Thursday 19th November 2020

(2 weeks, 2 days ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nigel Huddleston)
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19 Nov 2020, 1:19 p.m.

For millions of people up and down the country, sport is so much more than a pastime. Sports clubs, large and small, enrich lives both on and off the pitches, the courts and the grounds, and they play a vital role in their communities. The value that sports clubs bring to their communities has been clearer than ever during this pandemic, and it is right that we support them.

Earlier this year, in May, we announced a £16 million emergency bail-out for rugby league to prevent the sport’s collapse, and the Treasury’s multi-billion-pound support packages, including the furlough and loan schemes, have been a lifeline for countless sports clubs and organisations across the country, helping them to stay afloat when their doors remained closed. Sport England has announced separate emergency funding of £220 million for grassroots clubs, and we recently announced a £100 million scheme for leisure centres. Together, that support has acted as a significant buffer to the pain.

However, we know that the decision taken in late September not to re-open the stadiums from 1 October has had major consequences for sports clubs large and small. It was the right decision, given the rate at which coronavirus was spreading across the country, but clearly, not being able to generate gate receipts deprives many organisations of a major source of income. The vast majority of those sports operate on tight financial margins and have been forced to make serious cost reductions such as locking down grounds, furloughing their staff, cutting wages, and halting excess payment. It was clear that if we did not act, a number of clubs would go to the wall, with real consequences for the grassroots game. That is why, over the past few weeks, we have been working tirelessly with the sports sector to understand the real pressures it is facing.

We promised to stand by the sports sector when we made the decision to postpone the return of fans, and today I am pleased to announce a £300 million sports winter survival package to see major spectator sports through this difficult period. The majority of that funding will be given through low-interest loans, with flexible repayment terms and grants where organisations are unable to repay loans. The package will focus on those sports that have been severely impacted by the restrictions announced in September, and it is the largest package announced by any Government for its domestic sport sector in the world.

I stress that these are provisional allocations of funding. They were made on a needs-based assessment process, and reflect the submissions made by the individual sports. Recipients will still need to apply, and the funding process will be overseen by an independent decision-making board, and supported by Sport England. That funding will include a top-up for rugby league of up to £12 million, as well as cash injections of up to £28 million for national league football and women’s football, up to £135 million for rugby union, and up to £40 million for horseracing. There is also up to £6 million for motorsport, up to £4 million each for netball, basketball, and ice hockey, up to £1 million for greyhound racing, up to £5 million for tennis, and up to £1.6 million for badminton.

Today’s provisional allocations are not the end of the story. The door is open for any sport to apply where there is a need. That includes cricket and other sports that are not on the initial list of allocations. Full details of the application process will shortly be announced by Sport England, with the first tranche of support expected to be distributed to clubs and bodies before the end of the year. In the meantime, if any individual club is facing imminent collapse, we will work with it through its national governing body. Based on the information that sports have given us, this package will help them to survive until the spring.

Of course, we would all prefer to see fans back in the stadiums. Spectator sports need spectators, and with the real progress that we are making on vaccines and testing, that goal is now firmly within our sight. Until then, we have stepped in to protect not just individual clubs and organisations, but entire sports and the communities they serve. I commend this statement to the House.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)
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19 Nov 2020, 1:25 p.m.

I thank the Minister for sight of his statement, and for the accepting manner in which he has dealt with the pestering from me and from other Members on this subject. Through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I also thank all the civil servants at the Treasury and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for their hard work on this support package for sport. That work is not unnoticed, and we thank them for it. However, as I mentioned, getting to this point has taken cross-party pestering, and meanwhile, sports are hanging by a thread.

I know that, for the Treasury, sport in the context of the UK Government’s spending is almost a rounding error. It is a comparatively small commitment on the very, very big Treasury spreadsheet, but that fact is irrelevant to how important sport is to families in all our constituencies. It plays a huge role in the life of our country and, given its place in keeping us healthy, we needed a swifter response than this. That is particularly the case when we see how sport has been messed about. In August, with eat out to help out and the Prime Minister saying that he wanted to see “bustle”, sports were told that it was full speed ahead towards the reopening in October until No. 10 executed a sharp about-turn, and since then the pace has been slow to glacial. So in order to speed things up, I would like to help the Minister with some questions that will hopefully prompt action.

In two weeks’ time, the current lockdown arrangements will come to an end, and we hear rumours of a return to the tier system. Can the Minister please clearly explain what that means for grassroots sport? There are so many people who rely on swimming, their football team, their rugby game, their running club or their round of golf for their mental and physical health, and the lack of sport is doing our country damage. It cannot go on for much longer, and that is especially true when it comes to our nation’s children, so will the Minister please tell us when children can return to training? Robbie Savage speaks for the nation when he counts down the days in frustration to when we can play sport, and we need answers.

Next, we need to know that the money the Minister has announced just now will reach sports quickly. The cultural recovery fund did not reach cultural organisations quickly enough, so can we ensure that we have no repeat of that experience? Will he commit to coming back to the House next month to explain the detail of the effect of this funding? Will it reach disability sport effectively, and will it support women’s and men’s sport absolutely equally, by penny piece? What measures will he put in place to ensure that that happens?

We live in uncertain times, and the once predictable sporting calendar has been shifted all over the shop, so will the Minister commit to keeping the situation under review? I think I heard him say that he had an open door for anyone who needed help. That is a good thing, and I welcome it. In relation to that, he has explained that these funds are in response to the cancellation of the very slow piloted return of spectators that we were expecting from 1 October. We had an extensive debate on this only last week in Westminster Hall, so can the Minister bring us up to date on that? What is the truth of the rumours that spectators will return, but only in line with the as yet unannounced tier system? There are also rumours concerning the number of spectators. Is it true that the cap will be 1,000 people? While we are on the subject of Members’ concerns, we have another Westminster Hall debate coming up next week on the governance of football, and I expect to see many Members there. If the Minister cannot give us full details of the fan-led review of football at the Dispatch Box today, I suggest that he does so next Wednesday.

Finally, Madam Deputy Speaker, I know it will not have escaped your notice that the Government started this crisis accusing premier league footballers of not doing their share, and ended the summer U-turning on child poverty in response to the heroic campaigning of a premier league footballer. That should be a lesson to the Government. Sports people have been messed about month after month, and the British people want better. My final question to the Minister is this: in the face of a deadly virus, nothing matters more than public health, so where is the comprehensive plan for wellbeing right across the UK? This funding announcement today is a panicked response to a bad situation made worse by Government incompetence, and the country deserves better.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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19 Nov 2020, 1:29 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for the gracious tone that she adopted—at the beginning of her speech at least—and she has also given me the opportunity to express my thanks to the Treasury team, DCMS officials and all those involved, including the sports, the governing bodies and the individual clubs who have worked tirelessly to get us to this point. That is perhaps an indication of why this has taken so long. It has taken several weeks to gather the necessary amount of information in the forensic detail required, but that was right because it is the disbursal of public money that we are talking about. In terms of the total amount, the Treasury estimates that around £1.5 billion, perhaps more, of public money has gone into sports, because we are talking not just about this fund but about the £200 million from Sport England and all the additional money that has gone into the various support schemes such as furlough, grants and reliefs over a period of many months.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the priority in terms of reopening. It is a shared goal across the Chamber to open as soon as it is safe to do so. That goes for grassroots and elite sport. As the Secretary of State has said, he wants to ensure that grassroots sport is at the front of the queue when it comes to reopening.

I can confirm, as I mentioned in my statement, that we hope for the money to be going out within weeks, and certainly for some of it to be disbursed before Christmas. There will be an appropriate proportion for women’s sport, and of course the total package will also support women’s sport. The hon. Lady has heard me say again and again—I will repeat it today—that with anybody receiving Government money, I expect an appropriate level to go to women’s sport. There is specific money for netball, as well as women’s basketball and women’s football, in the package.

Governance is not necessarily the major topic of today, but we will come to it again and again, and it is a priority. I am very happy about the hon. Lady mentioning that she effectively supports the Conservative party manifesto, which of course had a commitment to a grassroots review of football. We will continue that, and I welcome her joining us in that effort.

Julian Knight Portrait Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con) [V]
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This announcement is very welcome. Rugby league, rugby union and the national league have all expressed to me their concerns about their survival during the latest lockdown period. Will the Minister explain whether the apportioning of money to individual sports clubs will be on the basis of lost ticket sales, revenue, or a combination of lost ticket sales, revenue and hospitality? The Minister has mentioned need. How will “need” be defined? How long will it take? Furthermore, this is not a one-for-one replacement for lost revenues, so what proportion of revenues across the major sports contained in the package does the Minister envisage will be covered?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank the Chair of the Select Committee for his comments and look forward to working with him over the coming weeks. In terms of the allocation of money, it is in the name: this is a winter survival package. It is not meant to be a full pound-for-pound compensation for lost revenue. The focus is from the point at which we were unable to open sports stadiums on 1 October through to spring. Therefore, while there may be hopes of and aspirations for a greater package, we needed to focus on what was needed to ensure that sports clubs can survive, and that is the focus of this effort. We are confident the package will do that. It is a substantial sum of £300 million and will make a huge effort in that direction.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. I have spoken many times in this place about the power of sport and the crucial role that sports clubs, be they amateur, semi-pro or professional, play in our local communities. The Minister was absolutely right to lead with that point.

I am disappointed that the Government have decided to go down the loans route, rather than having 100% grant funding. While I welcome his commitment to the national league and to women’s football, the continuing omission of support for the senior professional men’s game is disappointing. Scottish football does not have the megabucks TV deal that the English game enjoys and is almost three times more reliant than most European football on ticket sales as a share of revenue, with gate receipts making up nearly half of all revenue. Does the Minister recognise that even if a small number of fans can return to stadiums, financial support is still needed for these clubs?

If the Government pursue a reopening strategy at any future point allowing the return of fans in low infection areas, what provision will be made to devolved nations that have different lockdown rules and permissions for fan return? Will the other UK nations be forced to follow in England’s footsteps, or will support for the industry from the UK Government respect devolved decision making?

In September, I asked the Minister to commit to full engagement with the Scottish Minister for sport, Joe FitzPatrick. Will the Minister confirm that he has spoken to his counterpart in Edinburgh to explain the ramifications of this announcement for the Scottish Government’s finances? The Minister will be aware that the Scottish Government have still not received clarity on the Barnett consequentials from previous announcements. He should also be aware that the Scottish Government do not have the powers to borrow to finance a similar loan scheme in Scotland—an aberration that the Treasury could and should fix.

To conclude, will the Minister please provide clarity to this House and to Scottish Ministers about what Barnett consequentials will flow from today’s announcements, so that the Scottish Government can provide similar support in Scotland and Scottish sport is not disadvantaged?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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The mix of loans and grants will of course be driven by need and the ability to repay. Of the £300 million package, we estimate at this moment that £250 million will be loans and £50 million will be grants. However, the loans will be on preferential terms and will therefore have features of a grant in the early stages, such as payment holidays, so immediate repayment will not necessarily be expected. We all have skin in the game here, and the incentive is to get sport back up and running and on its feet and paying back some of those loans, because then we all benefit.

I can confirm that there are Barnett consequentials to this, as there are for other support packages. I cannot provide the hon. Gentleman with the details at the moment. I actually talked to Minister FitzPatrick this week, and I am sure we will do so again. How the money is spent is a decision for the devolved Administrations; sport is a devolved matter.

Tracey Crouch Portrait Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con) [V]
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this excellent package of financial support for some core professional sports. I particularly welcome the settlement for national football, and I hope he will ensure that its distribution is based on gate receipts rather than league position.

I will focus specifically on rugby union. The Minister will be aware that, while the professional game has resumed, grassroots rugby has not, thus putting many clubs, which are small businesses themselves, in a challenging position. We have healthy, well-supported rugby club rivalries across Kent, but I fear that we are losing players and potential talent as a consequence of their not being able to play for most of this year, which threatens the viability of clubs due to the lack of supporters. Will he therefore tell the House what conversations he has had with the Rugby Football Union about the trickling down of that money to local rugby clubs and about the safe resumption of rugby at grassroots level, so that clubs can sustain themselves for the future?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It is great to see my hon. Friend and I wish her well in her recovery. On the rugby union package, we are in constant dialogue with Bill Sweeney about the entire package and about both the grassroots and professional game. The money announced today will have trickle-down effects and will benefit the grassroots game. Any professional club that is helped and saved with this package will often share facilities with the grassroots game, so it will help. As my hon. Friend knows, Sport England has provided £220 million of support, and we share the goal of getting grassroots sport up and running as soon as possible. Dialogue will continue on rugby union, and I look forward to talking to my hon. Friend about it further.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) [V]
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I very much welcome this statement, as will sports clubs locally. Will this new package be backdated for sports clubs that faced regional lockdowns? I also highlight the important role that broadcasters played during the pandemic, and could continue to play, with more sports fixtures universally available, free to air. Has this not shown the importance of the listed events regime?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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The hon. Gentleman raises a range of issues. We have encouraged free-to-air broadcasting, and we are pleased that sports that have never been broadcast before, such as Premier League football on the BBC, were broadcast during lockdown, and we are pleased with the various moves by the Premier League and others to make sure that their games are more accessible. This package runs from 1 October through to the spring, and that is the focus of the package.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
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I welcome the Minister’s statement. He mentions leisure centres. I also put in a plea for the great outdoors, because many of our open spaces—parks and the like—are supported and maintained by community groups and councils, and they need funding to provide that. I also welcome his continued efforts to allow spectators to watch sports. League Two Grimsby Town play their home games in my constituency, and we fans are desperately keen to see at least one or two games before the end of the season.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It is not a question from the hon. Gentleman without his mentioning Grimsby Town. He never fails me on that. As I said, the goal is to open up and get fans back into stadiums as soon as it is safe to do so. We are working on the detail of the disbursement of the £100 million leisure facility package and will provide that information in due course. He is also right to point out the importance of our great outdoors. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, including during the first lockdown, the one thing that we were able to do consistently—not every country did this—was exercise outdoors. It is really important that people do that, to keep activity levels up. That is an absolute priority of the Government, as demonstrated in the latest lockdown restrictions.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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I, too, thank the Government for the support package that has been announced today, but no matter how much financial support there is, we need our supporters back into our stadiums. Bath’s local football and rugby clubs have worked a great deal over the summer to make sure that spectators can be safely brought back to matches. I know the Government are also keen to see that, but we need a clear road map from them on how our fans can return. Will the Minister therefore meet me to discuss the plans of Bath Rugby club and Bath City football club to get spectators back at the earliest possibility?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I would be delighted to meet the hon. Lady and I am sure we can arrange that soon. She is right to say that clubs have gone to great efforts, and great expense in many cases, to make sure they are secure and have followed the hygiene and coronavirus procedures to a great degree. Recently, we had to press the pause button on the reopening plans. We have not stopped those plans—we have just pressed the pause button—and we want to get back to reopening as soon as it is safe to do so.

Lee Anderson Portrait Lee Anderson (Ashfield) (Con) [V]
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As a lifelong Mansfield Town supporter, I want to get back into the One Call Stadium as soon as possible to cheer on the mighty Stags. Having 1,000 fans inside football grounds is not enough to cover clubs’ costs, and we need our clubs to survive. Will my hon. Friend look at having a sliding scale attendance figure for each Football League club, based on its current capacity, which will allow fans to support their teams safely and give clubs a financial boost, which they need to survive?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It is amazing what people can get away with on video link, isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker? I do not think you would allow that scarf to be worn in the House.

My hon. Friend raises valid points about when we will get back, and what the criteria and process will be. All of those are live issues and I would be happy to talk to him further about his proposals.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I will have words with you, Mr Anderson, when you come back to Parliament. Get well soon.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab) [V]
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19 Nov 2020, 12:06 a.m.

I thank the Minister for his statement. Three weeks ago, a number of MPs met Rick Parry, the chair of the English Football League, to discuss the crisis facing EFL clubs. He told us that 10 clubs were unlikely to be able to pay their wages this month, and if substantial financial assistance was not available soon a number would go out of business. I have not heard anything in the statement today that would give reassurance to the EFL and the clubs.

I am sure the Minister recognises that clubs are not like any other business; if one closes, fans cannot go down the road and simply buy their football from another club. Fans give a lifetime of support to their club and clubs are at the heart of their community. So will the Minister now respond to the letter that I sent him, along with the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), on behalf of the all-party group on football? Will the Minister agree to meet us to discuss the problem of the EFL and meet Rick Parry, its chair, to have a look again at the financial assistance that is going to be needed to ensure that when spectators go back to football they will actually have a team to support?

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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Before the Minister answers that, may I ask everyone to focus on short questions and short answers, as we are really under time pressure today?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that I regularly meet Rick Parry and Richard Masters from the Premier League; we met this week, along with other stakeholders. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Premier League has made a commitment that it will not allow any EFL club to go under. At the elite end we have that commitment that no club will go under, and the package we have announced today for football will make sure that the National League does not go under. Therefore, across the whole pyramid we now have this security, but it is up to the Premier League and the EFL to come to a conclusion to those discussions. I encourage them to do so on a regular basis.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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I really welcome the Minister’s announcement that national league clubs up to level 7 will get extra support. Unfortunately, Northern league clubs including Consett, Tow Law Town, Crook Town and Willington in my constituency, along with Northallerton Town in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), are not quite there at the right level yet. We have had support from Sport England and the Football Foundation, but will he hear representations for support from the Northern league?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. We have talked about football many times, and I appreciate his support. The support announced today is for national league steps 1 to 2 to the tune of up to £11 million and national league steps 3 to 6 of up to £14 million. The more grassroots level is not supported in this package, but, as he mentioned, the route to get support is through Sport England and other packages such as the Football Foundation’s grants, which have helped clubs get back up to speed and ready for reopening. I am happy to continue those conversations with him.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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Football gives hope and joy to millions, just as we saw last week when big Davie Marshall dived to his left-hand side to send Scotland to our first European championships since 1996. For that hope and joy to persist, we need our football clubs in Scotland to exist. Will the Minister explain why £97 million-worth of cultural funding has been made available to Scotland through Barnett consequentials but we have yet to see a single penny of direct funding to support Scottish professional football clubs?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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May I add my congratulations on Scotland’s performance? As I have said, there are Barnett consequentials to this package, as indeed there have been to others, but how that is spent is up to the devolved Administrations.

Damian Collins Portrait Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)
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I welcome the package. I take note of what the Minister said about the football league, but, as he knows, there is no financial package in place for community clubs in the football league. People may wonder why it is that, for example, the Exeter Chiefs—the premiership rugby team and European champions—will benefit along with premiership rugby from Government support but Exeter City football club, with its lower income and lower fan attendance, has so far got nothing at all. There needs to be more of a focus on those community clubs in the football league. After the end of the lockdown on 2 December, will communities in tier 3 not see grassroots sport return? There is concern about that, and I would be grateful for his reassurance, even if only to say that no decision has yet been made.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. I know what a great champion he is of sport and football in particular. Indeed, I cannot commit to exactly what the tiering system will be—no surprise there—but I repeat the commitment of the Secretary of State, who said that we want to ensure that grassroots is at the front of the queue. As I said, we all have an incentive to ensure that sport opens up and we get stadiums open as soon as possible.

In terms of EFL support, I refer my hon. Friend to the comments I made earlier about the Premier League and EFL needing to come to an arrangement. On the grassroots, we are very reliant on, and grateful for, the work Sport England has done with its £220 million of support for the grassroots game.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab) [V]
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I have been contacted by sports clubs in my constituency, many of which, including Bedford Town and Kempston Rovers, are still unclear about what support, if any, they will get to help them through the crisis. While today’s announcement may be a relief to many rugby clubs, I am not confident that it will be enough to save those with a sustainable model such as Bedford Blues. Will the Minister guarantee that all clubs will be better off under today’s announcement than they were under the furlough scheme?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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Perhaps I should it make clear that we encourage all clubs to take advantage of whatever Government support measures may be out there, including the existing scheme. This scheme and announcement is on top of existing schemes. I therefore encourage everybody and anybody to apply for everything they are eligible for. Of course, we are talking about a £300 million package, with over £100 million going to rugby union. Therefore, by definition, they will be better off than they would have been.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter (Warrington South) (Con) [V]
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I welcome the news that the Government have agreed further financial support for rugby league clubs, which recognises the really important work that clubs such as Warrington Wolves do in our communities. Will my hon. Friend set out more details about that assistance for rugby league clubs? What contribution can his Department give to underwrite the world cup, which, as he knows, is due to be played here next year?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend. Indeed, we are announcing today an additional £12 million for rugby league, and that is on top of the £16 million that was announced earlier in the year. We will be working with the Rugby Football League to distribute that additional money. Actually, it has done a pretty good job so far, and therefore we will continue with the existing scheme, but topping it up with the £12 million. Like him, I am very much looking forward to having my first visit to a game in an official capacity as sports Minister, and maybe rugby might be one such game, but I hope that is before the world cup.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
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There are many volunteer-led, grassroots sports clubs that are really struggling at this moment in time, and equally there are probably a number of would-be developers that are looking at developing their assets. They are in a vulnerable situation, and we need to make sure that this funding gets to the grassroots so that we do not lose the vital sports fields in all our constituencies. What is the Minister doing to ensure that that does not happen?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the availability of spaces and fields on which to play a game or, in fact, all sports. As I have said, the Sport England package of £220 million to help clubs of all sports through coronavirus is important, and today’s package will trickle down and help the grassroots. In particular, it will help sustain clubs where, of course, grassroots as well as professional and league games are played.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
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The Minister knows I care passionately about the sports clubs in my constituency, particularly the rugby clubs. I very much welcome this announcement and his efforts to get stadiums back open again, so that I might be able to go back to Gwernyfed rugby club very soon. He has already mentioned that this decision generates some funding for the Welsh Government. Can he tell me what can be done to make sure that the Welsh Government actually get the money to sports clubs in Wales?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend, and indeed it is not the first time we have talked rugby in this Chamber. To appeal to the common sense and good will of our colleagues in Wales is the most important thing we can do. There will be Barnett consequentials, but I respect the fact that sport is a devolved matter, and I am sure that they will be listening to this debate. As I have said, there will be Barnett consequentials, and therefore I hope that they will use this money appropriately.

Catherine McKinnell Portrait Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab)
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Community leisure facilities are the most accessible way for people to get fit and active, yet we face the real prospect of sports facilities in clubs in more affluent areas of the country enjoying reopening post pandemic, whereas those in the more deprived and disadvantaged communities remaining unviable. In Newcastle, we are very concerned that the West Denton swimming pool, for example, is at risk of remaining permanently closed due to the financial impact of the pandemic, despite the area facing some of the worst health inequalities. This cannot happen, so will the Minister commit to ensuring today that funding will be given for community leisure facilities post pandemic to ensure that sport remains genuinely accessible for all?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank the hon. Lady. Of course, community facilities and leisure facilities are the responsibility of both central and local government. I know how important they are for local government, and as I say, information on the application process for this £100 million package will be coming very soon. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to mention the importance of making sure that Government money is spread right across the country. The very first sport package we gave out in order to help was for rugby league, and today’s announcement will help clubs right across the country.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP) [V]
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I welcome the £6 million announcement for motorsport in particular. There is currently no certainty about the future of next year’s world rally championship in the United Kingdom. Can any of the resource that has been announced today be released to facilitate the bid, which is being supported by racers and by Motorsport UK, for Northern Ireland to host the WRC in 2021? This is not a devolved issue; this is a UK-wide issue. I hope that the Minister can help us, and help Elfyn Evans in what I hope will be his world championship year to race it in Ulster?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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19 Nov 2020, 9:30 a.m.

I know what a fan the hon. Gentleman is of motorsports. What he proposes is not the purpose of this package. As I said, this is a sports winter survival package for the specific purpose I outlined earlier, but I am happy to have conversations with him about what he proposes.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
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I am delighted that the Chancellor’s money tree continues to bear rich fruit, but while the premier league is cash-rich, lower league clubs such as Southend United have been suffering during the pandemic as a result, dare I say, of poor results and finances. Will my hon. Friend write to me to let me know precisely how much of this money Southend United will get? Will he also look at golf clubs and bowls clubs?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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19 Nov 2020, 1:56 p.m.

To be very clear, we are not announcing today, club-by-club, what will be allocated. That is subject to the next stage of the process, working with Sport England and governing bodies to make sure the money is disbursed to individual clubs, but I am happy to follow up with my hon. Friend as that process evolves. In terms of other sports, the criteria we are talking about is the financial challenge caused by the decision not to open on 1 October and what is required by sports to enable them to survive through to spring. Therefore, for any entity that believes it fits that criteria and deserves some money, while the allocations I have announced are provisional, the door is open to other bids.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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19 Nov 2020, 1:56 p.m.

I thank the Minister for this welcome announcement for England. I am sure he will join me in congratulating the Welsh Labour Government on their £40 million funding package for Wales’s sport and leisure sector, which was made in advance of his announcement today. What conversations has the Minister had with the Welsh Government and what funding will flow to the devolved nations after this announcement today?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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19 Nov 2020, 1:56 p.m.

As the hon. Lady may have heard, I can confirm that there are Barnett consequentials to the announcement today, and it is up to Wales how it chooses to spend any money. I congratulate the Welsh Government on prioritising sport and leisure. As sports Minister, she would not expect me to say anything else.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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19 Nov 2020, 1:57 p.m.

I welcome this package of support. I am keen to get fans back into Portman Road as soon as possible in a safe way.

My particular point is about the Landseer Park BMX track, which lies at the heart of the Gainsborough community. It is unique and has been there for a very long time. It is in a deprived area and it gives young people there something positive to do. The track is deteriorating and there is a campaign to raise money to resurface it, but it is around £60,000 short at the moment. Will the Minister work with me, Tracey from the BMX track and British Cycling to, one way or another, make sure it gets that financial support, so that that unique BMX track can remain at the heart of the Gainsborough community?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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19 Nov 2020, 1:58 p.m.

My hon. Friend raises an important point about making sure we have sports facilities of all sorts and ranges available for our constituents. Sport England is the body most appropriate to approach to seek funding. Of course, it has prioritised its coronavirus response recently, but I am sure it will get back to business as usual in allocations as soon as possible. I would be happy to have further conversations about this with my hon. Friend.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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19 Nov 2020, 1:59 p.m.

Today’s announcement is very welcome for premiership rugby clubs such as Harlequins, as well as national league south football clubs such as Hampton and Richmond, both of which are in my constituency. The Minister is aware that Quins ran the largest pilot event to date with spectators: 3,500 attended a match earlier this year which was proved to be very safe and very secure. We will naturally return, in time, to spectators in stands, which will be a graduated process, so can the Minister provide some assurances to clubs such as Quins and Hampton and Richmond that support will not be withdrawn immediately, because ticket revenues will cover only a small proportion of their costs? Will he see to it that we will not have the perverse situation whereby people are allowed into hospitality suites to watch matches, but not outdoors in the stands where it is an awful lot safer?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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19 Nov 2020, 1:59 p.m.

The hon. Lady and I have spoken a couple of times about some of the points she raises. I can give her the reassurance that the pilots that took place earlier this year in her constituency and across the country were not a waste of time. They were fantastic learning experiences and proved very well that we could open stadiums safely, but of course there is a bigger issue in terms of transport to and from stadiums and all sorts of other matters that we need to consider in the context of the current coronavirus environment. I would be happy to follow up on some of the other issues she raises.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con)
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May I ask my hon. Friend—my very good friend—to look at why UK Athletics and England Athletics seem to be allowed to self-assess what they do with the money given to them, especially with regard to the results they achieve? Perhaps we could have a meeting on the matter, to which I could bring some of the affected athletes from my constituency, who feel most aggrieved.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend for a whole host of reasons, but in particular to talk sport. I note the concerns he raises and would be happy to discuss them with him. To be fair, I think we have made huge progress with British athletics. Think back to 1996, which is not so long ago, when we got one gold medal and were 36th in the medal table at the Olympics. We were second, with 25-plus medals, at Rio. We have made progress, but perhaps we can make even more.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP) [V]
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Scottish football clubs, such as Forfar Athletic, Brechin City, Montrose and Arbroath in my Angus constituency, are almost three times more reliant on ticket sales, with gate receipts making up approximately 43% of club revenues. The Minister advised my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) that Barnett consequentials will be a feature of this package, but he was unable to say how much it would be or when it would be available. Can the Minister at least advise us when this detail will be made available to Scottish Government colleagues, so that they can, together with clubs, plan how to invest it?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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As I have said, I can confirm that, as with other support packages, there are Barnett consequentials. I am not able to give the hon. Gentleman the details he seeks today, but I will work with Treasury officials and others to make sure that information is forthcoming.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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I welcome this package and congratulate the Minister on securing it from the Treasury. However, we all recognise that it cannot last forever, so does he accept that we need a change of approach for sports participation, with its huge benefits for both physical and mental health?

Does the Minister also accept that we need help for the huge ecosystem of the sport and leisure industries, and their army of employees? They have spent considerable sums on making things safe, and they need the public back through their doors and gates. That includes sports clubs, racecourses and gyms, as well as pubs, clubs, betting shops and casinos. Can the Minister now persuade the Department of Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office to abandon their risk avoidance and risk aversion strategy, and to adopt an evidence-based risk management approach?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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The right hon. Gentleman makes a pertinent point about the importance of the mental health benefits of sport, as well as its physical benefits. The conversations about what we can open and when are always ongoing, and all opinions are welcome, but we will take an evidence-based approach to those decisions.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Con)
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Smaller sports teams such as Radcliffe and Prestwich Heys in my constituency sit at the heart of their communities and are a source of local pride. I look forward to being able to get back to the Neuven Stadium soon. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the winter survival package will support sports teams in Britain’s towns, and not just in big cities? Will he commit to looking further at what support can be given to grassroots football?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It is always good to talk football with my hon. Friend—it is not for the first time. I know his passion for the subject. As I have said, it is really important that we get grassroots football up and running again as soon as possible. We made great strides in the summer and we want to get back as soon as we can. The package announced today will benefit areas across the country—towns, cities and rural areas will benefit.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab) [V]
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I thank the Sports Minister for meeting me to discuss Castleford Tigers, and for listening to us and the thousands of rugby league supporters who have signed petitions and called for this urgent help. The funding he has announced is really important to get clubs through the winter, but as we do not yet know what next year will bring, will he undertake to keep working with rugby league, with grants as well as loans where needed, to guarantee that none of our vital rugby league clubs go under because of covid?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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Yes, I would of course be happy to continue the dialogue. This package is intended to provide help through to the spring. We do not know what the circumstances will be next year—none of us has a crystal ball—but we are all extremely hopeful that vaccines and other measures will enable us to have a much brighter future. We will address the circumstances as they arise.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Minister, thank you for your statement and for responding to questions. We will now suspend for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.