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Grass-roots Sport

Volume 567: debated on Thursday 5 September 2013

Sport England is investing more than £1 billion in youth and community sport between 2013 and 2017. This includes money invested through the whole-sport plans, school games and the facilities development fund, which, at the current reckoning, has improved about 1,400 sports clubs.

Having mentored at the Fight for Peace boxing and martial arts academy in Newham, I have seen at first hand its innovative five-pillar model to get NEETs—those not in education, employment or training—into work or study. A review by the Laureus Foundation found that it saved £4 for every pound invested by cutting crime and welfare dependency. Will my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State come to have a look at the academy and see what the Government can do to put their weight behind it?

Of course. That would be an enormous help to those of us who believe in the power of sport to achieve such outcomes, so perhaps my hon. Friend will also highlight the case to the Department for Work and Pensions and others interested in this area.

But what is the Minister doing about swimming? Does he not realise that it is vital that we build on the Olympic legacy for swimming? Will he meet the Education Secretary to ensure that the Government follow through the recommendation of the Education Committee’s “School sports following London 2012” report that there should be a plan for all schools to access swimming pools? Will he also support my campaign to keep Holden Lane pool in Stoke-on-Trent open?

We and the Department for Education are looking at the Select Committee report carefully. I was at a meeting on school sport at the Department for Education only yesterday, so I can give the hon. Lady an absolute commitment. However, I would be a little nervous about giving her an absolute commitment about her swimming pool without knowing the facts. There has been a problem that pools built in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s are no longer economical, for environmental and other reasons, whereas new pools have a much better performance, so I would need to be sure that her pool was not part of that group.

Will the Minister join me in thanking Sport England for its investment in Nailsworth tennis club and the Football Foundation for its investment in Frampton football club? He will recognise that those are examples of the investment that is making a real difference to community sport throughout my constituency.

I certainly congratulate Sport England, which deserves particular credit for the way in which it runs the “Places People Play” fund, which I suspect was responsible for the first of the improvements that my hon. Friend mentioned. That fund could not have been put in place without the increase in funding that sport got from the national lottery in 2010.

Does the Minister share my concern that survey after survey shows that fewer and fewer children are participating in sport in school?

I am not sure that that is entirely right. If one talks to many of the big sport governing bodies, such as British Cycling, one hears that huge numbers of people who are cycling are not picked up by the exacting criteria on which the surveys are based. As the hon. Gentleman knows, starting this September—this was the point of yesterday’s meeting—the new primary school sports premium means that £150 million will be shared by every primary school in the country. Each school will receive between £8,000 and £10,000 specifically ring-fenced to spend on sports. I would be very disappointed indeed and there would be real questions in the House if that did not produce a substantial upturn.

There are some excellent legacy initiatives, but the one thing that was not there initially was connecting ordinary people with the “be inspired, get involved” local community sporting opportunities. The Prime Minister has so far not met me and now the “get involved” initiative has written to all councils in England and Wales. Will the Minister now meet me, the Sport and Recreation Alliance and the Community Sports Partnership Network to discuss how the Government can support this initiative?

Greg Dyke has recently taken the helm at the Football Association, which is responsible for grass-roots football. Does the Minister agree, as I do, with Henry Winter of The Daily Telegraph, who says that Greg Dyke has set the wrong targets, and that rather than focusing on the performance of the England team, the FA should be promoting more coaches, to do some real good for grass-roots football?

I thank the hon. Lady for that one: enter the controversy on day one! One thing that we learned from the Olympics last summer is that one of the very best ways of getting more young people to play sport is to put role models in the shop window. The honest answer to her question is that it is a combination of the two things. If the England team can win a World cup by 2022, which I hope very much it can—it would be nice if it won one in 2014, actually—that will be of enormous benefit. The Government contributed to the new National Football Centre, precisely to achieve the objectives that she shares.

Despite the good work that is obviously going on all around the country, participation in sport is falling, especially in school sport. [Interruption.] The Minister says that it is not, but the Chance to Shine survey shows that half of all pupils are not even doing two hours’ sport a week, the Smith Institute survey shows that 68% of school sports staff report a decrease in participation, and his own Department’s figures show a 10% fall in the number of primary school children taking part in sport. That is very worrying indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) mentioned the Secretary of State for Education, and I am sure that the Minister will agree that as in so many ways the Secretary of State is making matters worse here. So often, sport is teamwork. For the sake of sport, may we have some teamwork across Government? A year on from the Olympics, the price that is being paid for this Government’s dismantling of the programmes that the last Government put in place is now becoming clear.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The last active people survey showed that since we won the bid in 2005, against an exacting target, 1.4 million extra people were playing sport who were not doing so in 2005. As for dismantling the target, I seem to remember that it was the Government in which the right hon. and learned Lady served who cut the amount of funding that sport gets through the national lottery from 20% when they came into power in 1997 to 13.7% when we took power in 2010—something we have now reversed.


7. What progress her Department has made on the roll-out of broadband to rural communities; and if she will make a statement. (900117)

Thirty-eight local broadband contracts have now been signed under our rural broadband programme, representing over 95% of the total project funding allocations. Ten projects have already provided their first superfast broadband connections and delivery is now moving ahead across the country.

My constituents in Brocton and other villages, especially those who work from home or run businesses there, are looking forward to faster broadband speeds. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the benefits of superfast broadband in rural areas?

There is an enormous amount of evidence of the economic advantages in not just rural areas but across the country of faster broadband, and that is why the Government are putting in place a programme that will see more than £1 billion-worth of investment going into this vital infrastructure.

11. The National Audit Office has exposed lamentable failings in the rural broadband programme, including the absence of competitive provision, which we have discussed in the Chamber. Its report tells us that BT is to be handed £1.2 billion for this project, but, for example,“The Department does not know how much contingency BT has included.”Will the Secretary of State insist that BT provide full 20:20 cost-transference before public money is handed over? (900123)

The right hon. Gentleman should also acknowledge that the NAO report stated that the value-for-money controls in contracts appeared to be robust. We all know that BT will be paid only on the basis of actual eligible costs incurred. I hope he will join me in celebrating a programme that will deliver such an important piece of infrastructure to communities up and down the country.