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Cycle Racing

5. Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab): What engagements she has carried out in relation to the sport of cycle racing in the past 12 months; what funds were made available to the sport; and what steps are being taken to encourage participation by school children in the sport. [151924]

Hon. Members: On yer bike.

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Yes—very apt. I met representatives of cycling with my hon. Friend on 1 December last year to discuss major events in the sport. I confirmed the Government's support for cycling on that occasion, and I am delighted to announce today that funding is being made available to the sport to improve links between schools and amateur clubs, under the club links programme. That will apply to another 14 sports, which we will announce later today.

Jon Trickett : As a passionate cyclist, I often feel that my sport is undervalued and under-recognised, yet it achieved a fantastic result of 13 medals at the Commonwealth games in Manchester. There is a vast voluntary sector comprising 1,200 clubs across every community and neighbourhood. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to pay particular attention to cycling and to the development of support, where possible, for that valuable voluntary sector, which is represented in every constituency?

Mr. Caborn: Yes. We support club-to-school links, in which cycling is involved, and we support the sport's national governing body, the national coaching task force and the new coaching facility. We support the

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modernisation of 22 governing bodies, in which cycling is involved. Through the Millennium Commission, £43 million was invested in the first phase of the national cycling network. There is real commitment not just to the sport, but to cycling for leisure and to getting more young people active in cycling, which we consider important for health reasons.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I thank the Minister for his personal interest in the sport of cycling. Can he assure me that some of the additional money he mentioned will find its way into cycle speedway—a largely unrepresented aspect of cycling, which is a minority sport anyway? If my right hon. Friend would like to see cycle speedway first-hand, I extend to him an invitation to come to the Colchester Stars cycle speedway club.

Mr. Caborn: I shall look in my diary and see when I can take up that invitation. It is for the governing bodies to make representations to Sport England, as I have no doubt they will do. Following its modernisation, I pay tribute to the governing body of cycling, which did a first-class job and is fitting into the development of sports colleges and promoting cycling across the spectrum. The investment to which the hon. Gentleman refers is important, as it tends to bring young people into the sport in pursuit of their icons, and that is what drives sport forward.

English Heritage

6. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): If she will make a statement on the funding of English Heritage. [151925]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): English Heritage received Government funding of £115.4 million in the financial year 2002–03. The allocation for 2003–04, 2004–05 and 2005–06 is £121.7 million in each year. In addition, it received £1.5 million this year to support its modernisation programme.

Dr. Cable : Granted the need for financial economy in English Heritage, is the Minister aware of the crass and incompetent way in which it has gone about drastically reducing public access to Marble Hill house in my constituency, one of the leading English historic homes, and the anger that that has created among local supporters who have spent years generating money for it? Will she therefore intervene to ask for a postponement of that decision until there can be proper public consultation and consideration of other options?

Estelle Morris: I understand the strength of feeling of which the hon. Gentleman speaks, because I know that this is a very important issue in his constituency. English Heritage is an organisation at arm's length from the Government and it is not for Ministers to tell it to stop carrying out its proper business either because hon. Members raise a matter in the House or because there is local opposition. English Heritage must look at the management of its properties, and the proposal of which the hon. Gentleman speaks is in response to the quinquennial review. Where I would share with him a concern is in the local heartache that such difficult

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decisions can cause, and from what I have heard, the consultation may not have been as effective as it might have been. In that respect, I shall ensure that my view is passed back, but I emphasise that that is not with a view to stopping English Heritage carrying out its proper business.

Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that world-class visitor attractions, such as Whitby abbey, which are managed by English Heritage, should be working not only to attract visitors from outside the region but with local communities so that they can understand their heritage and culture? Will she look closely, with English Heritage, to see whether local schemes might allow easier and regular access for local people to make use of these world-class facilities?

Estelle Morris: I agree with my hon. Friend, and that must be a priority for English Heritage. Interestingly, the savings that are being made, as in the example that we have just heard of in Richmond, are in part being used to fund outreach workers who will ensure greater access to and a greater understanding of our heritage of beautiful buildings throughout the country. My hon. Friend may very well find in the coming years that there are people in his locality who can take forward the sort of work to which he refers.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Bearing in mind the enormous sum of money brought into this country every year by tourism, will the Minister acknowledge that the amount spent by English Heritage is very modest, and will she talk to her right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and see what he can do about increasing it in the Budget?

Estelle Morris: I would never say no if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor offered more money for English Heritage or any other area of our Department's activities, but a considerable amount of money is spent, and a £6 million increase in that expenditure is guaranteed for each of the next three years. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is also incumbent on English Heritage to ensure that that money is spent to best effect, and that is why I support its work in considering the portfolio of buildings. However, I agree that this is an area of activity where however many millions or even billions of pounds were put in, the money could always be put to good and effective use. As ever, we will try to secure more resources for our Department, but we should acknowledge that English Heritage has more money now and that that will continue to be the case in each of the next two years.

Sports Coaches

7. Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): What plans she has to increase the number of qualified sports coaches employed at a local level. [151927]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): My Department is working closely with Sport England to create 3,000 full and part-time community sports coaches by 2006. They will work across a range

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of schools, clubs and local authorities to ensure that the maximum number of young people benefit from good quality coaching.

Ms Munn : When I visited an athletics camp in Norfolk park in my constituency in the summer, the athletics development worker told me that he had more funding for the six weeks of the holiday than he did for the rest of the year. Will my right hon. Friend look into this and also consider the need to provide funds where possible for youngsters from poorer areas for transport to venues to pursue their sports and for equipment?

Mr. Caborn: The summer splash programmes were highly successful and we must put such programmes on to a more sustainable basis. That is but one part of trying to invest strategically and make sustainable Britain's sports infrastructure. That is why, through the sports colleges, we are committed to two hours of quality physical activity or sport for every child every week from the ages of five to 16. I have already mentioned the club-to-school link. Seventy per cent. of our young people do not continue to participate in an active sport when they leave school. We are dealing with the structural weaknesses in the club structure and in coaching. We will not make the system sustainable by addressing them singly—it has to be done in a much more strategic and focused way.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The Minister rightly points to the 3,000 people who will benefit from the coach match scheme, but does he recognise that about 1.5 million volunteers who are assisting in the development of sport will not benefit from it? To assist them, will he renew his energies in working with his colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that the sports governing bodies coaching award schemes meet the criteria for funding from the Learning and Skills Council?

Mr. Caborn: Yes. Although we are investing in sport in general, the hon. Gentleman is right to identify the particular area of coaching. That is why we have not only invested in 3,000 coaches, but are looking for the first time at making coaching a profession in its own right. To that end, Sports Coach UK has developed five levels of coaching. All the governing bodies have come together to sign up to that, which is a welcome first. Those involved in sport are making a concerted effort collectively to ensure that its systems and structures are much more sustainable. Where we can invest in those areas, we want to continue to do so.

Mr. Michael Foster (Worcester) (Lab): Having a large number of qualified sports coaches may do some good, but without a decent—or safe—infrastructure, the work that they do will come to nothing. On Friday, I came across the case of Nunnery Wood athletics track in Worcester, which, having been promised 50 per cent. match funding under the community athletics refurbishment programme to make its track safe, was told by Sport England that it is now to get less than 20 per cent. match funding. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to look at that case and to try to ensure that we have decent tracks and infrastructure, as well as a large number of qualified sports coaches?

Mr. Caborn: If my hon. Friend writes to me with the details, I will do so. He should take note of the fact that

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Sport England is trying, with our support, to develop multisport clubs to arrest the figure of 70 per cent. of young people who do not continue sport when they leave school. Those clubs will have the facilities and coaching that are necessary to ensure that the governing bodies and local club structures can work together much more effectively. Young people are more likely to stay in sport if they are given access to a range of sports, rather than a single sport. We need a cultural change in how we deliver sport.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his proposals put even more pressure on local authority budgets to provide coaches at a time when several swimming pools in north Yorkshire and elsewhere are coming under threat because of the amount of money that they need? The funds from Sport England are simply not enough. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do to relieve local authorities' budgets?

Mr. Caborn: That is true, and we are working with local authorities in that regard. Changes are taking place in our society and in our communities as regards sports facilities. There are now more swimming pools in this country than there have been for many years, many of which are in the private sector. We have to develop a structure with the various governing bodies, including those for swimming. Ofsted uses swimming as one of the benchmarks by which it measures schools' activity levels. We are working with swimming associations and local authorities to ensure that the facilities are there for the C, D and E groups.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): As my right hon. Friend knows, I warmly welcome the introduction of coaches, especially at grass-roots level. However, will he ensure that that is only the first stage? As he rightly said, we need to ensure that coaches who would not necessarily benefit from the project now realise that there is a form of career progression in coaching, which is a much-maligned profession that has not been especially well supported in the past. Will he ensure that the scheme is a good example of moving forward and that, after a successful 12 to 24 months, he will take it back to the Exchequer to show that we can deliver when we put Exchequer funding into sports projects?

Mr. Caborn: Very much so. I know that my hon. Friend has been active in such matters for many years. We have a foreign coach for nearly all our national sports, including soccer, and we could be condemned for that because it says much about the lack of professionalism in the structure of coaching. Our young people—and, indeed, our coaches—are as good as any in the world. We are trying to ensure that there is proper investment and that we have a proper career structure— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) goes on about it. When the Tories were in power, they did nothing about the coaching profession. Since we have come to power, we have developed with the governing bodies a proper structure and a profession in which young people can get sustainable employment. We will deliver national games with national coaches from the United Kingdom.

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