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Sport (West Lancashire)

Volume 564: debated on Thursday 20 June 2013

The latest participation figures show that 37% of people in West Lancashire are playing sport once a week, which is above the national average. In addition, Lancashire is hosting both an Ashes test and the rugby league world cup this year, which I am sure will maintain enthusiasm for sport in the county.

Participation rates in the north-west have fallen and Conservative-run West Lancashire borough council has closed Skelmersdale sports centre with no replacement in sight, provided unplayable football pitches due to inadequate drainage, and has made deep cuts in leisure service provision while sitting on tens of millions of pounds in reserves. Does the Minister think that the borough council’s approach is the right one to achieve an increase in participation rates and honour the Olympic legacy?

The hon. Lady needs to be careful with her figures. If she is arguing that the participation rates have fallen, that is only for the winter. I was told that rugby league, which is big in her part of the world, had a week in which 96% of all its fixtures were cancelled. That explains the drop-off in participation. [Interruption.] Well yes; because when there is snow on the ground you can’t play rugby league. I would have thought that as the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) could have probably worked that out. The fact is that participation rates are above the national average in the part of the world the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) represents. I encourage local authorities to make use of both the Olympic effect and the many sports fixtures coming to her part of the world this year to drive up rates.

At best, the active people figure for West Lancashire has flatlined, and participation rates in the north-west have gone down. Overall, the country has seen a reduction of 200,000. It is less than a year since the Olympic games and what have we got? Some 68% of school sports organisers tell us that fewer children are doing sport and that they are spending less time doing it. While the rest of us looked forward to an Olympic legacy, the Government were wrecking school sports partnerships. Now they are blaming the weather for adult figures going down. Rather than riding on the back of fluctuations in the climate, will the Minister get to the Dispatch Box and tell us what he is going to do to deliver a sustainable Olympic legacy?

The first thing is that the hon. Gentleman has got his figures wrong. The second is that anybody with an iota of common sense would accept that if there is snow on the ground rugby league cannot be played, and that if there is ice on the road people are unlikely take their bicycles out. In the period since 2005 when we won the bid, up to the moment when, across two Governments, we delivered the games, London was the first host city to deliver a sustained increase—of 1.4 million—in participation. I pay tribute to the policy devised by James Purnell and carried through by the right hon. Members for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) when they were Secretaries of State. We should celebrate the fact that this country has achieved what no other country in the history of the Olympic games has ever achieved. Ranting and carping is pretty stupid.