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Schoolchildren (Creative Activities)

7. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): Pursuant to his oral answer of 11 December 2000, Official Report, column 334, when he will be able to announce further initiatives for encouraging sport and artistic talent among schoolchildren. [149391]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): We announced last month our intention to offer children an entitlement of two hours a week of high-quality school sport and physical education. Earlier this month, the appointment of a further 55 school sport co-ordinators in 12 new areas were announced, including in the London borough of Southwark, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the location of 16 areas for the new creative partnerships. The London borough of Southwark--in which, of course, the hon. Gentleman's constituency lies--was again one of the areas chosen.

Mr. Hughes: Obviously I am grateful to the Minister for those initiatives and the Government's interest. Today, we will debate criminal justice measures to deal with young people, many of whom go off the rails during their school years. Does the Minister agree that one of the best things that we could do to ensure that they stay on the straight and narrow and become good--rather than troublesome--citizens would be to give them opportunities to get involved in an activity that they want to pursue and which motivates them? Will she talk to her colleagues at the DFEE and the Home Office to see whether every youngster who leaves primary and

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secondary school can be given the chance of finding out what he or she would like to do and provided with the chance of doing it? That would enable youngsters to box, swim, sail, dance or get involved in drama instead of hanging around on street corners and getting into trouble.

Kate Hoey: The hon. Gentleman is right about the motivation that sport gives to young people. Clearly, that is happening in schools. However, he is talking about young people who are alienated from school, perhaps through truancy. Many such youngsters are in our constituencies and they are precisely the people whom the school sport co-ordinators try to influence through their outreach work. More importantly, we are using some of the money for young offenders to put in hand work with the Home Office. Some of the young people who concern us are not yet offenders, but we need to get access to them before they are. I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and we will be working closely with the Home Office and the DFEE on that matter.

Mr. Phil Hope (Corby): My hon. Friend will know that the quality of pitches is one barrier to participation in football that young people experience locally. Grassroots football cannot take off if pitches are flooded, fences are broken or pavilions are in disrepair. I recently chaired a meeting of football club representatives in my constituency. They want investment in pitches to get young people playing football and to raise talent at the highest level. The difficulty is the lack of resources. The Football Foundation provides some resources, but will the Government work with it to ensure that cash is available year on year to support and help grassroots football, so that we can get young people back into sport?

Kate Hoey: The Football Foundation will make a significant difference to grassroots football, particularly to the facilities that many of our young--and older--people have to use for weekend matches. It has £18 million in the first year to invest in grassroots football. The working group that will make the decisions will be closely involved with county football associations, local authorities and schools. Change will not happen overnight, but the investment, coupled with the money that is being provided through the space for sport and the arts programme and the improvement in school sports facilities, will make a long term difference to the opportunities that our young people have to play not just football, but other sports as well.

South East Arts (Administration)

8. Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): What proportion of the South East Arts budget for 2000-01 is spent on administration. [149392]

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): The actual figures for 2000-01 will not be available until the audited accounts are released later this year. I understand that the forecast figure for operating costs is £1.642 million out of a total expenditure of £7.21 million. Operating costs are therefore estimated at 23 per cent. of the South East Arts budget for the year.

Mr. Blunt: Does the Minister appreciate that, between 1999 and 2000, there was a 30 per cent. increase in

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administration costs--representing a doubling of the 2000 figure--and that a 25 per cent. administration charge by a major charity would be of significant concern? Given that the treasurer of the local music society writes to me to report that it takes up to two years to get a grant of £500 or £1,000, that the grant application form is a major piece of creative writing and that it counts only if he has had discussions with the bureaucrats at South East Arts before its completion, there is some evidence for his conclusions that South East Arts is

Will the Minister inquire into the administration of South East Arts?

Mr. Howarth: The hon. Gentleman is very disparaging about South East Arts, but it does a very great deal of very useful work. Of course the figure for administrative costs is much too high. We are working to bring it down, principally by increasing grant in aid to South East Arts. That provision was so niggardly under the previous Government that spending on administration was inevitably a very high proportion of South East Arts total budget. We increased its grant by 16.7 per cent. last year, and have done so by 31 per cent. in the present year. The Arts Council is reducing the number of special programmes that carry high administrative costs. We are setting targets for the reduction of administrative costs and we have asked the quality and efficiency standards team--QUEST--to offer advice.

I should add that the task of South East Arts has been made significantly harder as a result of the hon. Gentleman's local authority--Reigate and Banstead borough council--last year withdrawing its contribution to South East Arts and its support for the arts development officer in his area, which South East Arts co-funded. Support for the arts must be a partnership between central and local government. If the hon. Gentleman's borough council refuses to play its part, heavier administrative and financing costs inevitably fall on South East Arts. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) should be concerned, because his constituency covers that council, too. Is he happy that Conservative-controlled local authorities should behave in such a way?

Recreational Shooting

10. Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): If he will make a statement on his policy on recreational shooting. [149394]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): The Government strongly support the sport of shooting which, as with other sports, can help with character building and the development of interpersonal skills and personal discipline.

Mr. Leigh: I am very glad to hear the Minister's ringing endorsement; she, of course, has a fine record on such subjects, particularly hunting. She must be aware that the League Against Cruel Sports--I have seen literature from it--has recreational shooting firmly in its sights, believing that it is a cruel sport and that it is wrong that game should be artificially bred. We have heard such false arguments applied to hunting. Will the hon. Lady give a commitment that under no circumstances will the

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Government whom she represents introduce any Bill that could be used as a vehicle, under a so-called free vote, to put at risk recreational shooting, as hunting is at the present time?

Kate Hoey: As Minister for Sport for this Government, I certainly give that commitment.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): My eyesight is now too bad to allow me to be let loose with a gun, but in my youth I went rough shooting and recreational shooting. Many of my constituents enjoy the sport. I should like to reaffirm from the Labour Benches the view that hunting with guns--recreational shooting--is part of our countryside tradition, and that the Labour party remains firmly committed to it.

Kate Hoey: I absolutely agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. We are very successful at the sport. I had the privilege of seeing Richard Faulds win the Olympic gold medal in the double trap event. Ian Peel won the silver medal at the Paralympics; people with disabilities can take part in the sport on an equal footing. I also saw Isabel Newstead win a gold medal and Deanna Coates win a bronze. We want to support the sport and see continued success in it.

National Athletics Centre, Picketts Lock

11. Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): If he will make a statement on progress in establishing a national athletics facility at Picketts Lock. [149395]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The project team is making good progress to develop the new Lee Valley national athletics centre. The design team is producing outline plans for the stadium and associated facilities, and technical studies are at an advanced stage. The project team expects to be able to submit a full planning application by the end of May.

Sir Sydney Chapman: I am grateful for that information, but will the Secretary of State confirm that no design has yet been accepted and that the project is therefore not really up and running? Will he assure the House that, however great the current delays, facilities will be available for the world athletics championships in 2005, which means that they must be completed by the preceding year?

Mr. Smith: Design work is under way and I have every confidence that the stadium will be in place, up and running and of a world-class nature ready for the world athletics championships in 2005.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): Few people share the Secretary of State's confidence. Questions about Picketts Lock arise directly from his ill-informed and wrong-headed decision to kick athletics out of Wembley. If Wembley with planning permission and a detailed design is not to be ready until 2004, what are the chances that Picketts Lock will be ready by 2005? What are the chances of London hosting the world athletics championships if there is nowhere for them to be held? What are the chances of a successful bid for the Olympic games in 2012 if there is no

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Olympic stadium? To each question, the answer is the same: about as good as the chances of the Secretary of State keeping his job after May.

Mr. Smith: If we had not taken athletics out of Wembley in December 1999, we would now face the prospect of having to abandon any hope of hosting the world athletics championships. It is because we took that decision--the right decision--to take athletics out of Wembley and to begin work on the Picketts Lock site in the Lee valley that we now have the opportunity to host the championships. Dave Moorcroft, chief executive of UK Athletics, said recently:

That is what we shall provide at the Lee valley stadium, and it is about time the Tories put their voices behind that national project and stopped their ill-informed carping and criticism.

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