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Children (Sport)

Volume 546: debated on Thursday 14 June 2012

Through the school games, we are encouraging all schools to offer their pupils the chance to play more competitive sport. The number of schools participating is now more than 13,500. Additionally, 64 county festivals of sport will take place this year, with more than 112,000 children taking part. We also had the inaugural national finals in May, where more than 1,600 of our best young athletes competed in and around the Olympic park. I know that as a great champion of sport in the county of Kent, my hon. Friend will be delighted that the Kent school games were launched on Tuesday night.

Absolutely. This year’s school games were an unusually successful event, precisely because of the proximity of London’s Olympics. Thanks to the work of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the finals were able to take place in the Olympic park, giving young athletes the chance to compete on the same stretch of track that the world’s best athletes will compete on in six weeks’ time. As I said, more than 1,600 children had that opportunity.

When we left office, 90% of children were doing at least two hours of sport a week, and some were doing a lot more. Does the Minister know what the current figure is?

Yes I do, because the Secretary of State for Education has helpfully—unlike under the previous Administration, as the hon. Gentleman draws that comparison—made physical education one of only four core parts of the school curriculum, so everybody will at last be doing it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, as a great supporter of sport, will support that.

Football remains a very popular competitive sport for people of all ages. Does the Minister share my concern about the loss in the High Court of HMRC’s case against the football creditors rule, and will he discuss with his ministerial colleagues whether the Government may legislate to get rid of that rule, for which even the chairman of the Football League has said he cannot find any moral justification?

One of the interesting things that came out of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport’s report on football governance, in which my hon. Friend played a key part, was that almost nobody responsible for football at any level tried to defend the football creditors rule. I know that he has a private Member’s Bill to abolish it. I believe that HMRC is contemplating an appeal against the decision, and clearly we want to wait and see how that plays out, but I believe it is a rule that has had its day.

One problem is that once young people reach the age of 16 and leave school, they tend to drop out of sport in great numbers. Many people aged 16-plus go on to college and university. What discussions has the Minister had with his colleagues in the Department for Education about how we can address the problem and encourage more and more young people to continue with some sort of sporting activity?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Indeed, if we look back over the past 20 years or so, we see that the one thing that nobody has really managed to address has been post-school dropout. We are trying a new approach via the new youth sport strategy, which will be the key component of the next round of whole-sport plans. I very much hope that by linking schools much better to community clubs and putting people into colleges of higher education, which have not been well covered, we will tackle the problem in the next cycle.

Order. There is no hurry. I have seen the hon. Gentleman, but I am saving him up for his own question, which we will reach in due course.

The Minister will know that young people are inspired to get into sport by top sportspeople. Does he share my concern about what happened yesterday with the bidding for the Premier League broadcast rights? The empire of people who some of us do not think are fit and proper to have senior positions in the media has yet again got the bulk of Premier League matches.

That is an interesting point, but it is a very complex matter. One of the very first things that I did as a new Minister was to secure an agreement from all UK sport governing bodies, to which the Premier League voluntarily signed up, to invest 30% of their UK broadcast income into the grass roots. If the league makes more money, that means more money for the grass roots, which we should support. The interesting point about yesterday’s announcement was the arrival for the first time of BT as a partner. I hope that that produces more competitive tension in the market.