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Outdoor Recreation

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 15 January 2015

Via Sport England, we invest nearly £70 million each year in outdoor sporting activities, and through VisitEngland and VisitBritain we will be promoting visits to the great outdoors through our “Countryside is Great” campaign.

Given the importance of tackling the increasing challenge of physical inactivity and given the potential of tourism in rural communities, does my hon. Friend agree that this is a good time to consider establishing a national strategy for outdoor recreation to sit alongside the Government’s successful sports strategy, to get more people active outdoors?

I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend that outdoor recreation is fantastic for our country, and we very much appreciate the work he does in promoting the benefits. I have had several meetings across Government on this issue, and I am engaging with the sector more widely. I will present more on this vision soon, and will be happy to update him in due course.

What are the Government doing to encourage more women and girls to get involved in outdoor recreation and sport? There is a particular problem of girls leaving school and never doing sport again.

We are doing a lot to get girls participating in sport and outdoor activity—I am sure the hon. Gentleman has heard of the £10 million Sport England “This Girl Can” campaign, which was launched this week. It is a cutting-edge consumer campaign aiming to normalise sport and outdoor activity, and I think it will do very well in increasing participation, and also deal with the health and emotional well-being issues that we have got to get to grips with.

Will the Minister join me in sending our support and condolences to Alex Thomson from Gosport, the yachtsman who was dramatically demasted last night while leading the Barcelona world race? Fortunately, none of the crew was hurt. In a place such as Gosport, where we have a world-class marine scene, he is one of our true champions.

I am very sorry to hear about that, and my thoughts and prayers go to him and his family and friends.

I join the Minister in welcoming the Sport England “This Girl Can” campaign designed to encourage more women and girls to get active, but in order to have a lasting impact we must inspire the next generation, so she must feel shamed by the Youth Sport Trust survey figures published yesterday showing a fall in the time spent by children doing sport in schools since 2010. It is too late to put things right at the fag-end of this Parliament, but is it not clear that this Government squandered a golden legacy in sport and failed to inspire the next generation?

I cannot believe what I am hearing. We have more young people participating in sport now than we did when we bid for the Olympics in 2005, we invest £450 million in the school sport premium, which ignites an interest in sport from an early age, we invest £150 million in school sports, which brings competition back into schools, and we have nearly 17,000 schools participating, so I really do not recognise the very gloomy picture the shadow Minister is desperately trying to paint.