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Volume 450: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

We recognise the important role that skateboarding and other non-traditional sporting activities can play in attracting young people to participate in sport. Sport England advises that, over the last 10 years, skateboarding has received some £1.5 million in lottery funding.

Recently, I had the opportunity to open a skate plaza in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Middlesbrough council and Councillor Coppinger, who has been the driving force behind this project, which has been of great benefit to the community? Does my hon. Friend also recognise that young people indulging in sport is one way to keep them occupied, instead of getting involved in antisocial behaviour?

My hon. Friend is right, and we want to associate ourselves with, and to encourage, such informal sports. I congratulate Middlesbrough on having one of the best skateboarding facilities for young people in the region. That is precisely what we need to avoid antisocial behaviour in our communities, and my hon. Friend and Middlesbrough council need to be congratulated in that regard.

May I publicly thank Mr. Ken Lynch of Sandy, who works tirelessly with youngsters in my constituency to identify and provide facilities such as skate parks for the many who wish to practise the sport responsibly? However, may I share his concern with the Minister that, when these facilities are planned, enough attention should be paid to security—lighting and closed circuit television—in order to protect such youngsters, who are often bullied by others who want to disrupt them? I should be grateful if the Minister ensured that, when these facilities are planned, proper attention is paid to security to encourage youngsters, so that they are not driven away by those who are out to spoil their sport.

Yes; in a context in which Sport England has put more money into providing more skateboard parks and we now have a play fund of £155 million for even more skateboard parks, I will be happy to discuss that with Sport England.

I welcome the Minister’s announcement, but what steps are his Department taking to encourage teenagers to have a say in the process of obtaining facilities in their local area and to engage with those youngsters so that they can be kept away from antisocial behaviour?

My hon. Friend is right. He knows that the Government will shortly be introducing a local government White Paper and appreciates that, while Sport England wants to ensure that it consults young people on its plans, a large part of sporting provision is run by local authorities. I hope that, when we debate the White Paper, we can take those issues forward.