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Sport (Disabled People)

Volume 300: debated on Monday 10 November 1997

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What assistance his Department is giving to sport for disabled people. [13433]

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is aware that I take a close personal interest in that subject. We are determined to promote sport for people with disabilities. It is our aim to maximise opportunity for all people, no matter what their ability.

For the year 1997-98, the English Sports Council is providing disabled sports organisations with just under £590,000. That includes £40,000 to the British Deaf Sports Council, £195,000 to Disability Sport England and £111,500 to the English Sports Association for People with Learning Disabilities. Some £1.3 million also goes to our elite athletes with disabilities.

I am sure that the whole House supports that work. However, should not the Minister listen to what disabled people say themselves? Perhaps he should read the letter from the chairman of the British Paraplegic Shooting Association, backed up by the chief executive of the British Olympic Association, which pleaded with the Home Secretary to allow disabled sportsmen and sportswomen in wheelchairs to continue with their sport of firing pistols. The Minister should listen to those people and not dictate what they should do.

I do, indeed, listen, and since I became Minister for Sport, I have opened the special Olympic games at Portsmouth, the world blind sailing championships at Weymouth and the British disabled water-skiing facility at Heron lake. I have attended disabled rugby, volleyball, cricket, football, skiing and archery. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is making the point that I should listen to sportsmen and sportswomen with disabilities, and I have been listening to a particularly large number of them.

The Government's policy on shooting is absolutely clear. When we come to the Olympic and Commonwealth games, some arrangements will have to be made for those sports to be included, but I am afraid that Government policy cannot be overwhelmed by the interests of sportsmen and women.