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Olympic Legacy

Volume 556: debated on Thursday 10 January 2013

We are already seeing the positive impact of the Olympics and Paralympics across our legacy programme, clear benefits to our international reputation, shifts in the perception of disability, both at home and abroad, and, importantly, more people, particularly women, playing sport. Investment in grass-roots and elite sport is designed to maintain that important momentum.

I thank the Secretary of State and commend the Government’s work. The sad truth is that, in difficult economic times, with council bills rising, some community clubs, particularly boxing clubs, which are proven to do so much good work in the community, are struggling to stay open. Will she confirm that she will continue to support those clubs so that they can maintain our legacy and, indeed, furnish us with future Olympians?

Grass-roots clubs such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend are vital if even more people are to participate in sport. That is why we have given great priority to investing in local sports venues. This Government have also introduced the Places People Play programme, which is giving £150 million to upgrade 1,000 local sports venues. That is just the sort of action that I am sure my hon. Friend would see as positive.

Will the Minister pledge this morning to analyse how the legacy cascades to all the regions of Britain? She will know of the threatened imminent closure of the Sheffield stadium, which was built for the student games in a past era. The fact is that regions such as Yorkshire are not getting the benefits of the legacy of the Olympics seen in places such as the south of England.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Although the games were called London 2012, they were Olympic and Paralympic games for the whole country and it is important that those benefits come through at a regional level. I believe that we will enable that through all our programmes, including Places People Play, which I have mentioned, as well as many others. We will continue to look at regional benefits.

Team GB achieved great success on the water at the Olympics, not just in rowing, but through Bradford-on-Avon’s Olympic gold medallist Ed McKeever in the kayaking. Is the Secretary of State satisfied that sculler schools and canoeing clubs have enough access to rivers, and will she consider having discussions with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about a possible right to roam?

The hon. Gentleman is right that it is important that people who are involved in those water sports have access to water. We have to balance that with the requirements of other sporting groups, such as anglers, but we will continue to monitor the access to important water facilities because I, like other right hon. and hon. Members, want to see further success at the Rio games.

An Olympic legacy must begin in our schools, yet this Government have cut school sport partnerships, the school sport survey and outdoor play spaces in our schools, and abolished minimum targets for school sport. We are still waiting for their announcement on school sport, which we all expected before Christmas. It is no wonder that less time is being spent doing sport in our schools. When will her Department get to grips with the Secretary of State for Education and lay the foundations that we need for a true sporting legacy?

The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on the importance of sport in the earliest years. I am sure that he will join me in applauding what the Government have done through the school games and the £1 billion youth strategy, and the role of people such as Ellie Simmonds and Jess Ennis at the Olympic games in inspiring the next generation. Perhaps he should focus on that positive record and applaud the work of the Government.