Local Government (Sports and Leisure)

– in the House of Commons at 10:25 pm on 6th December 1989.

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Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East 10:25 pm, 6th December 1989

I beg to move, That the draft Local Government Act 1988 (Competition in Sports and Leisure Facilities) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 25th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved. The order seeks to extend the range of activities which must be put out to tender by local authorities under the Local Government Act 1988 by including the management of facilities for sport and leisure. The order adds a new defined activity of "managing sports and leisure facilities" to section 2(2) of the Local Government Act 1988. It also adds a new paragraph 8 to schedule 1 of the Act which sets out a definition of the activity and it brings the requirements of section 4 and 5 of the 1988 Act into effect in respect of works contracts for managing sports and leisure facilities from 1 October 1991.

Let me emphasise that the Government place the highest possible value on local authority sport and leisure facilities. We recognise that they meet an essential need in the community and provide a wide range of opportunities for local people to participate in sport. This order is not about selling off local authority owned facilities, nor about preventing them from being built in the future. As everyone from the world of sport should know, competition is both a means of ensuring better delivery of the service which such facilities can provide and of promoting value for money. It is in the interest of the users of facilities as well as ratepayers more generally to find ways to improve the management of facilities and to make them cost effective.

Hon. Members may be aware that the Audit Commission published a report earlier this year entitled "Sport for whom?" which stated that there was scope for improvement in the management of sport and leisure facilities throughout local government. The Audit Commission has confirmed estimates which show that typically, savings from voluntary contracting out have been in the region of 20 per cent. or more of previous costs. Clearly major savings are available, perhaps as much as several hundred million pounds a year. Only by facing up to the constant pressure of open competition for the management of sport and leisure facilities is it possible to ensure efficiency. That is what this order is about.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

Is the Minister aware that the all-party parliamentary Scottish sports group, of which I am convenor and which consists of hon. Members from both sides of the House, is strongly opposed to and has roundly condemned these measures? It feels that not only will it decrease access to sporting facilities for many people, including disadvantaged groups of people, but it will probably be a disincentive for local authorities to invest in new leisure and sporting facilities because the local authorities will have to spend a great deal of money and hand over the management of the brand new facilities to private operators. Those operators may simply be intent on making a fast buck out of public facilities which have been financed by public money.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I recognise that there was considerable concern when the draft order was first published about the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. There was concern that pricing, admissions policies and subsidies for disadvantaged groups, to whom the hon. Gentleman referred, would be handed over to the private sector. It is for that reason that I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will be pleased to hear that all three of those criteria will continue to be vested in the hands of the local authorities. They will continue to have the right to determine admissions policies, pricing and opening hours in order to protect the interests of the people to whom the hon. Gentleman referred. It is important for the House to recognise that. I am sure that we all recognise that it is important for all users to continue to benefit through participation in sport.

It is clear to me that in many cases it is not a lack of sports facilities or even resources which is a problem. Often the facilities available do not match local needs. Expensive modern sports centres are often under-used in inner cities while down the road other facilities cannot cope with demand. More professional marketing and a better understanding of needs will, I am confident, go a long way towards redressing the problems. In a competitive environment, there is a powerful incentive to get the planning right.

Photo of Mr Roland Boyes Mr Roland Boyes , Houghton and Washington

The Minister mentioned under-use. Will he accept that the Crowtree leisure centre in Sunderland has the highest usage of any leisure centre in Britain because of its wide range of facilities and its competitive pricing and because it is well managed? Why should the people of Sunderland and its forward-looking council which provided that facility find themselves disadvantaged by the measure that the Minister is introducing?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

They will not be disadvantaged. When the contract goes out to competitive tendering, we will see whether the hon. Gentleman's statement is correct. I am confident that the management in the sports and leisure facilities of many local authorities is of outstanding quality and will take considerable beating when contracts are put out to competitive tender. However, it is in the interest of the users for that to be put to the test. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Hon. Members ask why. Where a more efficient and effective management team can be put in place, it must be in the interests of the users, not least because that team may be able to recognise, through the contractual arrangements, that more effective marketing and outreach policies to the local community will bring more people into the facility. That matches the objective of most local authorities, which is "Sport for all."

Photo of Mr Richard Tracey Mr Richard Tracey , Surbiton

I am interested in what my hon. Friend is saying. I am sure that he will have had a chance to look at the work of Westminster city council, which is a trend-setter in many ways. Has my hon. Friend had an opportunity to look at the Queen Mother leisure centre, which is a fine example of exactly what he is talking about? Far more private clubs are going through its doors.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

My hon. Friend has mentioned an extremely good example. It is one of five leisure facilities currently owned by Westminster city council. Several major improvements have resulted from its voluntary decision to put out the management to competitive tender. For example, in 1988, 172,000 people used the facility and 216,000 now use it under private management. Furthermore, under local authority management, it used to open at 8 am, but it now opens at 6.30 am. Most importantly, many people were concerned about special local clubs being denied the opportunity to use the facility under private management. In fact, there has been an increase in the use of that facility.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I want to finish answering my hon. Friend first, and then I shall give way.

Most importantly, in response to concerns about pricing in this facility, under the new management entrance prices have risen by only 6·5 per cent., whereas in previous years under local authority management they were increasing by an average of 10 per cent.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Having commented on Westminster, will the Minister comment on developments in Bradford over the past year? When there has been bidding for services, groups of senior council officers have proposed setting up private companies to put in bids for services on the basis of confidential information that they have received as council officers. Does the Minister welcome that sort of development, which seems to raise a number of important ethical issues to do with the conduct of a public service?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

In the implementation of this order it is vital that the detail in the contracts be as comprehensive and clear as possible, and that local authorities ascertain and ensure that no individual gains an advantage because of his knowledge of what is not in the contract. Uncompetitive practices of that sort must of course be frowned upon. When local authorities draw up contracts under this order, it is vital that they make all the information available clearly to all parties who may want to compete for the contract, be they direct labour organisations, people who used to work for the council, or private sector management teams.

Photo of Mr Conal Gregory Mr Conal Gregory , City of York

In view of the importance of competitive tendering, will my hon. Friend share with us his thoughts on the point made by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden)? Competitive tenders of this sort should not go to council officials, as there will be no independent audit. Not very surprisingly, organisations can then mysteriously tender for an item at less than a certain figure.

Will my hon. Friend consider sending these bids to the district auditor, who is entirely independent, not to council officials who are entirely dependent on the political will of the party in power?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I agree that conflicts of interest should be avoided—that applies as much to people working in local authorities as to others bidding under the tendering documentation outlined in the order—

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

When I have made more progress, shall be happy to give way.

Hon. Members will be aware that there have been two rounds of public consultation. The first was in 1987, when the Government set out proposals to extend competition to sports and leisure facilities. The second period of consultation was at the end of 1988, when the Department of the Environment issued the first draft of the order. Seventy-four organisations and individuals commented on the draft order. Ministers in this Department and in the Welsh Office and Scottish Office have given careful consideration to all the responses which we received.

Four main issues emerged: first, the question of which facilities are to be subject to competition; secondly, the circumstances in which facilities would be exempted; thirdly, the activities which should be included in the managing function; and, fourthly, the implementation timetable.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Will the Minister assure me that the league clubs with grounds at Featherstone, Castleford and Wakefield which were recently purchased and are now owned by the local authority will not be affected by this order?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I am happy to have this opportunity to clarify the position. We are talking about the management functions of local authority sports and leisure facilities, not about their ownership. Where private sector managers already exist in clubs, whether professional or amateur, those arrangements will continue. In this case, it is not the ownership that leads to a difference in moving towards privatisation. Where the management team is currently from the local authority, the order becomes relevant. I have been privileged to see many northern local authority rugby league clubs in which the management is already seconded. It is leased to individual sporting clubs. Where such leases apply, as in many professional football clubs, the competitive order does not apply.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

It is said that consultations took place with representatives of local government where such consultations appeared appropriate. The Minister has said that there have been 74 replies. This year alone district councils have received 30 consultative documents from the Department of the Environment to which they have been asked to respond. Those councils are overworked, which means that proper consultations and responses do not take place. Did proper reponses occur in this case and were there facilities for correct consultations? Is the Department going through an exercise by sending documents to local authorities and not providing a real chance to consider them? If there was no chance to give firm consideration, would the Department take account of representations?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

The round of consultations has proved to be an extremely important exercise. As the hon. Gentleman will recall, the House has debated competitive tendering before. One of the matters that emerged from consultation with some of those consulted concerned the whole question of pricing. The local authorities that responded expressed great concern about the possibility of pricing being vested in the new management teams from the private sector. We listened to those anxieties because we were concerned, as were Opposition Members at that time, that that could lead to new management teams pricing out of the local authority sporting and leisure facilities specific groups of local people, disadvantaged groups and others who were not able to pay the going rate for, perhaps, a neighbourhood private club.

That led to the Government responding to the first draft order and to the consultations from which we have had responses from local authorities and governing and national bodies. We sought to vest the pricing decisions with the local authority when drawing up the tender documentation. That was one example of the Government amending the legislation in the light of the consultation exercise. That exercise did not take place over six or nine months: it has now been in place for over two years. That shows the importance that we rightly attach to consultation.

Photo of Alan Meale Alan Meale , Mansfield

My hon. Friend for the Member Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) asked the Minister about clubs that were in existence and their management servicing. The new paragraph to the schedule talks about courses for horse racing. The Minister knows that three race courses in Britain are owned and controlled by local authorities: Worcester, Yarmouth and Doncaster. Doncaster is granted by royal charter. Because of the relationship of the Jockey Club to that course, there is a limited list of personnel who can be recruited to the course, and that list is provided by the Jockey Club. There is a limit on the people who can even be shortlisted for jobs. Will the Minister give to those three race courses and in particular to Doncaster the same guarantee that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford in relation to rugby clubs? Doncaster race course, which enjoys the royal prerogative, does not cost the ratepayers a penny but earns many hundreds of thousands of pounds. Surely he will give the guarantee that I ask for.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

The hon. Gentleman's point is not relevant to the debate. It is relevant not to the management of the facility but to the decisions that the local authority has taken in relation to its ownership and the criteria under which the race course is managed. As a result, provided that the tender documentation is not anti-competitive, it will be possible to include details that outline the very high standards required. That will be a matter for the local authorities concerned, both with race courses and with other facilities. There is nothing to stop local authorities, in determining the high standards that they require for management, outlining that sufficiently high standards should be obtained by the management team when, for example, contracting out the teaching of swimming. The governing bodies can have a positive and important role to play just as much in the Amateur Swimming Association as in the Jockey Club.

On the question of the managing function, a number of those who responded to the document were concerned that the definition of "management" in the first draft order precluded coaching, instruction and supervision by anyone other than the new management team—

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I shall not give way. Many hon. Members wish to speak and there is only one and a half hours for debate.

I understand the concern expressed, and the order has been amended so that the new management team can, if it wishes, arrange for coaching, instruction and supervision along the lines that I have outlined. That will allow it to bring in local coaches or trainers if it wishes.

Under the terms of the 1988 Act, the implementation timetable is not specified in the order but will be included in a separate order that is subject to negative resolution. Hon. Members may be aware that we postponed the original implementation date by one year to January 1992 to avoid cutting across the timetable of competition for other services under the Local Government Act 1988. As a result of that—

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me, but, having refused to give way to Opposition Members, it would be unreasonable of me to give way. I am sure that my hon. Friend will wish to contribute to the debate. I apologise to him.

To spread the work load of the councils in preparing tenders and also that of the contractors, we propose to phase in implementation on a percentage basis. Thus, all authorities in England and Scotland will be required to have exposed to competition facilities representing 35 per cent. of their gross expenditure by 1 January 1992, 70 per cent. by 1 August 1992 and 100 per cent. by 1 January 1993. In Wales, competition will be phased in over a two-year period. The detailed interpretation of the order will be for local authorities themselves. It must be for individual authorities to make sensible judgments about, for example, the facilities that will or will not be exempt within the terms of the order.

To assist the Department of the Environment, the Scottish and Welsh Offices will prepare for publication during the first half of next year circulars giving guidance on a number of issues. They will offer general guidance, and local authorities will continue to have a close interest in the running of facilities, even if the contract is awarded to a private sector firm. In addition to retaining control of pricing and admissions policy, they will be responsible for drawing up the tender specifications.

As I hope I have made clear, this order is about improving the management of sports and leisure facilities. It is about securing better value for money and heightening local government's sensitivity to local sporting needs. I believe that everyone will benefit—the local councils, the ratepayers and the users of the facilities. I commend the order to the House.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham 10:48 pm, 6th December 1989

This order takes a bad idea, gives it a new lease of life and then lets it loose where it can do most damage. It applies the idea of compulsory competitive tendering to an area—the management of local authority sports and leisure facilities—where it is certain to create the maximum disruption and disbenefit for the least possible gain.

The best evidence for that is the somewhat defensive tone adopted by the Minister when seeking the approval of the House for the order. He well knows that, from the outset, this proposal has been profoundly unpopular with all those whom it will affect. He knows that not a single sports or leisure body has approved of or supported this proposal in principle. They well understood how damaging it would be to the availability of these facilities to the wider community, to the principles of Sport for All, which hitherto has enjoyed bipartisan support, and, in many important instances, to the achievement of excellence in sport, as it is to local authority-run facilities that so many top sportsmen and women turn when they need to train at non-commercial hours.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way; I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak in this short debate.

The other bodies with which the proposal was deeply unpopular were local authorities themselves. I think that the Minister will confirm that all the local authority associations opposed it in principle, and they have expressed their misgivings.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

No, I will not give way. I want to speak very briefly.

The local authorities speak from some experience: after all, they have encountered compulsory competitive tendering in other contexts. We have the benefit of a study of such tendering, commissioned by Manchester city council, which reveals that local authorities' direct service organisations have been 80 per cent. successful in securing contracts for which they have tendered. Often, however, the price of winning those contracts—the title of the report is "The Price of Winning"—has been the necessity for cutting staff, reducing wages, making terms of employment worse and lowering standards, while at the same time incurring largely hidden but nevertheless real costs, estimated at £41 million for the country as a whole. Those have been the costs of preparing and administering the often unnecessary chore of implementing compulsory tendering.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

No, I have already made it clear that I am not giving way.

All those costs have been for the sake of savings that are much lower than forecast. [Interruption.] The Minister spoke for nearly half an hour; I do not intend to emulate him.

Some local authorities have already tried putting out to tender the administration and management of their facilities. We have been given some instances: my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) mentioned them when the Minister made his statement in July. Wandsworth came a terrible cropper in the management of its swimming pool; Chelmsford, having entered into a new contract for the management of its pool, found that within three months that contract had come to a sad end. Torbay entered into a ground-maintenance contract that lasted an even shorter time—just 10 days.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

As I have said, I will not give way, because I want to give my hon. Friends a chance to speak. [Interruption.] I know that the Minister gave way, but he spoke for half an hour. I do not intend to do that.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

There is no point of order.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not part of the spirit of our debates that Front-Bench speakers give way at least once, and sometimes two or three times? The Minister did; why does not the hon. Gentleman?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

That is a matter for the hon. Member who has the Floor.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that it is very unpleasant and uncomfortable for Conservative Members to hear a stream of common sense without being able to respond, but they will have their opportunities later.

It is little wonder, in the light of local authorities' experience of being forced to put the administration of their services out to competitive tendering, that they evince so little enthusiasm and support for the proposals; for the proposals concern arrangements that are widely acknowledged to be working very well. How will it help the communities that authorities serve to substitute for that principle of service the search for profit maximisation? How will private profit-takers meet the demands, interests and needs of the disadvantaged groups whom the Minister has mentioned—something that the local authorities have already done very successfully?

I listened carefully to what the Minister said in that regard. He emphasised that pricing, admission policies and opening hours will be fixed by local authorities and included in the tender documents. That is extremely welcome, although it has to be said that the only pricing freedom that local authorities will have will be to fix and pay subsidies in relation to prices set by private contractors.

If the Minister is inviting us to place such reliance on the freedom that he says local authorities will enjoy, why do we have to wait for a circular that has yet to be published? Why has the draft order been introduced before the circular has been published? He has promised that it will be published next year. Much more important, why shall we have to rely on a circular? Why is that provision not in the draft order? I hope that the Minister will answer those questions. If that important provision is so central to the Government's defence of what is otherwise indefensible, why is it not given legislative effect? We demand that it should have legislative effect; otherwise, the provisions of section 7(7) of the Local Government Act 1988 will limit any discretion that local authorities may believe that the Minister's pronouncement gives them.

There are other major concerns. They include health and safety. Why does the order not provide that contractors should be required to adopt staff training programmes so that health and safety standards are met, particularly by managers of swimming baths? Why does the order abandon the original timetable and speed it up very considerably for some local authorities? For many local authorities, the already unnecessary and burdensome expense of preparing for the tendering procedure will be very much exacerbated by having to introduce it much earlier than they had anticipated.

Local authorities will now be required to parcel up their management contracts into neat little groups. That will make it very difficult for them to move their staff from one project to another, particularly if they are engaged in organising large projects. For example, Sheffield is now organising the world student games. Local authorities will be unable to move staff in an emergency to large projects. Why are they to be saddled with a system that will benefit and is intended only to benefit private contractors? To parcel up the work means that private contractors will be able to pick and choose and to cream off the bits that they think are the most profitable.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

No. I have already said that I do not intend to give way. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should even try to intervene.

Does the Minister not understand that the measure means that local authorities will lose control and responsibility, in many instances, for the management of these facilities but that they will still retain the onerous responsibility of repair and maintenance and will still be faced with demands to invest in new facilities? The draft order makes it highly unlikely that local authorities will risk putting their own capital into important facilities over which they will have little control. Has the Minister considered the impact of this ill-thought-out measure on the future provision by local authorities of sports and leisure facilities that he has described as an extremely valuable element in the life of many communities?

This ill-thought-out measure owes its origin to dogma and it has been driven by dogma ever since. It is a triumph of ideology over common sense and practicality. Nobody wants it; it has no friends. The Government reveal by pushing it forward that they are operating at the far reaches of their own dogma.

If the public had ever been asked what a Government enjoying a 100-seat majority and with two and a half years to run should do to improve the state of Britain, not one person in 100,000 would have replied, "Privatise the management of the local swimming pool." This is one more example of a Government who are out of touch with the British people, so we shall oppose the proposal tonight.

Photo of Mr Richard Tracey Mr Richard Tracey , Surbiton 10:59 pm, 6th December 1989

The House has been treated to an extraordinary performance by the Opposition tonight. The Labour party has fielded its key Front-Bench spokesman on the environment. I do not know whether it was an attempt to prove to us that he was well versed in all aspects of the environment. He has actually shown us that he knows extraordinarily little about this matter, to the degree of not even accepting any interventions. On future occasions when the Opposition are debating sport, they should perhaps bring out again that old warhorse the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who might have taken the odd intervention and might have enlightened us more.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Does my hon. Friend, with his considerable experience of sport and his previous portfolio as Minister with special responsibility for sport, agree that the Government's action is something of an insult to Conservative-controlled authorities that run their sporting facilities extremely efficiently and with a management who are probably second to none? I refer to my own authority of Macclesfield and the chief amenities and recreation officer, Max Hartley, who is an outstanding man. In Macclesfield, the leisure centre has contracted out many services, such as catering. Does my hon. Friend believe that local government is unable to manage efficiently in accordance with the philosophy of the present Government? If he believes that it is incapable, I can say only that I disagree with him.

Photo of Mr Richard Tracey Mr Richard Tracey , Surbiton

I was happy to take that intervention. I do not disagree at all with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). The point behind the principle of putting local government services out to tender is to bring forward the most cost-effective and efficient method of doing the job. It is conceivable, as has been proved on a number of occasions, that, when asked to look at its own operation and to consider whether it is truly as efficient as it should be, the local authority comes up with the most remarkable methods of improving its efficiency. I look forward to many more examples.

In the past year or so, since tendering was first introduced into the argument by the Government, we have seen the most amazing synthetic indignation from the Opposition parties. I suspect that far more of it has been spurred on by their close affiliation with the National and Local Government Officers Association than by any real regard for the interests of sporting facilities.

There is no reason why this measure should not deeply improve the facilities of sports centres, and there are many examples that already prove that. Pricing policies have been set by the local authority and the prices have not gone through the roof, as the right hon. Member for Small Heath and many of his hon. Friends have so often warned would happen.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport gave the example of Westminster, and a very good example it is. The same will happen throughout the country. Far from sportsmen and women and sports clubs opposing the measure, they will welcome it once they realise that professional management—either by private companies or by local authorities that have had their costs driven down—is very much in their interests.

Once again we have had a synthetic show of indignation from the Opposition. It was quite meaningless, however, and once they see the results that the order will have, they too will welcome it.

Photo of Mr Tom Pendry Mr Tom Pendry , Stalybridge and Hyde 11:05 pm, 6th December 1989

When the Local Government Act 1988 was first introduced, it was clear that the privatisation of sports and leisure facilities would be omitted. That was due to the strength of opinion against it, and many Opposition Members thought that that was a pretty good idea. Having been obliged to consult the interested parties, the Government have blithely ignored their fears and worries and pressed ahead with the draft order even though the majority of local authorities and sporting organisations are against it.

Despite their objections, local authorities will now be compelled to put the running of their sports and leisure facilities out to tender, regardless of the detrimental effect that that will have on their efforts to involve more local people in sport and recreation. Cheap prices and concessions for the elderly, unemployed and disabled will be disregarded by the private sector in its drive for more profit.

The Government have blatantly ignored the views of those whom they consulted. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the timetable for the implementation of compulsory competitive tendering. Sports associations and local councils urged a cautious approach involving the phasing-in of CCT to allow those involved later to learn from the experience of the councils that first operated the procedure. The new timetable requiring all local authorities in England and Wales to have implemented the CCT procedure 100 per cent. by January 1993 is both impractical and unworkable. It will create intolerable pressure for some local authorities, including my own local authority in Tameside, with the draft order bringing the tender date forward by a whole year.

The contract has also been designed in such a way that escalating costs of administration—in combination with the new timetable—will defeat the very object of the tendering exercise. Pressure of time will adversely affect the safety of sports and leisure facilities such as swimming baths, as health and safety specifications must be comprehensive to protect the consumer.

Photo of Mr Tom Pendry Mr Tom Pendry , Stalybridge and Hyde

May I continue, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. I am sure that my hon. Friend will catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The situation is reaching crisis point, largely because of the legislation that the Government are introducing. I could list many examples of the concerns felt by sports people and sports organisations. Instead, let me give one. I recently attended a forum at which many teachers expressed concern about the way in which physical education is being threatened as a result of the introduction of the national curriculum. It is almost certain that, because of the pressure of time, physical education will lose out to other worthwhile subjects such as maths and science at a time when the situation, especially in primary schools, is becoming critical. It seems ironic that the current disposal rate of so-called surplus playing fields—800 were up for grabs last year—even in inner-city areas so desperately short of open spaces means that soon no fields will be available, even for private management to exploit.

It is therefore clear that the order is yet another half-baked measure of a type that is becoming characteristic of the Department of the Environment. It was a vain hope on the part of many of my colleagues and 1 that the new Secretary of State would have a clearer understanding of the problems of sport, but no such luck. He should have listened to the views expressed following the Green Paper exercise when 95 per cent. of those consulted rejected the Government's whole approach.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) referred to the third volume of the contractors' audit commissioned by Manchester city council entitled "The Price of Winning" which was published last week. It shows how unlikely it is that hundreds of companies will eagerly queue up to take over the 1,500 sports halls, 1,000 swimming pools, 250,000 soccer pitches, 100,000 cricket pitches, golf courses, tennis courts and parachute centres that are up for grabs.

History tells us that when sports facilities are privatised the outcome can hardly be considered an unqualified success. Reference has been made to Wandsworth. That jewel in the Government's crown, that pioneer of privatisation, tried to put the Latchmere centre pools out to tender in 1983, but not one bid was received. The Sobell centre in Islington was brought into the public sector by the council because, even with subsidies of £250,000, the trust established to run it, involving firms such as Mecca, could not make the centre pay.

Some people in sport have said that within five years we will see little difference between the good management in the public sector and that in the private sector. A more likely scenario would be a repeat of what has happened to other privatised council services. Last week's audit study found that the lower paid suffer. Where CCT has been introduced, 90 per cent. of the 1,400 jobs lost were manual jobs and 70 per cent. of those jobs were filled by women at very low wages.

Given that councils will continue to own the sports centres and retain discretionary powers over pricing, the only possible way to make savings for the new private sector managers—who will undoubtedly arrange higher salaries for themselves because that is what has happened over the past few years—will be through cutting wages, cutting staff numbers and lowering safety standards. As a Member sponsored by the National Union of Public Employees, I deprecate any move that makes lower-paid workers earn even lower wages, and I also deprecate the lowering of safety standards. Even if private sector companies bother to bid, how will the companies that win tenders hope to make a profit without cutting pay rates, staffing levels or corners in safety provision?

Much play has been made by the Government—and the Minister did this again today—that local councils will supposedly be able to continue to determine admission prices and opening hours at sports facilities. When the Minister replies, will he comment on the point made by the former Under-Secretary of State, who said that local authorities will be permitted to delegate their discretionary charging powers … to contractors who manage sports facilities". [Official Report, 2 March 1989; Vol. 148, c. 283.] This order will have a serious effect on sports like swimming which is particularly expensive to operate. It is highly significant that many of the failures of CCT have involved swimming pools. There is particular concern among physical education teachers and the Amateur Swimming Association that in future children will have less opportunity to learn to swim under supervision. Even without this legislation, it is a sad fact that one in five men and one in three women cannot swim, and on average 800 people are drowned every year.

We have already heard about Westminster. The Otter swimming club in Westminster is one of the country's most consistently successful clubs, but it has lost three subsidised hours of swimming a week because prices for pool hire have risen. In my constituency, the Hyde Seal amateur swimming club, which was once the world champion club, is alarmed by the threat that this order poses for the sport. Organisations representing disadvantaged groups such as the disabled have expressed strong fears. Those who need encouragement to pursue sport and leisure activities—that includes the disabled—are certainly not at the forefront of the Government's thinking.

The goal of achieving high quality and widely accessible services will be replaced by the need to meet financial targets. In short, the Government should realise that private contractors cannot compete with local authorities in developing certain management facilities. Local authorities have much more intimate knowledge of local needs and conditions. The private sector, motivated by profit or by cost-effectiveness, is unlikely to have the same positive approach to encouraging mass participation through subsidisation. If the Government genuinely believe in a sport-for-all policy, they must withdraw this nonsensical order. More and more sportsmen and women are asking, "What have the Government got against sport and recreation?"

The Government's sports policy—if that is not a contradiction in terms—is completely bankrupt. The order is just another example of the way in which they are discriminating against sporting activity in this country. It is desperately sad that the Government seem unable to grasp the fact that sport is of immense benefit to our society and an integral factor in improving the quality of life.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North 11:15 pm, 6th December 1989

I promised the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) that, if he caught your eye tonight, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would say nice things about him because of my savage attack on him during the debate on the Football Spectators Bill. After the nonsense that hon. Members have heard, I must desist from the accolades I was about to pay him. At least we heard some words of knowledge from him about sport, which is rather more than I can say about his hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould).

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said that this is a privatisation matter. That is nonsense. Some Conservative Members almost wish that it were. Many of us would like most sports centres and facilities to be taken out of local authority hands and sold to the private sector, which would be of immense benefit. However, that is not what the order states. It states that the facilities are not for sale. The motion merely asks the House to approve the order, which says to the ratepayers of this country that we believe that sports centres and leisure facilities should be considered in terms of the money that they are spending—taxpayers' money—to make absolutely certain that that money is spent correctly and wisely.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I will not give way because there is not much time left.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) has said, the siren voices among the Opposition have no concern for ratepayers' money. They think that there is a bottomless pit and they will not even consider sports facilities in terms of their management capability and the opportunities that they offer. It is nonsense for the Opposition to say that the order excludes any form of public benefit. Many examples could be given—they can be given if need be, but it would take until tomorrow morning to do so—of facilities that have had private input. They have brought immense benefit to those who genuinely believe in and want to participate in sport. The benefit has been afforded not only to participants but to hard-pressed ratepayers.

Of course, Opposition Members do not worry. about ratepayers. They exclude them from the debate. Opposition Members say that the order will exclude the disabled and those in our society who are most disadvantaged. Again that is nonsense. The order gives councils, so beloved by Opposition Members, the opportunity to say to those who manage their facilities—I sincerely hope that many private firms will manage facilities—"We still want an input. We still want to give some subsidy to make sure that those very people are given opportunities."

That is the tragedy of the speech by the hon. Member for Dagenham. He came fresh into the debate, advised as he was at the very last minute by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) for whom Conservative Members have great affection because he knows what he is talking about. Sadly, he may not catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Dagenham did not understand the order, but that is no surprise in one who has so suddenly come on to the scene.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I willingly give way to my hon. Friend.

Hon. Members:

"Oh." Mr. Colvin: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, because I must spring to the defence of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). 1 thought that he made the case convincingly for greater flexibility in the provision of the services for which local government currently tenders, but surely, the one way to obtain the flexibility that he wants is to put these services out to tender?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

Of course it is. My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but I am afraid that the hon. Member for Dagenham was obviously so new to it tonight that he did not understand the full implications of the two years' discussion.

The order will bring a sharper perspective to the management of leisure and sports facilities. It will also bring vast opportunities to those young people who are training now and attempting to enter sports facility management but who are currently unable to find any opportunities. If the private sector is allowed in, as I believe and hope that it will be—although many town halls will obviously try to frustrate that—it will enable a complete new career structure to emerge. The Audit Commission has said that, in all the other services that have been put out to tender, a saving of 20 per cent. is available, and that will increase the opportunities available to those young people.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

May I take the hon. Gentleman away from the aspects of profits and into the aspects of safety? Does he share my concern about some of the terms of the order? Although local authorities will be able to set the programme for the safety aspects of sports centres, the order does not make clear the influence that the local authority can exercise over the contractors' ability to comply with health and safety legislation. Does he agree that when costs are cut to make greater profits, safety becomes an issue and the public's safety is put at risk?

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. He must understand that whoever takes on the management of these facilities must remain within the law and the strictures that the Health and Safety Executive imposes upon those leisure facilities. Just because a facility passes into private hands, that does not mean that it becomes outside the law. Opposition Members seem to feel that those who might tender—indeed, people are queueing up to tender for these facilities—will have to keep within the rules and the legislation that has been laid down by the House.

But what really grates on the Opposition is that that will bring a new professional approach to leisure and sports facilities. Opposition Members must understand—and in their heart of hearts they must agree—that that does not exist in the majority of sports centres today. Of course there are the exceptions which my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) mentioned in the rather Mad Hatter style that he brings to the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not agree with all that he says but in terms of improving the management of those facilities, those in the private sector can bring a breath of fresh air—

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

No, I cannot give way because I have given way twice already.

The order at last brings the ratepayers of this country—

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do you agree that it is outrageous for the hon. Gentleman to attack the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) in his absence in such a way? Is it in order to call into question the sanity of the hon. Member for Macclesfield?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

I have the impression that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is well able to look after himself.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield and myself are the closest personal friends; we have a deep affection for each other and I know that when he reads the Official Report in the morning [Interruption.] Perhaps my hon. Friend has ventured out of the Chamber because he does not want to be embarrassed by the vote at 12 o'clock—I do not know.

In conclusion, Conservative Members find it extraordinary to wonder about exactly what the Opposition are frightened of. They are frightened of another body looking at the facilities that are run by both Labour and Conservative councils and saying to them, "The facility that you are offering your ratepayers could be improved." Of course, "improvement" is not a word that the Opposition like. It is the availability—

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

No, I cannot give way.

The order presents an opportunity for many young people in this country to have new facilities and new opportunities. As has been said, in places such as Basingstoke, which is to privatise, or put into the private sector, its swimming facilities, there will be longer hours and greater variety in the services that are offered. It is that type of variety and opportunity that sticks in the throats of Opposition Members and that is why we support the order.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence) 11:24 pm, 6th December 1989

I should like to take this opportunity to raise a point of particular constituency interest before turning to some more general observations. I shall try to he as brief as possible because many hon. Members wish to speak.

I do not know whether, when the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), attended St. Andrews university, he played golf. If he did not, I hope that he is aware that the golf courses there, particularly Old Course, are managed by trustees appointed under the St. Andrews Links Order Confirmation Act 1974. The local authority owns the golf courses but has no part in their management. Indeed, by legislation the House has provided otherwise.

I understand that the order can apply only to what are described as defined authorities which are defined in section 1 of the principal Act. It seems that the order cannot apply to the golf courses at St. Andrews, particularly to Old Course which is of world renown. I observe from the assenting nods of the Minister for Sport and the hon. Member for Stirling that that is the case. In the light of that silent undertaking, which will undoubtedly be repeated verbally when the Under-Secretary replies, I can pass on to more general observations.

The debate has revealed a sharp division in philosophy about the way in which public facilities should be managed. I am most interested in the anxiety of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) to ensure that ratepayers get value for money. If he were to conduct an opinion poll among ratepayers in an area with a substantial number of public sporting facilities, he would find that the vast majority are perfectly satisfied with the management of the facilities. They would undoubtedly regard it as doctrinaire and unnecessary that the policy of privatisation should be applied to such facilities.

In his introduction to the order, the Minister did not promise us one more international sportsman as a result of the order passing into law, or a broadening of the base of the pyramid of participation which is the essential feature of the development of sport and recreation.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

No, I shall not give way because of the lack of time.

The Minister for Sport should have opposed these measures root and branch. He should not be here signifying his acquiescence to them. His job is to be the sports representative in Government, not the Government representative in sport.

All these proposals have been universally condemned by sporting bodies that know something about the management of facilities. The proposals undermine the national strategy which the Scottish Sports Council is endeavouring to implement in its programme Sport 2000. They are opposed by the Central Council of Physical Recreation. Mr. Peter Lawson recently pointed out that the average deficit on running a swimming pool is £200,000 a year. How is a pool to be run profitably unless one makes some concessions in safety and staffing? The curious legal relationship which will exist between the local authority and the management company may well mean that the local authority will continue to have the legal responsibility for safety, but not the means of discharging it because the management company has been interposed between it and the people who use the facility.

These facilities were built with public money and with a public purpose. They were never designed to be run by management companies in any element of their activities. When did we last hear of private enterprise building a track such as the international standard running track at Gateshead which has had such a profound effect on sport and social conditions? How many Olympic swimming pools have been built by private money? Not one.

Photo of David Clelland David Clelland , Tyne Bridge

The hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned Gateshead. I would have done so if there had been time and if I had caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Gateshead has been successful because staff of all departments can be used when major events are taking place at the stadium. That flexibility will be lost if the order is agreed to. Flexibility is an extremely important factor, and Conservative Members are ignorant of it.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful case, and I do not seek to add to it.

The Minister seems not to understand—I speak of track and field athletics, which I profess to know something about—that the majority of the fine atheletes who represent the United Kingdom in such events as the European cup enjoy their first taste of sport at public facilities which are provided by public funds. Their Olympic aspirations, unlike the Minister's and my own, were not nurtured in the cloisters of universities. The days of Corinthian sportsmen have long since gone. Public facilities make the most significant of all contributions to sport. The order will do nothing for sportsmen of the next generation, and that is why the Government stand condemned. We shall vote against the order.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing 11:31 pm, 6th December 1989

The House will have noticed the remarkable contrast between my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, who gave way generously to those who wished to intervene, and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who did not give way at all. I am not surprised, because my hon. Friend, like myself, is an ex-Olympic athlete and is not worried about competition.

I wish to make a brief constituency contribition on timing, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will clarify the matter for me. He will know from the strong representations which I have made on behalf of my constituents that Worthing is to host the world bowls championships and that it is anxious that there should be appropriate preparations to ensure that the greens are of an exceptionally high standard. That being so, the timing of the implementation of the order is important. A change of management ahead of the championships would create a considerable problem. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it is important that the facilities at an international event should be of the highest possible standard.

I understand that the order will accommodate the representation that I am making and that the existing management will be able to proceed to prepare facilities for the world bowls championships without interruption.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I can assure my right hon. Friend that his understanding is correct.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

The lady in the crowd used to say, "Whatever happens don't shoot Santa Claus, and don't go on talking." I express my thanks to my hon. Friend and resume my place.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth 11:33 pm, 6th December 1989

It must be made clear that local authorities in Wales and throughout Britain are appalled by the scale of the task that will face them, and that is what the Minister seems to have disregarded. A heavy burden will be placed on local authorities by the inefficiency and the cost penalty for local services that the Government are introducing. The timescale for the introduction of the measure is worrying when we consider the leisure centres, pools, bowling greens and other facilities that will be involved. The proposals are predictable and contain nothing that is new. The Government have listened to no one and they have learnt nothing.

I can say on behalf of Welsh Members that the measure is rejected wholeheartedly in Wales, where local authorities recognise the manpower burden that is being imposed on them by a political party whose record of providing sports and leisure facilities has been appalling. Why has the Secretary of State for Wales been so silent? Why has he allowed this piece of dogma to be imposed on Wales? I do not wish it to be imposed on England or Scotland either, but in Wales there are many local councils that have spent years trying to provide decent facilities for their communities, and there is no reason for this piece of inefficiency to be imposed upon them.

The Minister tried to say that the order was not about preventing sports and leisure facilities from being provided in future, but that was meaningless in view of the straitjacket that is being placed on local authorities. Cardiff city council has received a 65 per cent. cut in capital money for the coming financial year. Most of the minuscule remainder will have to go to housing, where there is a desperate need. That proves that the Government are determined to undermine sports and leisure facilities as facilities for the communities.

Local authorities in Wales have long sought to provide decent facilities for their communities. Neither the Conservative party nor its masters in the private sector did anything to provide decent facilities. For example, in 1973 Cardiff had no leisure centre. Now we are close to having a pattern which can serve the whole city. Slowed down by occasional aberrations of Tory administrations, Labour has created the pattern, communities have benefited and the centres are generally respected and valued. They should not be messed up by this measure, which introduces another tier of wasteful administration into local government.

Why do this dogmatic and blinkered Government have to interfere and thrust their partisan views down local councillors' throats? If the Government are right and the measure will introduce efficiency, why do they have to dictate to local authorities and force the order down their throats? Local councillors know what their local communities need and want, and have provided it. One Conservative Member who left the debate early said that the order was pure political diktat. The Minister should keep his nose out and leave local authorities to provide what their communities want and need.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West 11:37 pm, 6th December 1989

What we have heard from Opposition Members tonight makes it abundantly clear that the Labour party is interested only in who runs sports facilities, not what goes on inside them. It is not interested in how much they are used, how good they are or in seeing them improved. Those interests are held only by Conservative Members, not Opposition Members.

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) said that the philosophy of the measure is wrong and the Government should never have conceived it in this way. I do not know what the outcome was when Chelmsford council put its facilities out to private tender. However, that council is run by the hon. and learned Members' party and if the philosophy is wrong and something of which the Government should be ashamed, why did he not at least admit what had been done by councils run by his own party? Perhaps he does not even know about that.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Now we are told that those councils were wrong. The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East merely gave a political view which was humbug, as he knows. The measure will lead to the use of more imagination.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

I certainly shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. No one would give way to me.

This country's leisure industry is growing in private hands. Imagination and flair are being shown and new opportunities are being brought to young people in many areas.

The Opposition's argument has been dominated by the idea that the measure will put safety standards at risk. Private industries are concerned that their own high standards— including their methodical approach to safety and the way they train their staff are frequently being lowered by local authorities. In some cases, local authorities run facilities without trained staff and operate complicated leisure machinery without ensuring that the people using it know how unsafe it is. There are many incidences of that. Standards are higher in the private sector.

Photo of Mr Allen McKay Mr Allen McKay , Barnsley West and Penistone

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it right for an hon. Member who is protected by the House to slander local authorities and say that their leisure centres are short of staff and dangerous? Does not the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) know that they are run by professional people, not the local authorities?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

That is a matter for debate.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Opposition Members should listen to this, because any accidents would be on their consciences. [Interruption.] I intend to name a local authority to illustrate my point. Leisure facilities at the Glasgow garden festival, run by the Glasgow local authority, were operated by local authority staff who, in the opinion of many people in the private sector, had not been trained to use them. They did not know what they were doing, and it is the opinion of many safety experts that it was only a matter of luck that an accident was avoided.

We heard an important announcement from the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). He said that councils are unlikely to build new facilities if the order is passed. I believe that he was expressing the Labour party's view which is, "If you do not allow us to manage and operate these facilities, we will take our hat and ball home and we will not build any new ones." That is not our view. Many Conservative authorities will use this opportunity and the money generated to ensure that they increase the number of facilities in their area.

The order is welcome in my local authority. People will recognise it for what it is—an opportunity to provide better facilities for the people who want to use them.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North 11:41 pm, 6th December 1989

We have just heard an appropriately squalid little speech to match a squalid little measure. Glasgow district council needs no lessons from wee boys from Harrow about how to run its leisure facilities. We will pursue that matter again.

The Minister has attracted an unusual number of soubriquets in his short career. Perhaps after this he will go down in Thatcherite mythology as the man who tried to privatise putting greens. The only argument we have heard in support of the measure is based on the incompetence of Westminster city council, which apparently could not open its leisure facilities before 8 am.

This is a doctrinaire measure which will be supported in the Lobby by people who know nothing of sport and who care even less. they certainly cannot aspire to the vision of the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) who realises that sport can change people's lives. Access to facilities in many areas of the country provides an opportunity for young people to achieve and to aspire to a world outside. All that which has been built up by local authorities in this direction is to be put at risk, in the interest of private profit.

We have nothing against the private sector. There are many opportunities open to the private sector in leisure and recreation. The report "Sport 2000" published by the Scottish Sports Council listed what sports facilities are needed. By the year 2000 we need in Scotland alone 210 new centres, 44 new swimming pools, 25 new ice halls, 400 new tennis courts and 13 new track and field facilities. That would provide plenty of opportunities for the private sector to contribute. However, it will contribute nothing. It is at present closing down ice rinks and private sports centres. All that the private sector has to offer in response to the great need that exists for better sports and leisure facilities throughout the country is to act as a parasite upon that which has already been created by public enterprise.

Conservative Members do not understand; they can think only in terms of bricks and mortar combined with commercial services. The Magnum leisure facility in Irvine, which serves my constituency, is open from 5 am to 3 the following morning and is used by 1 million people a year. It is a wonderful public enterprise, and to separate the bricks and mortar from the management functions and social commitment of the people who run it is a fantasy that only Conservative Members could entertain. The centre is an integrated unit, and as soon as anyone tries to split it, the philosophy that brought it into being in the first place and has sustained it, is destroyed.

Let us see what those who understand and care for the arguments about how facilities are run have to say. The Amateur Swimming Association says: we … do not relish the prospect of being at the mercy of operators intent on achieving financial targets, at the expense of facilities available to the sport or indeed as a service to the community at large. It understands. The All England Netball Association: It will be exceedingly difficult to retain the philanthropic aims of the local authority centres with a commercial operator standing to reap the rewards of a more commercial approach. It understands. These organisations understand that one cannot separate the facility from the service provided in it—

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

The hon. Gentleman has not been here for most of the debate, and I have little time left.

If the local authority is committed to its social remit and the commercial operator to his profit motive, friction is caused in what should be a big happy family serving the community. The clash of interests leads to a diminution of the purpose for which the centre was created.

The definition of management function in the order poses far more questions than it answers. Instruction and supervision, we are told, are to be part of the management function. Would any parent prefer supervision and instruction to be in the hands of the private operator, not those of the local authority? Taking bookings will also be in the hands of the private operator, not of the local authority. That pros des scope for manipulation and the squeezing out of minority interests.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

This management function does not seem to include outreach to the community. Who is to be responsible for the outreach that has brought in so many disadvantaged groups to the sports centres? Will the local authority continue to pick up that tab if that whole edifice is not to collapse?

There is no mention of the training of staff, even of swimming pool staff, in the definition of management function. Is it for the local authority to pick up that tab, or will the training of staff be removed from the responsibilities of those running sports facilities?

We hear so much about privatisation and enterprise from Conservative Members, but it is a pathetic apology for private enterprise when all it can do is to take over existing public enterprises. Conservative Members cannot stomach the fact that so many of the great sports and leisure facilities around Britain, and the vision that underlay them, were provided by the public sector. Meadowbank, the Kelvin hall, Gateshead, and the great municipal golf courses were all provided by public enterprise. When the private sector can match that, it will have something to offer. Instead, it takes over these facilities to commercialise them.

Nothing has worth, according to Conservative Members, unless it has a commercial value. We reject this philosophy. Sport and leisure have much more to offer our society than mere commercial value. This measure is due to take effect in 1992. By then the Government will be out of office, and there will be no more of the sort of squalid rubbish that we are debating tonight.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling 11:48 pm, 6th December 1989

The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) made a somewhat scathing attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) and on his knowledge of the leisure and recreation activities of Glasgow district council. Its most recent publicised activity on the leisure side was to entertain the East German Government to celebrate 40 years in power. Perhaps at least on that occasion it was somewhat misguided. My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport might take note of that.

The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North came up with the astonishing assertion that no parent would want instruction to be in the hands of anybody but the local authority. I know that the hon. Gentleman is not an expert on sport. I do not profess to be one, but at least I am aware, as the hon. Gentleman plainly is not, of the splendid work on instruction carried out by the governing bodies. The hon. Gentleman implied that local authorities would be better at it. It seemed to me that the hon. Gentleman has not read the order and in that sense was sharing the fate of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who started by asserting that the order was damaging to sport. He made a lengthy speech and refused to take any interventions. At no point did he mention the customer. His speech was all about facilities and local authorities and not once did he talk about sportsmen and sportswomen.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

That is quite wrong.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The hon. Gentleman says that I am quite wrong, but I listened carefully to his speech. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wishes to correct me.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

I am glad to see that the Minister is prepared to spend the minutes that remain to him in that way. If he looks at Hansard tomorrow, he will see that I referred frequently and repeatedly to the importance of making facilities available to the local communities whom local authorities serve. The Minister may not recognise local communities as customers, but we certainly do.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The hon. Gentleman confirms what I have said. He says he talked about making facilities available. He did not talk about the needs of sportsmen and sportswomen, or about the range of local authority facilities that are run for the convenience of local authority staff with opening hours that are not convenient for members of the public. My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport gave an example of how, in the Queen Mother sports centre, bringing in private enterprise extended opening hours and facilities.

The hon. Member for Dagenham also spoke about the cost of the exercise and completely ignored the Audit Commission's view that savings of 20 per cent. or more could be obtained. He asked how will private profit takers meet the needs of the disadvantaged. The answer is that the needs of the disadvantaged will be determined by local authorities. They will write the contracts and determine the pricing policy and the range of services to be provided. The hon. Gentleman should know that, and should not oppose the measure if he is unaware of it. He also said that local authorities will determine only the subsidy. That is not true. As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) said, local authorities will determine the pricing policy.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The hon. Gentleman would not give way, but I shall give way to him.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

Where in the order will local authorities find the power to fix prices, admissions, and opening hours?

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

If the hon. Gentleman goes to the Library tomorrow and asks for a copy of the Act, I am sure that the staff will give him one. He will find the power in that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) said that the whole point of this exercise is to find out who provides the best deal for the customer. Opposition Members who made speeches extolling the virtues of local authorities have nothing to fear. If they are so confident that local authorities are providing the services that the customer wants and the best possible value, what on earth do they have to fear from competition and the order? Opposition Members speak not for the customer or for the sportsmen and sportswomen, but for the National and Local Government Officers Association, which is terrified that the customer will get a better deal and the ratepayer will get bette value for money.

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) asserted that local authorities would be able to delegate their charging policy as part of the contract. That is untrue. The hon. Gentleman also asserted that consultation had been of no worth. If he had gone into the matter he would know that part of the consultation and part of our response was to ensure that local authorities will not be able to delegate their charging policies. I hope that we can expect the support of the hon. Gentleman on that matter.

The hon. Gentleman also made the remarkable statement that this Government had done nothing for or to encourage sport. Under this Government the number of people participating in sport has increased by some 6 million.

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) rightly pointed out that what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said in the Glasgow Herald on 1 December 1989 was a load of nonsense. The hon. Gentleman was concerned that Old Course should not be affected by this order. He, as Member of Parliament for Fife, North-East, is a trustee of the Links Trust that runs Old Course, which is owned by the local authority. The hon. Gentleman said that there was a difference of philosophy, and there certainly is. He is a member of an organisation running a service for a local authority that is providing a service second to none and that he seeks to defend. It is precisely the kind of measure that this order seeks to introduce.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business).

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 205, Noes 159.

Division No. 11][11.55 pm
AYES
Aitken, JonathanAlison, Rt Hon Michael
Alexander, RichardAllason, Rupert
Amess, DavidGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Amos, AlanGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Arbuthnot, JamesGregory, Conal
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Grist, Ian
Ashby, DavidHague, William
Atkins, RobertHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Hampson, Dr Keith
Baldry, TonyHanley, Jeremy
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Batiste, SpencerHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Bellingham, HenryHarris, David
Bendall, VivianHaselhurst, Alan
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Hayward, Robert
Bevan, David GilroyHeddle, John
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterHordern, Sir Peter
Bonsor, Sir NicholasHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Boscawen, Hon RobertHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Boswell, TimHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesHunt, David (Wirral W)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardHunter, Andrew
Brandon-Bravo, MartinIrvine, Michael
Brazier, JulianJack, Michael
Bright, GrahamJackson, Robert
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterJanman, Tim
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Browne, John (Winchester)Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Key, Robert
Budgen, NicholasKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Burns, SimonKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Burt, AlistairKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Butcher, JohnLightbown, David
Butler, ChrisLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Maclean, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Carrington, MatthewMawhinney, Dr Brian
Carttiss, MichaelMiller, Sir Hal
Channon, Rt Hon PaulMills, Iain
Chapman, SydneyMiscampbell, Norman
Chope, ChristopherMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Moate, Roger
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Moss, Malcolm
Colvin, MichaelMoynihan, Hon Colin
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Mudd, David
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Neale, Gerrard
Couchman, JamesNelson, Anthony
Cran, JamesNeubert, Michael
Currie, Mrs EdwinaNicholls, Patrick
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Davis, David (Boothferry)Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesNorris, Steve
Dover, DenOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Dunn, BobPage, Richard
Durant, TonyPaice, James
Dykes, HughPatnick, Irvine
Eggar, TimPatten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Emery, Sir PeterPatten, John (Oxford W)
Evennett, DavidPawsey, James
Fairbairn, Sir NicholasPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Fallon, MichaelPorter, David (Waveney)
Favell, TonyPortillo, Michael
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Fishburn, John DudleyRenton, Rt Hon Tim
Fookes, Dame JanetRhodes James, Robert
Forman, NigelRiddick, Graham
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Franks, CecilRidsdale, Sir Julian
French, DouglasRowe, Andrew
Gale, RogerRumbold, Mrs Angela
Gardiner, GeorgeRyder, Richard
Garel-Jones, TristanSackville, Hon Tom
Gill, ChristopherSainsbury, Hon Tim
Goodlad, AlastairSayeed, Jonathan
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Gorman, Mrs TeresaShaw, David (Dover)
Gow, IanShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Tracey, Richard
Shersby, MichaelTrippier, David
Skeet, Sir TrevorTwinn, Dr Ian
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Squire, RobinWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Stanbrook, IvorWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir JohnWarren, Kenneth
Stern, MichaelWatts, John
Stevens, LewisWells, Bowen
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Whitney, Ray
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Widdecombe, Ann
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWiggin, Jerry
Sumberg, DavidWolfson, Mark
Summerson, HugoWood, Timothy
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Yeo, Tim
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Temple-Morris, PeterYounger, Rt Hon George
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Tellers for the Ayes:
Thornton, MalcolmMr. Nicholas Baker and
Thurnham, PeterMr. Stephen Dorrell.
Townend, John (Bridlington)
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeEwing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Fatchett, Derek
Allen, GrahamFearn, Ronald
Anderson, DonaldField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterFisher, Mark
Armstrong, HilaryFlannery, Martin
Ashton, JoeFoster, Derek
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Foulkes, George
Barron, KevinFraser, John
Battle, JohnFyfe, Maria
Beckett, MargaretGarrett, John (Norwich South)
Bell, StuartGeorge, Bruce
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bermingham, GeraldGolding, Mrs Llin
Bidwell, SydneyGould, Bryan
Blunkett, David Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Boyes, RolandGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bradley, KeithGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bray, Dr JeremyGrocott, Bruce
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Harman, Ms Harriet
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Haynes, Frank
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Henderson, Doug
Buchan, NormanHinchliffe, David
Buckley, George J.Home Robertson, John
Callaghan, JimHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Campbell, Menzies (File NE)Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Howells, Geraint
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Canavan, DennisHoyle, Doug
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clay, BobJanner, Greville
Clelland, DavidJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cohen, HarryKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Kennedy, Charles
Corbett, RobinLamond, James
Cousins, JimLeadbitter, Ted
Crowther, StanLivsey, Richard
Cryer, BobLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cummings, JohnLofthouse, Geoffrey
Cunningham, Dr JohnLoyden, Eddie
Dalyell, TamMcAllion, John
Darling, AtistairMacdonald, Calum A.
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McLeish, Henry
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)McWilliam, John
Dewar, DonaldMadden, Max
Dixon, DonMahon, Mrs Alice
Dobson, FrankMarek, Dr John
Duffy, A. E. P.Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dunnachie, JimmyMaxton, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMeacher, Michael
Eadie, AlexanderMeale, Alan
Evans, John (St Helens N)Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Spearing, Nigel
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Steinberg, Gerry
Morgan, RhodriStott, Roger
Morley, ElliotStrang, Gavin
Mowlam, MarjorieStraw, Jack
Murphy, PaulTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Nellist, DaveTurner, Dennis
O'Brien, WilliamVaz, Keith
O'Neill, MartinWall, Pat
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWallace, James
Patchett, TerryWalley, Joan
Pendry, TomWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Pike, Peter L.Wareing, Robert N.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Quin, Ms JoyceWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Radice, GilesWigley, Dafydd
Reid, Dr JohnWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Robertson, GeorgeWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rooker, JeffWilson, Brian
Sedgemore, BrianWinnick, David
Sheerman, BarryWorthington, Tony
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWray, Jimmy
Short, ClareYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)Mr. Frank Cook and
Soley, CliveMr. John McFall.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the draft Local Government Act 1988 (Competition in Sports and Leisure Facilities) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 25th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.