or £36 billion per annum. That demand and expenditure seem set to grow.

I shall examine briefly how the Opposition think the Government are coping with sport and what the Government should be doing to produce better performances in sport recreation. I echo the continents made by a number of participants in the debate that it is wrong for educational sports facilities to be sold in present circumstances. It is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, should have introduced the circular outlining such sales when he was Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. I regret the fact that the Government and the Prime Minister saw fit to downgrade the job of Minister for Sport when they took office in 1979. I should prefer to see the hon. Gentleman as a Minister of State.

I emphasise the need for joint action across Government Departments to achieve better co-ordination in sports policy. In the past few years, there has been a decline in public expenditure in general and a serious decrease in the Sports Council's capital spending programme. That is regrettable. In addition, the Government have presided over a cut in expenditure on sport and recreation by local authorities. It is clear that the proposals to abolish the GLC and metropolitan county councils and the legislation on the Rates Act have serious implications for spending by local authorities. It has been pointed out that the Government spend far more on the arts than on sport. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will give a clear answer on what will take the place of spending by the GLC and metropolitan county councils on this aspect of policy if they are abolished as a result of Government legislation.

The Government have so far failed to answer increasing public demand for a national indoor sports centre and the facilities necessary for ice skating and other sports. In too many sports, there is a lack of facilities for our young people, athletes and sportsmen and sportswomen to enable them to undertake the practice and training that are necessary to match the standards of our competitors.

We await with impatience as well as interest the Government's response to the serious problem of football hooliganism. When I raised the issue of violence in Brussels a few weeks ago with the Under-Secretary of State, we were promised a report. I pointed out that there were clear signs of political involvement by the National Front. Regrettably, that has been confirmed by activities associated with the English football team during its recent tour of South America. The Opposition regard those as disturbing matters and call for the Government's response.

One of the most widely enjoyed sports and recreations and one that has millions of participants—I am involved in it—is angling, which I believe should be taken more seriously. The Control of Pollution Act 1974 could be used in a number of ways to improve facilities for anglers. I believe that there should be more access to waterways, not only for anglers but for those who use the lakes and ponds and participate in water sports.

Surely the example set by a number of local authorities —for example, Nottingham's sponsorship of Torvill and Dean, the development by Gateshead metropolitan borough of the Gateshead stadium, and its support for Brendan Foster which produced the massive response to athletics on Tyneside which led, ultimately, to the success of Steve Cram, and the GLC's support of the Crystal Palace — shows how well we can do things given the determination and the resources.

Photo of Mr John Golding Mr John Golding , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Will my hon. Friend put to the Government that we want a national angling licence? We want to get away from the present regional system.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

I am sure that the Minister has heard what my hon. Friend said.

The Gleneagles agreement has come to the fore in a number of speeches. I refute the arguments advanced at considerable length by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who supported the South African Government's desperate attempts to obtain respectability in international sport. It is worth reminding the House that sports bodies decided to isolate South Africa, and we endorse what the Prime Minister said a few months ago in New Delhi about the importance of the Gleneagles agreement for the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister will assure the House again tonight that it is the Government's intention to ensure that the spirit and the letter of the agreement are upheld by the Government. That was the declaration to which the Prime Minister put her signature in New Delhi.

The Prime Minister's attitude on that issue contrasts markedly with the approach that she took, and which the hon. Member for Luton, North said he supported at the time, to the boycott of the Moscow olympiad in 1980. I agree that that boycott has led to the tit-for-tat response by the Soviet bloc, which I regret and deplore, towards the Los Angeles olympiad.

I believe that we need to do much more for coaching. Can we say that the majority of children, including children from the black and ethnic communities in the inner cities and the conurbations, have adequate opportunities to participate in and have coaching and training for sport? Many have no opportunity to participate.

I agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) said about sponsorship in sport. Unlike him, I should include the role of the cigarette companies. We should study the disturbing developments there. Is it not time—

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

What disturbing developments?

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment

The persistent and growing association of cigarette smoking and the sponsorship of sport. I call that disturbing.

Is it not time that we examined sport and taxation so that the major spectator sports can plan for the future? Could not amateur sports be given a special status to protect them from VAT or corporation tax? Special grants or rate relief could be given to genuinely open, community-based sports clubs. A new and clearer defintion of rights of access to water, which I mentioned, and to the countryside, in keeping with the increasing demand for outdoor pursuits and leisure activities, should be considered.

The 1980 Government-inspired Olympic boycott, the sale of community sports grounds, the turning of a blind eye towards South African involvement in British sport, and the failure so far to deal adequately with hooliganism and violence in sport, are a wide range of important issues that I have tried to cover quickly because I want to leave the Minister as much time as I can to reply. I do not apologise for raising those issues, and the threat to existing levels of sport which results from the Government's policies towards local councils.

The leisure industries as a whole have a record of expansion in participation, spending and numbers employed. Sport and recreation have increased employment by 76 per cent. since the 1960s. A national leisure policy encompassing the arts, sport and some element of tourism seems worth serious consideration. There need to be Government structural changes to cope with that and a properly managed local government investment plan to extend facilities.

I say with some feeling, coming from and representing a constituency in the north, that far too much of what happens in sport and recreation takes place in London or the metropolitan area. We should devolve more away from the capital. Recently a senior executive of the Sports Council said: Government policy is simply 20 years behind society, the leisure society has arrived without being properly announced or recognised. We hope that the Government will begin to recognise some of these issues and act accordingly.

Photo of Mr Neil Macfarlane Mr Neil Macfarlane , Sutton and Cheam 6:45 pm, 9th July 1984

This has been a most constructive and wide-ranging debate. I echo the sentiments expressed by many hon. Members by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) on introducing a topic which, as we all agree, does not always receive as much time as we should like.

It is clear that I shall not be able to reply to every point that hon. Members have made, but I hope they will understand that I shall write to them as quickly as possible on the many points that have been made.

It is interesting to note that my hon. Friend suggested that the last time we had a debate on the subject was in 1974, but the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), who is most diligent in these matters, initiated a debate on leisure in 1980. On that earlier occasion my predecessor and hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) brought to the attention of the House the Government's awareness and interest in the needs of sport and recreation at a time when leisure was increasing. The intervening years have seen that interest translated into continued and positive action.

I also join those many hon. Members who congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyniham) who will be winging his way towards the west coast of America as a member of the British Olympic team. I wish him and, as the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, everyone who is participating—including the GLC leader's secretary—well.

I should like to take the opportunity to point out that many people who will be going to the Olympic games will have received funds from the Sports Aid Foundation. I should like to pay tribute not just to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) who set it up in the mid-1970s, but to Paul Zetter, who has done that thankless but rewarding task for over eight years.

The Government have fully accepted the importance of sport and recreation in today's society. The wording of the motion on the Order Paper echoes the sentiments of what we are trying to do. We have accepted and defended the independence of sport and the governing bodies. As hon. Members have said, unlike Governments in some countries, we do not seek to dominate the governing bodies of sport. Our task is with and through the Sports Council. We aim to foster and encourage the provision of opportunities for active recreation for all our people; to assist in the development of individual talent; and to protect the freedom of sport and sports people to develop within the context of their own aspirations.

We must also encourage the expansion of the many companies that provide essential facilities, equipment and services for sport. The sports industry is becoming a major growth industry, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have acknowledged. It is providing a growing number of jobs and rapidly expanding overseas markets. That is why I have led a number of delegations to the middle east, and should like to do so elsewhere if I had more time.

There is undoubtedly enormous potential for the construction industry, for all-weather pitches, coaching schemes and the selling of software. It is refreshing to note, from the recent trip that I made, that it is clear that our reputation is still held supreme in many countries.

The Government have the Sports Council as their agency to fulfil many objectives. The Sports Council was created by royal charter in the early 1970s under a Conservative Government. The charter embodies, protects and defines the council's independence. I ask the council, as my Department's agency, to undertake particular tasks or policies. For example, my initiatives to seek more community use of existing sports facilities in the private and public sectors are being carried forward by the Sports Council. At my request it carried out an investigation into the losses of recreational land. It concluded that local authorities were in the main positive about preserving recreational land, and that the overall gains for sport and recreation were greater than the losses. The nine regional councils for sport and recreation are monitoring this and will report to me as necessary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) mentioned the important element that the companies of yesteryear provided acres of sports facilities for their employees. Perhaps nowadays those facilities are not in such great demand. Many people may prefer to join other clubs or to go to some of our 800 leisure centres. I have written to the chairmen of the 100 top companies and nationalised industries and asked them to identify the amount of sporting facilities that they have and to find out how we can increase usage. I am pleased to report that at least 80 of them wrote back positively. The Sports Council is pursuing the matter both centrally and locally. It is a most important dimension. Our sole purpose is to encourage more and more facilities to be brought into greater public use—to make the most and best of what we have.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , North East Cambridgeshire

Did the Minister write to the Leader of the House on that matter, and, if he did, what answer did he receive?

Photo of Mr Neil Macfarlane Mr Neil Macfarlane , Sutton and Cheam

No, I have not written to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on that matter.

I asked the Sports Council to look at the organisation of athletics. As the right hon. Member for Small Heath will know from his previous responsibility for sport, there are 19 governing bodies of athletics, not five. The Sports Council examimed their role and organisation. Again, it is the arm's length principle. It is clear that Ministers cannot corral or tell governing bodies what to do. We must ensure that athletic associations understand their problems and get the best value for money. I hope that all those responsible for organising athletics will make a concerted effort to become one unified body.

The Sports Council is independent, and makes its own decisions on how grant-in-aid is spent. It has funded, grant-aided or loaned money for not far short of 1,000 projects in the last financial year. However, like any other agency involved in Government policy, some important policy matters are properly handled by me and my Department. Two examples have already been given.

If the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) had not been charitable enough to sit down after two and a half minutes he, as chairman of the all-party football committee, would have majored on the subject of football hooliganism. The Government attach the utmost importance to the matter. A wretched minority-1 per cent. — are spoiling a great national game. Some so-called supporters who travel abroad are a nuisance and have nothing to do with football. They are a menace. The report that I promised the House some weeks ago will soon be to hand. It has also involved the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Department of Transport. I took the matter to the Council of Ministers and early this year got ratification for a united approach throughout Europe on the importance of co-ordination, segregation in grounds, ticket distribution and the implementation of the European Football Association rules. We hope that the collaboration and co-operation of all those involved will continue 100 per cent. That is why, whenever there are major matches, my officials or I will meet the chairmen of the clubs or the chairmen of the Football Association and Football League and discuss the matter.

Last year I wrote to the 92 professional clubs with the full approval of the former member for Nottingham, East, Mr. Dunnett, president of the Football League, outlining a blueprint. In 1981, I set up a liaison group. The liaison group has met six times in the past two years. We have chaired the meetings jointly with the Football Association. That liaison group continues to exist. As I said, the liaison group was set up in 1981 after three countries in the United Kingdom qualified for the World cup, and it has been successful.

The Government are totally committed to the Commonwealth declaration on apartheid in sport. That commitment was reaffirmed by the Prime Minister at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in New Delhi, for the third time in six years. Our obligations under the agreement are to seek to discourage sporting contacts with South Africa and to withhold any form of support for such contacts. Only Governments can breach that statement. We believe that we meet our obligations. We also met our obligations over the Rugby Football Union tour of South Africa. We discouraged and tried to dissuade the sportsmen, but we could not prevent them from going. The right hon. Member for Small Heath will understand the background to that. We live in a free society, and, rightly, the decision was ultimately for the RFU. However, it went against out strong advice.

I am deeply anxious about the future of Commonwealth sport. Many countries view it with misgiving. We shall know more about that within the next few weeks as the Commonwealth Games Federation meets to consider the problem.

My Department's work with the Sports Council is regular and frequent. We work closely on strategy and policies, and we advise each other. The Sports Council grant-aids the Central Council of Physical Recreation. That voluntary co-ordinating body does a tremendous job for sport and has a very good history. The Sports Council also supports, to the tune of £5 million, the governing bodies of sport. My officials and the Sports Council are always ready to advise and assist them where we can. There are now 140 governing bodies compared with about 25 some 30 years ago. We provide sport with an open door to the Government and a wider perspective than could be enjoyed by individual bodies or even sport as a whole.

Since 1980 we have doubled the Sports Council's grant to £30 million. Through the urban programme there has been additional support of £20 million, and £3 million has come from derelict land grants. We are now a nation of participators. We were a nation of spectators 25 years ago. Our sole objective is to ensure that there is a good stock of facilities. The Gateshead development is important and underlines the fact that if one encourages local authorities and governing bodies, and if the Government and private sector can join hands to provide pump priming, it can lead to centres of excellence and to a huge increase in success for the region. I stand full square with the right hon. Member for Small Heath when he says that it is important to have a sensible balance of provision throughout the country. I hope he will agree that money must be spent evenly and fairly throughout the country by us, the governing bodies and the regional councils.

I turn to a point which worries many people, and on which the right hon. Gentleman in his excellent report on sponsorship through the Central Council of Physical Recreation touched. Other Departments are also interested in that report, but I cannot tell him when we shall have completed our analysis of it.

We are trying to discover whether we can provide more money for sport. We have just seen a successful fortnight of tennis at Wimbledon. John Lloyd was perhaps our only success, for the second year, and I congratulate him.

Many people are dismayed at the amount of prize money in tennis and other games. They are dismayed at the amount of prize money being offered at the elite end of the games. I have already had a meeting with 10 or 12 major sponsors of sport acting as a catalyst to ensure that a percentage of the money that they put into sport goes to the grass roots.

The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) does not seem to agree with his right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath about sponsorship by the drinks and tobacco companies. The right hon. Gentleman negotiated the voluntary tobacco agreement in the mid-1970s, which I updated recently. Many companies are providing a lot of money, but not enough of it reaches the grass roots. It is from there that the champions of the next decade will come. I have obtained some agreement from the chairmen of several companies, which will refresh those parts of the country which have not always been reached in recent years. I hope that it will produce several thousands of pounds for the regions, will be validated by the governing bodies of sport, and will go into those sports where we need success.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) was right to say that success breeds success. Britain is perhaps among the top three or four countries in athletics. Our athletes have won many gold medals during the past 10 or 15 years, and more and more will come. Many successful athletes have come from the north-east and the west midlands. The success of Swedish and Czechoslovak tennis in recent years is due to the fact that both countries have produced Wimbledon champions during the past decade.

I hope that we can provide increasing funds because we must improve facilities. The key is also to provide money to voluntary organisations, not just put money into the development of vast leisure centres and swimming pools. We have 800 leisure centres and about 900 swimming pools. I want more schemes to be developed, harnessing the voluntary sector, the Manpower Services Commission and the local authorities to find out what we need. The pound-for-pound schemes have been a huge success in Merseyside, Bristol and the north-east. What we have heard today echoes the Government's devotion to sport and recreation as major activities.

It being Seven o'clock, proceedings thereon lapsed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 6 (Arrangement of Public Business).