asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many representations have been made to him following the announcement of his intention to remove executive powers from the Northern Ireland Sports Council; and if he will now set up an independent inquiry before implementation.
Northern Ireland Ministers have received 109 letters about the Government's decision to remove executive functions from the Northern Ireland Sports Council. A further inquiry into this matter is not likely to add to the information available to the Government.
Will the Minister agree, having had all those representations, which have come from extremely able people in all walks of life, that it was a precipitate decision to wind up the executive powers of the Sports Council, a decision which does not relate to the rest of the United Kingdom? If there is not to be an inquiry, will he at least reconsider that decision?
We shall have further discussions with the Sports Council. As the Liberal Party has encouraged successive Governments to cut bureaucratic costs and to preserve capital programmes, it is rather unfair of the Liberal Party's Northern Ireland spokesman to attack my noble Friend.
Is it not a fact that the majority of the representations that have been received are in support of the council retaining its executive powers?
The majority of the representations are in favour of the Sports Council retaining its present powers. However, the council's administrative costs are very high in relation to the costs of sports councils elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Will the Minister go further and spell out those people who have made the representations? Is it not true that all the sporting bodies, almost all the district councils, including the Belfast city council, and all the political parties have opposed the Government? Why do the Government not take on board this strong representative body of opinion and agree to an independent inquiry? If it backs the Government, the problem, I am sure, will go away. If not, it will not go away.
All the information is available to the Government at this moment. All that is needed is further consultation on this point. There have been representations by many sporting bodies. These follow an energetic campaign on the part of the Sports Council to stimulate those complaints.