§ Mr. Simon Hughes
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if his Department has assessed what examples from abroad of good practice in providing children's play facilities might usefully be introduced in England and Wales;125W
(2) what guidance his Department has given to local authorities on how best to design houses and gardens and to plan housing estates in order to enable children to play imaginatively and in safety;
(3) what recent discussions he has had with voluntary children's play organisations; what initiatives he has taken to support the work of voluntary children's play organisations (a) in urban programme areas and (b) in non-urban programme areas; and if he will make a statement;
(4) what initiatives his Department has taken to support local authorities' provision of children's play facilities (a) in urban programme areas and (b) in non-urban programme areas;
(5) if he will make a statement about his Department's responsibilities towards children's play; and what initiatives he has taken since April 1983 to seek to improve children's play facilities.
§ Mr. Tracey
The provision of children's play facilities and support for local voluntary organisations concerned with play are primarily matters for local authorities who are best placed to assess the appropriate level of provision and support against local needs and priorities. It would be for them to consider what useful lessons might be learned from abroad. Nevertheless, the Government are concerned to assist with the provision of better play facilities and support a number of national voluntary organisations concerned wholly or partly with the promotion and development of children's play. Since 1983, Play Board has received £700,000 each year from the Department. Other organisations, including the Pre-School Playgroups Association, the National Out of School Alliance and the National Playbus Association, receive support from the Departments of Health and Social Security, and Education and Science. The Sports Council supports schemes and projects of benefit to children and adults alike and will he given grant-in-aid totalling £37 million next year. In addition, the Department provided about £10 million worth of support in the last financial year through the urban programme for play-related schemes developed and run by local authorities and voluntary organisations. Local authorities outside the urban programme benefit from the work of the national voluntary organisations supported by the Government and from a general recreation element in their rate support grants.
Over recent months I have had discussions with the National Playing Fields Association, the National Play Advisory Committee, Play Board and the Sports Council about the future development of children's play and I have corresponded with a number of other interested organisations and individuals.
The Department has issued guidance on children's play facilities to local authorities in the past including a circular, a comprehensive design bulletin and a paper on children's playgrounds.