14. What discussions he has had with the Minister for the Cabinet Office on proposals to merge UK Sport and Sport England. (18956)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met Francis Maude on 8 July to discuss the public bodies Bill—
My apologies, Mr Speaker. They discussed bringing together UK Sport and Sport England, and that was also discussed at an inter-ministerial meeting on 13 September. I also met my devolved counterparts to discuss the issue when I was in Delhi and I have, of course, discussed it with many others in sport and inside the two bodies.
Recent correspondence from the Scottish Executive somewhat complacently suggests that they are merely aware of the proposed merger. Given UK Sport’s responsibilities for the world-class performance programme across the United Kingdom, how will the Minister ensure that there is a fair distribution of financial support for our elite athletes?
That was one of the issues that we discussed in Delhi. I am sure that it will not have escaped the hon. Gentleman’s notice that part of the comprehensive spending review announced on Wednesday was framed by a decision to increase the amount of money going in to sport. We were able to announce not only that we would stick to the original spending limits envisaged for London 2012 and would honour those commitments in full, but that UK Sport would have the same level of funding, or slightly better, for the start of the Rio cycle than it is enjoying this year.
In addition to the merger, the Government are cutting the funding that the two organisations receive as well as cutting £160 million from school sports and axing funding for sports colleges. Before the election, the hon. Gentleman praised Labour’s support for sport and pledged that it would not be undermined by the Conservatives. Will he tell us what impact those decisions will have on his predecessor’s ambition to get 2 million people taking part in sport?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place and I hope that he enjoys the position as much as I did—and, if I might say so, spends as much time doing it as I did. I understand his point, but he must admit that the amount of debt interest this country pays out every single day is the same as the entire community sport budget each year, so it is a considerable job to tackle it. By increasing the lottery shares to UK Sport and Sport England, not only have we been able to shield in full UK Sport from the effects of this, preserving elite athlete funding through to 2012, but by the end of the four-year cycle of lottery funding Sport England will have more money going through its front door than it did at the beginning. That is, I believe, a considerable achievement.