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Sports Council

Volume 888: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1975

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21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how much of the increase in grant to the Sports Council of £1.15 million for 1975–76 is in respect of inflation ; and how much is intended for the growth of facilities.

The difference between the grant for this year and that proposed for next can be accounted for by inflation, but the council's estimates for next year include over £3½ million towards capital schemes already under construction or ready to start in that year.

Is the Secretary of State aware that his reply is totally inadequate? Is he further aware that the amount for the increased grant certainly will not cover inflation and will not allow for any expansion of facilities? What is most important, will he accept that the country cannot understand his Government's priorities, because on the one hand they give away hundreds of million of pounds for nationalising industry but on the other hand they cannot afford £2 million for sport?

It is always curious to hear Opposition Members calling for increased public expenditure. The hon. Gentleman debated this matter on Monday night with my hon. Friend the Minister of State with responsibility for Sport. If he is saying that the present Government's record on sport is inadequate and unsatisfactory, I must tell him that when my hon. Friend the Minister of State resumed his responsibility for sport there was a sensational improvement in the morale of the entire sporting world.

While recognising that more public expenditure is necessary for sport and recreation, may I ask my right hon. Friend to remind the Sports Council that in the financial year 1973–74 it spent £1·6 million in administrative costs in order to disburse a mere £2·1 million? Does not my right hon. Friend consider that instead of handing out public money to non-elected and non-accountable bodies it would be far better to have an integrated Ministry of Recreation, answerable to Parliament, which would be responsible for organising and financing recreational and sporting facilities throughout the country?

My hon. Friend has made a very interesting proposal. I would remind him that the fact that the Sports Council is now at such a distance from Parliament—and, indeed, from anywhere else—was due to the reconstruction of the Sports Council by the previous Conservative Government. We should all, of course, like more money for sport. I should like a large sum of additional money for Grimsby Town Football Club—which is a cold place on a windy day. But much as I should like that, we must nevertheless stick to our basic national priorities.

What guidance has the Secretary of State given to local authorities concerning the priority they should give to expenditure on sports facilities?