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Sports Scholarships

Volume 961: debated on Wednesday 31 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will bring forward proposals to provide sports scholarships on the same basis as awards for academic higher education?

I entirely agree that sporting excellence deserves encouragement just as much as academic or artistic excellence. Within the limits of the funds available, I believe that my scheme for special centres of sporting excellence has the great advantage of offering opportunities to potential top-class sportsmen whatever their academic abilities. I am also pleased that several local authorities are considering granting sports scholarships, and I believe this should be encouraged.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply and ask him to use his good offices to thank the Sports Aid Foundation for the good work that it is doing. Will he take special measures to seek a meeting with the local authority associations with the object of providing scholarships for young people who have the potential to provide Britain with the finest sportsmen in the world?

I am grateful that my hon. Friend has drawn attention to the magnificent work of the Sports Aid Foundation which, within one year, has assisted 350 competitors in 37 different sports. The local authority associations sit on the advisory committee under my chairmanship, and I shall take advantage of that suggestion to raise this matter with them at an early opportunity.

As one of the Members of this honourable House who attend the House of Commons gymnasium—the Minister himself is an irregular attender, though I am delighted that he attends sometimes—may I ask the Minister whether he agrees that it would do this country a great deal of good if we could exploit the fantastic potential to which his hon. Friend has referred by making much more more money available for sports through sports scholarships?

I entirely agree with that. I do my best, as do my right hon. Friends, to make Government money increasingly available to the Sports Council. By and large, whenever we have sporting success there is a great psychological uplift around the country.