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The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts regularly meets Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, chairman of Resource: the Council for Museums, Libraries and Archives, to discuss the needs of museums in all the English regions, including the west midlands.
David Wright: As my hon. Friend knows, my constituency contains the Ironbridge Gorge, which attracts some 300,000 visitors to Shropshire every year. Can he reassure me that he will work with his colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure that floods do not damage that UNESCO world heritage site?
Dr. Howells: I will certainly alert my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts, although I am not sure that she would be able to get to the auction on time. I do not know whether it is happening this afternoon or tomorrow morning.
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The need to improve and to extend the sports facilities available to young people was key to the decisions that we took when initiating the new opportunities fund, and when setting up the sport in schools and the space for sport and the arts programmes. In total, about £700 million is going into those two joint initiatives.
Vernon Coaker: Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is one of the most fundamental issues affecting young people? Many of the young people to whom I have spoken recently from Arnold, Carlton and Gedling in my constituencyI am sure that hon. Members have the same issues raised with themhave asked where the sports recreational facilities are. They say that more are needed much more quickly. As well as formal facilities, they also raise the question of informal space: spaces to kick a ball, to play, to skateboard, to do this or that. Are not those places lacking in our communities? Does not that often result in kids hanging around on the street because they have nowhere else to go? Will my right hon. Friend consider trying to accelerate the whole process and doing something about informal space for play, as well as formal sport and recreation facilities?
Mr. Caborn: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. Later this week, he will find out that the Government have been taking that matter seriously. Revised planning guidance on sports facilities and, for the first time, open spaces will, I hope, be published. We will be looking at the criteria laid down for sports fields. It is important that we get shot of the demarcation between sports facilities and open spaces. As my hon. Friend said, a synergy of the two can help young people to find recreation and to go into formal sport.
The ministerial meetings that I chair once a month have brought together Health, Education and many other Departments of State. We are working with Sport England on a complete audit of all sports facilities. I believe that there will be better informed decisions on investment in sports facilities and open spaces, guided by the new PPG17or the PPS17, as it is calledwhich has been long overdue for revision.
Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman should have been following the ever unfolding important debate about sports facilities and the whole question of obesity[Interruption.] We will have to start banning lunches. As one doctor said to me the other day, a time bomb is being developed: diabetes in young children. We have to take that seriously. That is why we are bringing in two hours of PE or quality sports every week for every child from the age of six to 16. Some would say that that is only a minimum. I hope it is. We will move that forward, along with investment in sports facilities, our plan for sport, the development of coaching and the modernisation of governing bodies. A complete overhaul of sport not just in schools but in the community is necessary, not just for sport but for the well-being and good health of our nation.
John Cryer (Hornchurch): A number of sporting facilities in my constituency, one of which is attached to a secondary school, are crumbling; they are in a terrible state of disrepair. It is partly due to the low standard spending assessment that Havering council receives, which means that it cannot make the necessary investmentor at least, that is what it has always been telling us. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that any bids from my constituency to enhance those facilities will receive a fair hearing; and are there any plans to channel even more resources into such facilities?
Mr. Caborn: I do not know the details of the application from my hon. Friend's constituency, but if he writes to me I shall look at it and ensure that it is dealt with fairly. A total of £581 million is being invested through the new opportunities fund via local education authorities, but the funding is conditional on the facilities being used by the community, too. That is important. Many people have been critical of investment in sports facilities that have not been available to the wider community. There is a change in culture and attitude among many in educationthose who must ensure that those centres of excellence can be used by the whole community. If my hon. Friend wants to write to me, I shall look into the questions that he has raised.
Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk): Does the Minister recognise that the single most useful step towards improving sports facilities for young people would be to ensure that all school children receive two hours of compulsory competitive sport every week of their school lives?
Mr. Caborn: I understand the play on words about compulsory and non-compulsory. If the Conservatives, in nearly 15 years, had done a 10th of what we have done in the past four to five years, we would now have a much healthier nation than the one that we inherited.
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): I have written to 153 of sport's governing bodies, representing 90 sports, outlining the benefits of charitable status. The Government believe that the governing bodies should actively encourage their member clubs to apply. Through the governing bodies, we have distributed 140,000 leaflets advising clubs how they can access charitable status. The Charity Commission is working closely with my Department in trying to ensure that as many sports clubs as possible can get charitable status.
Mr. Thomas: Does my right hon. Friend accept that local authorities could have a role in encouraging sports clubs to consider the benefits of charitable status? Will he meet the Local Government Association, and in particular the Association of London Government, to encourage them to take an initiative in this sphere? What does he think of the new club set up by Conservative Members to promote the sport of David Davis baitingcharitable or uncharitable?
Mr. Caborn: I have a dialogue with the Local Government Association, and we hope that, collectively, we can move the whole sports project forward. It is important also to note that, in the Finance Bill, which we hope will complete its passage through the House before the recess, the Chancellor announced a package of tax relief that will be available through the Inland Revenue. Charitable status and the new CASCcommunity amateur sports clubsdevelopment in the Finance Bill, along with the performance and innovation unit report, form part of our agenda concerning whether an amateur sport should have charitable status as of right.
I think that we are making considerable strides towards ensuring that more money is invested in sport at club level, where it is most needed, helping the clubs and all the volunteers who work in them.
Bob Spink (Castle Point): I welcome what the Minister said about charitable status for sports clubs, but can he assure the House that the Charity Commissioners will not make over-burdensome bureaucratic demands on the clubs or interfere with their running in any way?
Mr. Caborn: This is an important question. We are genuinely trying to take the load off sports clubs. The Charity Commission, my Department and Sport England are working together to set up a one-stop shop in every region, where small sports clubs without a lot of resources can get the answers to their questions. The Charity Commission, especially in the person of John Stoker, has played a fantastic role in helping my Department and Sport England to develop a far more comprehensive and user-friendly package for charitable status. We will continue to work to that end. We all know that many of
Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough): I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware of my long-standing interest in this matter, following the introduction of my 10-minute Bill more than two years ago. There is still a slight discrepancy between the charitable route and the CASC route through the Inland Revenue. There is also a serious question about rate relief for clubs. I welcome the one-stop shops, and I would encourage people to go through either of those routes, but the biggest bill that many clubs face is their rates bill. Will he apply pressure, in the dying days of this parliamentary Session, to ensure that rate relief is at the top of the agenda during the consultation process?
Mr. Caborn: Yes, we will obviously raise that question with our colleagues in other Departments. We have come a long way in the past 12 to 18 months in instituting charitable status. Perhaps my hon. Friend should reflect on what the PIU report will say about charitable status for sports as of right. Perhaps when the report comes out it will be advantageous for him to resurrect the arguments that he has been deploying, skilfully and forcefully, for the past four months.