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Wimbledon Tennis Tournament: Wider Access

3.7 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Chris Smith, the Secretary of State, has great powers of persuasion, but even he cannot persuade people out of the hospitality tent into the court. The Government are certainly keen to widen access to major tournaments such as the Wimbledon championships. The point has been made; it is now for the organisers to consider how best to respond. The People's Sunday was, after all, the organisers' own initiative.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. According to the Telegraph the Secretary of State, Chris Smith, said that he would put pressure on organisers, "to understand that for the real people access is the important thing". As Wimbledon is a private club and, as I understand it, is not in receipt of public funds, what on earth business is it of the Secretary of State to interfere in the way in

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which it runs its affairs? Secondly, how do the Government define "real people"? Why is somebody who bought his or her ticket in advance, and not on the day, any less a real person than those who bought them on the day?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord read the report in the Telegraph. I have the advantage of the transcript of the Secretary of State's interview on "The World at One", in which he neither used the word "pressure" nor the phrase, "real people". So the noble Lord's strictures do not apply in this case.

I am not sure what I would understand by the term "real people". On the rare occasions when I go to Wimbledon I see a number of noble Lords in the members' enclosure. They look real enough to me.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that the only reason that there was a "People's Sunday" for "real people"--and the definition of "real people" certainly excludes hereditary Peers--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: The only reason that there was a People's Sunday for "real people" was the torrential rain during Wimbledon fortnight. Is my noble friend aware that Labour governments can perform all sorts of miracles? During the long, hot summer of 1978, my noble friend Lord Callaghan, who was at that time Prime Minister, appointed my noble friend Lord Howell as Minister for Rain. What we need in this new Labour Government is a Minister for Rain in order to ensure that there is always a People's Sunday for real people. As one of the wettest of wets in this House, may I put forward my own name?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I join in congratulating my noble friend Lord Howell on his achievements as Minister for Rain, although from where I am I cannot join in patting him on the head as my noble friend Lord Ewing did. I am interested to learn of the willingness of my noble friend Lord Ewing to be appointed as Minister for Rain because I shall certainly not volunteer myself.

Lord Aberdare: My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest as a "real" person and also a member of the All England Club at Wimbledon. Is the Minister aware that the Wimbledon championships are one of the great sporting activities of which this country is very proud? The completion of the present championships within the specified time, despite the rain, was a remarkable achievement.

Is the Minister further aware that the spectators at Wimbledon have a proud reputation for their impartiality and good sportsmanship? They very often give more encouragement to the under-dog than to the person who is winning the match. It would be a great shame if that were in any way endangered by trying to alter the atmosphere of the championships.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am happy to confirm what the noble Lord said about the

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importance and distinction of the Wimbledon championships. My understanding is that the reason we do not have the equivalent of "People's Sundays" at every championship is not just that in most years there is not enough rain, but that the organisers of the championships find it desirable to have the Sunday off in the middle of the two weeks in order to prepare for the second week. They have great difficulty in running the championships right through and that is a point which the Government will have to recognise in whatever persuasion they seek to apply to the organisers.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, has the Minister's attention been drawn to the excellent arrangements that were made for the Open Golf Championship at Troon over the weekend? Is he aware that the championship is run by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews which does not enjoy protected status for the Open Championship but has agreed to give the contract to the BBC so that everyone can see the Open Championship?

Is the Minister further aware that on this great occasion the Royal and Ancient Golf Club opened the viewing facilities to children accompanied by an adult, in order to encourage the great game of golf?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to hear what my noble friend says.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, in view of the new Secretary of State's wide remit for culture etc., whereby he will encourage young people and give great opportunities for young people to participate, can the Minister say whether the Secretary of State will look into the possibility of ensuring that there is definite provision? That follows the comment by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about Troon, where young people were able to see the activities.

Does the Minister agree that it is important that young people should have opportunities to participate, even as spectators, in the sports?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, he is not the Minister for culture etc., he is the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport. However, I agree with the noble Baroness that access for young people is particularly important. Of course it is true that the Wimbledon championships do not receive any public funding. They contribute £30 million a year to the Lawn Tennis Association from the activities. But I remind the noble Baroness that the Lottery Sports Fund has already contributed £25 million for 340 projects, many of which are directed towards young people.

We propose, with the world class project which commences at the beginning of next year, to provide revenue support for training for young players as well as the organisers of the sports. In the years from 1986 to 1996, £5 million was made available from the Sports Council, matched by funding from the All England Lawn Tennis Club and the Lawn Tennis Association for the indoor tennis initiative which provides courts

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particularly in inner-city areas. That is directed strongly towards young people. So things are being done, although it is never enough.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that those of us who come from the inner cities are pleased at the announcement of government funding for projects within inner cities for training the young? It is obvious that the people who sponsor sport only sponsor it at the top end on the basis of a handsome return. Those of us interested in sport are glad to see the Government moving in this direction.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his comments. The Lawn Tennis Association is less susceptible to persuasion than most sporting authorities because of its financial independence. But I have indicated the way in which matching funding can be used profitably to widen access.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, reverting to the remark from the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, does the Minister agree with me that perhaps hereditary Peers have a certain standing in that they must have been the first people to play real tennis?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I thought that real tennis was a royal game rather than a game of the nobility.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, over the past two months we have been introduced to "real Sundays", "real People's Sundays", a people's lottery, introduced by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and, a few weeks before, "people's diplomacy", introduced by the Foreign Secretary in his mission statement.

Can the Minister give us a definition of the word "people" in these different contexts? What new popular magic is there that unites Sundays, the lottery and foreign affairs?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I repudiated the word "real" as being a quotation from the Secretary of State, but I do not think that I can repudiate the word "people". We are all people, aren't we?

Baroness Castle of Blackburn: Is it not a fact--

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