Question: Sale of school Playing Fields (to Richard Caborn, Minister for Sport and Tourism)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): The Minister said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) that there had been significant change in respect of playing fields since the Government came to power in 1997. That is certainly true. They came to power saying that they would halt the sale of school playing fields to arrest the decline of sport in schools, since when the number of applications to sell playing fields has gone up every year. Last year – this is the most relevant statistic – of the 807 successful applications, 440 led to the total extinction of those facilities. Given the threat to sport in schools, particularly contact sports, from litigation and all kinds of other matters, against which Ministers say not a peep, will the Minister now tell the House what measures he has in mind – apart from encouraging people to run down concrete roads, and apart from an annual meeting of the playing fields monitoring group – to arrest the sale of playing fields?

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box. May I now inform him why no one should vote Tory again if they support playing fields? The planning applications that were made when his Government were in power were to shut playing fields. The planning applications for investment of £500 million are to build new facilities – we have to have planning applications to build new facilities. The simple answer to his question is: do not vote Tory – they will shut your playing fields down.