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Volume 556: debated on Thursday 10 January 2013

In the recent UK Sport and Sport England funding announcement, our elite boxers receive £13.8 million to help them prepare for Rio 2016, a 44% increase on the amount available at the last Olympics, which reflects their success. Under the whole sport plan, the Amateur Boxing Association of England will receive £5.8 million to drive up participation, an increase of 22% on the previous funding period. Boxing is a part of the school games, and schools are free to provide their pupils with non-contact boxing opportunities should they choose to do so.

As boxing is unique in rewarding participants for landing blows to the head and causing damage to that most vulnerable of human organs, the brain—damage that is serious, cumulative and irreversible—should the Government not encourage sports that measure athleticism without inflicting brain damage?

No is the simple answer to that question. Many sports contain an element of risk—riding and cycling, both of which have much higher injury tallies than boxing, come to mind. At London 2012, the majority of injuries were not from boxing, but from other sports. Most young people like an element of risk, and boxing has a really important role to play in encouraging young people to take up sport, particularly in deprived and inner-city areas. I am keen to encourage them to do so.

It is clear that new ways to fund sports and the arts must be found, particularly for local and regional projects. In Darlington, Project Vane involves exciting private sector partners who want to invest in bringing an old arts centre back to life, which may well hold boxing too—

Yes, indeed, Mr Speaker. May I invite the Minister to look at our bid to the Arts Council for capital investment—there are no ongoing revenue needs requiring public sector investment—to help us to bring that project along?

The best thing to say is that I wish the hon. Lady every good fortune. I am not responsible for the Arts Council—I suspect that a submission from the Minister with responsibility for sports would get a fairly dusty response—but I wish her every good fortune.