§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Walter Harrison.]
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Kenneth Marks)
The previous debate on sport and recreation was unfortunately curtailed. I am sure that many hon. Members had valuable contributions to make to it but did not get the opportunity to do that. Therefore, I am sure that all those who are interested in this subject will be glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport has been able to secure time for this debate. I am not sure whether this is the second half, or the second leg. After the Division just now, I heard someone demanding a replay. But however we see it, this debate is very welcome. I shall be as brief as possible, so that as many hon. Members as possible will have the opportunity to make contributions.
The previous debate also tended to concentrate very largely on spectator sports. That was understandable, since it was timely then to discuss the subject of football hooliganism, which has been disturbing us all. Nevertheless, one of the main aims of my right hon. Friend's policy has been to widen the Government's interest so that it covered not 706 only sport but the whole field of recreation. I consider it essential that we should take such an interest if only because its scale shows what an important part it plays in people's everyday lives.
I mention angling as a particularly powerful example. It has nearly 3 million regular participants. Informal countryside recreation such as pleasure motoring, picnicking and sightseeing attracts enormous numbers of people. Two recent studies, for instance, suggested that on an average summer weekend in the South-East not far short of 3 million trips were made to the countryside and to stately homes. At the national level there is a broad estimate of about 275 million trips to the countryside per year in England and Wales.
During the previous debate reference was made to the size of the grant to the Sports Council, which this year is£11.5 million. I wish it could be more, as I do on so many other items of Government expenditure, but even in the present very severe financial constraints I think that it compares very favourably with the grant in the final year of the previous Administration.
However, the real point that I want to make is that the Sports Council grant is only a very small part of total public spending on sport and recreation. Taken in isolation, it presents a very misleading picture. It is the local authorities which are the major providers of recreational facilities.
707 The accepted figure for local authority spending on sport and recreation used in the rate support grant discussions for the current year was£332 million, a large proportion of which will be supplied by central Government.
In looking at recreation, the Government's rôle is not to control but to coordinate and to give a lead. In the previous debate my right hon. Friend explained the arrangements for coordination not only with his Government colleagues but with the numerous agencies that have an interest in the subject.
At the regional level a key rôle will be played by the regional councils for sport and recreation, which were set up last year. Their range of activities is very wide indeed, as can be seen from their terms of reference. They are, within a region, to provide a forum for consultation among local authorities and a wide range of user and other affected interests, to promote the general development of public participation and of appropriate provision to meet growing demands and, more specifically, to promote the preparation of long-term proposals for the planned provision of sport and recreation.
In all this the councils have due regard for the conservation of the natural environment, the needs of agriculture and forestry and the needs of people living and working in rural areas. At least half the membership of a regional council will come from the local authorities and one quarter from interests such as indoor sports, outdoor sports, general outdoor recreation, countryside conservation and land-owning and farming.
In the previous debate some criticism was voiced that sport was under-represented on the councils. I think that this criticism neglects the rôle of the local authorities as the major providers of recreational facilities. I think that I would also want to say that much of our problem in the past year has been in convincing countryside and conservation interests that sport was not over-represented. Some teething troubles have been inevitable, but our clear impression is that the councils are settling down well and have shown a commendable determination to make things work. I hope that both sides of the House can give them the support they need at the outset of their work.
708 The regional councils have a wide remit, but they will be giving particular attention to the part that sport and recreation can play in helping to tackle the problems of urban deprivation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment made an announcement recently about the additional resources that the Government are making available to encourage programmes and facilities in the inner areas of some of our major cities. The regional councils can, we believe, have an invaluable rôle to play in giving advice on the vital social dimension represented by participation in sport and recreation.
The Government's new approach to the inner cities comes at a time of exciting new thinking about recreation in urban areas. There have been two studies on leisure provision. The first, which was carried out by a research worker in my Department, was to find out more about the kinds of activities and policies that could help increase the recreational opportunities of those living in the inner cities, especially those who are socially, economically or physically disadvantaged. The second, sponsored jointly by my Department, the Department of Education and Science, and the Scottish and Welsh Offices, is on action-research experiments in leisure activities in four selected areas—Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Clwyd and Dumbarton.
We intend making every effort to publish the results of these two studies before the Summer Recess. This will ensure the early publicity and discusssion that I believe to be necessary. We are also going ahead with plans for regional conferences on the studies to be held in the autumn of this year.
There is a clear need, in the present difficult times, to ensure that recreation facilities are provided for those who need them most. There is tremendous potential for self-help in the community, and this must be harnessed through more flexible and sensitive attitudes on the part of local authorities. There is, as well, great scope for utilising existing under-used resources, such as parks, schools and church halls.
The question of joint use of recreational facilities in schools has been much in the news recently and it is a matter on which my right hon. Friend and I will shortly be having further discussions with our 709 colleagues in the Department of Education and Science. It is a subject to which we attach the greatest importance. We must make every effort to utilise resources at educational establishments for the benefit of the whole community, particularly at a time when economic stringency militates against the provision of major new facilities.
I know that additional costs inevitably occur which place further burdens on the already stretched finances of local authorities, and I for one appreciate the very real difficulties that often stand in the way of opening up these facilities outside normal school hours.
I worked for several years in a secondary school which was used as a youth club most evenings. On the other hand, I later went to a school which was three years old but whose excellent stage, with its very expensive lighting equipment, had never been used by the school or by any other organisation. I know that there may be staffing and cleaning difficulties, but while some local authorities have already embraced the concept of joint use, and have gone to considerable trouble to put it into practice, the response of others has been disappointing.
In parallel with the new thinking on the approach to recreation in urban areas, we shall also be publishing shortly a paper to stimulate public debate on the approach to leisure in the countryside. This has been prepared by the Countryside Review Committee, which is an inter-departmental committee of officials carrying out a wide-ranging review of policies affecting the countryside.
Our objective in the countryside was originally spelt out in the 1966 White Paper in which we said:Townspeople ought to be able to spend their leisure in the country if they want to…the problem is to enable them to enjoy this leisure without harm to those who live and work in the country and without spoiling what they go to the countryside to seek.The objective remains the same today. But the problem of reconciling the potentially conflicting requirements of recreation and other uses of the countryside has been made even more acute by the continuing growth in countryside recreation. How best to weave these various uses together is the subject of the paper that I have mentioned.
710 Of the many problems of recreation in the countryside, I shall mention but three. The first of these is the urban fringe—the area around our great conurbations. Definitions of this vary, but it can perhaps best be defined as the land between the continuous built-up areas of cities or large towns and the open countryside around. These areas are particularly important for recreation, especially for those who live in city centres and are without private transport. They are, therefore, relatively deprived of open space. Clearly, the urban fringe must provide valuable opportunities for recreation. But how should we go about providing such opportunities?
The Countryside Commission has already pointed the way with some pioneer experiments in the urban fringe of Greater Manchester and London. I hope that hon. Members for London constituencies will forgive me if I mention first the work going on in my area.
The commission has been helping with the reclamation of derelict land in river valleys, tree planting, general landscape improvement works and provision for informal recreation facilities, such as picnic areas, footpath and bridleway systems, and information facilities. The commission has also engaged the Civic Trust for the North-West to carry out an experimental project to promote recreational use, to encourage conservation and to stimulate local interest in the Tame Valley.
In the London area, two experiments have been set up in conjunction with local authorities in Barnet and Havering. This work is intended to minimise friction between farmers, local landowners and visitors through exploring management agreements and helping with minor physical works.
The commission has carried out many smaller projects in other urban fringe areas, and is at present undertaking a research study to examine the nature and extent of agricultural changes in urban fringe areas to identify the characteristics of farming in those areas and the differences between regions.
Besides the Countryside Commission's work, I should also like to mention the value of projects such as the Lea Valley Regional Park, which I visited a few months ago. There provision has skilfully 711 been made for a wide range of facilities in the recognition that some kinds of formal or indoor recreation may be valuable to widen appeal, increase usage on wet days, and provide a distinct blend of recreational experience. It contains a number of attractions which would be unacceptable in the deep countryside areas such as the national parks. These facilities include, for example, cycle tracks, artificial ski slopes, water ski-ing, equestrian centres, and a range of indoor sports.
In the wilder countryside beyond the urban fringe, I know that there is particular concern about the problem of recreational usage of our national parks. The Labour movement can be rightly proud of the part that it played in establishing these areas for public enjoyment. But I doubt whether the founding fathers had any idea of the weight of visitor and vehicle pressure to which the parks are subject today.
Our problem is that the national parks have two statutory purposes—the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty and the promotion of their enjoyment by the public. We have agreed that, in the last resort, priority must be given to the preservation of natural beauty. But, equally, we believe that much can be done to reconcile the two purposes by good planning and management.
One step is to try to spread the load more evenly. This involves the promotion of alternative areas for people to visit. The Countryside Commission has done considerable work in this respect by, for example, supporting the setting up of country parks, of which there are now nearly 150 in existence. The regional recreational strategies to be prepared by the regional councils for sport and recreation will take this work an important step further.
Much can also be achieved within the parks themselves by sensible management schemes. One story of successful co-operation between farmers and visitors took place in the Lake District. Known as the Lake District Upland Management Experiment—UMEX—the project started in 1969 as a joint initiative by the Countryside Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. From 1973 until it ended in 1976, the 712 work was sponsored by the commission and the Lake District Special Planning Board.
The aim of the scheme was to test whether, by means of a little financial encouragement to farmers, the interests of both farmers and visitors to the uplands could be met. This has enabled farmers to carry out small schemes to improve the landscape and enhance the recreational opportunities of the area. It has also enabled the effects of this work on the attitudes of farmers towards recreation and the landscape to be assessed.
A characteristic of the project was the flexible administrative arrangements, its success leading to the provision of a permanent Upland Management Service covering the whole of the Lake District National Park. Indeed, several other national parks authorities have now established their own upland management services.
Another area of leisure in the countryside which is assuming an increasing importance is tent camping and caravanning. This is now very big business as more and more people take to this form of recreation and holiday. Nearly 4 million people went camping in 1970, and it is forecast that between 5 million and 5½million will be doing so by 1980. In 1974 about 350,000 caravans were in use. Camping and caravanning is a very worthwhile, healthy activity, and I welcome the increasing opportunities that have become available to a wide range of social groups to take part in it.
Camping, however, does bring with it its attendant problems, particularly in the more popular holiday areas at peak periods of the year. Overcrowding of sites, with attendant risks to health and safety, traffic congestion in the approaches to sites and illegal camping, all pose severe problems.
Existing controls are inadequate, particularly in health and safety matters, and a new initiative by Government is clearly desirable. I do not, however, believe that all our problems can be solved simply by the improvement of controls. If supply and demand are out of balance, these problems will continue to exist. I recognise that many authorities are already under very serious pressure and that some of the more popular spots have now reached virtual saturation 713 point. We need, therefore, to take a new look at the problem to see how we can develop a co-ordinated approach to improving site provision, particularly in the more popular areas at peak periods of the year.
I want next to turn to a subject which I believe is important to outdoors recreation. I have already spoken about the great potential for leisure which exists in the countryside for the community at large. Education for its better use and understanding is vitally important. We must find ways to help both adults and children to understand and care for the natural evironment.
I have been pleased to see that a great deal of work in this field has already been done, and that interest in environmental education is growing fast, both at home and abroad. The pressures in the natural environment are growing through ever-increasing social and economic demands. We all know well that these pressures come from society's continuing drive for better living standards.
The Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council both appreciate the importance of environmental education in their work, and I am encouraged to see that they have actively promoted it. The Countryside Commission, for instance, has put a great deal of work into its visitor centres, which are designed to interpret the areas around them, to explain the natural characteristics of the area and, of course, to increase public awareness of the value of conserving them. The Countryside Commission and the Forestry Commission have also begun to develop a series of guided walks through areas of particular interest, often on a theme relevant to the characteristics of the area.
Education of the adult, I believe, will be far more effective if such education is begun in childhood. That is why I firmly believe that our main priority for environmental education should be in our schools. There is already a great deal of enthusiasm for the environmental education of children, as, indeed, is shown by the large number of study centres set up in our national parks. Indeed, I hope that local authorities and individual schools will consult more with the national parks and the Countyside Commission before planning these, but as yet there is no sign of their enthusiasm. We must look 714 carefully at how environmental studies are taught in our schools. This is something that we shall again be discussing with my colleagues in the Department of Education and Science. I do not regard this as a demarcation problem between two departments of Government. There is a need for both Departments to be closely involved in this work.
Although I can see a need for improved guidance in these matters, I should not wish to stifle initiative or to blunt enthusiasm. That is why I attach particular importance to the rôle of the voluntary organisations in the field and, of course, to the Government agencies which I have mentioned. The work they do to stimulate environmental education by aiding and encouraging schools and other bodies who are interested is invaluable. The Council for Environmental Education, for example, provide a means of communication between schools and teachers on the one hand and conservation and ecological groups on the other. I aim to keep that enthusiasm going, as I am sure that we can only benefit from a greater understanding and appreciation of our environment.
The White Paper covers a very wide field. In the course of the two debates my right hon. Friend and I have dealt with some of the subjects, but not all. One particular point of interest to me has been the increase in the facilities for the disabled—usually provided, I may say, not by other bodies but by the intelligence and enthusiasm of the disabled themselves. There are in my area—as I am sure there are in a great many other areas now—clubs for the multidisabled, and the standard they achieve in various activities is indeed remarkable.
The White Paper recognises that the physically handicapped must be given the opportunity to participate in recreational activities, not only by using facilities specially designed for them but by sharing as many facilities and activities as is practicable with their families and the community at large.
The Sports Council is empowered to make grants for the adaptation of existing buildings for sport and recreational purposes, including appropriate provision for the disabled. The council also produces advisory documents aimed at 715 bringing home to all those who provide sports facilities the necessity of taking account of the needs of the disabled.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend talking about the joint provision of facilities for the disabled. I should like him to use the term "integration of the disabled" in all sports activities and to bring to the notice of the Sports Council a very important report on this produced by Lord Snowdon. I urge him to press hard upon the Sports Council, in all its manifestations, to make this a living reality.
§ Mr. Marks
My hon. Friend has great experience and has done a great amount of work with the disabled, and these are points of which I shall certainly take note. I shall urge them not only on the Sports Council nationally but also on the regional sports councils, which I hope will be following this up.
I was mentioning some of the nature trails established by the Nature Conservancy Council and voluntary conservation bodies. They have made these trails suitable for wheelchair users and for the blind. The Government-sponsored quality of life experiments in the development of leisure activities, which I mentioned as being carried out in four areas of Great Britain, included among their projects programmes designed to increase or enhance the leisure activities of the disadvantaged, including the elderly and the physically handicapped. I hope that a number of these subjects will be discussed in the debate tonight.
The White Paper marked a significant step forward in our aproach to sport and recreation. We have a good record in carrying out the work which we said we intended to do, but the White Paper is not and should not be the end of the story. A great deal of new experimental work and thought is going on in the field of leisure provision. We must see to it that this is discussed, considered and then translated into action for the benefit of the whole community.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)
The House and those involved in the organisation and running of sport and creation in the United Kingdom will 716 welcome this second opportunity provided by the Government to debate their White Paper. I shall try to be brief, because I was among those who were fortunate to speak in the debate on 6th April. Therefore, I shall bow to those many other lion. Members who want to speak and to others who are unable to speak on this occasion and whose absence tonight does not indicate their indifference to sport and recreation but signifies an enthusiasm to assist in the higher stakes being played for today in local government elections.
The Minister made many interesting observations. No doubt when the various reports and documents are to hand from the studies that are being carried out a statement will be made and we shall have an opportunity to debate each aspect at some length. I know that many people both inside and outside the House feel hard done by that we do not appear to debate these issues as often as we should.
The 20 pages of detailed plans in the White Paper give a whole new dimension to sport and recreation. As many hon. Members said last time, some of it is good and some is bad. I understood that the general view in sports circles is that the Government may have downgraded the influence of sports representatives. I want to talk about this matter, because it is not my intention to repeat what I said last time. No doubt the Minister will be eternally grateful for that.
The large organisations may in some respects be termed unwieldy and complicated. It could be that the individuality of sports governing bodies has declined because of the new amalgam within the regional sport and recreation councils to which the Minister referred on 6th April—the Sports Council, the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council, the National Water Council, the British Waterways Board, the Forestry Commission and the English Tourist Board. That is a fair range.
One has only to look at the formation of each of the regions on this aspect of sport and recreation to become alarmed at the overall size and high percentage of local authority members. The Northern Region has a total of 124 members, of whom 63 come from the local authorities. In the North-West, out of a total of 130 members, 72 come from local authorities. 717 In Greater London and the South-East, which includes my constituency, there out of a total of 170 members, 95 come from local authorities. In the South the figure is 61 out of 121. It appears that there is a tremendous weighting of local authority representatives on those councils.
It has been suggested to me that when meetings take place, frequently the absentees are on the sport and recreation side, as opposed to the local authority side. Local authority representatives are always there, whereas those who come from the voluntary side of sport and recreation are not such regular attenders, for obvious reasons.
I hope that the Minister will be able to allay the fears of many people that the representatives of sport are the poor relations in the new regional councils and their agencies, because that is what the evidence suggests.
At the Snowdonia Mountaineering Centre at Plas-y-Brenin—I apologise to Welsh Members for the pronunciation—one might assume that the mountaineers would be well represented on the management committee, but a close look reveals that of the 14 members only two come from the British Mountaineering Council. About six or seven members come from the Department of Education and Science and the rest from the Department of the Environment. That underlines the genuine fear of many people about this matter. Does the Minister wish to intervene?
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)
I shall do my best to reply not only to this speech but to the speech made by the hon. Gentleman three weeks ago. I should like to know the authority for his statement that sports bodies are concerned. I have now addressed every one of the 10 regional authorities. I addressed the last one only last week. This question has not been raised at any one of the 10 conferences that I have attended, where everyone has been present.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
I can provide the Minister with all the information that I have on this subject and tell him the source from which it has come. It has been mentioned to me on two or three occasions and to some of my hon. Friends. The Minister knows the sources with which I deal.
718 I turn now to the subject of centres of excellence, to which I referred in my earlier speech. Since that time the Minister has been good enough to give me a detailed answer regarding the anticipated expansion and progress of the programme. I am grateful for that. When he speaks later, will he refer to the plans for next year, when the Sports Council's financial assistance expires? How will the centres be funded and how will they retain their standards of excellence?
As for the Written Answer on 28th April, I must express surprise that the only new centre of excellence that has recently come on-stream is at Leeds, although it embraces six or seven centres of excellence if we allow for each sporting activity that takes place there. Will the Minister tell the House how he sees the coming on-stream of the others that he listed in that same Answer, because, rightly so, much store is placed on the new centres helping our gifted sportsmen and women to succeed in international events.
In recent debates most of us have tended to dwell on sport and sports clubs. I want to turn to the broader issue ct recreation and all that that topic involves. However, before doing so, I should like to refer to paragraph 32 of the White Paper, which states thatConcern has been expressed recently at the effect on voluntary clubs of substantial increases in rates over the last two years.That opening sentence correctly identifies the widespread concern about this effect.
I know that the Minister has undoubted sympathy for the problem facing the clubs, but it is not borne out in the White Paper. The increase in rates in the past three years has created anxieties and hindered the advance of many clubs. I think that the Department of the Environment should take note of and heed the advice offered by the Central Council for Physical Recreation and look closely at the way in which many local authorities apply different yardsticks to clubs which want to expand or to develop social facilities to raise annual revenue. I am told that some local authorities apply a less than helpful approach, which does not encourage the voluntary clubs. Others help a great deal. But generally there is no pattern throughout the United Kingdom. Success in obtaining rate relief seems to depend on the area in which a 719 club is located. Frequently no distinction is made between a sports club and a social or leisure club. No one expects rating relief on a purely drinking club.
I ask the House to consider this problem as it affects the Dale Yacht Club, in Haverfordwest. It is set out in a letter dated 27th January 1976 to the treasurer of the Preseli District Council. Again, Iapologise to Welsh Members for any incorrect pronunciation of that name. The letter reads:I write to inquire what the prospects are of obtaining some rates relief for the Dale Yacht Club. I enclose a copy of a letter concerning this subject, in which you will note that a discretionary rebate of 50 per cent. is suggested in the Government's White Paper.In support of a claim for rates relief, you should know that:—The reply from the district council is in these terms:
- 1. The Club is primarily a Sports Club.
- 2. The main source of income is Members' subscriptions, and profits made on social occasions. (In 1975, subscriptions amounted to£1,430, social occasions£320 making a total of£1,750 whereas profits on the Bar were£790 only. Rates for the same period amounted to£363.)
- 3. The Clubhouse is only open for two hours per week from October to the following Easter.
- 4. It is only used fully during the period of the schools summer holidays, i.e. mid-July to the end of August.
- 5. We provide two services for which no charge is made."My council has again considered to what extent they should apply the discretionary provisions of Section 40(5) of the General Rate Act 1967. In view of your interest in this matter in the past I considered it advisable to notify you that they have again reiterated the policy which has existed since Local Government reorganisation in 1974 namely '50 per cent. relief to be granted in respect of hereditaments occupied by Clubs etc., for recreational purposes and not conducted for profit, excluding social, recreational and sporting clubs where premises are registered for the sale of intoxicating liquor'.That example highlights some of the problems and confusion that exist.
A number of local authorities have been helpful to sports clubs. Manchester has granted the Amateur Athletic Association 25 per cent. discretionary relief, but the Birmingham application was turned down. The National Playing Fields Association was granted 50 per cent. charity relief. The AAA clubs have had a variety of answers from local autho 720 rities. The Badminton Association of England was turned down for any form of discretionary relief, and the applications of the Lawn Tennis Association (Hammersmith) and the British Mountaineering Council (Manchester) were also rejected. However, I must be fair and point out that a number of local authorities have granted discretionary rate relief. It is a complicated subject. I hope that the Minister will ask his Department to consider some of these aspects. There is a degree of confusion. Perhaps some pattern can be established—for example, a definition of what is a sports club and what is a leisure club. We are not concerned with any form of sports-drinking club.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Sport and Leisure stated thatParticipation in informal out-door recreation is much higher than in sport; so too is its growth potential.Recreation is a vast subject. It is possible to devote hours to the topic. Recreation embraces walkers, anglers, campers, cyclists, mountaineers, gliders, canoeists, pot holer, sub-aqua enthusiasts and parachutists. I accept that many of those groupings would see themselves as engaging in the more formal areas of sport from time to time.
In my remaining minutes I wish to consider the rôle of the water recreation and, especially the enormous contribution that has been made by the Inland Waterways Association. That is another aspect to which I am sure the Minister would have devoted some attention if he had had the time to do so.
The association has a band of 5,000 volunteers. They are all water recreation enthusiasts. In the past 15 years they have reopened and restored 215 miles of canals, as a result of weekend working. That is a remarkable achievement. It is the result of sweated labour and devotion. Their contribution to our environmental quality is not to be underestimated. I am told that most enthusiasts work an average of 48 weekends out of 52. They support themselves financially. They aim to clear another 200 miles between now and the early 1980s.
The association needs help and support from local authorities. I understand that many local councillors are not the easiest people to approach for the use of facilities and equipment. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will consider that 721 matter and ascertain whether any help can be offered.
The savings that have been made by the efforts of the association's band of volunteers represent an enormous contribution and measure of assistance to the environment. The hard-pressed local authorities must welcome what has been done.
To give the House some greater detail, the Ashton and Peak Forest Canal—the right hon. Gentleman is well aware of what I am about to say, because he opened the canal in 1974—was at one stage to be abandoned and filled in. The cost of infilling was estimated at£850,000. The volunteers restored the canal for£430,000. That canal has provided an additional 20 miles of recreational waterway.
The cost comparison of restoring or abandoning the Southern Stratford Canal, opened in 1964 by the Queen Mother, was quoted as£119,000 for infilling, but voluntary labour restored it for£50,000.
The Upper Avon Canal required an estimated£2½ million for restoration by contractors. The volunteers enabled it to open in June 1974, at a total cost of£350,000.
I have outlined an astonishing success story and I am sure that everyone will applaud this contribution to our recreational requirements. However, those involved in sport and recreation must not take it all for granted. First, there must be a better recognition for the volunteers. Their costs are many, while their labour rates are cheap. It has been estimated that the voluntary canal restorers operate almost 500,000 man-hours a year. Secondly, there must be better co-operation between the local authority and the volunteer. Thirdly, the Minister may care to say later how he sees future progress not only in restoring canals but in maintaining the existing canals.
There is a question mark over the Government's response to the Fraenkel Report. The estimates of what is required seem to vary between£30 million and£70 million. Those are estimates for restoring and maintaining the existing network. Perhaps the Minister will devote some time to those matters.
The White Paper refers briefly to the youth sports programme. I mentioned 722 an aspect of lack of Government coordination in the earlier debate. The Minister dealt with the matter at some length, and I am grateful to him for doing so. No doubt we shall have a chance of studying his speech at a later date and a chance to debate the matter. If we have a debate, there will be the opportunity to question the Minister a little more closely.
There seems to be a glaring omission in the White Paper, in the lengthy reference to the needs of young children. The National Playing Fields Association was created about 50 years ago for the purpose of pursuing those needs. During its inaugural resolution it was stated thatThe Movement has, for its main objectives: First, the keeping of the very small children off the streets, by providing for them in congested areas, small playgrounds where there is no risk of injury, by motor or other wheeled traffic. And, secondly, by the provision of adequate playing fields for the masses of young people, who having no room themselves to play, rush in thousands to look on at others playing, or perhaps indulge in less desirable pursuits.That might have been an appropriate subject for the last debate, namely, football hooliganism.
Those visionary statements must be contrasted with an article by Nick Balmforth in this month's National Playing Fields Association journal entitled "Playtimes". It states thatDuring a recent afternoon in Birmingham I noted down no less than seven different prohibitive notices each of which had beenliberally distributed around the estates:KEEP OFF THE GRASS…PLEASE DO NOT PLAY HERE…BALL GAMES PROHIBITED…PLEASE DO NOT PLAY IN THIS AREA…THE PLAYING OF GAMES IN THIS AREA IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED…PLAY AREA—NO BALL GAMES ALLOWED…And how about this for a classic: PLEASE DO NOT WALK OR PLAY ON THE GRASS. THIS AREA HAS BEEN LAID OUT AS AN AMENITY TO BE ENJOYED BY ALL THE TENANTS OF THE ESTATE. WILL YOU PLEASE HELP TO PRESERVE ITS APPEARANCE?Ever get the feeling you're not welcome?I draw that article to the attention of the Minister because I think that it makes an important contribution and mirrors the frustration that is felt by the child in the inner city area. It is perhaps the root cause of the potential hooligan.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
My hon. Friend has raised an important 723 point. If I may say so, it applies not only to those in the inner city areas but those in the smaller centres and towns. Has the Minister given any attention to the opening of school playgrounds out of hours? It is a constant complaint in my area. It is pointed out that the playing facilities exist but that because of hooliganism and the lack of caretakers, for example, they are not available for public use, although they are provided at public expense.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. It is a matter that was dealt with at some length during the previous debate. It is a subject that has been touched upon by the Minister in various answers that he has given to me over the years. I know that it is a matter that causes his concern. I feel that there is probably a difficulty of co-ordination between those who wish to see facilities provided, those who wish to protect the environment, and the local authorities.
In my constituency there is a fine new comprehensive school. It had a marvellous sportsdrome built for it. Alas, it lies fallow for seven-eighths of the year. We tried to get the sportsdrome made available for the local community. It is necessary continually to pressurise local authorities. That is something that should be recognised by all who are concerned.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
My hon. Friend has ignored the fact that grass is liable to wear. Headmasters and sports masters have had to be cognisant of the fact that grass must be available for the school teams. If there is too much wear by outside organisations, the fields will not be available for the school. Is it not time that far more all-weather playing areas were designed and built during the construction of schools?
§ Mr. Macfarlane
My hon. Friend makes a valid and excellent point. The matter that we were discussing before he intervened concerned the many schools that have new multi-purpose sportsdromes and the fact that those facilities are not being used sufficiently.
Will the Minister, in conjunction with the Department of Education and Science, urge all the agencies and local author. 724 ities involved in children and youth recreation to begin an urgent reappraisal of the objectives and measure the progress to date? I hope that he will urge upon his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science—the hon. Member for Lincoln (Miss Jackson)—who was the recipient of a penetrating open letter from Bob Campbell in the Sunday Times on 10th April, to wake up on this aspect of a national need.
The National Association of Youth Clubs has voiced concern to me over the omission and has commented that it is amazed that the White Paper makes no mention of the voluntary or statutory youth service in paragraph 13. It further states that in November 1976 it wrote to all the new regional councils for sport and recreation urging them to consult the voluntary Youth Service on the question of including its representatives on the councils. Sadly that representation has been ignored by all except one of the regional councils. The matter is worth investigating as it would appear that youth is not to be fully involved.
The Under-Secretary of State has made a number of important points. In some respects he has clarified the confusion that has existed over who is responsible for a number of issues. I ask the Minister, who is in charge of the Youth and Children programme, not to under-estimate the growing anger of the various authorities.
The White Paper covers many important matters that affect society. Almost two years have elapsed since that White Paper was first published. All those interested have now had a chance to examine the implementation of the Govenment's objectives, and policy is constantly evolving.
The biggest overall criticism is that the running of sport and recreation appears to have become fragmented through a number of Government Departments and agencies. This takes it further away from those who know how best to run sport and, unhappily, there is a tendency to waste valuable resources.
I hope that this second debate will enable hon. Members to participate in a wide range of subjects covered by the White Paper and, above all, I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to answer the many quesions that have been 725 posed to him in both debates. I certainly hope that he will take the opportunity to answer in greater detail than time permitted on the last occasion when we discussed this subject.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
I wish to take part in this debate because on the previous occasion when we discussed sport and recreation I sat in the Chamber for the duration of the debate and I and other hon. Members were not called to speak because of the limitations of time.
We are grateful for the freedom that is allotted to us on this second occasion, and understand from the Leader of the House that if extra time is required tonight we can take advantage of it. Therefore, I hope that if any of my hon. Friends feel that they have a contribution to make they will do so. When I have made my contribution, I shall remain to hear other contributions. I am sure that we all have much to learn from our colleagues who have so much experience in sporting and leisure activities.
I was present at Question Time to hear my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary refer to the subject of soccer hooliganism, and he also mentioned Rugby League. Every week in St. Helens many thousands of people attend Rugby League and Rugby Union fixtures, and they greet those events with much enthusiasm, and they appreciate good clean sport.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is due to the fact that soccer draws away the hooligans that other sports are as clean as they are? If there were no soccer, it is possible that the hooliganism would spread to badminton and ping pong. It it not a fact that there is a great deal of hooliganism around which is now being vested in soccer?
§ Mr. Spriggs
The hon. Gentleman is on a good point. My constituents have more sense than to behave badly at such fixtures. My constituents, to the tune of 30,000 and upwards, attend Rugby League games, which they thoroughly enjoy. Those fans come from all age groups in the population. When they leave those games they leave in good order because they observe first-class behaviour. It is a pleasure to hear the comments of my constituents when I speak to them on Saturday evenings following my parliamentary 726 surgeries. They are most excited when giving accounts of first-class matches at Wigan or Widnes or Warrington, and they appreciate a game that is well and decently played. I cannot understand why anybody should want to misbehave at sports fixtures and inflict bodily harm on anybody.
§ Mr. Marks
I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree that many of his constituents in St. Helens attend fixtures arranged by Manchester United Football Club. But does he not agree that it is surprising that of the number of people arrested after those matches involving Manchester United, few of the troublemakers come from Greater Manchester or from the St. Helens area?
§ Mr. Spriggs
The Minister is right to make that fair point. Often a town's population is blamed for bad behaviour indulged in by those who come into the area from outside. When I have kept observations on crowds at fixtures, I have noticed that the troublemakers are all strangers to me and are certainly not my constituents. I agree that where complaints are received about spectator behaviour, they usually involve people from an outside area. They are the people who rush up and down the streets and cause so much displeasure to local tenants and the local population. It is not right that they should be able to indulge in such behaviour.
I wish particularly to draw attention to the problems of hooliganism, vandalism, the inflicting of bodily harm and damage to property and to cases of thieving on the way to or from soccer games. Such behaviour is unacceptable to us all. If my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary sees fit to bring in legislation to deal with those offenders and if he frees the public from the terrible blight of vandalism, I know that the people of this country will support him in implementing rigorous legislation.
If the Minister has not been present to watch Rugby Union or Rugby League games, I hope that he will come to St. Helens. In general terms I believe that observation should be kept on the attitudes of crowds at Rugby Union and Rugby League matches and that serious consideration should be given to the present system of crowd control.
727 I have already said that many of my constituents go to these fixtures and thoroughly enjoy them as contributing to sport. I believe that those people should be able to take their children to watch those games with feelings of safety. They should be able to feel that no thugs will be present to employ the use of knives or to throw bottles or other implements. Surely the nation should give Parliament the power and the authority to outlaw such behaviour.
§ Mr. Spriggs
These thugs go to different parts of the country and enter sports grounds without any intention of watching a good game of any sport. At the moment soccer is in the limelight. Hon. Members are demanding action on behalf of not only those who play the game but those who watch it or live near the grounds or who try to run businesses in the areas near the grounds. All these people suffer from thugs who leave the grounds looking for something bad enough to do, because it would not be in their line of reasoning to do anything good.
Unfortunately soccer has been the chief sufferer. If these people get into Rugby League or Rugby Union grounds the officials and police would have to deal with them in the same way as football clubs are unsuccessfully trying to deal with them. I hope that the people responsible for entry to the great rugby games held in this country will keep a careful watch to ensure that the thugs are kept out of rugby altogether. It is bad enough to have the thugs in soccer. We are not prepared to have them in rugby.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)
We all appreciate the hon. Gentleman's emotions and sentiments. I wish to suggest a practical way of stopping these thugs which has not been suggested yet. I agree with the Minister's remark that the people concerned are not local but are mobile and move to different 728 areas. I hope that the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) and perhaps the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) will agree that we should ensure that the thugs are sent to do community work on days when they would otherwise be watching football. Instead of being allowed to watch football they should be made to work with a shovel on match days.
§ Mr. Spriggs
I cannot help but agree with any system that will keep these thugs out of soccer grounds altogether. Any such scheme will suit me, provided it is successful, but it is not so easy in practice. The people who have the task of identifying the thugs or of meeting them on Saturday afternoon to see that they do their penance will not always be successful. There is nothing more difficult to deal with than the human race.
When the Government draft legislation against the thugs at soccer games, the higher the penalties the better. Any acts against the person committed by the thugs should be brought within the scope of the criminal law. We should pass the maximum possible sentences on the thugs so that they can be put away for long enough and given the treatment that they deserve for treating other people in such a manner.
I turn to the White Paper. I welcome it, but there is one very serious omission. I have here a letter from a constituent, Mr. Michael Bradbury, public relations officer of the 1895 International, of 107 Friar Street, St. Helens. Mr. Bradbury wrote to me in March of this years as follows:I am writing to you because I know that in the past you have taken a stand against rugby apartheid. It is with regret that I have to report to you that it is once again raising its ugly head and would appear to be on the increase, so the good work you have done in the past is being totally ignored.The one thing that hurts our organisation more than anything else is the fact that they are now discriminating against amateurs.Let me give you some examples. Printed in the Oxfordshire Evening News recently was a quote from the Oxfordshire Rugby Union: 'that any player known to be playing that 13-a-side game may face a possible ban from playing Rugby Union for life.'This was quite obviously aimed at our members at Oxford University, who have had the gall to form a Rugby League team within those hallowed confines of Oxford. Being unperturbed by this threat they continued to play, but worse was yet to come.729The amateur Rugby League players at Oxford University, in conjunction with BARLA, organised a match between 'Universities and Colleges Amateur Rugby League and the 'Southern Amateur Rugby League'. This was the first big match at Oxford and a lot of people put in an awful lot of work.The match was to be played on a council-owned ground used by the Oxford Old Boys Rugby Union Club, who were most helpful in making their facilities available for the big event.Everything seemed set for the match, when on the eleventh hour the Oxfordshire Rugby Union intervened and put the clubhouse, which was to be used for an after-match reception, out of bounds.A new venue had to be quickly arranged, which of course caused a lot of disruption to an awful lot of people, especially those who were travelling down from the North to see the match.This was the final straw. We have tried our best in the past to ignore the discriminating tactics of the Rugby Union, but now we feel we must make a stand. They must not be allowed to continue to practise apartheid.It would appear that in theory, if the Rugby Union victimised against a person because of the colour of their skin or their religion, there are laws to protect the individuals, but because a person decides to play Rugby League, he forfeits the right to play Rugby Union.Do the Rugby Union victimise against tennis players, cricketers, swimmers, golfers, even footballers? No, of course not. Then why Rugby League players?In the past we and other people have complained to successive sports Ministers on the grounds that the Rugby Union receive a grant from the Sports Council and yet their doors are not open to all. Are we to take it that our Government condones victimisation and apartheid?Enclosed you will find further examples of Rugby Union apartheid. What we would like you to do is table a question in the House of Commons and bring this matter to a head, and if possible, get some undertaking that something will be done about this dreadful state of affairs.When I received that letter I took full responsibility for drafting an Early-Day Motion. By next week my right hon. and hon. Friends will find that there are more than 30 signatures appended to that motion. That means that more than 30 hon. Members agree that a system of rugby apartheid exists and that not enough has been done in the rules, either nationally or internationally, to ensure that this kind of behaviour is stopped.
My Early-Day Motion No. 271 headed "Rugby Apartheid" reads:That this House takes a serious view of the Rugby Union attitude towards amateur players 730 who play the thirteen-a-side game, and in particular their decision to consider banning for life any player known to have played the thirteen-a-side game, Rugby League, as quoted in the Oxfordshire Evening News recently, from the Oxfordshire Rugby Union, and calls upon the Minister for Sport to inquire into the Rugby Union's discrimination against amateur Rugby League players, and withhold any further grants until the Rugby Union cease all forms of discrimination against amateur sportsmen.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I shall certainly say something about the hon. Gentleman's remarks, if I catch the eye of the Chair later. However, I do wish that the hon. Member would not use the word "apartheid" because he knows perfectly well the connotations which the word has in rugby football. Rugby football in Britain is absolutely free from anything to do with the colour problem. It is wrong of him to suggest, however inadvertently, that that is not so.
§ Mr. Spriggs
Let me reply in this way. Mr. J. D. Griffin wrote a letter to the Sunday Times saying:My son is nearly 17 and his main sporting interest is rugby. On Saturdays he plays Rugby Union and on Sundays Rugby League for a local amateur team. Two years hence he will be subject to the Rugby Union rule which bars for life those over 18 who play Rugby League, even as amateurs, and will have to choose between the two sports, each of which he enjoys, rather than play as now.If that is not apartheid I do not know what is. It is a form of discrimination against the Northern clubs who broke away from the old Rugby Union as long ago as 1895. They will never bury the hatchet. They have proved that.
Last year a colleague of mine in this House and I met the people from the Rugby Union to discuss the possibility of providing a gangway between Rugby Union and Rugby League. We spoke for two or three hours on the subject, only to find that ultimately the people from Twickenham decided that the answer must be "No". They insisted that if a youngster played Rugby League at any age above 18, and if that were reported to the Union, he would be considered for a life ban. The hon. Member for Dumfries asks me not to use the word "apartheid". The more we go into this the more assured I am that there is a case for this House to deal with state of apartheid in rugby.
§ Mr. Spriggs
It is not just a case of discrimination. These people believe that they should contain Rugby Union on a class basis. It is both discriminatory and tantamount to apartheid.
§ Mr. Spriggs
There are many famous players in Rugby Union and Rugby League who have had problems with the officials at Twickenham. Once they are over 18 it is apparently unforgiveable for them to play the 13-a-side game. They are then considered for a life ban.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I am largely in agreement with what my hon. Friend is saying. I am very much a Rugby Union man who has a great love of Rugby League. I appreciate the arguments that he is advancing about the class element, but may I assure him that in the area in which I was brought up, South Wales, this is a classless game? Equally, there are parts of Lancashire where Rugby Union is a classless game. There may be people who want to keep this class division which I deplore. However, I hope that my hon. Friend will not lay too much emphasis on its being a class game since in certain parts of the country Rugby Union is very much a working-class game.
§ Mr. Spriggs
I willingly accept what my hon. Friend says. I am aware that there are parts of the country where Rugby Union is played by working men. But it is not those teams who decide that youngsters cannot play Rugby Union once they have played the 13-a-side game when they are over the age of 18. This is decided by the people at Twickenham, and these are the people with whom we shall have to deal. When the Sports Council is making decisions about the apportionment of funds to various sporting and local authorities, it should take into account this form of discrimination—which I refer to as apartheid. I insist that it is a form of apartheid against those who want to play both games.
Where I live, in the Fylde area, we have the Fylde Rugby Union League. That is the only game I watch when I am at home. Those fellows there are not against any chap joining them who has played Rugby League. It is the people at Twickenham who decide otherwise.
732 The Labour Party Parliamentary Sports Group took a decision this week to ask the Rugby Union to meet it as soon as possible to discuss the situation. I said that reference should be made to an article dealing with "The state of the Union". It is a long article so I will take it out of context. If anyone wishes to challenge part of it I hope that they will not hesitate to interrupt. It says:Today in Parliament the hon. Member for St. Helens is to ask the Minister for Sport what he thinks about 'sportsmen being ostracised' by a body that received Government aid. It is not the first time, mind you, that Mr. Howell has been asked to defend the indefensible. A couple of years ago…another northern Member asked him why the Sports Council 'were continuing to give money to the Rugby Union, a body that is not open to all the public'. He quoted the Council's grant aid application form which stated unequivocally that 'no application for membership will be refused'".I urge my hon. Friend to look at that. If the application form states that no application for membership will be refused, the Rugby Union is the villain against true sport.
I urge the Minister to take the responsibility of putting that right on behalf of the many thousands of Rugby League players and those who watch the game. I ask him particularly to act on behalf of those who play the amateur game.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
Does not the hon. Member consider that grant aid application should be evaluated solely by the Sports Council and that the Minister should not intervene?
§ Mr. Spriggs
The Government should make the grant to the Sports Council and allow it to decide where the money should go. That is the fairest way of dealing with the matter. However, political interference has been injected. I want Rugby Union and Rugby League to be unfettered. I do not want a body of people to be able to decide, upon evidence given to them, that a youngster over the age of 18 has played Rugby League and may be banned for life from playing Rugby Union. I am not against grants. But there is unfair discrimination between one set of sportsmen and another. I have evidence to prove that. Many of these sportsmen would like to be able to play either game whenever they are invited.
§ Mr. Spriggs
I am not discriminating. I am asking the House to negotiate a free gangway between Rugby Union and Rugby League for all amateur sportsmen. We could deal with the professionals later. The system that operates at present is discrimination of the worst kind. It is wrong for the Government to part with taxpayers' money until they are satisfied that the two games are played in a manner which will allow the free transfer, or free gangway, between the two games.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
I confess that I am not a great expert on Rugby Union, but I know absolutely nothing about Rugby League. I am happy to have those deficiencies repaired if anybody should invite me to watch the games.
The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) spoils a good case by using a word which has a particularly unhappy connotation. One of the great things about rugby is that there is no class or colour discrimination. I hope that that situation will continue.
I intend to speak about a different subject—the ancient sport of horse racing. I declare an interest. I advise the Bloodstock and Racehorse Industries Confederation which is a recently formed body. Mr. John Winter, the president, has recently talked to the Minister about the political problems associated with the racing industry. I am sad that it is necessary to use the word "industry" about a sport. Racing is a sport. It began as a sport. In these days of large investments, massive betting and international trade in bloodstock, it is easy to forget that racing is a sport.
There are so many different Ministers involved that it is right in this debate to ask the Minister to use his power as coordinator to draw some of the difficulties of the sport to the attention of his colleagues.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) mentioned the Racing Industry Liaison Council, which was created by the Jockey Club. The council seeks to represent all voices in the racing industry, but it is an advisory body staffed by an employee of Messrs. Wetherby and Sons and chaired by the Senior Steward of 734 the Jockey Club. Its procedures are cumbersome in the extreme.
I admire the way in which the Jockey Club has established British racing as a model for the rest of the world, over several centuries, and it is a model for honesty and probity. Although it is sometimes late in the day, the British racing industry is ahead of most other countries in its up-to-date scientific techniques.
I recently paid a visit to Newmarket, with colleagues. The cynics will smile at the thought of a parliamentary delegation to the 1,000 Guineas, but I can assure hon. Members that we worked hard and we saw many aspects of the industry. We saw the steps taken to ensure that horses do not run with the help of artificial stimulants. Large amounts of money are spent on equipment. Weapons are being devised to be used against those who would subvert the industry for financial ends.
The Levy Board is the statutory body that levies money from the bookmaking profession to be used as prize money. The breeders, owners, jockeys and trainers should get together under the umbrella of an organisation such as BRIC to deal with the political problems that unhappily assail this sport. That would be more satisfactory than the Jockey Club attempting to extend its influence into those areas. Members of the Jockey Club do not have the knowledge and expertise. They have been shown not to have that type of interest.
Although there are those who think that this is merely a struggle for power, I am afraid that the Minister may, by default, get the opportunity at some future date to impose upon the industry a more widespread, bureaucratic, Government-type set-up, which most people do not want. They do not want it because, inevitably, it will have the effect of reducing the power of the Jockey Club, the merits of which are recognised world-wide.
I turn to the difficult subject of taxation in the hope that the Minister will make representations to the Treasury about the problems which that Department can cause. I refer especially to the effect of value added tax on foreign owners and investors in the bloodstock industry. Our colleagues in Europe are 735 urging us to harmonise our taxation arrangements. There are 16 pages in the relevant schedule to the current Finance Bill with this objective in mind, and I shall be moving amendments during the Committee stage of that Bill in the hope of helping the bloodstock industry.
Of the three great racing countries—Ireland, Britain and France—the Irish have a zero rate of VAT on bloodstock. We have our full rate of 8 per cent. The French have a high rate, but they value the stock at a set level. It is a low level, originally calculated on the value of the horse for its carcase. That is the method that we should adopt. It need not be done by legislation; it can be done by the simple act of the Customs and Excise ordaining the value for VAT purposes. The Minister will say that that is cheating and that it is against the rules. The truth is that many millions of pounds are lost to this country because foreign owners go either to Ireland or to France where, incidentally, the prizes are much richer and rewards are far greater. Those in this industry are in a highly competitive international business, where the wealth of Americans and Japanese and Middle East money can and should be channelled into this country for employment, for investment and for racing.
It is harmonisation that I seek. Of course, there are other aspects of taxation. We have the problems of capital transfer tax and the enormous value of modern stallions. Last Thursday, we had the privilege of seeing four of the greatest race horses in the world standing at the National Stud. The stud is financed by Levy Board money. It was very encouraging to learn that some of our greatest horses will continue, at least for the present, to contribute to our bloodstock lines, which have been built up over many hundreds of years. The fear is that in the future similar horses will go abroad and we shall not be able to maintain the level of purity of our bloodstock lines that established this country as one of the great racing countries of the world.
I can talk about employment. I can talk about investment. The Minister knows full well the importance of maintaining this industry. Certainly his colleagues at the Treasury will know, because of the sum, in excess of£100 million, which goes into their coffers 736 annually as a result of betting duty. The industry contributes to the national purse, and it is time that the Treasury recognised that some part of that money has to go back into the industry. Seed corn has to be planted.
Although it is the duty of the Home Secretary to fix the levy—and statutorily he is required to consider only the views of the Bookmakers' Committee of the Levy Board—it is right that we should raise our voices and encourage the right hon. Gentleman, when the moment comes to recognise the need for a higher return. Half of 1 per cent. would be adequate. It would transform the prize money statistics and help enormously.
I know that the Royal Commission on Gambling—a Royal Commission is the usual device to delay decision—is currently considering all these difficult problems and that it probably will report within the next 12 months. But then, given a gap for parliamentary consideration and other matters, it may be several years before action can be taken on its report. The levy can be altered, however, and I think that the time for alteration will be upon us very soon. It can be altered to take effect a year hence and have an immediate beneficial effect on the industry.
I appreciate that, with the Home Office dealing with gambling matters, the Treasury dealing with duty and the right hon. Gentleman dealing with those aspects of horse racing which come under the category of sport, it is not always easy to know who should be approached. I suggest that there should be a sponsoring Ministry for horse racing. Many industries have sponsoring Ministeries and thereby a permanent connection with civil servants. This would be very helpful.
I turn to a completely different subject which is mentioned in the White Paper. I want to talk for a short time about boats and boating. I declare an interest, in that I advise the Boat Builders' Federation. Here, the Minister could help, especially over inland waterways. In his various capacities, this is a subject which falls entirely on his plate. He will know that, under the environmental precautions which all water authorities are considering, there will be fairly severe building regulations for boats used on inland waterways concerned with the disposal of waste, the location and size of 737 fuel tanks and other matters which may affect the external environment around a boat.
We seem to have a situation now in which there will be different sets of rules, depending on the areas in which boats operate. This is so clearly a stupidity that if the Minister took an interest in this matter he would take as his model the old Thames Conservancy rules. They could be brought up to date, and they would be a well understood model. Not only would the Minister do a great service to boat builders; he would help boat hirers, boat users and water authorities. Above all, he would cut down on bureaucracy and save many hours in Committee time setting up 20 different sets of rules where one would do.
The boat builders, too, are concerned about high-rate VAT. It has come down from the punitive level of 25 per cent. But it is still possible to carve up a boat trailer into three different rates of VAT—zero rate, low rate and high rate. The complexity is such that the bureaucracy cannot conceivably pay for the additional revenue which alone should justify taxation. Although again I say this to put it on the record, I hope that the Minister will realise the difficulties.
Finally, on boating, there is a matter that will be coming before him on the Home Office Working Party on Water Safety. This applies not only to all coastal regions but obviously it affects many different services. I hope that the Minister will appreciate that the mass of people who go boating do so to get away from regulations, committees and rules, and that any suggestion that boats should be registered or given numbers will be much distrusted by the hundreds and thousands of people who regularly go boating in anything from small dinghies to large ocean-racing cruisers.
When this matter comes before the Minister, I hope that he will remember that the essential virtue of boating is freedom. There are many people who think that these matters should not even be raised in this place. But, inevitably, with the complexity of modern government, it becomes more and more necessary for the machine to intervene in what started life as sheer enjoyment. Everybody appreciates the amount of Government money that has been made available to 738 help youngsters to go sailing and to learn sailing. A whole new area of sport has been opened up. It is a sport at which, happily, we in Britain are very good. Gold medals were won for sailing in the Olympics, as the House will recall. It is an excellent way of getting people out of cities and into the fresh air for exercise and pleasure in a thoroughly wholesome environment.
I conclude with a plea. It is not my habit to contribute regularly to debates on sport. They do not take place often, so perhaps that is one of the reasons. In my travels around the world, particularly in my recent visit to South Africa, I have found that those who wish to change their own countries—and there are many such people—feel totally isolated and cut off. If we cannot, through sport, extend a bridge to our friends in those countries—and there are many—who may be of other political persuasions, of which we do not approve, such as behind the Iron Curtain, how can we make physical and personal contact and establish an understanding with those people? They are not all bad. They may have leaders of whom we grossly disapprove and policies which we truly abhor, but I can recall that the breakthrough in American-Chinese relations came with "ping-pong diplomacy" as it was called. We all welcomed Chinese ping-pong players in Birmingham the other day.
We must try to take politics out of sport, because if people come to play a game together they may be able to establish personal relationships and ultimately, through those relationships, change that which is bad.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
I hope that the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks for a moment. My description in an edition of "Who's Who" lists me as an "all-round sportsman". Nowadays that refers to my figure and not to my playing, although. I maintain a lively interest in a wide variety of sports.
There are a number of items to which I wish to refer quickly. I realise that time is going on and that I must give others a chance to speak.
I wish to start by talking about bridge building—to which the hon. Member for 739 Weston-super-Mare and also my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) referred. I speak as a Rugby Union referee. I have this in common with my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who was also a referee. I understand that the hon. Gentleman who will reply to the debate for the Opposition, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), shares my love of Rugby Union.
In Wales Rugby Union is a way of life. I also have a great love for Rugby League and I am saddened by what is now happening. I can give some illustrations. One of the most outstanding wings of all time, who played for Salford before the war, was Alan Edwards. We were brought up in the same village and played rugby together. In 1937 he went to Salford, and we were then segregated and were not allowed to play together again. It happened that I met him again in the RAF. I was an air crew cadet and he was a physical training instructor. Hey presto!We could play rugby together. However, at the end of the war there was segregation again. This is sad and it ought to be tackled seriously.
I know that the hon. Member for Dumfries will argue with me that this is a matter for the international associations but I beg all the individual associations in this country to make a plea to the international board to get the matter put right.
I can give another good example. My wife and I are reasonably active members of Wrexham Sports Club. It is a multi-sports club where rugby, cricket, men's and women's hockey and squash are played. One of our active members was an eminent goalkeeper for Manchester United. David Gaskell. David can now come to Wrexham and play Rugby Union football—and he does so. He can also play cricket in our club, and he is not only a good player but a good social member. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare, who is now leaving the Chamber, mentioned bridge building, and I urge him to bring pressure to bear on his side of the House on this matter. If we want to bridge build and we object to apartheid—and that is a strong word, so let us talk about separatism—then let us try to bring people together.
740 When a man stops playing Rugby League in a professional capacity and moves from the area in which I and the hon. Member for St. Helens live, there can be no further contact. He is not allowed back in. Great service was done for rugby by David Watkins, the great outside half for Wales, who played both Rugby Union and Rugby League. Why can he not, if he wishes, go back and make a contribution to rugby elsewhere? There are no problems at grass roots level. I checked the feeling that exists between Rugby Union in Eccles and Swinton Rugby League Club in my constituency. They have a cordial relationship and no problems.
The problems seem to exist in the minds of the high and mighty administrators. I regret that, but it is true. I urge all people of good will to come together on this matter. The most damning indictment of all is that the amateur lad who wants to play Rugby League is forbidden to do so. That is tragic and it reflects great discredit on Rugby Union. They are both good games and both have a place in society. Nobody should be ostracised.
Another matter that I wish to raise is football hooliganism. My constituency is next to the Manchester United ground. Many hon. Members are worried because a minority group is being allowed to dominate the pleasure and enjoyment of the majority. Banning supporters from travelling to away games is an extreme step. I know that that step was taken reluctantly by the Government but I ask for the problem to be looked at again because it is one that could spread elsewhere.
An article in The Sun today said that at one time Mods and Rockers went to Brighton for a beat-up but that they now identified with a club. I should like to see firm action. The junior and senior attendance centres should be developed, voluntary services should be used to their maximum capacity and, if necessary, after persistent offences, suspended sentences should be given which should be implemented after any further misdemeanours.
During the last debate on sport and recreation my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath said:As for Manchester United's away matches, it is clear that the principal offenders seem 741 to have very little connection at all with Manchester….I pay tribute to the supporters, and particularly to their secretary Mr. David Smith, who has always co-operated fully with us and who has resented and regretted as bitterly as any one of us in the House the difficulties any supporters have landed the club into."—[Official Report, 6th April 1977; Vol. 929, c. 1320–1.]The Minister made it clear that we must watch carefully to ensure that we do not punish the mass for the misconduct of the minority.
I should like to refer to the rôle of clubs in the local community. In our last debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said:Hon. Members who have visited Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, and some Iron Curtain countries will testify that many of the great football clubs in those places do more than promote football. They encompass within their cities sporting organisations of a kind which engender a great deal of loyalty to that particular club. This should be looked at in this country."—[Official Report, 6th April 1977; Vol. 929, c. 1338.]We should maximise the use of club facilities and I should like to see more multi-purpose and multi-sports clubs. I referred earlier to the club at Wrexham. We have seen there a growth of rugby union and sport generally and we are all delighted that the local Soccer team is doing so well. I should like to see the fullest possible use made of sports club facilities, with the younger playing members setting standards of good behaviour on and off the field. Much good can come from that.
I should also like to see older players putting back into sport some of the pleasure that they have had from it. I got great pleasure from refereeing rugby matches before I came to the House and it is pleasant now on Sunday mornings and Saturday afternoons to see older players helping youth and colt teams and 50 or 60 young lads being coached in mini-rugby by retired players.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
The Sports Council in many regions is encouraging some of the star attractions from football clubs to go into deprived areas and they are doing an extremely useful job on the lines suggested by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I agree completely and I should like to see more of that sort of thing. It is good to see massive 742 young players who are full of energy kept under control by the discipline of older players.
I am concerned about the lack of facilities for anglers in various water board areas. I have had several complaints about privilege in fishing in the North-West, particularly in regard to the Stocks reservoir, that is used almost exclusively by the North-West Water Authority. This is wrong because angling is a sport that embraces all people.
The second complaint is that there is a grave shortage of 24-hour licences throughout the country for those who want the experience of fishing in different types of water. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at this problem because working-class people suffer most if such licences are not granted.
Horticultural societies and allotments do not receive much attention in the White Paper. I must declare a non-interest because my wife is the gardener in our family and I do not like being dragged into the garden. However, when she succeeds in getting me there to cut the lawn or to turn the odd sod, I feel better for it at the end of the day.
I should like to pay tribute to the Winton horticultural society in my constituency that celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. It holds three shows a year, and I have opened one of them in each of the last 14 years. It is tremendously rewarding to see the excellent work of its members in this economically-sound activity. I should like to see more encouragement given to horticultural societies and to people who run allotments. There is considerable demand for allotments nowadays.
The House would not expect me to sit down without referring to the disabled. I was pleased to see a reference to the disabled in the White Paper. I sat on the Snowdon Committee, though not on the sport and leisure side, and there is an admirable chapter in its report about sport and the disabled.
If we can encourage severely handicapped people to take part in sport, it demonstrates to the rest what can be achieved. There is a young man in my constituency called Mike Kenny who has won three gold medals for swimming in the paraplegics Alympic games. I told him to take great pride in what he had 743 done, but his greatest achievement was to set an example to other severely disabled people.
I should like to pay tribute to Sir Ludwig Guttman, who did his best to persuade severely handicapped people that they had a part to play in sport. His wonderful work at Stoke Mandeville has helped to release disabled people from their inward thoughts of oppression. He appeared in a film sponsored by Action Research for the Crippled Child and demonstrated what could be done. The clash of the wheelchairs in the basketball match made me shudder and I thought that perhaps the hon. Member for Dumfries had come round the blind side of a scrum and tackled me when I was not in control of the ball.
I have been asked by my right hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for the disabled to say how highly he regards the tremendous help that he has received in this field from my right hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport and he has asked me to pay tribute to him.
In paragraph 27 of the Snowdon Working Party's report the director of PHAB—Physically Handicapped Able Bodied—Mr. A. Seymour French is shown as saying:We haven't got it made when we open the door of the club. This is when the training begins, the learning begins, the overthrow of prejudice, fear and insecurity. This is why when I visit one of the 180 PHAB clubs I am very saddened to see a group of able-bodied people at one end of the room and a group of physically handicapped people at the other.That goes back to what I was saying earlier about integration.
There are two recommendations in the working party report that I should like to refer to specifically. The first says:The governing bodies of sport and recreation should find out from disabled people what their requirements are in terms of special equipment, coaching and adaptation to rules.The second says:The requirements of the disabled should be considered when sport and leisure facilities are being planned and designed.The constant plea to anyone who is providing new facilities must be to take into account the requirements of the disabled and the elderly.
Speaking as a Welshman who represents an English constituency, may I ask 744 that we should please stop this silly and sorry business of banning the Welsh national anthem at internationals between Wales and England? It has been the tradition to play the Welsh anthem, and I should not like to see this joyous occasion upset in any way by such a decision. This comes within the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend and I hope that he will consider it.
The final paragraph of the White Paper says:Where the community neglects its responsibilities for providing the individual with opportunities and choice in the provision of sports and recreational facilities, it will rarely escape the long-term consequences of this neglect. When life becomes meaningful for the individual then the whole community is enriched.My final plea is that we should have no more of this privilege. Let Rugby League and Rugby Union co-exist. Let the majority nor suffer because of the minority and let people with severe handicaps or impairments enjoy the full fruits of sport at all times.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although I do not know what time the Front Benches are proposing to speak, it has been mentioned that the House may sit after 10 p.m. I very much doubt that, but in any event may I point out that there are three hon. Members wishing to speak on this side of the House and two from the Labour Benches. It is now 8.20 p.m. and if we each stick to a self-imposed time limit of, say, 10 minutes, it will be 9.10 p.m. when the winding-up speeches begin. I suggest that that would be an admirable time to sum up the matter and conclude the debate. Up to now there have been very long speeches. I make no complaint, but this is an adjourned debate and a number of us asked the Government to continue it because we wanted to make contributions. We shall wish to keep those contributions brief. I hope that my suggestion will commend itself to my colleagues and to the House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
The Chair takes note of what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. However, it is entirely a matter that is in the House's own hands. The debate may continue until 12.05 a.m.
745 but no doubt the House will take note of the comments that have been made.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I regret that I caused the point to be made about the House being able to sit until after midnight.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am afraid that I cannot erase the remarks made in reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)
I shall do my best to comply with the wish to get through the business as quickly as possible.
I join in the plea of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) about angling. As an angler myself, I hope that the Government will look into the problem of 24-hour licences. I shall not follow the hon. Member into the realms of the merits of Rugby League and Rugby Union. I have played Rugby Union and I have watched the Rugby League Cup Final at Wembley, and have enjoyed it just as much as Rugby Union.
I associate myself with the plea by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) that there should be a sponsoring Ministry for the bloodstock industry. The industry could go to this Ministry to discuss technical matters, because I am sure that the Treasury is not really interested in the quality of racing and the seed corn of the industry. It takes the attitude that people back bad horses just as heavily as good horses. Throughout the racing world there have been some horrible horses which have attracted the same amount of betting. There should be people who are concerned with the quality of racing, and I do not think that we shall find them in the Treasury.
I want to talk about money and sport. There is a danger of falling between two stools here. Many people have called upon the Government to devote more money to sport, and disappointment has been expressed at the grant made to the Sports Council, because it has barely kept pace with inflation and is inadequate for the council to discharge its many duties The Minister knows where the disappointment has been expressed. One can understand the disappointment of those people who give so much of their time 746 voluntarily. A tremendous amount of voluntary effort goes into administration and into sport generally by people throughout the country. The figure has been quoted of 250,000 sporting and recreational clubs in this country, in which 5 million people take part. The number of voluntary workers giving more than five hours a week in assisting club activities is 500,000.
Those who are keen on sport, administer it and coach in it fully appreciate the need for voluntary efforts for the clubs to do all that is possible to help themselves without holding out begging bowls to the Government. One must also sympathise with the Sports Council when it claims thatat present British competitors in many Olympic sports are at a considerable disadvantage due to lack of funds and facilities".I quote from a document entitled "Amateurism and Olympic Sport" that has been sent to many hon. Members:The Sports Councils are of the opinion that substantial additional resources are required to provide our British competitors with a better chance of competing with success in international events leading up to the Olympic Games.There is always the point of view heard in this country that we should not concern ourselves with the Olympic Games and winning medals in any particular sport. It is claimed that this is the whim of those who see sport as a method of national glorification. I do not look at sport from that angle at all; I look at it from the simple point of view that people like to watch and participate in sporting events, and they also like to win. They like their teams to win and they like to see British competitors win in international competitions. When they see this it is invariably good for sport as a whole, because it excites interest, sustains enthusiasm and raises the quality of sport for all those who, like myself, never imagined that they would represent their country in any sporting event.
It is no good suggesting that we can compete at the highest possible level unless we recognise that more money is necessary to provide the coaching and technical facilities that are so badly needed. I do not see that this conflicts with the glorious traditions of the amateur, in which this country takes considerable pride. There will always be 747 those who want to take part in the game for its own sake and who are not concerned with winning.
We should start with the individual. I have a great deal of sympathy with the article in the Sun, in which a quotation was attributed to Tony Greig about the Australian cricket captain hoping to make a lot of money from various sponsorships during the Australian tour, just as Tony Greig made a lot of money on the recent visit to Australia. These people give a great deal of enjoyment in the exhibition of their talents, displayed in a short period of time, and their contribution is worthy of high payment if this is what the market can stand.
I do not believe that the money paid to our sportsmen has degraded either the sport or their contribution to that sport. By "degrading" I mean undermining the spirit of sportsmanship. On the contrary, I believe that by enabling them to give their talents to the sport it has helped to upgrade the whole quality of the sport itself.
There will always be those who feel that somehow it is not decent to make money out of sport. But if that is the choice that we are asked to make, there will be those who will argue that it is wrong for a person to make money out of sport for commercial reasons—to be paid by private sponsors—and that if the money is to be forthcoming it will come from the State.
I make no criticism of the fact that the Government have not been able to give the additional sums to the Sports Council that perhaps they would have liked to give. Sport must take its place in the queue, along with other forms of public expenditure. But I am bound to say that I would never urge the Government to get too involved in sport, either administratively or financially. I do not believe that the Government are very much geared to that. Administratively, if sport is centred on Government it becomes bureaucratic and wasteful, and if the Government are financially involved, it will make sport more of a political football than it need be.
I do not look to East Germany as an example of how we can raise the standards of sport in this country. That is 748 one way of doing it, but I do not believe that it is our democratic way.
A more efficient and free way, and a more flexible way, is to encourage, first, the simplification of our tax system, so that it is a fair system in its treatment of sport, and secondly, to provide help and assistance whereby it is more profitable for private commercial concerns, as sponsors, to bring new sources of additional money into sporting activities.
Here I obviously declare an interest, as a consultant to Dunlop and to Grove-wood Securities, which runs motor circuit developments, including Brands Hatch.
I mention the question of taxation because I have little doubt that those who give so much of their time in a voluntary capacity and those who are involved in the administration of sport resent very much what they believe to be an unfair system. For instance, in the document "Taxation and Sport", which is the report of the conference organised by the Central Council of Physical Recreation, held in London on 27th January 1977, it was pointed out by a Mr. Sparkes, of the British Olympic Association, that being enabled to raise sufficient funds from donations and from commerce and industry would help with the training and the administration of the Olympic teams in this country. The association had to run promotions to make up the difference, but of the money raised by promotions, 52 per cent. was paid to the Government in corporation tax.
I think that most people who gave of their money and who ran these things voluntarily would have been appalled and horrified to recognise that under our tax laws the Government took about 52 per cent. of the money raised in that way.
Similarly, I think that there are those who feel that the fact that it is difficult—in fact, impossible—for successful athletes to average their earnings over a period of years for taxation purposes is also an unfair impost, when athletes have such a short period in which to capitalise on their talents. That is another example.
Then there are the workings of corporation tax—I shall not go into those—and not only concerning the British Olympic Association. The Jockey Club also has views on the matter.
749 In addition, there is the question of VAT. I shall not go into that matter. Once one starts on the VAT argument one finds that all kinds of other groups come into it.
I prefer to concentrate on the other aspects of the defects in our taxation system, including, of course, the extent to which the Government might consider the liberalisation of the lottery system in Britain.
Side by side with that there is the whole question of the higher levels of taxation. It is wrong that so many of our successful atheletes—I know that they are not the only people who suffer—even if they average their earnings over a three-year period, find out that our levels of taxation are so high that they are driven out of the country. It is not that I do not think that they should pay their fair whack. I think that they are paying more than that. It is not just that I feel sorry that a man should have to leave his homeland. It is that by leaving he is losing the opportunities that he has, in his spare time to give of his talents voluntarily through the various coaching schemes that we have to help give example and inspiration to the younger people coming along.
Lastly, I return to the other aspect of money—the injection of new sources of cash. I wrote a note to the Minister responsible for sport wondering whether he would be good enough to comment on the question of sponsorship on television. He will be aware that the Annan Report pointed out the complexities of the British licensing system, which have led to nonsenses concerning advertising. Reference has been made in the debate to the fact that people from China have exhibited their table tennis skills on television, and that when their backs were turned to the cameras we all saw a backing that showed the name of a well-known insurance company—the Norwich Union Insurance Company. That was done on the BBC.
The Annan Report mentions the BBC as referringapprovingly to the removal of a commercial name from a shoulder flash worn by Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1975. That shoulder flash was not removed for the 1976 Wimbledon finals—perhaps the prospect of disturbing the equanimity of mind of a Wimbledon finalist was too daunting.750 We can all quote examples. There is no problem in television based on sponsor-ship, but I would not want to change our system fundamentally. But the AnnanCommittee suggests thatWhen the fourth channel—that is, according to its own recommendationis established, therefore, many of those who at present sponsor sports events, knowing they are to be shown on BBC and ITV, may instead decide to divert their money to sports events which can be shown on the fourth channel where the sponsor's contribution could be given more prominence.I ask the Minister, as the months roll by, to confer with his ministerial colleagues responsible for the preparation of the White Paper following the Annan Report, and also with advertisers, those who are skilled in marketing, in sports promotion and advertising provision, and those who have experience, in sporting organisations, of running sporting events which have been sponsored by well-known companies, and which, in addition, have been televised.
I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would consider bringing together people in all these different skills, to see whether we can hammer some sense out of the jungle of rules affecting the presentation and sponsoring of sporting events on both television channels. If the right hon. Gentleman tackled that job, shed the light of day on it, and established some ground rules, it could help to bring additional and much-valued sums from private sponsors into the British sporting world, with wonderful and desiable effects not only for those who wish to achieve the summit of athletic prowess but for those who expect, and for whom we would wish to provide, basic sporting facilities in our towns and big cities.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin), who spoke about horse racing and taxation, mentioned that he regarded sport as a great bridge builder, and indeed it is. He referred the the Chinese ping-pong team. We certainly want to take part in sport with any who wish to play against us. He said that he had been to South Africa, but he neglected to mention that apartheid rules there, that the problem of 751 sport in that country is the problem of apartheid, including apartheid in its international teams. Apartheid and sport have nothing in common. Sport is for all mankind and not for men and women of one particular colour.
When I was browsing through the White Paper, which is now getting on for two years old, it struck me that, in order to have a flowering of sport, we need a great deal more public expenditure—and this impinges to some extent on what the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) has said. Therefore, I think that hon. Members opposite and some of my hon. Friends have to think in such terms.
This White Paper is a long-term process. We debate it now and again. I have not taken part in a debate on it before, but, like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, I am a former teacher and spent much of my spare time voluntarily encouraging children to swim and engage in athletics. Sport does build bridges, no matter whether one is brilliant or otherwise at football or cricket. It is not a great leveller, but it brings together children of different talents with a team spirit who want to do their best and to win.
For several matters that he mentioned my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary relied on his career as a teacher for inspiration. Teachers try to raise the maximum sum to advance the cause of sport.
I make no apology for once again having to raise the ugly subject of vandalism and hooliganism. I have been literally mandated by a large number of my constituents to speak on this subject tonight. It is a terrible and intractable problem. It is almost as difficult of solution as the problem of Northern Ireland.
I am the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough. A week last Saturday a state of virtual siege occurred around the Sheffield Wednesday ground. It was deplorable. Before the match began, a large delegation of licensees and shopkeepers came to my surgery and gave me Press cuttings which they had collected two or three years earlier about some of the appalling events then. They hardly bear mention. Those people were worried about the semi-final which was to be played at Hillsborough. Nearly all the pubs in the centre of Sheffield were 752 closed. The night before, when travelling on a bus, I was in the midst of a large number of young Manchester United supporters some of whom had badges on their chest saying "I hate Leeds United". I had to be quiet, for if I had caught their eye I might have been in trouble.
It does not ease the problem for hon. Members to say 'Yes, but such people come not from Manchester but from elsewhere". The problem remains. We cannot fob the blame off on to others by saying that it is not our own people who cause all the trouble in a city. There is, however, some evidence that some people come from outside. We shall grapple with the problem only if we talk about it realistically instead of arguing that our own people are all good and other people are not so good.
We have a splendid football ground in Sheffield. As a boy I used to go to the cinema on a Saturday afternoon. We boys used to dash out of the cinema and rush into the Sheffield Wednesday ground for the last 10 minutes. Many of us cannot forget those days, for that was what gave us a lasting love of sport. In those days we did not have enough money to pay the entrance fee.
The fact that we in Sheffield have such a lovely ground means that we have many extra and important matches every year. I have attended some of them. There did not seem to be a great deal of trouble three years ago. All the difficulties seem to have occurred in the past two or three years. Tuesday's editorial in the Star said:Residents lose patience over soccer chaos. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the people of Hillsborough have finally got tough over the damage, inconvenience and violence created by soccer hooligans attending big matches at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.The editorial goes on to list some of the occurrences there. Seventy people were arrested at a recent match. Windows were kicked in. One Saturday morning hooligans offered money to local people for the loan of steps to enable them to get into the ground. People were urinating all over the place. Women became terrified and sent their children home. The pubs and the shops were closed, with a consequent loss of income. People asked me what they could do to secure compensation. Last Friday night a meeting took place at two days' notice. Four hundred people attended.
753 On the previous day I asked my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House during Business Questions whether we could have a debate precisely on soccer hooliganism and vandalism. I am embarrassed about raising it because so many hon. Members are doing so. There were two Questions on the subject this afternoon. But it has to be faced and we have to raise it, because many good human beings who love sport are staying away from the football grounds. They recognise that the police have a tough job to do. Indeed, a group of young men told me that the police had dragged them in when somebody else had caused the trouble, and these young men were seriously discussing whether they would go to the matches any more.
I am wary of people who apply simple solutions to this very big problem, who want bigger penalties, and who want to bring back the birch. I have received tens of letters asking for that. My reply to them is that if mankind could have been flogged into submission it would have been done many hundreds of years ago. People who would like to see what effect flogging would have ought to look at the television film "Roots". Flogging is not, I submit, any solution to the problem. It is a much deeper problem than that.
The problem springs from deep within the bowels of society. It is precisely because the delineation of the problem is so subtle and so terrible that we have to think very deeply in order to arrive at the kind of thorough going solution which has not been found so far.
Somebody once said that the high road to the solution of a problem is the posing of it. We are now only just about posing the problem confronting us. People are quite welcome to suggest bigger fines, flogging, and sending offenders here and there, but we should take very great care that we do not formulate hasty conclusions. We should realise that the debate on this problem is only just beginning.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
In general what the hon. Gentleman is saying is perfectly correct, but he has not come up with the solution to the problem. Surely he recognises that we have to drum into the Minister and the Government the fact that many of these offenders are antisocial. How do we deal with them? We 754 deal with them by sending them to youth clubs. If they will not go voluntarily, we have to send them every single weekend for a long period of time to a place where they will have to engage in various pursuits and will be unable to go to football matches.
§ Mr. Flannery
The hon. and learned Gentleman says that I have not or the Minister has not come up with a solution, but then he says, "Here is the solution" My point is that I am wary of adopting ready-made solutions which come forward as quickly as that, because we have as many solutions as the number of people we talk to. These solutions are usually put forward in the very next sentence, and many of them are monosyllabic. But the problem is much deeper than that.
I have discussed only one problem and there are many more, but I should like in conclusion to make three suggestions, one of which is of a local character.
First, the chief constable in our area said that he would like an inquiry into what happened at the Hillsborough ground. I gave a short statement to the local radio, saying that I agreed that there should be a local inquiry. The chief constable pointed out that in the particular match a lot of the tickets which had gone to Leeds United supporters had somehow found their way across the Pennines to Manchester United supporters. The police had made a prior arrangement in the football ground to keep the two lots of spectators separate from each other, but the police suddenly found that, because these tickets had gone to Manchester, the Manchester United supporters were in the midst of the Leeds United people. There was no terrible hooliganism in the ground. It was largely caused by people outside who were unable to get in.
Certainly this is a problem which demands an inquiry. Therefore, without suggesting any solution at all, I am saying that an inquiry at local level is necessary when something serious occurs. For that reason I supported the chief constable's suggestion, because I believe that it is a good idea.
Secondly, I asked my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House last Thursday afternoon for a major debate in the House on this subject. I know that it has been discussed within the framework 755 of debates of this nature, but the problem is now of such serious concern nationally—and, indeed, almost internationally—that it warrants a serious major debate in the House. There should be a debate on this terrible problem of vandalism and hooliganism. It should be carefully prepared so that we may address ourselves to the problem not in its isolated context but in relation to the general problem. People throughout the country would then see that we are very serious about it. They would see that we have not any ready-made solutions but are willing to listen to one another's honest convictions in trying to reach a real solution to the problem.
Thirdly, I suggest that the time has come to set up a long-term commission of inquiry into the general subject of soccer vandalism and hooliganism. We should not be diverted to the general subject of vandalism, important as it is. Soccer vandalism and hooliganism, although inter-related in many ways with the general problem, warrant a commission of inquiry being set up so that everyone can see that we are treating the matter with due seriousness.
I end on a difficult note. The suggestions which I have made are, I think, important because this problem will increase, not decrease. Therefore, although that might seem pessimistic, that note of seeming pessimism is helpful in the sense of generating the proposals which I have put forward as a partial solution.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)
I agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) about having a debate on vandalism, but that is a matter for the Home Secretary because it comes within the area of crime.
We are limited to the question of sports hooliganism. On that matter, of which I have made a study, two things need to be done as a matter of urgency. The first is to identify the persons who are engaged in the hooliganism. That requires all the people in Sheffield joining together and trying to identify the Sheffield hooligans. There should be a joint constabulary force, culled from forces throughout the country, to go round and identify the mobile hooligans. Those 756 hooligans should then be brought before the bench very quickly. The main objective is to keep them away from the danger place, which is the football stadium and the area for vandalism. Therefore, detention, particularly weekend detention, is required.
I have considered the question of the birch but have come to the conclusion that it is not the right solution. It would be the right solution if it could be administered quickly. Indeed, the cane could be used on the young ones by headmasters. The difficulty is that, when it is administered by the police, it is too late to have the immediate remedial and punitive effect which is required.
I did not intend to speak on that matter tonight, but I felt that I ought to make those remarks in reply to matters raised in a long speech by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs). The hon. Gentleman expressed great anxiety about the matter in relation to Sheffield and other parts of the country.
I want to make a short but, I hope, contstructive contribution on the horse racing industry. I should say that I am a broken down athlete by background. I was a county cricketer. I played rugger and engaged in about five different fields of sport at Cambridge until the war put paid to that.
I take a close interest in racing in all its aspects. My remit for the right to speak on that matter stems from the fact that I have acted for about 100 bookmakers, including large ones, in cases affecting them. I have advised the Racecourse Association Ltd but not for money and the Greyhound Racing Association Ltd many times, but on a retainer in the past. So I do not have any axe to grind. I am not paid by anyone. However, I have put forward many ideas, including a new taxation idea, to Lord Leverhulme at the Jockey Club, which I shall mention.
Many of my friends are owners and trainers. I love the life and I live with it. As I am denied all other outlets of sport, I think I can claim the right to speak fairly for the whole of the racing industry right across the spectrum. When I was on the Horserace Totalisator Bill a fellow Member serving on the Committee was the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden). The hon. Gentleman suddenly took a retainer with 757 the bookmakers, which rather upset me at the time.
I shall try to give the real picture of what happens in the racing industry. One of the doyens and critics sits beside me—namely the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud).
First, a quick reference to breeders. Nobody in the country—including a large conference that took place this morning when many of those engaged in the racing industry met together—seems to be aware of the fact that we have more breeders of racehorses than owners. There are 6,316 breeders but only 6,000 owners. There are 386 trainers. Unless we can double the amount that is received by the racing industry, we shall not be able to maintain this country's premier control.
Between 1966 and 1975 exports from the United Kingdom rose by 124 per cent. Then began the downturn. In the December sales of 1974, 25 top-price horses were bought by foreign owners. In 1975 half of the sales were accounted for by export undertakings.
My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) said that we should abolish VAT. I think that the matter is much better put in another way. The purchase of a yearling attracts 8 per cent. VAT in England but nothing in Ireland or in France. The purchase of a foal attracts 8 per cent. VAT in England but nothing in Ireland or France. The same applies to the purchase of a broodmare, the purchase of a share in a syndicated stallion, the purchase of a stallion nomination, the import of all horses from overseas and the transfer of a homebred yearling from stud to training. Those who are engaged in these activities are having to pay on every transfer. Those who are engaged in bloodstock are having to pay on every purchase and change that takes place. Those in Ireland pay nothing and those in France pay only on the imports of horses from overseas, and only on carcase value.
The people involved in bloodstock are being ruined. I am saying this as someone who has seen their involvement. I know many of the people concerned. Their businesses are closing. They are people who run farms. Most of them do very good farming in addition to looking after one or two horses. They 758 are the salt of the earth. They should not be put in a position in the EEC in which they are being grossly discriminated against both by Eire and France. The matter should be put to the Treasury in that way.
I was concerned with the introduction of the betting office to this country. The introduction came about as the result partly from my ideas and debates in which I participated. Those who have been in this place long enough will know that that is the position. They will know that I brought about their introduction, to a large extent. I said that they would get about£30 million at that time. The Government accepted that. In fact, the betting shops received over four times that figure. Clearly they have not given back to the industry a fair proportion of the take. I am not suggesting that the Treasury should not collect it. The Treasury takes the tax, which comes to over£110 million. The turnover is£1,400 million and now over£110 million goes in duty. Racing receives under£10 million. How is it to continue successfully with so small a take?
The fact is that if 1½per cent. of the 7½per cent. off-course tax that is taken were returned by the Treasury to the Levy Board, the necessary yield of about£20 million for the benefit of racing would be provided. It is not only a matter of increasing prize money; it is a matter of ensuring that the people in bloodstock are not unfairly discriminated against. Those involved in bloodstock are grossly underpaid. For example, a stable lad earns only about£25 a week. He does not get a wage such as that of anyone else in industry.
We all know that many people attend race meetings and certainly many millions view them and make bets off-course. All that activity involves returning sums of money, but it represents an appalling situation for owners. I had a talk this morning with an owner who is a member of the Jockey Club. I spoke to a very well-known trainer and asked him what he was charging owners to train racehorses. He said "I have put up the figure today to£50 each horse per week". His calculation meant that it would cost£3,000 a year to run a racehorse, including other racing costs, entry fees and so on. A total of 10,000 horses are needed 759 to sustain the industry, and it is an industry which gives immense pleasure to millions of people.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that the accent should be placed on prize money. Of course it should be increased, but I want to ensure that the money is obtained in one way or another and also that it goes to the right people. I want it to go to those who are engaged in running the industry—the trainers, stable lads, jockeys, those concerned with breeding and so on. This can be done by making the Treasury recognise that, although it has hit the jackpot, there is still money to be gained. But the Treasury must realise that part of the proceeds of off-course betting should go back where it came from—racing.
I moved a number of amendments to earlier legislation seeking to reduce the on-course differential. I suggested that the figure should go down to 2 per cent. Unfortunately, George Wigg at that time opposed my suggestion, and the figure was set at 4 per cent. rather than at 2 per cent. I believe that if the figure were put at 2 per cent. it would enable more people to attend meetings and others to take advantage of off-course facilities. Furthermore, it would enable the Tote to obtain revenue at the expense of the bookmaker. Unfortunately, if it continues on present lines, the Tote is bound to fail. It takes too much from the punter. It cannot operate against the bookmaker because 25 per cent. of the money is taken by the Tote on place money and 29 per cent. is gambled in jackpots and trebles. If that much money is taken from the punter, the Tote cannot make a fair return. Having regard to Tote prices, no punter in his right mind will bet on the Tote today in substantial terms.
If the administration is to be successful, it should be afforded 2 per cent. on- 760 course and should be given what is in effect a hidden subsidy. I know that I shall be unpopular with my bookmaker friends, but I believe that all those concerned with racing should get together and recognise that there should be a quid pro quo and mutual understanding.
I believe that it is necessary to have a new Horserace Betting Levy Board. Although I support the make-up of the present Jockey Club, it is true to say that almost a revolution has taken place. The Jockey Club is well-conducted, but I believe that a new board is essential, combining Racecourse Association, Jockey Club and Levy Board.
The race courses could be helped in a number of ways which I shall not go into tonight. No doubt I shall raise them in debates on the Finance Bill. A simple reduction of the on-course betting take handed over to the industry for the increased levy will do the trick.
There are 78,000 people in the betting industry and 22,000 people in the racing stables, making 100,000 people who are concerned in racing as a whole. Something has to be done to get an additional£20 million. There is the suggestion put by Charles St. George in the Gimcrack speech two years ago, which I took up with the Jockey Club, that there should be closed circuit television in betting shops at a charge of£1 per race. This would provide revenue in excess of£20 million.
The cost of introduction would be great, and there are parts of the country where it might not be possible to introduce it, because it is a relay system, but this could be done. It is practical. It has been considered by the Jockey Club, but it would involve legislation. The House would have to be willing to accept television in betting shops, and I do not know whether it would do so, but that is the way to make the industry totally viable, with new revenue which is self-produced. There are more than 12,000 betting shops and at£1 per race per day that would produce more than£20 million.
We ought to recognise that racing is one of the great recreations of the British public and one that we should do our best to try to help. Surely that help can be given if all hon. Members are willing to take a continuing interest in the industry.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
Having shared the doubtful pleasure of sitting through the whole of the last debate on sport and recreation, as did my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs), I am glad that this debate is taking place. I confess that I am rather disappointed that some hon. Members seem to have used the debate to repeat speeches that they made before and that did not seem to advance the course of the debate very much.
I wish to mention one area that has not been discussed much, although it was referred to by my hon. Friend the Minister at the beginning of the debate. I refer to recreation in the countryside, by which I mean recreation that is largely individual and not organised. At one time we would not have thought that that type of recreation would have a major impact on the countryside, but it has a large impact today. It is of great importance that this form of recreation should be stressed, because the numbers involved are probably greater than those involved in organised sport.
I speak from the experience of being on the Executive Committee of the National Trust, which is involved in the subject because of the facilities that it provides. I have also been a member of bodies such as the Youth Hostels Association, in which I used to be involved much more actively and which I helped to establish. Other hon. Members have been declaring their past activities, so I may as well join the happy throng.
It is of some interest that the Youth Hostels Association, which started almost entirely on the basis of providing acommodation for people who wanted to spend a night out in the country, which many could not otherwise have afforded, has greatly developed its educational side. Of the bodies concerned with recreation in the countryside, it is usually difficult to distinguish between those that are mainly concerned with recreation and those that are concerned with education. The words means much the same thing, anyway, if we examine them. We should not keep these things in separate compartments. We cannot look at the impact of recreational activities on the countryside in isolation. We have to reconcile the 762 recreational demand with a host of other uses. One of the most important things that we must do is to examine how much can be done by means of multiple use of areas. This is something that we argued about years ago, in the days of the 1970 conferences.
First, it is clear that we need an overall strategy for the use of our countryside. This was urged on the Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee dealing with the national parks and the countryside, on which I served. It is 30 years since the Scott and the Uthwatt Reports were published. There have been enormous changes in our way of life since then. Yet we still have not had a proper look at strategy. I know that at last, after a lot of chivvying by several of us who have presented reports and ideas, the Department has set up its internal and terribly secret Countryside Review Committee.
Why on earth it was regarded as being impossible to discuss this before the reports were published I cannot understand. The first report has been published and I welcome it. We understand that a number of others are to follow shortly. The Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council have published some valuable statements and comments dealing with the impact of modern agricultural methods upon other uses of the countryside. Above all, there is the reconciliation of agricultural use, which is naturally the main concern, with conservancy as a whole. There is also the question of the treatment of wildlife.
All of these reports make clear how dangerous it is to permit the continued erosion of our heritage of landscape. It is rapidly being eroded. It is all very well to say that nothing is static. No one wants to keep everything as it once was. On the other hand, we have to examine the wider impact of new techniques in agriculture. That sparks off criticisms and anxieties in areas such as Exmoor, where I am glad to see my right hon. Friend has established a personal inquiry. The conditions there are not peculiar to that area; there are similar cases. It seems amazing that the Ministry of Agriculture may be handing out subsidies to encourage the farming of marginal land while the Countryside Commission may be seeking to preserve some 763 of that land in its wild state for recreational and other amenity uses.
This brings me to the point referred to in the first report of the Countryside Review Committee. It makes a suggestion that is not particularly novel; I made it some years ago. It is that we ought to be monitoring what has been done under Section 11 of the Countryside Act to find out what action other Departments and statutory bodies are taking to protect the countryside. It is all very well to have the general provision that we wrote into the Act, but what use is being made of it? The first obvious answer is that if we are to have the multi-purpose use of our countryside we must ensure that there is effective management of it.
I am delighted that the Countryside Commission, among others, has been sponsoring some interesting experiments. I find it encouraging to examine the commission's last report, which sets out a list of the initiatives that it has taken in examining possible ways in which multiuse of the countryside can be extended. That should be supported and encouraged.
Why is greater use not made of the public acquisition of land? I cannot understand why the Secretary State does not give more support to the recommendation in the Sandford Committee Report that would give the national parks wider power compulsorily to acquire land in the last resort. That power should not be used ab initio but, if there is no agreement, the national parks should have the right of compulsory acquisition.
We should also take action to streamline the administrative machine. A mass of statutory bodies is concerned with this problem. That is ridiculous. I am not satisfied with the Department's reply to the Select Committee's Report. For example, water involves 10 regions. The National Water Council gathers them together. There is also the Water Space Amenity Commission and the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council. That seems to be an absurd situation.
I am glad that the Department has said that in a few year's time it will look again at the administrative position of the national parks. I wish that that could 764 be brought forward, because some major practical difficulties should be put right. Some counties—not the majority—appear to be denying powers to the national parks. Yorkshire is an example. In other areas it is possible for national parks committes to work under their own initiatives.
Several hon. Members have referred to the importance of voluntary action. Nowhere is voluntary action more involved than in the individual participation of recreation. An enormous amount of work is being done in national parks and other areas.
A new interest in footpaths is emerging. I should like to see greater powers put in the hands of the national parks authorities to control footpaths in their own areas.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
I accept the importance of footpaths. I hope that many will remain for the public to enjoy. However, does the hon. Gentleman not consider that some footpath organisations take too rigid a view of certain applications to realign a footpath or to close it and open it in another place? They seem to object on principle to any diversion of a footpath. That attitude is damaging to their cause.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
That might be the case, but there are purists in many organisations. Nowadays, with so many field boundaries being destroyed altogether by modern agriculture, the answer is not quite so easy as it might have been some time ago.
I still argue that on highways a much tougher line should be taken by the Ministry in insisting that major modern through roads should not go bang through our national park areas. I am delighted that the Department has made the decision that it has on the trans-Pennine issue in the Peak District. I welcome it very much. I still regret that my own party has some responsibility for the utter disaster in the Lake District, which I regret every time I go near that area.
I wrote to my right hon. Friend—and I have his reply—about a matter that concerns me very much. I refer to access to commons. I am old enough to remember that, way back in time, we had the Royal Commission on Common 765 Lands. It reported in 1958, and subsequently we got an Act for the registration of commons. But the Royal Commission recommended that there should be automatic access to common land, and I see no reason why we should not have that right of access even though the rate of declaration of registered accepted commons is, to my mind, far too slow.
These are possible areas in which we could expand the facilities for simple recreation considerably with very minor expenditure.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
I intend to follow the pastoral theme of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), and I should like to return for a moment to both racing and violence before talking about a subject that as yet has not been mentioned.
A number of points were made about the racing industry which ought to be cleared up with some authority. The hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith), I think in an effort to be helpful, said that if the quality of the horses were low people would still gamble in exactly the way in which they are gambling today. I have to tell the House from considerable experience both in and, more often, out of the saddle, trying to catch the horse after it had run away, that this is totally untrue.
The compulsive gambler—the person who goes into a betting shop and needs to have a bet—will admittedly go on investing his money, losing his money and occasionally winning some, whatever the quality of the horses. But the real income to racing which comes from the betting tax comes from the large punter, who knows something about each horse. He can gain that knowledge only if the quality of the horses is above a certain level.
The money that goes to the Exchequer is not just the 7½per cent.; as Lord Rothschild pointed out, it is nearer 40 per cent. A£500 bet with one bookmaker will be covered by the bookmaker with another of perhaps£300, with the remaining£200 being covered with another. It is this sort of volume of betting that accrues that sort of income, and it is only for that reason that the betting tax revenue is as high as it is. I should be very unhappy if the House felt that, no 766 matter how poor the quality of the horses, the income would remain the same.
I listened with care to the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies), though there is one matter about which I disagree with him. He made a plea, rightly for greater income. He said that it would be a good idea if betting shops had television sets and if each betting shop paid£1 a race.
The Gaming Board, a splendid institution, was set up to save compulsive gamblers from themselves. In Las Vegas, one thing that I always deplored was that coffee was not served where one wanted it. One would be told that the coffee shop was at the bottom of the lobby—past 52 roulette tables, to the right of 120 one-armed bandits and beyond 18 blackjack tables. When one reached the coffee shop, one found that the girl who appeared to be a waitress was in fact selling American-style bingo tickets—without which no waitress ever came to take one's order. I should hate it if a similar situation developed in this country, in that if one passed the betting shop and saw a television one was made to spend more money than one had intended or wanted to do. For those reasons I am opposed to the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion.
On the other hand, it is pointless to have betting shops closing at an arbitrary hour such as 6.30 pm, when there are evening meetings. Goodness knows, the amenities in the average betting shops are so desperately uncomfortable that one has to be a masochist to go there in any case. Nobody could be seduced by the comfort of a betting shop. In order to raise the levy, betting shops should be allowed to remain open until the last race—otherwise, why on earth have them?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
When the original Act was passed there were no evening races, so the hour was fixed at 6 o'clock by the Committee. If the words "after the last race" had been written into it I am sure that the Committee would have accepted that.
§ Mr. Freud
That is an interesting point, but it is not true, because at that time greyhound racing was taking place in the evening.
I should now like to refer briefly to soccer hooliganism. In his previous life 767 the Minister was a referee, whilst I, in my previous life, was a football correspondent, and I sometimes had occasion to criticise his decisions—as all good football correspondents criticise all referees.
There is a possible solution to the problem. A matter that has not yet been discussed is the simple fact that there is never any violence at East Grinstead, Tunbridge Wells, Weston-super-Mare or Bishops Stortford. That is because crowds beget violence and the way to get crowds at football matches is by being successful. The way to success is by investing heavily in players. There is no question but that banning supporters is a totally unacceptable way of dealing with hooliganism. There is only one way of dealing with it—by having proper crowd control and a sufficient number of permanent, and even temporary, police at matches.
There could be some tax on transfer fees, which, despite all freezes on pay, have escalated to a position of total lunacy, so that clubs are now paying£300,000 for quite indifferent players. It would be not so much a tax as a levy to the police. Clubs would be told that if they bought a player, 20 per cent. of the purchase price would go to the local police force, so that it would have sufficient money properly to police the people who might be seduced into coming to see that player. That would seem to be a reasonable solution. It must certainly be attractive to the Government, who do not wish to spend more of their limited funds. It would also be attractive to the police, who are looking for new ways of raising revenue.
§ Mr. Flannery
I deliberately neglected to mention in my speech the large number of suggestions that have been put to me for solving the problem of soccer hooliganism, including having matches starting at 10 o'clock in the morning instead of at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and having semi-final games played on a home-and-away basis instead of the present system. The hon. Gentleman has put forward his solution, but my speech was in a wider context. Would he support the setting up of an inquiry so that every suggested solution could be fully discussed?
§ Mr. Freud
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but it is simplistic to believe that we shall not get a solution until we have a major debate. When I was campaigning for election to Parliament, some people asked "If you get in, what will be your solution to Northern Ireland?". I replied that if I had a solution to the problems of Northern Ireland I would not wait until I got into Parliament to produce it. In the same way, anyone with a realistic solution would not wait until there was a major debate before producing it. We are all adult enough to be able to send a letter to the Minister asking why a certain proposal cannot be tried.
The equation is that expensive players bring crowds and crowds beget violence and a great deal of money. If some of that money were spent on extra policing, it would be a solution to the problem of violence.
One matter that is not raised often enough, but which I have experienced considerably recently in my constituency—and I am sure that other hon. Members have similar experiences—is the lack of eclecticism of so much of our expenditure on recreation. For example, a swimming pool was provided by the parent-teacher association for the benefit of pupils at a village school in my constituency and the headmaster has taken it upon himself not to allow anyone else to use that pool out of school hours.
Another example can be found in the city of Ely, which badly needs the sort of splendid sports centre that they have in St. Ives. An independent school in Ely is raising an appeal for a swimming pool that will be just big enough for the school. There is no doubt that the city needs that sort of facility and would have been prepared to join in a venture so that all the citizens could benefit from the new pool.
As expenditure becomes available, whether from county or district councils, the Jubilee Fund, or any other sources in these financially hard-pressed times, we should remember the community and stop thinking simply of the Women's Institute or the small group that might have had the good idea. Instructions should be given to planning authorities to make counter-suggestions 769 when they receive applications for permission to build swimming pools, gymnasia, squash courts and other sports facilities, so that one man's good idea can be implemented for the benefit of all. That is how the Minister's mind should be working, and it is that sort of proposal that should be included in his directives to local authorities.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)
I shall not detain the House long. The White Paper says that a study is being made of the possibility of developing centres of sporting excellence at universities and other colleges. I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister that there is such a centre of excellence in my constituency—the Dunfermline College of Physical Education for Women. However, I regret to have to tell him that the Government are threatening to eliminate it and to remove it to another college. In the background is the fact that the other college is half empty and in order to remove its problems, the Government are trying to destroy a centre of excellence elsewhere. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that they are encouraging centres of excellence as part of their sporting policy and then try to eliminate them as part of their educational policy.
This is one of the most outstanding colleges anywhere in Western Europe and should be regarded as a national asset and something to be preserved. In East European countries champions for Olympic events are taught in purpose-built colleges. Dunfermline is a purpose-built college. Dundee is not and it has no specialist facilities whatever. What is at stake is the destruction of an outstanding national asset. Page 18 of the White Paper says:The Government feel it is right to give special encouragement to sportsmen and sportswomen capable of performance at international level, and expect clubs and other bodies to give priority to international calls over local interests.This college happens to train a great number of the women who participate in national sporting events in Scotland. They also have ready access from Dunfermline to Meadowbanks stadium and swimming pool which were built for the Commonwealth Games, and to many 770 other superb facilities. If the opportunity to use these facilities is removed it will do irreparable harm to women's sport in Scotland.
Some hon. Members have spoken in this debate of the help given to disabled persons. The facilities at the college are used by disabled people from the city of Edinburgh. I do not see why they should be deprived of the long-established right of access to these facilities because of a planning error of the mid-60s when Ministers and officials planned a vast college at Dundee that it was never possible to fill. These people feel a sense of injustice. If the decision on the college goes against them and also retired people who use the facilities, this may become a matter for the Parliamentary Commissioner.
All this could have been avoided had the Minister taken the trouble to visit Dunfermline College. Not only have Government representatives not visited the college but not one of the inspectors in physical education employed by the Civil Service in Scotland has been consulted about the facilities or has been allowed to give any advice. The Minister has consistently refused these things despite the fact that the Government have been defeated twice on this matter—once in Scottish Grand Committee and once on the Floor of the House of Commons.
At the Labour Party Conference in Scotland a motion was passed condemning the Government policy. If the Government insist on pursuing this measure, notwithstanding their defeats, it will serve to convince many people that when a national college which draws its intake from every part of Scotland is threatened in this way the Government are discouraging women's sport in Scotland.
This matter is before the Equal Opportunities Commission because men physical education teachers in Glasgow are trained in superb facilities, and if Dunfermline College is removed the women will be trained in rotten facilities and it will mean that they are suffering discrimination. The Government will be treading on dangerous ground if they defy the decision of the House.
I urge the Minister to impress upon the Scottish Secretary that if he has any good intentions towards women's sport in Scotland he should leave this centre 771 of excellence where it is and encourage it to thrive.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) on the splendid case that he has put forward. If the Minister is not able to deal with this matter adequately tonight I hope that he will make strong representations to his right hon. Friend.
Right away I must declare an interest, in that, as a Member of Parliament, physically, I am still partially active. From time to time, parliamentary and constituency engagements permitting, I play squash, hockey and tennis, and I also swim. Therefore, I am very interested in the debate.
§ Mr. Caner-Jones rose—
§ Mr. Winterton
I am sorry that I was not present to listen to the hon. Gentleman's excellent contribution. I know that he made a splendid and very just case, which I hope will be heard.
I apologise to those hon. Members whose speeches I have not heard. Having participated in the earlier business, I was engaged in dealing with one or two matters that required my immediate attention.
Having declared a personal interest, as a Member of Parliament, I must say that this House pontificates too often on what should be provided elsewhere when it does not make any provision for its own Members. I do not know how many people work in this complex of the Houses of Parliament. The number must be about 2,500. There is—I believe you, Mr. Speaker, know more about the facilities of this grand Palace than I do—a small-bore shooting range somewhere in the guts of this place, and I understand that there is one small attic upstairs where people occasionally play bridge. Whether that is permitted within the precincts of this place, I do not know.
However, other than the few bars in which one's arms and elbows get a little exercise, those are the only sporting facilities provided by Parliament for about 2,500 people. That is disgraceful.
I am traditional in many ways, but I regret very much that some of my more 772 traditional friends so strongly opposed the new parliamentary building in every way. If it had been built, some provision could have been made for recreation and exercise for hon. Members. I remind the House that a healthy body very often leads to a healthy mind. If we had better facilities perhaps the quality of debate would also be a little better.
I want to take up a matter that was raised initially in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin)—the dual use of school premises. The idea is basically very good indeed. However, many of our schools do not lend themselves to being used very easily by outside bodies after school hours. I also intervened when this matter was raised, saying that when we are planning new schools in future—schools at every level—we might include all-weather playing areas, which could then be used by outside bodies without disadvantage to the young people attending the schools.
In saying that, I should like to go further and put forward the proposal that in the design of school buildings it should be made possible for people to enter the school changing rooms and shower facilities without going into the main body of the school. Therefore, teams could properly, constructively and responsibly use those facilities when they were playing games, particularly physical games such as rugby football and Association football in which, especially in wet weather, players get very dirty and inevitably need to shower and change. I repeat that it would be sensible, when designing school buildings, to ensure that the facilities for changing and showering were accessible to people from outside without going through the main body of the school.
One other point relating to schools is the unfortunate trend that I see developing, in which schools no longer ensure that all of their pupils undertake physical exercise at least once or twice a week. In education there seems to be a trend towards allowing young people to opt for community service or an allied activity, when most of the school is indulging in physical exercise. That is very bad indeed. I believe that all young people should necessarily undertake some form of physical exercise—if necessary, violent physical exercise—at least once a 773 week. When I say "violent exercise" I do not mean violent behaviour.
It is not my intention tonight to make any reference to soccer hooliganism. That matter has been dealt with adequately by previous speakers.
As for water sport and the use of our canals, I have had many representations from people who wish to use those facilities. Here we have a very valuable leisure-time facility that is being used by more and more people. However, I remind the Minister that unfortunately the fees being charged by the body that administers our inland waterways, particularly mooring fees, have been increased dramatically. Many people who have gone to the trouble and expense of buying a small motor cruiser, or of adapting a longboat, or whatever it might be, are finding it very difficult to meet the increased costs of partaking in these leisure-time activities.
In my constituency we have a number of problems relating to quarrying. Many of those who make application for silica sand quarries in my constituency say "When we have extracted all the silica sand, we shall turn the quarry into a marina and you can undertake water sports". We do not particularly want Congleton, the district where I live, to be totally surrounded by boating marinas, so that we have to go across causeways to get home. If such quarries are eventually to be used for water sports they need to be planned, and those plans need to be co-ordinated well in advance. If, in the application for planning permission, it is said that at the end of the work water sport facilities will be provided, firm assurances should be sought that that will be done.
Another important activity in my constituency is horse riding. It has become popular among all sections of the community in recent years. But there is a total lack of riding facilities in many areas. In the village of Poynton—a large village of about 10,000 inhabitants in the north of my constituency and bordering on Greater Manchester—there are, within a few miles' radius of the parish church of St. George, 9,000 people who ride horses and ponies. But their facilities are ridiculously limited, in spite of representations to the local authorities. There is a disused railway line, but in hoping 774 for the use of that land one comes up against British Rail, and there are considerable problems about the use of other suitable land as well. More thought should be given by the Government and by the local authorities to making space available to people who wish to indulge in this useful leisure activity.
Macclesfield itself is a substantial town, but it has totally inadequate facilities for sport. We have a very old swimming pool, which is of the Victorian era. We have a number of inadequate playing fields. I appreciate that this is very much the responsibility of the borough council, but in recent times severe pressure has been put upon the finances of local authorities, and bias has been shown against Conservative shire areas. Cheshire has suffered along with the rest. Although it has not suffered as much perhaps as Wiltshire or Cumbria, it has suffered severely.
The problem is growing. Macclesfield has taken a considerable amount of overspill from Greater Manchester, yet we have totally inadequate facilities. The borough council is endeavouring to give generous provision and is hoping to build a new leisure and sports centre. I trust that when this matter comes before the Minister responsible for sport he will give it sympathetic consideration.
In talking about what goes on in my locality, perhaps I can feed an idea to the Minister. In the village of Bollington, just outside Macclesfield, the local people, under the guidance of a local doctor with great drive and enthusiasm and other dedicated local people, formed a committee to build a swimming pool. They have raised a large amount of money. The pool will be for all the people—it is not just an effort by a parent-teacher association to build one for a school. The whole community will benefit.
This project has been able to get off the ground for one reason—the job creation scheme has helped. While the pool is being built by a private contractor, all the unskilled labour is being paid for by the job creation scheme. Perhaps extending the job creation scheme would be a method by which many more sporting facilities could be provided in areas where such facilities do not now exist.
775 I have spoken a minute or two longer than I had intended, but this is an important debate. Surprisingly, I find myself respecting what was said by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). On virtually every occasion, I disagree strongly with his whole outlook on life and everything he says, but 776 on this occasion he made some very good points, which I know that the Minister has taken on board. I hope that what has been said by all hon. Members who have taken part in the debate will be seriously considered by the Minister. I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, that I caught your eye and was able to make this brief contribution.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
If my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) keeps jogging on, he may be surprised at what will appear in this building before the end of the summer. I hope that he will set an example in Parliament in the use of the facilities which are then available.
It is a long time since the Under-Secretary spoke to us in the debate. I was in agreement with almost the whole of his speech, particularly the very interesting points he made about the environment. I am glad that we are having this chance of a further debate, because the last debate was very disappointing. It was truncated for reasons that had nothing to do with sport. I accept that the Minister of State had to make his important statement about hooliganism. That diverted the House from the White Paper that we had been waiting for a long time to discuss. Many people connected with sport and recreation outside the House were disappointed that some of the points that they had discussed in regional councils could not be dealt with in that debate.
I am sure that the Minister of State will want to take up some of the points raised in both parts of the debate and to which his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary did not have a chance to reply. He will want to say, and all of us will want to hear, something rather more profound about the question of resources.
All of us can think of many projects that have been mentioned in White Papers and that are worthy of being followed up. However, a project cannot be carried through to completion without resources. All Governments spend huge sums. Some Governments spend more than others. The question of how much of the national cake is to be devoted to one project is a matter of priorities. I am firmly of the view that sport and recreation are being starved. They have been hit more than most aspects of life by inflation. The increase in the Sports Council annual grant has not enabled the Council to develop sport as it would wish.
There has been no hint of remorse from the Minister about the fact that, if we had not had a Chancellor who has mismanaged 778 the economy for the past two years, resources might have been easier to come by for the Sports Council, local authorities and bodies concerned with sponsorship.
Contrary to what the Government had hoped, the Royal Commission on Gambling has failed to provide an interim solution. In March of last year the then Prime Minister—the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson)—wrote to the Chairman of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, that very able lady Mrs. Glen Haig, about her request to the Government that more resources be devoted to sport. The right hon. Gentleman said this:We have asked the Royal Commission on Gambling to submit an interim report on the possibility of a levy on the football clubs, and also upon any other aspects of financing of sport out of gambling revenues which they consider could be dealt with at speed and separately from the main body of their enquiry.When the Royal Commission published its interim report last winter, it was unable to help. Have the Government any views on what might turn up trumps to fill that void?
The Minister, at the end of his remarks on the last occasion, indicated that I said that the Conservative Party might tinker with the machinery of the sports council and the regional councils for sport and recreation. That is not what I said at all. I said that we did not want to tinker with the regional councils which had been set up and that it was not our wish to see any chopping and changing but that we reserved the right to look at the composition and number of members of the councils, not the structure, which should be allowed to run for as long as possible.
I should like, yet again, to add my tribute to the work of the Sports Council and to Sir Robin Brook and his permanent staff who do a tremendous job for sport in Britain today.
We heard some very interesting comments by many hon. Members, but particularly the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), about the Countryside Commission. We have had the opportunity of reading the interesting 1975–76 report. The only point that I would put to the Minister—not in criticism, but purely for information—is that the report refers to the setting up of the regional 779 councils and the servicing of them in part by the Countryside Commission. There have been difficulties about who were and who were not civil servants and whether the Countryside Commission would set up separate offices in different regions. I believe that it is likely to do that. However, an indication by the Minister about staffing would be helpful. Obviously, if the regional councils are to be successful, we must have a good permanent staff to service them.
I am glad that we had the opportunity of at least mentioning the importance of angling, caravaning and the many other country pursuits which are so important in our attitude to sport when it is genuinely sport for all, not just for the top-class competitor.
Again, as reported in column 1361 the Minister referred to the Opposition's attitude to VAT. The Conservative Party believes in a flat rate 10 per cent. Naturally, the 8½per cent. would go up to 10 per cent. and the 12½per cent. would come down to 10 per cent. if we were in Government. I have not yet noted any apology by the right hon. Gentleman for his involvement in the 25 per cent. VAT on boats which did such drastic harm to that area of sport whilst it was in force. It is important to put on record that we firmly believe that the£5,000 limit for VAT should be increased to£10,000 in an effort to help many small sports clubs and businesses.
I endorse the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super, Mare (Mr. Wiggin) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) regarding VAT on bloodstock. This is a clear-cut issue. I desperately hope that the right hon. Gentleman will advise his colleagues in the Treasury to look at this matter most sympathetically during the course of proceedings on the Finance Bill, because it could go a long way to help racing without enormous cost to the Treasury.
We have not heard anything from the right hon. Gentleman about rates. In paragraph 32 of the White Paper a general view is expressed, but the right hon. Gentleman has not said whether he will urge local authorities to take a much firmer line towards mandatory derating of sports facilities. I know that we want to give the local authorities the maximum 780 powers, but here is something that has dragged on and on. When facilities are made available to all and sundry in a community, the local authority should give as much help as possible by means of rate relief. It may not be able to give 100 per cent. relief but at least it can give something. Even 50 per cent. would be a tremendous help.
The right hon. Gentleman would help sport if he gave a firm indication of his views on this issue. In Ireland there is a mandatory 36 per cent. If it is mandatory in Ireland, I do not see why we should not move towards something of the sort in England, Wales and Scotland.
I know that it is not the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility, but on an earlier occasion I raised some issues relating to Ireland and I have not received a letter of reply. I notice that there is no one on the Government Front Bench from the Northern Ireland Office. I appreciate that Northern Ireland Ministers are particularly busy dealing with most important matters elsewhere.
I do not know how this happened, but Donald Shearer became Donald Saunders in Hansard. However, we all know about the important work that Donald Shearer does for the Sports Council in Northern Ireland. I asked three specific questions and I have not received an answer. I do not expect my questions to be answered tonight but perhaps they will be taken up by someone in the Northern Ireland Office. They related to the postponement or even abandonment of foul sports centres in Northern Ireland at a time when all of us will surely agree that it is a part of the country that deserves the maximum help possible.
I asked, too, about the£30,000 grant limit for the five-year period. Why did that relate specifically to Northern Ireland, especially to the youth programme? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say more about the youth programme in England. Does it exist? Has it been given the importance that it undoubtedly merits by the Department of Education and Science? We know of the involvement of the Home Office and the Department of the Environment, but there seems to be a lack of clear policy for youth. There is no need for us to emphasise the value to the community of facilities for youth. We have talked about hooliganism and vandalism and we could well 781 see a decline in the outbreaks of such behaviour if there were adequate facilities for youth.
I wonder whether the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science is putting enough thought into the youth service. We should like to see some positive action as soon as possible. We must make a more positive effort to accelerate the joint use of sports facilities. We cannot invoke legislation, but a powerful and urgent circular would bring home the views of the House. I know that there are many authorities that have done extremely well, but that comment does not apply to them all. The greater the joint use of sports facilities, the better.
I endorse the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) about the great tragedy that it would be for Scotland if we lost Dunfermline College, which is such a wonderful centre of excellence for women's physical education and games and sports of all kinds. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not know whether the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science is to produce a policy document on the youth service, but it would be a tremendous advantage if she did so and had another meeting with the CCPR. The last meeting was not very productive of new ideas.
I wish to mention another point which was highlighted in the debate on 6th April, in column 1318, relating to the importance of action-research experiments in leisure activities. I look forward to reports on that count in the near future. The Minister gave the impression that the Labour Government had set up this scheme. But because I had personal experience of this activity, I know that it was set up in 1973, and I remember the, arguments about which of the four towns should be chosen.
We have heard some interesting and informative comments on racing, particularly from my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Thanet, West. I have already dealt with the subject of VAT related to the important subject of bloodstock and of harmonisation with the EEC. I was most impressed with the recent developments in the Jockey Club and with the co-operation which has been received from the Horse-race Betting Levy Board, as well as with 782 the advances in technical services in terms of the new laboratory. Generally one can feel that there is great enthusiasm to improve the efficiency and presentation of racing in Great Britain. There are also the advantages of RILC and the important work carried out by BRIC which highlighted the problems of racing and stimulated a great deal of argument. That, in turn, brought forward a number of positive suggestions.
I should like to know what the Minister thinks about the structure of racing. In the debate in the House of Lords, the Minister in the other place appeared to think that there were ideas for a newly constituted Horseracing Board. However, I should like to leave well alone until we are convinced that an alternative would be preferable. We must seriously examine the financial implications for the industry. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Thanet, West mentioned the bookmakers and the effect in terms of taxation.
I believe that the only way in which we can see an early injection of funds, possibly within the next year or so, is via the Horserace Betting Levy Board. I understand that discussions to increase the levy are taking place, and this matter must be brought to fruition as soon as possible. We must not wait indefinitely until the Royal Commission reports.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) underlined a number of important points concerning unfair competition with other countries, and these matters are most important for the racing industry. Mention has been made of the excellent conference today chaired by Sir Alexander Glen—a conference attended by a large number of racing and tourist interests.
Many excellent racecourses are unused for a large part of the year, but it has been found difficult to obtain planning permission from local authorities for the use of those courses for caravan sites when unused for race meetings. Racecourses could be used in a constructive way for such services because they contain washing facilities and all the rest of it. However, some local authorities appear to be a little sticky about granting planning permission for the use of such sites by caravans.
783 I wish briefly to deal with the subject of hooliganism, which rightly has had a large part to play in this debate. Many hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), feel very strongly about this subject. There is a case for more discussion of the problem. Those discussions will have to be held in conjunction with Home Office Ministers who have a great responsibilty on this score.
The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) underlined the fact that there appears to be better behaviour at Rugby Union international fixtures, which attract huge crowds. It must be remembered that those fixtures are all-ticket concerns. Obviously it is more difficult for the hooligan type to obtain a ticket. To do so he needs initiative and a good deal of money. The right hon. Gentleman's insistence on making difficult soccer matches all-ticket games will go a long way towards keeping out the undesirable people who ruin a good game of football and cause immense annoyance to the great majority of people.
I have watched with interest the progress of the Criminal Law Bill and I welcome the increased powers contained in it. Like the Minister, I know that we already have strong powers. I know that I should not say anything about what the magistrates do, but I wish they would use to the full the powers that they have already. That would go a long way to showing people that we really mean business.
Hooligans should not expect to come out of court with only a£5 fine each time after causing endless damage and inconvenience and causing great annoyance to our long-suffering policemen. The application of existing powers is as important as bringing in new ones.
The extension of the idea of all-ticket games will make it more difficult for the hooligans to get into the ground. I do not want to go into the subject of hooliganism in depth because I am sure that the Minister will speak about it. He has the advice of committees, and I am sure that he will put into practice anything that they recommend that is feasible and practical.
I was glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland stayed with us this 784 evening. The hon. Gentleman has written me a letter dated 4th May stating that the position with regard to Hampden is not much changed since he replied on 23rd March. In fact there has been a dramatic change in the composition of the Glasgow City Council. Perhaps we shall have a different attitude on the committee concerned. The facts are there. I know that in the long run it is a question of money, but let us get on with the decision and planning so that when the resources are available we can start modifying Hampden Park as soon as possible. It is no good waiting until we have the money, because the planning will take another three years. Let us get on with it under new management.
I feel duty bound to ask the Minister to say something to the hon. Member for St. Helens and the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). I declare my interest as one who is involved and interested in rugby football. The two hon. Gentlemen must accept that there are two points of view on this issue. It is far better to discuss it in a reasonable frame of mind than to make rather outrageous comments and to use words that are alien to our discussions. It was most unfortunate of the hon. Member for St. Helens to talk about apartheid, which has nothing to do with the subject.
§ Mr. Spriggs
Is the hon Gentleman aware that the 1895 International Secretariat has written to the Rugby Union people at Twickenham several times without even getting an acknowledgment of the correspondence?
§ Mr. Monro
The hon. Gentleman will remember that it was the Rugby League people who withdrew from the Rugby Union in the first place. The House will accept that it is most important to those who play Rugby Union, an intensely amateur game, that they should be able to control their game in what they think are its best interests. There is great difficulty 785 in finding a satisfactory road between the two codes. The hon. Member for Eccles, perfectly fairly, said that youngsters can play Rugby League up to the age of 18. After 18 it is possible to apply to play Rugby Union provided payment is not received for playing Rugby League. It is no use expecting people to go backwards and forwards from one code to the other, because that is not acceptable.
The hon. Member for Eccles was right to say that this is an International Board regulation and not something entirely for the Rugby Football Union. There is no doubt that rugby football is doing well. It would be better to leave it alone and to discuss these matters in a reasonable way. I know that there have been discussions between members of the Rugby Union and the Rugby League—
§ Mr. Monro
Last year. I see no reason why these should not continue, although, frankly, when a game is played in strictly amateur terms it is difficult to become involved with another game that has a different attitude to payment. There can be discussions, but there must not be an expectation of rapid improvement or change. The codes are miles apart. I think it should be left that way.
I hope that the Minister will think about the money which is taken out of sport in taxation and which is not returned. This is something that worries sportsmen. I trust that he will bear in mind the importance of sport in relation to our social problems, particularly vandalism. We have talked about joint provision and physical education and rightly mentioned the disabled. I am glad that the hon. Member for Eccles spoke so strongly about what is being done to integrate sport involving the disabled.
We cannot tonight delve into every sport and recreation. What we ask is: does the country understand the value of sport and recreation, not in competitive terms but, in the phrase of the Sports Council, in terms of "Sport for all"? I am sure that the country has not taken on board that this is an important part of our everyday life on which we should not be afraid to spend reasonable sums of money. There are enormous opportunities and everyone involved is trying to take advantage of them. It is up to us and the 786 Government to co-ordinate all these efforts so that the nation obtains the maximum benefit.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)
During the last debate on this subject the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) said:I believe in the concept of the existing sports councils. The Minister should stand back, set the climate for sport and fight battles within Government."—[Official Report, 6th April 1977; Vol. 929, c. 1331.]As the debate has progressed, I have been keeping a count. A total of 56 separate subjects has been raised. If I were to deal with them all, we should certainly not end the debate before five minutes past midnight and I should probably need extra time. I shall deal with as many subjects as I can.
The debate has certainly proved the importance of the subject and the importance that the House attaches to it. It has justified the demand for a second helping of parliamentary time. I hope that we can arrange to debate these matters at least annually—if not more often—not least because I should like the Opposition to explain their inconsistencies and contradictions. They have been at it again tonight.
Throughout the evening we have had a constant demand for money to be spent, particularly from the Opposition Front Bench. We have even been promised some for Glasgow. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was beside himself with joy that because of the result of the polls money would be made available for the development of Hampden Park.
§ Mr. Howell
We shall have a change of attitude but not a change of policy. We shall not have the money that is needed. I should like to see the Hampden project going ahead but, in local government terms, the cost is astronomic.
Demands for more money have come from all parts of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) also said that 787 everyone was asking for more money to be spent. The Opposition continually urge us to spend less and criticise the Government for the level of public expenditure. That is one of the great contradictions.
The second contradiction was the argument that we are taking too much money out of sport and that sportsmen are up in arms about it. We were also told that if the Conservatives get back in power they will increase to 10 per cent the VAT on sports goods. The main criticism of sporting bodies is the Government's current taxation policy.
§ Mr. Howell
I do not know what will happen on Monday. I am more interested in what is happening tonight. I am sorry that now the polls have closed people will probably be elected who will spend even less money on sport and recreation than has been spent in the past. I hope that that proves to be incorrect.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) wants a gymnasium in the House of Commons. I support that idea. When we examine the stresses and strains on right hon. and hon. Members, and in particular the recent unfortunate occurrences and the by-elections which have ensued, it becomes clear that the House should give a lead on the health of the nation. However, that is a matter for the Services Committee, which is extremely sympathetic. We have talked to the people who we think should run a gymnasium. We have found a modest, small place where a gymnasium could be housed. I hope that when the matter comes before the House those who have taken part in this debate will give a lead and ensure that our colleagues support us. There will be a free vote on the matter.
I turn to the staffing of regional sports councils. The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) thought that there were too many local authority representatives on the councils. That is inevitable because the local authorities provide some of the money. About£330 million is provided by local government, of which the Government pay about 60 per cent. Because of the provision of money and resources and the planning 788 function, local authorities must play a central role in the regional councils. The regional councils have succeeded, for the first time, not only in bringing local authorities together but in adding to them the voices of those concerned with sports and other allied interests.
When the local authorities come to do their strategic planning and their specific planning and when they come to provide their services, they will have the advice of sport and recreation available to them and they will also have sport and recreation as a pressure group. That is the concept. It has been working well in the past 10 years for sport, and I am confident from what I have seen up and down the country that it will work very well for sport and recreation as a whole. There is tremendous good will, and I am glad to say that it goes beyond parties in the regions and the local authorities.
It was for that reason that I was anxious to get the Countryside Commission to have sufficient staff, so that it could play its full part. We were able to authorise it to make appointments in every region in the country. I should like to go even further, because some of these regional staff will not be housed in their regions. I think that that is daft, but that is their choice. I know that it is difficult for them, and I do not criticise them because of it. Nevertheless, it would make more sense if we could move in that direction.
The hon. Member for Dumfries and others asked about the youth service. I have strong views about it, but I am afraid that I am not responsible for it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not mind my saying that, when I was responsible for it, between 1964 and 1969, I produced a document called "Youth and Community Work in the 1970s", in which we outlined a great deal of the Government's thinking about taking the youth service into the communities and out of its rather more structured situation and out of the former youth clubs. We predicted well ahead of our time that, unless we got the service into the communities, all these problems of vandalism and so on would get worse.
I agree profoundly with my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough that our problems of vandalism and hooliganism are very deep-seated and represent a phenomenon in our society to which none of us knows the answers or even the 789 reasons. We do not know the questions, never mind the answers to the questions. But I am sure that, unless we get out into the communities and find the causes of these frictions and the way in which these troubles manifest themselves, especially in our inner cities and areas of deprivation, the problem will grow.
I do not think that a national inquiry is the answer. If I thought that it was, I should be more than willing to agree to one. To date, we have had all sorts of inquiries. But again I thought that it was a very unfortunate step when the present Leader of the Opposition closed down the Youth Council when she became Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1970. I remind the House that it has now been re-established by the present Secretary of State.
How it was thought possible to have a youth and community policy without bringing the voluntary organisations together in the Youth Council, I do not know. Closing it down was a very unfortunate step. I think that I know how it happend, since I used to be a Minister in that Department. It was never very popular, and I think that the right hon. Lady, as a new and incoming Minister, was bounced into closing it down. It was very unfortunate, and I am glad that at long last it has been reopened.
I come next to the Sports Aid Foundation and centres of excellence. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) referred to Dunfermline College. That may be an excellent college, but it is not a centre of excellence in the terms of my White Paper. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has asked me to say that he will write to the hon. Gentleman replying to each of his detailed points. Obviously, for good or ill, I am not responsible for Scottish affairs and certainly not for Scottish educational affairs, but I accept that the hon. Gentleman raised an important point.
I am glad to say that the centres of excellence show every sign of going well. As I said on the last occasion that we debated these matters, the universities and colleges have responded in a remarkable manner and are willing to establish centres of excellence where gifted sportsmen and women can go. In such centres 790 not only will the sportsmen and women have top-class training from national coaches, approved by the national bodies governing their particular sports, but there will be somebody responsible for their job training, careers and accommodation, if necessary. That is the distinctive British answer—the answer that we must give to the Eastern European system of training and to the rather bogus American university scholarships.
The first seven of these training schemes got off the ground at Leeds at the beginning of January. I was in Portsmouth last week to talk to the Southern Regional Council for Sport and Recreation and heard encouraging reports of the number of sports for which it hopes to start such schemes soon. Proposals are also coming forward from the West Midlands, Lancashire and the Eastern Region. We are starting from cold here with something quite new, but I shall be surprised if there are not 25 to 30 such centres in existence by next year. However, there is still a long way to go.
The Sports Aid Foundation has done excellent work already, starting from scratch. In its first year it has raised£60,000 to£70,000 and we wish it well—particularly its chairman Mr. Paul Zetter, who has given the organisation a tremendous amount of his time and enthusiasm. I am sure that we are all grateful.
There has been some controversy lately, especially since the publication of a document by the Sports Council, about the timing of which I am a little critical. It might have been put out as a Green Paper rather than a White Paper because we could then have produced a White Paper later. There is no doubt that the Sports Council was grasping the nettle as a result of its discussions with the governing bodies of every sport represented at Montreal about the problems that were faced there. The Sports Council has said that there is no question but that more resources must be made available for training. Some people find that anathema, but I do not.
I agree with the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) that no higher honour can be accorded any sportsman than for him to be asked to represent his country. However, not giving him resources to train and to back him up 791 means that we are sending him into international competitions ill-equipped, ill-prepared and facing financial and psychological difficulties. We have not the right as a nation to ask people to represent this country in sport and yet to impose such conditions upon them. There is an obligation upon us to remove the deprivation from which so many of our sportsmen suffer.
It is not only important for nationalistic reasons. I agree with the hon. Member for East Grinstead that when we do well in sport the whole nation feels better because of it. When Wilkie wins a gold medal, when Ann Jones wins Wimbledon or when we win the World Cup, we all feel better. As the hon. Member for East Grinstead rightly said, the important thing is the inspirational effect. Thousands of people may take up a sport and obtain a new interest because someone has done well. To see that in practice, look at what happened when John Curry won a gold medal. The tragedy was that we could not produce the ice rinks that were needed overnight and the upsurge of interest has died away because of the lack of facilities. The two things are closely linked.
Some interesting remarks have been made about education and recreation. A particularly interesting contribution was made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) who even went so far as to say—and I agree—that recreation and education are one and the same thing. They are both about recreation. That is the proper terminology.
I do not wish to spend too much time speaking about the lack of facilities, except to say that I am glad that the matter was raised by so many hon. Members—they were absolutely right to do so. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) referred to a headmaster who would not let people from outside his school use the school swimming pool. The headmaster did not provide that facility, so he should not be allowed to take the decision to deprive the community of the use of it. I agree with the hon. Member for Macclesfield that we need more all-weather facilities. A school playing field cannot be used all year round, but an all-weather area with floodlighting would enable it to stay open.
792 The campaign run by The Sunday Times has been mentioned, and, although I do not entirely agree with everything that that newspaper says, I welcome the campaign. Anything that can be done to focus the attenton of central and local government on these matters is very much welcomed. Indeed, The Sunday Times came up with the ingenious solution of a change in the law and got someone to draft a new clause that we could put in an Education Act. However, I believe that the problem is not one of changing the law but rather one of pricing. Most education authorities and local authorities would be willing to open their facilities if that could be done at a reasonable economic cost. That is the heart of the matter. There is not much point in telling local authorities that they must open schools on Sundays and provide sports facilities if the economic cost of doing so prices out the people that we are trying to get in.
It was for this reason that I announced in our last debate that we shall be holding a conference in every region during the autumn. I hope that the Opposition will agree to provide representatives at the conferences because it is important to have a joint approach as far as possible.
We are asking the regional councils for sport and recreation to get this under way and to look at the facilities in their areas, and where we can put pressure on people to understand the importance of providing leisure services, and to justify the failure to open community-based facilities, we should do.
The only good thing to come out of the reorganisation of local government has been the establishment of sport and recreation departments, and I hope that they will make plans for their areas and will go beyond local authority facilities. We must also condemn the cricket club that is closed for eight months of the year when, with all-weather facilities, it could be used all year and the industrial sports ground that could be used during the week by pensioners whose sport and recreation are equally important. A whole range of activities are included in the concept of a leisure service, and we shall be getting these conferences under way in the autumn.
I certainly include here the camping and caravaning facilities and the access to the countryside mentioned by my hon. 793 Friend the Member for South Shields. People are increasingly wanting to get away from it all by going into the countryside, and local authorities must provide for a leisure explosion over the next 10 years. If they do not, it will be no good their complaining about people parking caravans in beauty spots or on lake shores or about people pitching tents in places that are regarded as inappropriate. People will solve their own problems unless we, as a community, provide for them.
I am considering whether we can provide more camping facilities in this capital city—and I am including in the consideration youth hostels, which were also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. There is a tremendous need in this city. Some wonderful young people come here, many of them from abroad, and they cannot afford to stay in expensive hotels. There are not enough places for them to camp. As they are some of the best and most disciplined members of our society, they should be encouraged.
With the Camping Club of Great Britain and others, we are looking into this to see what can be done, and we hope that we can make some progress.
I shall deal with the questions raised about Northern Ireland before I come to the Welsh national anthem. I agree very much that sport probably can do more to bridge the gaps in the Northern Ireland community and bring people together than can anything else. This has already been demonstrated by Mary Peters. We must, therefore, encourage sport in the Province. Six sports centres are planned for Belfast. The one at Maysfield will be opened in late sumer. Those at Andersonstown and Connswater are under construction, and the one at Shankhill is about to be started. Of the three others, Ballysillan will continue in a modified form, and the Belfast Council has purchased St. Mary's Training College to help provide facilities in the White Rock area where there will be a 25-metre swimming pool.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
I am concerned about the leisure centre at Shantallow. I happened to be in Londonderry at the weekend. The site for that centre is located on the west bank of the Foyle, an area that is dominated by the Catholic 794 population. Does the Minister think that this facility will achieve the objective that he has stated? I have an unfortunate feeling that it may not, and I regret it.
§ Mr. Howell
I cannot give an answer. I am sure that my hon. Friend dealing with Northern Ireland affairs will take note. I am sure that the Northern Ireland Sports Council was fully and adequately consulted—or I certainly hope that it was. I shall seek its views on this matter.
The element of grants in Northern Ireland for individual clubs has increased from£30,000 to£40,000, which will be a help. Grants are being given to golf clubs, which were previously excluded.
Hon. Members have mentioned the question of rating relief for sporting bodies. I was very forthcoming in the White Paper on this matter of a 50 per cent. rating relief for sports clubs because I think that it would be good business for local authorities. Voluntary sports clubs are providing facilities for young people which local authorities should provide themselves. That is why I have urged that the rating relief be made. Sportsmen should form local lobbies to go to see their councils and urge this upon them.
I cannot make it mandatory. The local authority associations have approved the White Paper including the 50 per cent. rating relief, but they will not agree to make it mandatory because of the repercussive effects on other charities in other areas. They have a strong case too. But where the sportsmen get some steam behind their efforts they will succeed.
On the question of taxation and sport, I shall talk very briefly about VAT. I have all the figures. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is not here, but he mentioned this in the last debate that we had. It seems that there is a discrepancy in the treatment of VAT by Common Market countries, but EEC Draft Six Directive, which is effective from 1st January 1978, would harmonise these matters. Although the position gives some grounds for argument now, it seems that in the matter of VAT and sport the EEC is moving towards harmonisation. This point was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely has apologised for not 795 being here for the winding-up speeches but he has gone to the count in his constituency.
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) made a very interesting contribution on these matters, while corporation tax was raised by the hon. Member for East Grinstead. I know that the latter is pleading the case of the British Olympic Association, but the fact is that where any sporting body gets its income as a result of trading activities, it is inevitable that it should pay corporation tax on it. For example, if a sporting body says to a petrol company "Will you please give us a penny on every gallon of petrol you sell for our sports fund" and the company agrees, that is a trading operation conducted in competition with the other petrol companies. Therefore, if one excluded from corporation tax the income produced in that way, it would be unfair to its competitors. I think that that is one of the great difficulties.
All these matters of taxation have arisen time and again. However, as we all know, the Finance Bill is shortly to go into Standing Committee. I hope that hon. Members will put down amendments and let the whole House consider their solutions.
§ Mr. Howell
I shall support consideration of the amendments. That does not take me into suggesting that I shall actually vote for them. But this is very important.
The ingenious solution of the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West that 1½per cent. of betting tax should go back through the Treasury is what over generations has become known as the hypothecation of taxation. As I understand it, no Chancellor of the Exchequer has ever agreed to the hypothecation of taxation since the Lloyd George road fund tax. Personally, I have always been attracted to the idea. I cannot see why the House has opposed it. But, alas, as yet I am not Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I cannot, therefore, suggest to the House or encourage the House to believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends would embrace the principle, which would have very serious consequences for the whole of the taxation system.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Likewise I am in favour of hypothecation, but I was suggesting that the Treasury takes all the money but that, knowing precisely what 1½per cent. will give it—give or take£1 million—there is then a figure of 1½per cent. which it gives back by way of grant to the Horserace Betting Levy Board. Thus one avoids hypothecation but one gets 20 per cent. of the gross take.
§ Mr. Howell
That may be the case for the plaintiff. I should like to hear the case for the defendant before commenting further on that matter. I think that we should need much persuading.
On the subject of lotteries, mentioned by the hon. Member for Dumfries, one of the things that the Government have done is to have new lottery legislation. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) is not present, because he forced the pace on this matter and deserves credit. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is present. She has spent a lot of time on this matter and we have had much discussion. I am now told that under the Lotteries Act 1976—sports bodies should note this—the maximum turnover of small lotteries has been considerably increased. It is now£10,000 in the case of weekly promotions. I am told that if a sports club ran a lottery each week and sold the tickets, it could net over£200,000 in one year.
Therefore, this is a new facility, and I do not think that the sports bodies have yet fully understood it. This, allied to the other announcement made by my hon. Friend about instant lotteries and helping to promote them, provides a big incentive and, I hope, a big help to many of the sports clubs.
I have one last comment on racing. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dumfries about RILC. I think that it is an extraordinary step for the Jockey Club to tell me that it cannot embrace my proposal for a racing council until the Royal Commission has reported but then promptly to proceed to set up RILC.
I know that the Jockey Club is one of those ancient institutions. I do not think that any Socialist has ever been elected a member. If he has, I have never heard of it. But it does a good job with the rules of racing. But a sport—indeed, 797 it is an industry—like racing has to have a fully representative council at its head. The body set up by the Jockey Club has been trying to do the job in a vacuum, and I would like to see it develop into a firm racing council.
We had this situation with cricket. There was the same problem where the MCC, a private club, was running the game. When I was Minister responsible for sport previously, I persuaded it that the time had come to have a cricket council on which every section of the sport would be represented—clubs, players, schools, and so on. The Cricket Council has worked well since its establishment, and all those interested know who represent them on it. If it can work so well with cricket, I see no reason why we should not move towards democratic government in horse racing.
I was asked about the refusal by the Football Association to play the Welsh National Anthem at Wembley. I strongly regret that decision. In Rugby Union, one has seen that when both "Land of My Fathers" and "God Save the Queen" are played they are treated with great respect. Where that is not done, one gives offence to a lot of Welshmen, which can sometimes be embarrassing when they are asked to sing "God Save the Queen". I hope that the Football Association will look at this matter again in that light and come to a sensible decision, which will do no harm to anyone but give a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. Of course, it might upset some English a little, because the Welsh sing "Land of My Fathers" with a fervour rarely heard for other national anthems. Indeed, I am told that it is worth a five-point start when the Welsh hear it played.
I turn to the question of sports sponsorship. I think that it is here to stay. It is a welcome development that we should encourage, provided that the sponsor does not try to take over the sport. That does not happen here, in my experience. However, I take note ofwhat the hon. Member for East Grinstead said about the Annan Committee, and will draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Hon. Members spoke of Rugby Union and Rugby League. I note what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs), my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) 798 and the hon. Member for Dumfries, the President of the Scottish Rugby Union, although he was, as we all do from time to time, wearing a different hat. I find the rigidity that exists almost indefensible. I do not know how one can defend a situation where one says to a chap "If you are playing one sport during the week you cannot come to us and play another." If that attitude were taken in any other sport, there would be a great outcry. We ought always to be encouraging everyone to play sport, whatever the sport of his choice.
The Rugby Union knows my views. I have expressed them many times to it. I think that it now has some sympathy with them and that we have made some progress. I agree that there is not a complete wall of hostility there. The fact that I and the Rugby Union have had these disussions is an encouraging development. There are questions of international jurisdiction. I understand that the Australians, for example, are particularly sticky on this point. But I would like our own home unions to press internationally for this new course to be taken.
Meanwhile, the Sports Council agrees with us about the matter, and recently the British Amateur Rugby League Association has been fully recognised by the Sports Council, which last year gave it a grant of£20,000 to encourage the amateur Rugby League game. We shall continue that policy in the hope that wiser counsels will prevail in the end so that this present discrimination, which is unjustified, can be eliminated.
We have seen the Press-cutting about the situation in Oxfordshire and think that there must be a failure in communications somewhere. I have taken this matter up with the Rugby Union and I know that it would deprecate any incident such as this. However, it can find no evidence of this happening. If my hon. Friend is able to let us have details, I will look into the matter.
§ Mr. Howell
I am glad that the hone Member and my hon. Friend have been 799 able to sort out that difference between them.
§ Mr. Spriggs
When it was stated that a meeting had taken place, I decided to have the matter looked into. The matter has now been clarified. Will my right hon. Friend make strenuous efforts not only to bring hon. Members and both sides of the rugby game together but also to bring about a change in the international rules?
§ Mr. Howell
I have no responsibility for the rules of sport. I found the Rugby Union people very understanding and very agreeable to deal with. I understand that the Labour Party Sports Group has asked to meet representatives of the Rugby Union. I shall urge the Rugby Union to agree to such a meeting.
I will look into the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields about the inland waterways and write to him.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield mentioned mooring charges. It is very expensive to run canals. When the Fraenkel Report is published, the House will be faced with the question of the cost of essential maintenance of the canals.
We must not forget the 3½million anglers. My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles urged that anglers should be afforded greater access to reservoirs. This morning I put precept into practice and went to Datchet Reservoir, where I caught a 2½1b. trout. I should go home as soon as I can and cook the fish, because I need a good meal. If you care to come with me, Mr. Speaker, I shall be glad to share the meal with you.
§ Mr. Howell
If I thought that, were I to leave at once, you would join me, Mr. Speaker, I should be very tempted. However, I have yet to deal with the question of hooliganism.
The question of anglers having greater access to waterways is of great importance. All the sports councils and regional water authorities have recreation committees or water recreation committees.
You will be glad to know, Mr. Speaker, that I intend to deal with only 12 of the 56 subjects which have been raised in 800 the debate. I have left till last the vexed question of hooliganism. I wish I knew the answer. We all want to know the answer, but none of us knows it. It is a social phenomenon of the greatest concern within our society. We all have our pet theories. Its causes are many. They are associated with social deprivation, boredom, lack of content in the leisure syllabus within schools and lack of parental discipline at home.
I have my own prejudice. In most working-class homes the mother is the disciplinarian. A lot of this trouble can be traced back to the time when mothers began regularly to go out to work. Now mothers have three jobs. They go out to work, come home, do the cooking and the laundry and so on. Working mothers probably have the most difficult job in society. Therefore, the easy way to get the children away prom under their feet is to give them 50p to go out. When a mother has done her job outside the home, added to her other daily tasks, all she wants to do is to put up her feet and watch television. Therefore, there is a lack of communication within families.
We do not know whether we are right about our pet theories in this respect. All we know is that this is a growing and intolerable problem. It is producing many problems in communities, particularly those near football grounds, and we must deal with them as a matter of great urgency.
I have no power to do anything. I can only work in concert with the Football Association and the Football League. They are the only bodies which can take action, because the clubs are members.
We must take steps immediately to reduce the problem to a manageable size, particularly with regard to the so-called supporters of the two worst clubs—Manchester United and Chelsea. That is what we have tried to do. I believe that we shall have some success with the all-ticket matches which I have suggested. But we must go further. We want all-seated stadiums. We want to improve the quality of crowd control. I agree with all the points which have been made about stadiums.
Magistrates appreciate the seriousness of this problem. In the last few weeks penalties have been more realistic. I have urged magistrates, as the hon. and 801 learned Member for Thanet, West has urged me today, to impose more realistic sentences which will keep trouble-makers away from football matches on Saturday afternoons—for example, by sending them to attendance centres, getting them to do community service, and so on. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agrees with this approach.
The Criminal Law Bill is now going through the House, and I hope that this aspect will be considered. I do not think that fines are the answer, although we are giving the courts powers to increase them. That is just one of the armoury of measures which is to be made available.
Reference was made to supporters wearing certain badges. We would like to find out who manufactures the badges worn by the supporters of one club saying "We hate Leeds", I think it was. This is a terrible situation. Indeed, I understand that some supporters wear badges proclaiming "We hate Denis Howell". I suppose that is the final accolade. At least it shows that somebody is trying to bring them to book. [Interruption.] I gather that someone is offering to wear one of those badges in the House. I can well understand that. Having been asked to reply to 56 points, I have had to take a little longer than I wished. However, I hope that hon. Members who have had to endure the length of my speech have also found it attractive.
Six clubs in the Midlands—Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Coventry, Stoke, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton—have announced that they are taking special steps to deal with the juvenile problem by producing a juvenile season ticket and not allowing other juveniles admittance at concessionary rates. Juveniles will have to produce a form countersigned by their parents and bearing a photograph. In other words, it will show membership of a supporters' club.
I think that we must move in the direction of all-ticket matches. When Manchester United and Chelsea have genuine supporters' clubs, can identify their supporters and accept responsibility for their behaviour at away matches, we might be able to move in that direction because we can then be reasonably satisfied that we can control the situation.
The debate has proved the great importance of sport in the life of the community. 802 We have been talking about the problems of sport but they are not really the problems of sport at all, they are the problems of our society that at present manifest themselves in sport. Sport is about the happiness, the joy and the pleasure of participating in games or recreation.
We must always remember that the most important justification for everything we are doing in sport is the development of individual personality and the sense of satisfaction if we hit a ball properly or we play a good shot. That sense of satisfaction is enormous. Every citizen wants the pleasure and sense of satisfaction that comes from accepting a challenge as well as the association that sport brings to sportsmen and women, which in my experience is unparalleled anywhere else in society.
At the end of the day sport is the one unifying factor in our society. It unifies us whatever our political, religious or ethnic background. It is in that spirit that the debate has been conducted. I express my appreciation to everyone who has taken part in it.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.