Culture, Media and Sport Questions

Speaking in the House of Commons

Hugh Robertson responds to back bench MPs’ questions on issues including national lottery funding for sport, the Tour de France stage in Yorkshire, strengthening grass-roots sport and replacing the horserace betting levy as a means of funding horse racing.

National Lottery

1. Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): What recent estimate she has made of the amount of money spent by the national lottery on good causes. [900110]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): Approximately £30 billion has been raised for good causes since John Major’s Government introduced the national lottery in 1994.

Richard Graham: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Many people across the country will not necessarily know that the huge increase in Sport England funding for sports facilities through the Inspired Facilities fund was generated by the change this Government made to the lottery funding, and I am very grateful for it. Last week, he saw, with me, the huge improvements made at our newly regenerated Gloucester athletics track and the case prepared by the Gloucester rowing club to make to Sport England. Does he agree that both those things will represent a fantastic Olympic legacy for my city?

Hugh Robertson: Yes, I do. One of the best things we have done is to raise the amount of money sport receives through the national lottery, from 13.7% when we came to power to 20% now. That has allowed improvements such as the ones my hon. Friend has detailed, and I congratulate him on his leadership in his constituency and the great work being done by volunteers in all those clubs.

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Tour de France

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): What steps she is taking to ensure that the Tour de France stages held in Yorkshire in 2014 are successful. [900111]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): The Government are contributing up to £10 million to help deliver a professional, safe and enjoyable Tour de France grand départ in Yorkshire, Cambridge and London in 2014. A board chaired by Sir Rodney Walker has been set up to oversee the delivery of all stages of the event.

Jason McCartney: I very much welcome the £10 million of Government funding towards the costs of the Tour de France coming through my constituency and the rest of Yorkshire. One big concern, however, is the security and policing costs. How does the Minister see those being met?

Hugh Robertson: When we drew up the budget that Sir Rodney Walker now oversees, it was clear that the local security costs were to be met from the £11 million that will be raised by Yorkshire, not the £10 million raised by the Government. I just say to my hon. Friend, as a gentle point of reference, that if there is controversy about this matter now—I do not know whether there is in Yorkshire—it is pretty extraordinary to have bid for an event without working out how the security is to be paid for.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): The Tour de France is yet another major sporting event taking place in England. It will showcase one of the most beautiful parts of our countryside, but one issue of controversy will not go away: the fact that there is no women’s race as part of the Tour de France. The success of British women cyclists makes that hard to understand, particularly at a time when we are trying to encourage more women to get involved in sport. Will the Minister join me in backing women cyclists and say to the sport’s governing bodies, the owners of the Tour de France, their sponsors and the media that this is an argument that has long been lost and that they should come together to ensure that there is a women’s part of the Tour de France in 2014?

Hugh Robertson: I find myself in complete agreement with my opposite number. Of course, the slight complication with the Tour de France is that it is run by a private organisation, not by the international federation, and it therefore relies on sponsorship and other things. There are a number of factors to sort out, but the central point that the hon. Gentleman makes is absolutely correct—this should be competed for by men and women alike—and I will do everything I can to help.

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Grass-roots Sport

6. Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): What steps she is taking to strengthen grass-roots sport. [900116]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): Sport England is investing more than £1 billion in youth and community sport between 2013 and 2017. This includes money invested through the whole-sport plans, school games and the facilities development fund, which, at the current reckoning, has improved about 1,400 sports clubs.

Mr Raab: Having mentored at the Fight for Peace boxing and martial arts academy in Newham, I have seen at first hand its innovative five-pillar model to get NEETs—those not in education, employment or training—into work or study. A review by the Laureus Foundation found that it saved £4 for every pound invested by cutting crime and welfare dependency. Will my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State come to have a look at the academy and see what the Government can do to put their weight behind it?

Hugh Robertson: Of course. That would be an enormous help to those of us who believe in the power of sport to achieve such outcomes, so perhaps my hon. Friend will also highlight the case to the Department for Work and Pensions and others interested in this area.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): But what is the Minister doing about swimming? Does he not realise that it is vital that we build on the Olympic legacy for swimming? Will he meet the Education Secretary to ensure that the Government follow through the recommendation of the Education Committee’s “School sports following London 2012” report that there should be a plan for all schools to access swimming pools? Will he also support my campaign to keep Holden Lane pool in Stoke-on-Trent open?

Hugh Robertson: We and the Department for Education are looking at the Select Committee report carefully. I was at a meeting on school sport at the Department for Education only yesterday, so I can give the hon. Lady an absolute commitment. However, I would be a little nervous about giving her an absolute commitment about her swimming pool without knowing the facts. There has been a problem that pools built in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s are no longer economical, for environmental and other reasons, whereas new pools have a much better performance, so I would need to be sure that her pool was not part of that group.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): Will the Minister join me in thanking Sport England for its investment in Nailsworth tennis club and the Football Foundation for its investment in Frampton football club? He will recognise that those are examples of the investment that is making a real difference to community sport throughout my constituency.

Hugh Robertson: I certainly congratulate Sport England, which deserves particular credit for the way in which it runs the “Places People Play” fund, which I suspect was responsible for the first of the improvements that my hon. Friend mentioned. That fund could not have been put in place without the increase in funding that sport got from the national lottery in 2010.

Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): Does the Minister share my concern that survey after survey shows that fewer and fewer children are participating in sport in school?

Hugh Robertson: I am not sure that that is entirely right. If one talks to many of the big sport governing bodies, such as British Cycling, one hears that huge numbers of people who are cycling are not picked up by the exacting criteria on which the surveys are based. As the hon. Gentleman knows, starting this September—this was the point of yesterday’s meeting—the new primary school sports premium means that £150 million will go to every primary school in the country. Each school will receive between £8,000 and £10,000 specifically ring-fenced to spend on sports. I would be very disappointed indeed and there would be real questions in the House if that did not produce a substantial upturn.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): There are some excellent legacy initiatives, but the one thing that was not there initially was connecting ordinary people with the “be inspired, get involved” local community sporting opportunities. The Prime Minister has so far not met me and now the “get involved” initiative has written to all councils in England and Wales. Will the Minister now meet me, the Sport and Recreation Alliance and the Community Sports Partnership Network to discuss how the Government can support this initiative?

Hugh Robertson: Yes.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): Greg Dyke has recently taken the helm at the Football Association, which is responsible for grass-roots football. Does the Minister agree, as I do, with Henry Winter of The Daily Telegraph, who says that Greg Dyke has set the wrong targets, and that rather than focusing on the performance of the England team, the FA should be promoting having more coaches to do some real good for grass-roots football?

Hugh Robertson: I thank the hon. Lady for that one: enter the controversy on day one! One thing that we learned from the Olympics last summer is that one of the very best ways of getting more young people to play sport is to put role models in the shop window. The honest answer to her question is that it is a combination of the two things. If the England team can win a World cup by 2022, which I hope very much it can—it would be nice if it won one in 2014, actually—that will be of enormous benefit. The Government contributed to the new National Football Centre, precisely to achieve the objectives that she shares.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): Despite the good work that is obviously going on all around the country, participation in sport is falling, especially in school sport. [Interruption.] The Minister says that it is not, but the Chance to Shine survey shows that half of all pupils are not even doing two hours’ sport a week, the Smith Institute survey shows that 68% of school sports staff report a decrease in participation, and his own Department’s figures show a 10% fall in the number of primary school children taking part in sport. That is very worrying indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) mentioned the Secretary of State for Education, and I am sure that the Minister will agree that as in so many ways the Secretary of State is making matters worse here. So often, sport is teamwork. For the sake of sport, may we have some teamwork across Government? A year on from the Olympics, the price that is being paid for this Government’s dismantling of the programmes that the last Government put in place is now becoming clear.

Hugh Robertson: Nothing could be further from the truth. The last active people survey showed that since we won the bid in 2005, against an exacting target, 1.4 million extra people were playing sport who were not doing so in 2005. As for dismantling the target, I seem to remember that it was the Government in which the right hon. and learned Lady served who cut the amount of funding that sport gets through the national lottery from 20% when they came into power in 1997 to 13.7% when we took power in 2010—something we have now reversed.

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Horserace Betting Levy

8. Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): What progress she has made on replacing the horserace betting levy as a means of funding horse racing; and if she will make a statement. [900118]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): I agreed to extend the time scale for discussions between racing and the bookmakers on a long-term deal to 31 October, as a voluntary agreement is far preferable to Government intervention. I strongly encourage both sides to agree a deal that includes a contribution to cover the offshore business. I am also looking closely at the details of the recent EU Commission state aid ruling on a levy for online gambling in France and will consider the implications for any read-across to our own process.

Mr Robertson: I thank the Minister for that response. He will be aware that discussions on how to replace or improve the levy have been going on for a long time and that racing continues to be underfunded. Does he agree that, although there is the 31 October deadline for the levy negotiation, it is important that racing and betting come to a more commercial agreement? Will he continue to work with both parties to bring about such an agreement?

Hugh Robertson: Certainly. Given the importance of both the racing and betting sides to the industry, it remains a matter of some despair to me—I think that this view has been shared by successive Governments—that in this day and age the two sides cannot get together and conclude a voluntary agreement. It absolutely should be commercial, and I hope that any agreement reached by the end of October will be for a long-term settlement to give the industry the stability it needs.

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2014 Winter Olympics

14. Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on the 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. [900129]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): I have regular discussions with my colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on a range of issues, including the 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi.

Julie Hilling: But what assurances has the Minister received on the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes and spectators who hope to attend the 2014 winter Olympics?

Hugh Robertson: The British Government remain greatly concerned about the growing restrictions on LGBT freedoms in Russia, and we have repeatedly raised those concerns, including at the 2013 UK-Russia human rights dialogue in May. The Prime Minister raised the issue directly with President Putin during a meeting in Downing street in June ahead of the G8 summit, and it will be raised again at the G20 this weekend.

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Topical Questions

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): The major UK sporting event of the year will soon kick off. The rugby league world cup will comprise 14 nations and Warrington looks forward to welcoming some of them. Will the Minister confirm that that event is one of his Department’s main priorities this year and outline the support that it is providing?

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): I certainly shall. Of course, the world triathlon series is coming to this country before the rugby league world cup kicks off in the autumn. That event is a priority. The Government have provided all the usual support in respect of visas, security and the necessary insurances for the international body. Exceptionally, we have also provided a direct grant to the rugby world cup itself. It has been fantastically run. It is 50 days today until it kicks off and I wish it every success.

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Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Wales had a successful Olympics, which included Jade Jones from my constituency winning gold. Have Ministers seen the comments of the chair of Sport Wales, who said that the cuts to local authorities in the United Kingdom were putting the Olympic legacy at risk? Does the Minister agree?

Hugh Robertson: No, I do not. Let us look at the Olympic legacy. The fact that we ran the best ever Olympic and Paralympic games has been a fantastic boon for this country. We are the first home nation ever to increase the investment in Olympic and Paralympic athletes—the investment in Paralympic athletes has increased by 43%. Participation is up by 1.4 million, an extra £150 million is going to primary schools and we have assembled the best ever list of major sporting events to come to this country. No other host nation has assembled a legacy to meet that.

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Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): With the Tour de France coming through my constituency next year and the rugby league world cup game between England and Ireland being played at the John Smith’s stadium in Huddersfield on 2 November, B and Bs and hotels in my part of the world are chock-a-block with bookings. Will the Minister confirm that the Government have no plans to introduce a holiday tax, which would increase the cost of overnight stays, because that idea was recently suggested by a shadow Minister?

Hugh Robertson: I can do better than that and point the finger at the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) as the guilty party. He proposed a tourism tax for London at a time when visitor numbers are up by 12% and spend by 13%. That is a fantastic legacy from 2012 and it would be folly beyond measure to kill it with the old tax-and-spend policies of the Labour party.

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