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Sporting Facilities

Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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What steps she is taking to improve sporting facilities in disadvantaged areas. [107054]

The Government believe that sport can play a valuable part in alleviating economic and social deprivation. Programmes such as space for sport and the arts, the New Opportunities Fund school PE and sport funding, the PE, school sport and club links initiative and the community club development programme are all targeted at deprived areas.

Edmonton Rangers football club provides sport and recreation to some of the most deprived kids in my constituency. It does a tremendous job, but it could do an even better job if only it had a permanent site. There is a site available, but unfortunately it is owned by a neighbouring local authority, which has left it to rot over the past 15 years. What can my right hon. Friend do to assist clubs such as Edmonton Rangers, which is trying to reach out to deprived kids in my communities, and what action can he take with local authorities, especially those that are not represented in the area, in order to bring such sites back into use?

I do not know all the details of the case that my hon. Friend describes, but if the facts are as he says, that local authority should re-examine its attitude to sport and physical activity. I know that there have been developments in the area with the participation of the Edmonton sports and social club and the local authority there, and I hope that that results in better facilities, including changing accommodation and all-weather pitches. If my hon. Friend writes to me about the matter that he raises, I will look into it and contact the local authority in question.

Does the Minister agree that what is important is not just the provision of facilities, but access to them and whether young people in particular can afford to get into them? Does he agree that there is a need for joined-up government thinking with the Department for Education and Skills and local government to ensure that not only are facilities provided, but that young people can afford to use them?

Very much so. The hon. Gentleman knows that many local authorities—particularly Labour-controlled ones—are trying to ensure that the facilities are accessible, especially to people who can currently ill-afford to use them. I have seen many innovative schemes around the country. Using the modern technology that is available, such as the chips that can be put into passcards, we can distinguish between various categories of economic well-being among the populace in a city without it being seen as discriminatory. Many schemes are operating throughout the country, but he is right to say that, in some areas, financial barriers are preventing people from gaining access to the facilities. I hope that local authorities and other partners can look at making that access available.