I beg to move,
This House notes that the number of people participating in regular sport or physical activity has fallen significantly since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games; fears that the Government has squandered the Olympic legacy it was bequeathed in 2010; believes that increasing participation in a wide range of sports is key to creating the next generation of elite athletes and to improving the health and wellbeing of the nation; and urges the Government to take urgent action to boost participation and support local grassroots sports clubs and associations.
Nobody seriously doubts that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games were an enormous success. They were a beacon for the world; we showed how these things can be done and should be done, from the magnificent opening ceremony with its celebration of the industrial revolution and Labour’s part in creating the NHS through to the best-attended Paralympic games ever. Team GB won 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze medals at the Olympics, and 120 medals at the Paralympic games. There were so many great moments: Mo Farah; Jessica Ennis; Charlotte Dujardin; Alistair Brownlee; Ellie Simmonds; Jade Jones; Nicola Adams; Chris Hoy, winning his seventh Olympic medal; Victoria Pendleton, winning her third; Rebecca Adlington and Katherine Grainger, winning their fourth medals; and David Weir and Sarah Storey, wining four golds each in just one games.
The very fact that the baton was passed from Labour to the coalition underlined basic British values: democracy, fair play—or, as we say in Wales, chwarae teg—and the rule of law. They were great times, but the point of hosting the games was never just to run a big event; there had to be a legacy. We were spending a lot of taxpayers’ money and diverting £675 million of lottery funds away from good causes, including the arts. The total cost of both games came to just under £9 billion, so there had to be a legacy; otherwise, it was just the most expensive party in our history.
When we were in government and made the original bid, we said that we wanted to see
“millions more young people—in Britain and across the world—participating in sport and improving their lives”.
The coalition reaffirmed that in 2010, saying that it wanted to
“foster a healthy and active nation.”
That is why Labour set a target of getting 2 million more people in England being active by 2012 and set up a £140 million fund to provide free swimming to the over-60s and the under-16s.
In December 2010, the coalition set itself four legacy aims: increasing grassroots sporting participation; exploiting opportunities for economic growth; promoting community engagement; and ensuring the development of the Olympic Park after the games, to drive the regeneration of east London.
What has happened since then? Frankly, it has been an own goal, a dropped baton, a belly flop. The primary legacy aim was to increase participation, but, in virtually every region of this country and in virtually every sport, that has not happened—quite the reverse. It is striking. The figures are down in the north-east, the north-west, the east midlands, the west midlands, the south-east, the south-west and the eastern region. There are 62,100 fewer people participating every week in the north-west, and 72,200 fewer people participating every week in Yorkshire.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the decline actually started before the Olympic games? Is it not possible to pinpoint it to the scrapping of the schools sport partnership, which did such good work in spreading best practice and sports participation among young people in schools?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point and I hope the sports Minister was not booing in disagreement, because she made that point herself on 18 December 2013. I look forward to her joining us in the Lobby later this evening.
This is not just about every region in the country; it is about every sport. Participation is down in non-Olympic sports, including cricket by 73,200 and squash by 79,900. Participation is also down in Olympic sports, including archery by 23,600, badminton by 119,800, basketball by 46,900, football by 121,400 and table tennis, or whiff-whaff, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson)—who bears some responsibility for all this—has often referred to it. Most striking of all, participation in the one sport that is participated in equally by men and women and boys and girls—it is the most popular sport in this country—is down by a massive 818,500. Thirty-three out of 45 funded sports have seen a fall or practically no increase at all in participation since the Olympic and Paralympic games.
On the schools sport partnership, it is a fact that low sports participation is heavily correlated with deprivation. One of the greatest problems in recent years is the decline in participation in areas of deprivation, which is exactly where the schools sport partnerships were doing such a superb job, including in my own constituency and in parts of London where space and external space are at a premium and where we have to work hard to overcome that.
We should rename my hon. Friend Mystic Karen, because that is the exact point I was going to come on to. She is right. It is one of the most depressing factors—[Interruption.] I can hear some chuntering from the Government Front Bench. Yes, it is true that trampolining figures went up a little bit, but the problem with trampolining is that you always come back down.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the major drivers of school sports and sports inclusion in areas of deprivation is the local council? Given the excessive cuts to local councils, is it any wonder that sports participation has gone down?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. [Interruption.] I think I have managed to hear another little squeak from the sports Minister. [Interruption.] I am sorry; I would not want to malign her. Perhaps she will agree with my hon. Friend later in the debate. In 2013, the Minister pointed out that it was a disgrace that so many schools had sold school playing fields since 2010. Why did they do that? They did it because of the problems that local authorities had. Whichever way we cut the figures, they are a disaster.
I have been dealing with the hon. Gentleman since I was at university with him, and I know when to give way and when not to give way. He will just have to wait a little bit longer.
Hon. Members might have thought that the success of the Paralymics would have encouraged more people with limiting disabilities to take part in sport, but one major problem is that the figure for people with limiting disabilities taking part in sport has fallen dramatically, by 171,000.
If the sporting legacy from the Olympic games is as bad as the hon. Gentleman says—by the way, he is completely wrong, because as far as I know, another 1.4 million people are playing sport in this country since 2005—can he explain why, in London since the Olympic games, there has been an increase of 400,000 people playing sport? Is that something to do with the great work done by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) as the commissioner for sport in London?
I warn Conservative Members who are enjoying a little moment of Borisonics that the truth of the matter is that the hon. Gentleman likes to elide his figures. It sounded as if he was comparing like with like, but of course he was not. He was comparing 2005 with now. It is true the Labour Government dramatically increased the participation in sport from 2005 to 2010, but his lot—his Government—managed to destroy that legacy. He can try to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker, and we will see whether he can recount better statistics.
All hon. Members can perhaps congratulate the new award-winning “This Girl Can” campaign. With such campaigns and with all the talk of improving female participation in sport, we might have thought that the figures for women would have improved, but unfortunately not: 212,000 fewer women take part in sport every week than at the time of the Olympics. That is why we needed that excellent campaign, run by Sport England, to try to fix the Government’s failures.
The hon. Gentleman might be being a little selective in his use of statistics. When my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) mentioned the 1.4 million extra people playing sport, he was rightly referring to the time at which the bid was secured. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman rightly refers in the motion to the fact that the Olympic legacy started well before the Olympic games were staged in London.
I am sorry, but the former Secretary of State does not seem to understand that she is praising the Labour Government. We had significant success between 2005 and 2010, and I would argue that the success we achieved up to 2012 was significant, before she and her Government managed to get their hands on the situation. The problem is the legacy after the games, which happened entirely on the watch of the Conservatives. I noted earlier in Prime Minister’s questions that he kept referring to “the former Government”, but the former Government is his Government. The Conservatives can no longer run away from their own record on such matters.
Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of the statistics is what has happened to participation among those on lower incomes. In 2005-06, the year that the right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman referred to, when the bid was won, 27.2% of people on the lowest incomes participated in sport. When we left office, that had risen to 27.9%. In the post-Olympic year, 2012-13, which we are using as a baseline in these debates, participation had risen again to 29.3%, but in the most recent statistics, participation has fallen to 25.7%. Who can wonder why those on the lowest incomes are finding it difficult to participate in sport when it is expensive to take part in sport, local authorities are under the cosh financially, and many of the services they have relied on have simply disappeared?
Things are no better in Scotland. The Scottish Government do not keep accurate statistics on sport participation, perhaps for an obvious reason, but people living beside some of Glasgow’s most prominent Commonwealth games venues are now playing significantly less sport and taking less exercise than they did before the event last year. In particular, many people have complained that the games felt as though they were intended for posher and better-off parts of Glasgow and Scotland than for the people on the very doorsteps where the games were taking place.
I had the privilege on Sunday of taking part in the Great Notts bike ride, where there were more cyclists than at any point in the event’s history. Surely, the hon. Gentleman would recognise, just by stepping out on to Bridge Street, that the number of cyclists making use of cycle roads in London, courtesy of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), has increased dramatically. Surely, that is a success of the Olympic games and the Great British cycling team?
Everybody would like to praise Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and the many others who have led by example and the 46,000 additional people who have taken up cycling, but there are still significant problems that the Government and local authorities need to tackle and that is a small drop in the ocean compared with the overall figures, which have fallen significantly. In Labour-run Wales, by contrast, the figures are considerably better. Some 70% of adults participated in sport or physical recreation in the four weeks before the most recent survey, compared with just 44% in England.
I really must take issue with hon. Gentleman’s comments about Glasgow, particularly since his own party runs the council there. The price of using local football pitches has quadrupled because of that Labour council. That is why it is an issue—nothing to do with the Scottish Government.
Oh dear, the Scottish National party always love to find somebody else to blame. The truth of the matter is that Scotland is run by the SNP, and that 80% of local authority budgets in Scotland are determined by the SNP in Holyrood. When the hon. Gentleman starts attacking Glasgow Council, he needs to start looking into his own backyard.
The coalition Government said they would ensure the development of the Olympic Park after the games, but here there are further legacy worries. So far, the cost of transforming the venue into a stadium ready for football has reached £272 million: £15 million coming from West Ham, £1 million from UK Athletics, £40 million from Newham Council and £25 million from the Government. The overall spend on the venue will now top £700 million for the 54,000 seat arena—considerably more expensive per spectator than the £798 million lavished on the 90,000 capacity Wembley stadium. The project is now over budget by about £35 million, which comes close to the total cost of converting the City of Manchester stadium after the 2002 Commonwealth games. This has the feel, frankly, of a fiasco cooked up somewhere between the Mayor’s office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Treasury, which is why, in the interests of transparency, I urge the Government to publish the full details of West Ham’s secret deal as a matter of urgency.
I will agree with the hon. Gentleman on that. It was indeed a mess cooked up between the Mayor, the Treasury and DCMS: it was the Labour Mayor, the Treasury under Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown who decided to go ahead with a stadium that was completely unsuitable for the purpose.
Will the hon. Gentleman have the decency to admit this single fact? The economic legacy in east London is absolutely superb and the sporting legacy in London—it was called the London Olympics—is that more people are playing sport after the Olympics than were before.
If the people of east London felt that there had been such an enormous success due to the hon. Gentleman’s antics in the Mayor’s office there would probably have been more people voting Conservative in the east end of London, whereas I note there are quite a lot of Members sitting around me on the Labour Benches representing the east end of London. I note, and the Secretary of State should note, that the hon. Gentleman agreed with my call for the Government to publish all the details of the deal with West Ham.
The Education Committee visited east London as part of its inquiry into the Olympic legacy for school sport in 2013, and we warned the Government then of the lack of legacy and the fall in participation in physical activity generally. In their response, the Government acknowledged that, yet we have still seen a failure. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is worrying for everyone in this country that the Government chose to ignore the advice they were given by the Committee and their own comments on that Committee’s report?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He, too, is mystic, as that is a point I am coming on to.
There has been this signal failure because, immediately on coming into office in 2010, the coalition abandoned the target on getting more people active. They scrapped the free swimming fund, putting local authorities under real pressure. They sold off school playing fields and they scrapped ring-fenced funding for sports school partnerships, as my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) mentioned. They abandoned all targets for PE and sport in school. They have had four Secretaries of State in five years, and three sports Ministers all peddling their own preoccupations, rather than laying out a clear 10-year strategy for sports and activity. Their lazy, laissez-faire, hands-off attitude to sports has simply wasted our Olympic legacy.
Frankly, all that is very Conservative. We should remember that Mrs Thatcher did not close only the mines; she closed all the lidos in London as well. It is a fundamental principle of the Tories. How do I know that all this is the fault of the Government? Because the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport told us so herself. She said the other day:
“Government is in part to blame in that we have got a sport strategy that is very much out of date”.
Five years of your Government, seven years of the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip as Mayor—it is all your fault. They have had plenty of warnings, too, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) said. The Education Committee report of 2013 was absolutely explicit:
“There is clear evidence that the ending of the school sport partnerships funding has had a negative impact”.
“School sport is too important to rely on occasional efforts at pump-priming”.
Its starkest warning of all was:
“We believe that the opportunity to realise a London 2012 legacy for school sports has not yet been lost”.
It said that in 2013. Well, it has now been lost because that warning was ignored.
The Secretary of State used to chair the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Even that Committee warned last year:
“We are very concerned about the lack of communication and co-operation between Government departments, which we think presents a serious obstacle to the DCMS in its attempts to deliver the Olympic legacy.”
This week, in national school sports week, the Youth Sport Trust has said that we are at a “critical crossroads” where
“action is needed now to modernise the approach to PE and school sport”.
I am sure that the Mayor of London is a lover of statistics and will enjoy this one: 71.2% of adults in Brent would love to do more sporting activity, compared with 55% in the country as a whole. Unfortunately, however, the lack of access and opportunity prevents that from happening. I declare an interest in being the Member of Parliament representing Wembley stadium, where we should have seen a lasting Olympic legacy.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and it is a delight to see her back in her rightful place in this House.
There are further dangers ahead. Let us take swimming, for example. As I said, this is the one sport in which participation among girls and boys is equal. Swimming is the most popular form of activity in this country, with 2.6 million people taking part every week. There are, however, many things that put people off swimming, including communal changing rooms, lack of privacy, tired facilities, never learning to swim in the first place, particularly among poorer families, and simply the cost of using a swimming pool. Every Member will have heard of the problems faced by local authorities in maintaining leisure centres, and many of us might have had to fight for swimming pools to stay open in our own constituencies. In fact, the number of pools is pretty stable, at about 5,000 in England alone. More than half of all local authority pools, as opposed to pools in expensive private members’ clubs, were built before 1985 and require significant investment to continue to operate and be attractive to modern swimmers. There are dramatic challenges ahead in respect of just that one sport. We must ensure that more people go swimming.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to interrupt his fantasy. What he is saying is not correct: it does not apply throughout the country. My local authority, Wealden, has redeveloped all its swimming pools with the help of the Government’s house building premium,
What I am saying is perfectly correct. It comes straight from the Amateur Swimming Association. Local authority swimming pools all over the country face problems because a small majority were built before 1985. They are less attractive facilities, and they therefore require significant investment. Such properties are difficult to maintain.
The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) says that things have improved in his part of the world, but that proves another point. The Government have slanted funds away from some parts of the country to other parts. In Gateshead, a bowling centre that is a lifeline for hundreds of elderly people will have to close simply because my council has lost 48% of its budget over the last five years.
I think that all Members understand the basis of local authority funding, which is that 80% of it comes from Westminster and 20% from council tax and other sources. The problem is that—particularly in deprived areas where many people rely on council services for the elderly, for the protection of children and for their livelihoods and living standards—local authorities are under the cosh, and are finding it very difficult to maintain supposedly non-statutory services such as leisure and libraries. That is undoubtedly having an effect.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, the latest Sport England data show that, in respect of the last two comparable years, he is quite right: the number of people involved in swimming did fall. However, the number of people involved in athletics, cycling, football, rugby and cricket rose. What analysis has he made of those statistics?
I said earlier that the number of people involved in four sports had risen. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman about the football statistic, and I am quite happy to have a row with him about it. The overall point, though, is that fewer people are taking part in sport. We have not seen the dramatic increase for which we all hoped. We hoped that spending significant amounts, and diverting moneys from other lottery good causes, would produce a dramatic legacy, and that all the leadership shown by elite athletes would bear fruit in the form of a healthier nation, but that has not happened.
What are we calling for? First, we are calling for a proper, 10-year sport strategy, with a particular focus on involving more women, on disability sport, and on those in areas of multiple deprivation and with the lowest incomes. I think that the sports Minister agrees with us, because she suggested some of that last week.
If I am agreeing with the Minister and she is agreeing with me, this is quite a love-in—and all the more reason to support Labour at the end of the debate.
Secondly, we are calling for a renewed determination to make the premier league divert more of the proceeds of its broadcast rights to grass roots football, funding coaches, kit and pitches. Football does not belong to those at the top; it belongs to the kids who put up posters in their bedrooms, and to the parents who take them to play soccer every Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon. It belongs to the grass roots, and more of the money should be going down to them.
Thirdly, we are calling for immediate action to divert money away from dormant betting accounts and unclaimed betting winnings, and towards the grass roots of the 45 funded sports. Fourthly, we are calling for the restoration of two hours a week for sport and physical education at schools. We used to talk about five hours a week; is it too much to ask for two hours? Fifthly, we want the Government to set a proper target, and aim for an increase of 2 million in the number of people who take part in sport. Surely to God, we can get more of our countryfolk engaged in an active lifestyle.
Finally, we are calling on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Health and the Department for Education to present an annual report on school sport to Parliament, so we can all agree on the facts, which would be brought to the House on a cross-party basis.
Why does all that matter? A more active nation will be a healthier nation, see more people physically able to work, see fewer people succumb to long-term debilitating illnesses and see fewer people die prematurely. Engaging more people in a healthy lifestyle is the best, most effective and most efficient form of healthcare. If we want to tackle ischemic heart disease, diabetes, stroke and many mental health conditions, we have to build a healthier, more active nation. As Sport England put it:
“If a million more people across the country played sport each week, it would save the taxpayer £22.5 billion in health and associated costs.”
Sport is an essential aspect of rehabilitation, improving people’s sense of self-worth and of wellbeing. As the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, under the current Secretary of State’s chairmanship, put it last year:
“It is widely acknowledged that one of the major health issues facing the UK is the decline in physical activity by the population, leading to a rise in obesity and associated conditions.”
So it must surely be a scandal for all of us that we spend more in this country—three times more—on weight loss surgery than we do on the Change4Life health campaign. We should be spending more money on preventing obesity than on surgery to tackle it.
I believe, therefore, that we should lead by example, so I make an offer to the Secretary of State. There will be a London marathon next year. I am quite happy to run, if he is happy to run.
I thank the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for giving the House this opportunity to celebrate not just the fantastic success of the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012, but the amazing legacy that this country has enjoyed as a result. It is right that we consider it now: we are just over a year away from the Rio 2016 games, and it is a little more than three years since we hosted the games in London.
There is not a lot in the hon. Gentleman’s motion with which I disagree. It is unfortunate that he has adopted some rather snide language, as that makes it impossible for us to support it, but once we take that out and remove the synthetic outrage that permeated many of his remarks earlier, we will find there is quite a lot of agreement across the House, and that, I hope, will come out. I certainly agree with the start of his speech, when he talked about the enormous success of the 2012 games. Without any question, they gripped the public’s attention and fired imagination right across the UK.
Almost to the surprise and disappointment of some detractors in the press, we managed to construct the facilities on time and within budget, and we then had the superb organisation, for which congratulations are due not just to Lord Coe and Lord Deighton, but to the thousands of people involved in the games, both employees and volunteers. That sent a clear and long overdue message to the world that we can still put on a magnificent event with a degree of friendliness and good spirit, which impressed the whole world and showed that this country is prepared to welcome any visitors to our shores.
Our athletes were outstandingly successful, coming third in the medals tables for both the Olympic and Paralympic games. One reason for the original success of our bid was that we put the question of legacy at the absolute core of our plans right from the start. I remember going to talk to a Greek Minister about the legacy of the Athens games, when he confessed to us that his main concern had been getting the facilities prepared in time and he had not even thought about what would happen to them afterwards. That was not the case here. We were always clear that legacy was at the heart of our preparation, and we focused in particular on regenerating a particularly disadvantaged area of east London, on our economy and the potential boost to tourism, on volunteering, on the lives and perceptions of disabled people and, yes, on sport, both elite and in terms of participation and healthy living. We have made strong progress on all those five themes.
On the regeneration of east London, as my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has said, we have a secure future for each of the permanent venues on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Nearly 5 million people have visited the park since it reopened two years ago, including hundreds of thousands who have been able to swim in the aquatics centre or ride in the velodrome or on the BMX track. All eight of the permanent venues have their long-term futures secured, and this is the first time a host city has managed to achieve that within a year. In particular, we have secured a long-term future for the Olympic stadium itself—that has not always been the case for previous host cities. I can remember visiting the Olympic stadium in Athens, where grass was growing out of the running track.
In the next two years alone, the Olympic stadium in east London will host the world athletics championships and five matches during the rugby world cup, including the semi-final. It will also become the permanent home to one of the UK’s most famous football clubs. In addition, the athletes’ village has been converted into housing, with more than 4,500 people already living in this new community. We should also note that those residents will have not only world-class sport on their doorsteps, but world-class culture. The House will be aware that the Government are contributing towards the costs of a new cultural and educational quarter on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park—Olympicopolis. I am delighted that it will provide a new campus for my own university, University College London, as well as a campus for the University of the Arts London, and that already Sadler’s Wells and the Victoria and Albert Museum have committed to being a part of it. We are now in discussion with the Smithsonian about it establishing its first permanent museum outside the United States.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that things such as the terms of the rent are commercially confidential and to reveal them may jeopardise future negotiations with potential tenants. There are good reasons why doing what he suggests is not possible, but we will of course respond to him and set those out in more detail.
Let me finish my remarks about the physical legacy by saying that the transport links to and from the park have also had a huge impact on that part of London. There has also been an economic legacy more generally. There is no doubt that the games provided a showcase for British business—in construction, in event management and across a number of other sectors. Where other countries have followed suit, in Rio, in Baku and in the Commonwealth games and elsewhere, it has often been the expertise that we have developed in this country that is now winning jobs and orders for this country across the world. The total international trade and investment benefits from the games and games-time activity has already exceeded £14 billion, against an already ambitious target of £l1 billion.
The games were also the opportunity to show off the United Kingdom to the world and, as a result, we are on track to deliver tourism targets of an extra 4.7 million visitors, spending £2.3 billion, over a four-year period. An evaluation of the legacy benefits from the games by an independent consortium has estimated that the total economic benefit in terms of UK gross value added will be between £28 billion and £41 billion over the period from 2004 to 2020.
We would get through this debate a lot better if Members on both sides of the House stopped kidding themselves that we have any of these benefits in Scotland. This was a games for London. They were great and I do not seek to take that away, but the only benefit I can remember was when the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) was hanging from a zip wire and all of Scotland laughed. So let us not pretend that these economic benefits came to Scotland, because they did not—they came to London and that is where it ended.
Earlier today, I had the honour of visiting the Association of British Travel Agents’ Travel Matters conference, where comments were often made about the legacy of the Olympic games, including the 33.4 million in-bound visitors to the UK last year, many of whom also went to Scotland, the significant economic benefit from that and all the tax that was raised from those visits.
We have heard much about one region of England, but Wales missed out on several hundreds of millions of pounds of Barnett consequential funding as well as structural investment and foreign direct investment both before and after the Olympic and Paralympic games. Will the Secretary of State inform the House what he and his Department will do to right that wrong?
I regret to say that I do not have the figures for Wales on the economic benefit of the Olympic games, but I have absolutely no doubt that they are of the same order as that which I have already quoted for Scotland, and I would be happy to provide them to the hon. Lady in due course if I can obtain them from the report.
I can tell hon. Members of one economic benefit. There is a brand-new half marathon in Swansea, which is now in its second year. That development certainly has a lot to do with the growth in athletics. Just this week, I ran round St James’s park in my Eastleigh 10 km T-shirt, trying to get back into running. There is a new all-party group of Members who want to return to running after the campaign. I would certainly like to see Members joining in if they are training for the London marathon. Innovation is really important, as, too, are the financial benefits. In Eastleigh, young women are returning to exercise. They are going to spin classes and bringing their babies with them. Innovation is certainly important.
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend and I am delighted to hear what she has been doing to increase sporting participation on a personal level. I absolutely agree with her. I am about to come on to the issue of sporting participation in due course. Before I do so, let me touch on one or two other aspects of the legacy, particularly the volunteering legacy, which was one of the most extraordinary achievements.
Order. I have been very lenient with the way the debate has been going, but the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) knows that he must not point—[Interruption.] Nor must the other hon. Gentleman to whom he is pointing. Neither of you should be pointing from a sedentary position, especially when the Secretary of State is speaking.
Let me just point out to the hon. Gentleman that the title of his motion includes the words “2012 Olympics legacy”, so it is relevant to talk about it.
On volunteering, one of the greatest successes of the games were the 70,000 games makers, who gave up their time and enthusiasm to make the games as welcoming as they were. They have left a very real legacy. We have seen games-makers style volunteers at the rugby league world cup, the Tour de France Grand Départ, the Glasgow Commonwealth games and we will see them at the rugby union world cup this autumn. They have also inspired thousands of others to volunteer in their communities.
It is extremely telling that the shadow Secretary of State had absolutely nothing to say about volunteering, because he does not want to talk about one of the great success stories of the games and of the legacy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that community-based sports volunteers have a crucial role to play in driving participation in sport? Will he join me in congratulating the independent charity Join In—it was set up by the coalition Government—on recruiting and retaining more than 100,000 volunteers a year since it was set up?
Absolutely. I join my hon. Friend in welcoming that charity. He is being unduly modest in not taking credit for the part that he played in establishing that initiative. It is the case that volunteering is continuing, and that many, many grassroots sports clubs simply would not be able to survive without the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers. Like many Members in this House I suspect, I will be going this weekend to the rugby club in my own constituency to see the NatWest RugbyForce, which is renovating and working on that club. That initiative has been signed up to by more than 650 clubs.
It was my pleasure on Sunday to take part in a 100 km Williams Farm Kitchen cycle ride in Hornsea in my constituency. That follows the Tour de Yorkshire, which followed the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire, and it all follows from the Olympics, where volunteers made such a difference. We see elite athletes all the way down to people at the opposite end of the spectrum, such as myself, riding out on Sunday.
I am hugely impressed by my hon. Friend’s sporting participation, like that of our hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies). There has undoubtedly been a great boost to participation in this House, although I will not promise to take up the hon. Member for Rhondda on his kind offer. None the less, I am delighted that so much activity is taking place.
I want to talk briefly about the Paralympics, because they also had a terrific legacy.
Before the Secretary of State moves on from the legacy, what does he have to say about the legacy for lottery-supported charities that are still hurting from the billions of pounds that were diverted from their activities and that are greatly concerned about how this is going to be resolved? What does he have to say to lottery-supported charities that feel they lost out so dramatically because of the London Olympics?
One of the purposes of the lottery was to support sport in particular, as well as charitable activities, and it seemed to me to be an extremely good use of lottery money to invest in something that has produced such enormous benefit in many different areas. Also, the lottery will benefit from some return, once the sale of the Olympic village has fully gone through.
To return to disabled sport and the Paralympics, one of my greatest moments was to have the opportunity to present flowers to some of the medal winners in the Olympic stadium during the Paralympics. The atmosphere in the stadium at that time was quite extraordinary. According to a survey taken the year after, more than half the population felt that the Paralympics had a positive impact on the way they viewed disabled people, and nearly a quarter of a million more disabled people are now playing sport than was the case when we won the bid 10 years ago.
The hon. Member for Rhondda talked about the sporting legacy of the games. At the elite end, we have talked about the huge success of Team GB in the games themselves, but we have gone on from that. We are currently sitting fourth in the medal tables in Baku—I thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who attended the opening ceremony in Baku on behalf of the Government. As many hon. Members know, the England women’s football team is now playing in the World cup quarter final this weekend. We wish them every success. We achieved our best ever results at a winter games in Sochi; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all finished in the top 15 in the Commonwealth games medal table last year; and we are going to Rio next year in a spirit of optimism of even greater success.
The hon. Gentleman addressed the question of participation levels. It is correct that the figures in the recent Active People survey are disappointing. There is no question but that one of the prime aims of the games was to increase participation, and we did achieve that: there was a huge boost to participation after the games. As has already been pointed out, some 1.4 million more people are participating in sport than when we won the bid.
The Secretary of State mentioned the Rio games next year. Does he see in the fact that they are fast approaching an opportunity to reinvigorate school sport in particular, so that we can get young people active and involved in sport, and fired up for the Rio games?
I absolutely do. The games in London, and particularly some of the wonderful role models established in many different sports, certainly led to growing enthusiasm among young people, and hopefully the games in Rio next year will have a similar impact. Some of those effects are not picked up in the Active People survey, because young people do not yet come into the statistics.
The Secretary of State touched briefly on women’s participation in sport, but there is a key issue, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) referred. We already had a gender gap of 1.8 million, and 200,000 fewer women are taking part in sport, but the only activities that are growing are things like park runs and the 10 km runs hon. Members have mentioned. There is a serious problem when that is the only type of sport that is increasing.
I agree, which is why the Select Committee that I chaired in the last Parliament carried out an inquiry on women and sport. As the hon. Member for Rhondda mentioned, the barriers to women’s participation are varied. A lot have to do with image, embarrassment, and the nature of the facilities available. It is a complicated picture. That is certainly something that I am keen to see addressed. There are few people more qualified to talk about women’s sport than the Minister with responsibility for sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), who is a very active participant. This is an issue to which we both attach considerable priority.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his compelling speech, and his new position. Does he recognise that there is growing cross-party support for outdoor recreation and its important role in physical activity? Does he agree that outdoor recreation should be part of our future strategy for modern sport in the 21st century?
There is a real risk of everyone being a bit negative about the legacy of the Olympics. In my constituency of Gloucester, the Government have rejuvenated the Blackbridge jubilee athletics track. That is making a huge difference in an otherwise slightly deprived ward. Also, funds have gone towards a brand-new Gloucester rowing club, which has some of the best women rowers in the country and is on the Sharpness-to-Gloucester canal. That will make a significant difference. My right hon. Friend should see that as cause for optimism.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving that example, which is mirrored up and down the country. He is absolutely right that we should not be negative, because we have made a huge amount of progress, and benefits are still flowing from the games. I do not want to speak for much longer, as a lot of people want to speak in the debate.
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I want to bring my speech to an end. We share the concerns of the hon. Member for Rhondda about the figures that came out. That is why my hon. Friend the sports Minister has already announced that we will review our sports strategy and look to adopt a fresh approach to seeing what more we can do to increase participation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) said, we should not be negative, so I conclude by quoting the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach:
“Ensuring a positive legacy from the Olympic Games for a host city…is very important…This is why I am delighted to see that our British partners have succeeded in maximising the legacy of London 2012 across a number of different areas…I see that London and Britain have also understood that the Games can be a catalyst for positive long-term economic, social and sustainable legacies.”
That is the true legacy of the games. On that basis, we are not able to support the Opposition’s motion.
Mòran taing, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for this opportunity to give my maiden speech and hopefully inject notes of calm and good sense in what has been a very robust debate.
I am the first woman to rise to speak in this place representing Edinburgh North and Leith and, I believe, the first woman to represent any part of my constituency in this House. I am pleased to play my small part in changing politics by making the profile of the population of this place more closely match the profile of the population that we serve, and I am absolutely delighted to represent Edinburgh North and Leith. My immediate predecessor was of course Mark Lazarowicz, who represented the constituency for some 14 years and was held in high regard by many of my constituents. I wish him very well in his future endeavours.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you may have heard in recent weeks a succession of Members extolling the virtues of their constituencies and claiming them to be unsurpassed. That can only be because they have not yet visited my constituency. From the elegance of Edinburgh’s New Town—completed a couple of centuries ago, but still the new town to us—to the Shore at Leith, which may have been tamed a little in recent years but still loudly proclaims its independence from Edinburgh, despite the treachery of 1920, my constituency embraces variety, and rebellious spirits are cheek by jowl with more douce residents. It hugs the Forth from Seafield to the Birnie rocks at the foot of Granton, and that relationship with the firth and the sea has shaped the place. International trade in and out of Leith for centuries meant that our links were well enough established that when England took the huff with France and banned claret, we imported it in vast quantities and smuggled it into England—keeping the best for ourselves, of course.
The people of my constituency have always been inventive and resilient, and those qualities have served us well over the years, but it seems we will need them afresh now. While Edinburgh North and Leith has areas of affluence and more than its fair share of professionals from the legal and financial worlds, it also has areas of poverty and deprivation, and communities full of people whose life experiences are not comfortable. In my few weeks as an MP and in my role as a councillor before that, I have seen people in desperate situations. They face grinding poverty and their hope has been bulldozed from their lives.
In 1922, James Maxton rose to make his maiden speech here and talked of the people of Glasgow living in poverty, with the equivalent of benefit sanctions forcing children to the parish council to be fed, just as they are now being sent to food banks. A century on, and it seems little has changed. The voices of the Red Clydesiders would still be regarded as revolutionary in here.
The Chancellor recently informed the House that he intends to cut more deeply than he already has—that the austerity orgy would continue. Leaving aside the fact that austerity has never worked, and wherever it has been tried it has caused long-lasting damage, we can perhaps look at the human face of the cuts—the suffering and the misery—and decide that we should decide a different path; that we should choose a different future.
In his maiden speech, Maxton said:
“We have had many lectures on etiquette, manners and conduct from right hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House, and from the Press of this city, addressed particularly to those of us who come from the West of Scotland. We admit frankly that perhaps on the nicer points of good form we have different ideas from hon. Members on the other side of the House. Our dialect is somewhat different also, and perhaps our mode of dressing is slightly different. But we think it is the very worst form, the very worst taste, that it shows very bad breeding, to kick a man who is in the gutter, or to withdraw a crust from a starving child.”—[Official Report, 8 December 1922; Vol. 159, c. 2231-32.]
We have had something similar here in the past few weeks. We on the SNP Benches may not have the delicacies of this House’s customs and manners perfected, but we too think it is the very worst form, the very worst taste, and that it shows very bad breeding to kick people who are in the gutter or to withdraw a crust from a starving child.
We might have been entitled perhaps to expect that the loyal Opposition would have had something to say about the crushing weight that austerity is for the poor. We might have expected a party that was built on a promise of creating fairness in society to consider that it had a duty to stand up for those with least. Instead, today we find ourselves with a motion in the name of the interim Leader of the Opposition that talks of the supposed squandering of the London Olympic legacy. Given the amount of infrastructure spending that was denied other areas of the UK, as we have heard, to be focused on London for those games, some of us may be forgiven for asking whether the legacy in question should be thought of as a positive one.
I shall be generous, though, and leave that aside, and say that creating the next generation of athletes, elite and otherwise, and improving the health and wellbeing of our people cannot be done unless there is investment in facilities, in coaching provision, and in society. For a child lacking nourishment is far less likely to perform well at any sport, never mind excel, and a parent queuing up at a food bank is not really in the best position to encourage their children’s participation in sport. The same applies to education, health, and life chances. Poverty kills hope, kills opportunity, and smothers ambition. We have to do exactly the opposite.
It seems to me that we stand at a crossroads—a junction of decision—but our duty could not be clearer. We have an obligation to offer hope and ambition. We cannot be the doom-mongers, the nay-sayers, the harpies of hardship. We should be lighting the way to a better future for individuals and communities. A broken society, shackled to a future of despair and trying to hold itself together by its fingertips, is surely too high a price to pay for a marginally improved economic performance now, even if austerity could work. The orgy of cuts must end and rebuilding what has been broken must start. That has to begin with investment in our infrastructure, in our public services and most urgently of all, in our people. No more despair, no more distrust—it is time to invest.
I say to Members on both sides of the House that we have a chance now to make sure that Maxton is not still relevant in another century, and that there is a different way. Come to Scotland. Find a politics that has been rescued by hope, where people are engaged and talking about the future and possibilities. While Members are there, they can take a look at the investment that the Scottish Government have made in community facilities through the Cashback for Communities scheme, financed by money recovered from the proceeds of crime. The next generation are being given somewhere to hone their talents, somewhere to get fit and somewhere to respect each other. Come to Scotland and see the difference it makes, and while you are there, come and see Edinburgh North and Leith. It is the best constituency in the country. I will show you around and let the people tell you that they need more than you are offering, and then you can come back here and make a difference.
We Members were not sent here to mark time and hope that we get out the other end unscathed. We were sent here to do a job. The people we represent need more from us than we have given so far. They need hope. The question for each of us in this House is: are we good enough to deliver that hope, to offer it? If people cannot look to Parliament, they will look elsewhere. If we cannot offer hope or its associates, we will be offering exactly the opposite: alienation. Failure to act would be a crime against society, a demonstration that we are incapable of mending that which we have broken.
I appreciate that the election of so many SNP Members must have seemed, to some honourable incumbents, akin to an uprising. I have heard it called “Ajockalypse Now”. We may have ruffled a few feathers since we got here, but I really want to extend a hand of co-operation around this House. Anyone who would like to work with us to address poverty, reverse the effects of austerity, and start building for a future where we can do such things as improve the health and wellbeing of all the nations of the UK through encouraging physical activity, will be more than welcome. This is not a one-time offer, nor is it a deal that ends at midnight; this is an offer that lasts. For those interested in taking society forward, work with us, and by God, we’ll work with you.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) on a rather challenging maiden speech—perhaps not in the best traditions of the House, but I congratulate her on putting her points over in a forceful way.
Looking at the legacy of the Olympic games is one of the most important things to do. My noble Friend Lord Coe opened the 2012 Olympics by saying:
“London 2012 will inspire a generation”,
and he was right. Our games inspired people not just in the UK, but abroad as well, and we should be very proud of that.
It was the very first “legacy games”, with the legacy, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, built in from the outset. It challenged an outdated, crusty image of a faded Britain and it demonstrated that after a great recession, Britain was open for business, once more thriving and leading the world, not only in sports, but through its Cultural Olympiad, its culture and its arts. It regenerated huge swathes of our capital city and gave us pride in our country.
The success of the London 2012 Olympics for Britain was not a success just for one political party or another, as the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) might like to imply. It was a success for the whole nation, because it brought our nation together. We presented ourselves to the world with confidence, passion, professionalism and, above all, fun.
I am somewhat surprised at the focus of the Opposition motion. It rightly talks about the importance of the Olympic legacy, yet in his opening statement, the hon. Member for Rhondda talked about very little of that legacy. He talked simply about increasing participation in sport, which, although important, is only one part of the Olympic legacy that he should have covered. He fundamentally missed the true scope of the legacy of the event. He should perhaps put that right later on.
The motion states that the Government
“squandered the Olympic legacy it was bequeathed in 2010”,
which was some two years before the games were held. In fact, participation in sport has increased by 1.4 million people since the London bid won in 2005. I fear that the shadow Secretary of State is breaking the first rule of his job by trying to score political points off the back of sport. It simply does not work and he should not do it.
I will make three observations in the short time available to me. We should continue to be proud of the success that was London 2012 and should not pull it apart. A lasting legacy was built in from the start and, as we have heard, it has been hailed as a blueprint for future hosts by the International Olympic Committee.
My right hon. Friend said that to ensure that there is a legacy, it must be built in from the start. Does she therefore agree that the Rugby Football Union was right to appoint a legacy group for the upcoming rugby world cup, which means that the advantages of the tournament will be seen in future years, in exactly the same way as she is describing in respect of the Olympics?
I could not have put it better myself. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
There are other parts of the legacy, such as the cultural Olympics, increased participation, and the challenge to the way in which disabled people are viewed, so that people are viewed for what they can do, rather than for what they cannot do. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) mentioned the importance that was attached to volunteering, which successfully reversed a long-term decline started under a Labour Government, resulting in more people putting themselves forward.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will continue because other Members want to speak.
We have touched briefly on women’s sport. The Olympics challenged the views of the media and sponsors on the appeal of women’s sport. About 40% of the UK’s medals were won by women and the audience levels that those events commanded demonstrated the huge, untapped appetite for mainstream coverage of women’s sport. I applaud the BBC and Sky Sports for the work that they are doing, which I am sure they will continue, to put women’s sport at the forefront.
London 2012 put Britain on the world stage and promoted the regeneration of one of the poorest parts of our capital city, but Members are right to say that we need to scrutinise carefully the investment that is being made into increasing participation in sport, because we are putting a huge amount in. We are investing £1 billion in youth and community sport through to 2017 to instil a sporting habit for life. We need to hold the national governing bodies to account for the money they are spending and the work they are doing on our behalf.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) on her maiden speech.
I welcome the sports Minister and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to their roles. I hope that the sports Minister will continue in the long tradition of sports Ministers working across the political parties. I also hope that she will try, as many of us have over the years, to get the Department of Health, the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to work together, because together we can solve a lot of problems.
I am sad that we have used the word “squandered” in the motion. If I am honest, I do not think that that is a sensible word to use. This is a difficult issue. A legacy is not something that happens overnight, but something that has to be worked at. All the people who were involved in the Olympics knew that increased participation would not simply happen just because a few people won a few gold medals. That is not how it is done. We have to start from the bottom up.
The hon. Lady has a passionate interest in shooting sports. The one sport that was not mentioned by the shadow Secretary of State in his introduction was clay pigeon shooting, in which Peter Wilson won a wonderful gold medal. Does she recognise that fantastic win, and does she feel that more could be done to introduce young people to shooting sports?
I am a great supporter of shooting sports and the discipline they bring. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that gold medallist, because he comes from an area I know very well in Northern Ireland, and I know that it brought great pleasure to people there.
I want to say a few words about how I think we can get a legacy. I will point to London. As many Members will know—some Opposition Members were not too happy about this—I have been the Mayor’s commissioner for sport. I wanted very much to ensure that the Olympics would leave a legacy for grassroots sport. I genuinely congratulate the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), because when he became Mayor there was no sports unit at the city hall and grassroots sport was not seen as important; there was something going on about the Olympics, but grassroots sport did not really matter. He made sure that we had some ring-fenced money, and with that we were able to work with Sport England, local authorities and the London Marathon Charitable Trust, for example, bringing a co-ordinated approach to try to get London to speak with one voice, because one of the crucial problems was that London was not speaking with one voice.
As a result of all the money that has gone in—the £20 million, the extra £30 million in additional match funding and the investment in sports facilities, such as our mobile swimming pools, and in different sports right across London—we are the only part of the United Kingdom where participation has increased. However, that alone will not solve the problem. We really need to look at what makes it work. We have to get local authorities to see sport and physical recreation as a priority. I am delighted that Southwark, a Labour borough, has just decided to introduce free swimming, so local authorities can do more if there is the push and the intention to make it happen.
It is very important that we look at our schools. I remind Members that I was the sports Minister when the school sports co-ordinators were introduced. The reality is that it was never meant to be long term; it was meant to raise the standard in schools, so that they themselves could help make sport and physical recreation a really important part of school. I welcome the ring-fenced money—the only money that goes to schools that is ring-fenced, at just over £8,000 for each primary school. In London alone, £15 million is therefore invested in school sport. If those 1,900 primary schools work together, as they have been doing in some areas, we will see a huge amount of good things going on.
One of the recommendations of the Education Committee’s report on school sport and the Olympic legacy in the previous Parliament was the need to extend the woefully small amount of training that primary school teachers, in particular, receive in physical education. I wonder whether the hon. Lady would like to comment on that.
Training is absolutely crucial, and I used to be a qualified physical education teacher, back when we had physical education colleges that taught it in a much better way than it is taught now. Teaching physical education in our primary schools is important. Money is hugely important, but this is also about people and about motivation, getting people to want to instil in young people an enjoyment of sport early on. That is what we have to work towards.
One of the things we are doing in London that is really crucial relates to major sporting events, which are very important and draw millions of people to London. We have to ensure—the Mayor has made this happen—that no big sporting event comes to London without the governing bodies first having to prove what they will do for grassroots sport and what will be the legacy, so it is not just a case of people coming along, having a wonderful two or three days and then nothing happens.
The thing that I am most proud of in London is that we have finally brought together what would be called the county sports partnerships outside London and the pro-actives in London under something called London Sport—Sport England wanted that to happen as well—so we now have a partnership right across London. Instead of people coming to London and thinking, “We have to go to all these different London boroughs,” we will all be working together to ensure that the money goes a lot further. That is absolutely crucial.
I do not think that we should be negative. I genuinely think that sport is one of those matters that we should be able to have a mature debate about, rather than just playing ping-pong with statistics. We should be able to work together closely. I suggest that one of the things the Secretary of State might want to do is have a proper, full debate in Government time, so that we do not have to rush through things in three or four minutes. Members could then have a proper discourse and welcome the fact that sport does so much in this country.
This is an important debate, because participation in sport is not simply about improving elite sport or the success of our Olympians and footballers and cricketers at an elite level. It not only improves people’s health and wellbeing but all the studies show that it is incredibly important in turning around the life chances of many young people, including those who have been involved in crime or who have fallen out of education. It gives them back structure and confidence, and that is why it is such an important part of the fabric of our society.
Of course, we should be ambitious to increase participation in sport and we should hope to see a boost in that, particularly after the incredible success that was the London Olympic games. We can look at the figures in Sport England’s most recent study on sports participation and say that we would like to be doing better. That should be our aspiration. As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), the shadow Minister, said at the beginning of the debate, in some sports, such as swimming, the figures are down, but in others, such as football and athletics, in the past two comparable years—
The hon. Gentleman mentions football, but does he not think that we have things to learn from other countries? I believe that in Belgium the aim is that any 19 or 20-year-old from across society will have touched the ball in football about 200 million times. That is building quite a high pyramid of talent, as we have seen in the Belgian national team at the moment, from what is being done at the grassroots. We could and should be learning from other countries.
I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman says. Last Friday, I was in Folkestone to see the opening of the new 3G football pitch at Cheriton Road. We want to see more investment in such pitches. The Government have provided an additional £8 million for such facilities, but we should see more. I agree with the hon. Member for Rhondda that with all the billions of pounds coming into football we should get more of that money into the grassroots. We all want to see that. In his excellent book, “Bounce”, Matthew Syed gives a clear analysis of sports participation. Proximity to good coaches and facilities and the opportunity to engage increase the number of people who will participate and makes it more likely that we will find elite performers from almost any walk of life. It is a question of getting the combinations right.
Participation, which was mentioned by the Secretary of State, is important. The participation figures, as they are collected by the national sports bodies, are something of a blunt tool. One person who participates in three sports might decide to concentrate on one and spend more time on that one sport than they did on the three, but that is shown as a net drop in participation even though the hours involved in sport might have gone up.
We should be targeting interventions to get people who do no sport at all to start doing something, and we should focus on the most deprived communities, where people do not have access to facilities, coaches or the opportunities to participate. That agenda was set out by the previous Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and I think that it will be an important step forward in how we incentivise investment to get people who play no sport to play some sport.
We should question whether voluntary groups and charities should be able to access some of that funding and whether they are better placed to tackle some of the harder-to-reach places than the national governing bodies. Some of those organisations are supported by some of the national sporting bodies. For example, the Rugby Football Union’s HITZ programme has done a fantastic job in supporting young offenders and focusing their lives around sport. Kicks, the Premier League’s programme, has done a fantastic job. There have been some excellent studies of its benefit in London in reducing crime and antisocial behaviour. That should be our priority and our focus.
School sport is important, but encouraging people to partake in sport outside school is even more important. There will only be a certain number of hours in the school day, so participation outside school is significant. A lot of good work has been done by the school sports partnerships, but the link between schools and sports clubs in the community is important.
Last Friday, 2,200 children took part in the Hampshire youth games. One of the best things to see was the link with the sports clubs that volunteered and ran the different sports, such as the Trojans club in my constituency, which spent all day running the hockey.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. In my constituency, an organisation called the Shepway Sports Trust is independent of the council and the schools. It is supported by funding from the Roger de Haan Charitable Trust, but it seeks funding from other sporting bodies as well. Its primary purpose is to connect schools with sports clubs, to drive up participation in sports outside school, as well as proactively recruiting new coaches. An organisation can have all the facilities in the world, but if it does not have the coaches to lead people through its programmes, they will not get the best out of it. That is the kind of co-ordinated approach that we need to see, with a focus on increasing participation among people who are outside the organisations that qualify for support and those who have otherwise missed out.
We should look at the sports in which participation has increased over the past couple of years, particularly those I mentioned earlier. Has that increase happened because they invest in community facilities or because they link up sport in schools with sport in clubs? What lessons can be learned, and how can we match funding to increase participation?
How can we set about getting funding from other areas of Government activity? Why should not people be able to get Home Office funding for sports programmes set up to deal with antisocial behaviour and crime in the community? Why should not the Justice Department pay for some of the work of programmes such as HITZ, which is turning around the lives of young offenders? Reports reveal incredible statistics, showing that one or two big successes in keeping a young person from reoffending can almost pay for an entire year’s programme in the community. Relatively small amounts of money are involved, but the return that we get on the investment in community sport is enormous. That should shape our strategy. I have had a couple of extra minutes as a result of taking interventions, so I shall call it a day now.
It is good to see that the cross-party consensus that won us the Olympics is still alive this afternoon. I have heard a bit of grumbling, but I am not going to grumble about money going into east London for the Olympics because my constituents and I loved the Olympics. Nor will I be grumbling about money going to Glasgow for the Commonwealth games; we loved them as well. I am sure that the Ministers would agree that it was part of the deal, when we all backed those games so unanimously, that areas such as mine that have not had the honour of hosting such events will have higher priority in the coming years, and I look forward to that happening. As we find that we want various things, I hope that the Ministers will be prompting and pushing to ensure that we get them.
I hope that, when the Government re-examine their strategy, they will acknowledge that the increase in pitch prices is a problem that has to be addressed, because it is turning people away from sport. I also hope that they will admit their error on school sports co-ordinators. It is honourable for new Ministers to admit that errors were made by others in the past, and to make changes. That was a serious error, but something can now be done to improve the situation. There has been a tail-off in participation in schools as a result of it.
Since the banking crisis, a lot of families have had a lower income. That means that the poorest in society—the lowest 20% in terms of income—are spending between £2 and £4 per household per week on sport, and they are suffering disproportionately from the lack of access. StreetGames is a charity that I know the new sports Minister has great affection for, and I hope that it will get more resources. It has produced an equity index on volunteering which shows that the brilliance of volunteering disproportionately benefits those in higher-income areas and works against those in the lowest-income areas. So the poorer you are, the less likely you are to benefit from volunteers and the less likely it is that you will participate in sport. One of the key reasons that the BBC needs to retain the major sports events as free to view is that those on the lowest incomes cannot afford to watch pay-per-view events. They would be still further excluded from major sporting triumphs such as the Olympics if the BBC were to lose those free-to-view events. That is a vital choice for the Department.
UK Sport’s gold event series has 70 events over the next six years, and the Government must give more of a push to that. Its pop-up rugby league sessions, in conjunction with the Chorley Panthers, were a great success, as I am sure its pop-up tennis will be, across the country, coinciding with Wimbledon. The shortly-to-emerge Bassetlaw sports village is not there yet, but it is on its way. It will have an athletics track and an all-weather football stadium, putting the resources back where they are needed. When we did it before, with girls’ football at Manton miners welfare club, we saw the biggest increase in girls’ participation in the football world. Give us the tools and the facilities, and the people will come forward to participate in sport.
Finally, I say to anyone out there who has not participated in sport that the all-party group on mountaineering will take you up to the hills. Anyone can participate—do join us.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), who spoke so eloquently in her maiden speech.
It is a great honour and privilege to be here as the new Member for Cheadle. Cheadle is a vibrant and beautiful constituency situated in Greater Manchester and on the border with Cheshire. It is a constituency that values communities and volunteering, business and enterprise, parks and sport.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, Mark Hunter, who represented Cheadle for 10 years. He will be remembered not only for his party role here as deputy Chief Whip, but for his hard work in the constituency. Like his Liberal Democrat predecessor, Patsy Calton, he used his maiden speech to highlight the need for a major relief road through the constituency. I am delighted to say that, after waiting decades for this vital relief road to Manchester airport, it is now off the drawing board and under construction.
My constituency is made up of a number of villages and small towns. It has a long and interesting history, but before hon. Members become concerned that I may be tempted to narrate it in its entirety, I am aware that my time is limited.
My constituency stretches from Woodsmoor, parts of Hazel Grove and Davenport, on the outskirts of Stockport, right down to Heald Green, Cheadle Hulme and Woodford on the Cheshire border. Indeed, for some of my constituents, their feet may be in Stockport, but their hearts are still in Cheshire.
The settlements of Cheadle and Bramhall date back to Domesday records, and the village of Woodford has a proud history, too. It was formerly the home of aircraft manufacturers Avro, and at its height in the second world war more than 29,000 people were employed at the site and more than 20,000 aircraft were manufactured there, including Lancaster bombers, Vulcans and Nimrods.
Communities are really important to me, and the Cheadle Civic Society is a great example of community in action. Formed more than 50 years ago, its aims are to encourage higher standards of architecture and planning in the village. Recently, its dedicated members and volunteers invested more than £100,000 in bringing new life to the village green.
Indeed, it is in our parks and clubs that the Olympic legacy is most clearly visible in my area—from the cricket clubs of Cheadle Hulme and Woodford receiving grants for improved facilities, to local cyclists benefiting from the excellent new BMX track in the award-winning Bruntwood park.
Our amateur football clubs are also important. They include well-known teams such as Cheadle Town FC, who last season hosted the Russian under-19 team. We wish the number 19 had been reflected in the score, as Cheadle were unluckily beaten 22-0. However, pride was restored when the home goalie was named man of the match. When asked why he thought the Russian team had won, he said that the under-19s had the wind behind them. How unlucky it was that the wind turned around at half time.
I have a number of aims that I want to achieve for my constituency. For example, there are many small businesses in the area and their enterprise needs to be encouraged.
I am proud to represent Cheadle, where communities value their local parks, sports clubs and the facilities they provide. There is a great spirit of volunteering by people who give freely of their time, which was demonstrated to great effect in the games. As I serve the residents of Cheadle, I will do all I can to support and promote the spirit of volunteering and community.
I am proud to follow the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson), who made an excellent speech, speaking eloquently about her constituency, its character, its history and its needs. I am sure she will have a successful Parliament standing up for her constituency. I congratulate her on her speech and on her election to the House.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate, and not least to pay tribute to Feltham’s own Mo Farah, who, in his success in the Olympics and in other competitions since, has shown his commitment to sport and excellence, which continues to inspire many in my constituency, in Britain and throughout the world.
All hon. Members recall the Olympics—the excitement, the expectation and the pride. It was exciting to take part as the Olympic torch travelled around the country. Winning the Olympics was a truly national achievement. This week is national school sports week, which is an opportunity to send a strong message about sport and the importance of young people’s participation.
That is why the sports legacy from the Olympics is sad in that participation has declined in almost every region and across a range of sporting disciplines, which has been mentioned consistently in the debate. It is saddening that the school sport partnerships had their funding cut. I believe that that impacted on the ability of schools to participate in sports in the same way in my constituency.
Last year, I was proud to attend the launch of Motivate Hounslow, an important initiative that shows the need to motivate and encourage people to take part in innovations to bring about greater participation in support. The initiative was launched with Mo Farah and his former PE teacher, Alan Watkinson, who continues to play an important part in sports participation in Hounslow and in my constituency.
In the short time I have, I want to make a couple of points that have been made to me on the lack of a comprehensive strategy. There is a feeling that, in secondary schools, sports provision is in decline. There might be pockets of excellence, but provision is not reaching all areas. Participation has fallen in poorer areas and among those who are more deprived. That voice needs to be heard. We need to hear much more from the Government about how they will ensure that there is a comprehensive and longer-term strategy to encourage participation that takes advantage of our school system. We should ensure that there is a strategy for those aged 11 to 18.
I recognise the work of the Youth Sport Trust, which has published a manifesto for PE and sports. This week, it launched “Class of 2035”, its report on young people’s relationship with physical activity, and on the need to think about how the digital revolution can be used to encourage PE and sports participation, and to empower young people to take part in, and responsibility for, their activity levels.
This needs leadership from the top. We need the Government to show that they will take responsibility, so that we see not a decline but an increase in the years ahead.
The debate has improved steadily as it has gone on, and Members on both sides of the House have made sensible points. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) and to the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) for their excellent maiden speeches.
The language in the motion is unfortunate. Most international observers would say that to say Britain has “squandered” the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games is utterly nonsensical. I think most fair-minded people would say there has never been an Olympic games of modern times that has produced such a substantial legacy of every kind.
The idea of the legacy having been squandered cannot be true when one takes into account the transport logistics, the amazing Olympic volunteers—who were almost at the level of the absolute hero, Ben Parkinson, the torch carrier—and, thankfully for Twickenham, the rugby world cup. We are benefiting from those transport logistics and the volunteers. Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that “squandering” is absolute rubbish?
I wholeheartedly agree that “squandering” is totally wrong. The reason the International Olympic Committee said that London offers a blueprint to the rest of the world is that it has been around other post-Olympic cities and seen, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the buddleia sprouting from the athletics tracks and the dustbowl stadiums. It has come to the Olympic park and seen the exact opposite: all seven key venues with a long-term private sector solution and contractor.
Since the park opened only a year ago, 800,000 people have gone to the swimming pool, 600,000 have gone to the VeloPark, 600,000 to the Copper Box, and tens of thousands to the Lea Valley hockey and tennis centres. As Members have pointed out repeatedly, we are about the only Olympic city on record to have solved the problem of what to do with the stadium. We have a long-term future for the stadium, in spite of the catastrophic errors made by the previous Government. There will be not only premiership football, but rock concerts, baseball, rugby and all manner of entertainments. Our park in east London is going to be a centre of sporting excitement for generations to come. The Secretary of State rightly listed a procession of world championships: athletics, rugby, hockey, wheelchair rugby, swimming and so on.
We are succeeding in getting people from the poorest boroughs to play sport and to take part. Some 45,000 people have taken part in the Active People, Active Park project and 26,000 have enjoyed Motivate East, a programme to get disabled people more active in sport. I am absolutely confident, as my friend the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) rightly said, that those numbers will continue to rise. The area is changing out of all recognition.
Absolutely—I acknowledge that completely. I acknowledge, too, the work of the grassroots sports teams. Much of that success flows from the increasing prosperity we are seeing in east London and at the Stratford site.
The village is already complete and occupied, with 4,800 new inhabitants. We have the largest green park in the UK for a century. Some 24,000 homes will be built on the site, many of them low-cost and family homes. That would not have happened without the Olympics. We will have tens of thousands of new jobs as a result of the Olympicopolis project, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State identified and which the Government are rightly funding. Just this very morning—in another capacity, I am happy to say—I was privileged to give planning permission for a new tech hub on Fish Island in Hackney Wick, an absolutely beautiful structure that will echo the Victorian warehouses there and incorporate all kinds of artist studios and tech start-ups. It is inconceivable that that kind of private sector investment would have come to that part of London without the Olympics. That is a phenomenal legacy.
Two university campuses are going to the Stratford site: not just a £270 million new campus for University College London, but a campus for Loughborough University, one of the great sporting universities in the world. Their mission is to help local kids to take up sport. I totally agree with the hon. Member for Vauxhall that taking up sport is not just a symptom of prosperity; it is a cause of prosperity. That is why she and I have campaigned so hard on this issue. I am proud to say—she is absolutely right—that we have had 400,000 more people doing some kind of sport since 2012 in London, which is a point that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) totally failed to concede. Sporting participation, as well as every other kind of legacy, is up in London.
The London Olympic and Paralympic games of 2012 boosted sport across the city in which they were held. They are transforming east London and the lives of some of the poorest people in our society. As several Members have rightly pointed out, they have left a legacy of volunteering and engagement, which we are continuing to support through Team London, and they have brought untold billions of investment into this country. They projected an image of London around the world that was so attractive and so exciting that, for the third year running, we are going to achieve what we have never before achieved in my lifetime—to be the No. 1 tourist destination in the world, knocking Paris and New York off the No. 1—
There is little doubt that the 2012 London Olympics inspired people. From the majesty of the opening ceremony featuring Britain’s greatest artistic talents through to the astonishing achievements of our athletes and of the world’s best sports people, it was impossible not to be inspired by the games, as I was inspired when I went to the Munich Olympics as part of the GB youth team.
I am passionate about sport and the opportunity it gives to our children. Yet the legacy and the ambition of inspiring a generation to be physically active and to get hooked on sport have not been realised. Three conditions need to be met to encourage and enable people to be physically active: inspiration, access and infrastructure. Although there was no lack of inspiration present during and after the Olympics, the 2012 games were held in the early years of Tory austerity against a backcloth of crushing local government budget cuts, a strangulation of budgets within DCMS and the channelling of lottery funding to support the games themselves, so the other two conditions were missed.
Across England, just as young people were being inspired to take up athletics, swimming and gymnastics, local councils were closing the doors on leisure facilities. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were in charge for the 2012 Olympics, but they were also in charge for the unprecedented degradation of sports infrastructure across England, so the consequence of a Tory policy of promoting the Olympic games, but cutting off access to physical activity has contributed to a worsening of public health statistics and the deprivation of opportunities for people to be engaged in sport and physical activity.
How can the people who have suffered hardest through austerity afford pitch fees, court fees, gym fees and equipment hire? How, as a consequence of this Government’s tearing apart of the welfare state, could people on the lowest incomes hope to access childcare in order to attend fitness classes or sports club activities? The lack of a coherent physical activity strategy during and after the Olympics demonstrates how the Government walked away from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to inspire and activate a generation.
In Wales, during the same period in which the previous UK Government stripped local government bare, the Welsh Labour Government protected council spending. This protected not only social care, in contrast to what happened in England, but sports and leisure centres. Protecting council budgets gave Welsh councils time to transform services and gave time for leisure and sports centres to be turned from making losses in some cases to making a profit that enabled trusts and social enterprises to be formed.
The results of the Welsh Government’s continued support for their sports budget resulted in a record medal haul at the Glasgow Commonwealth games. Wales won 36 medals in total—20 bronze, 11 silver and five gold. This was more medals per capita than any other nation. Alongside this, levels of physical activity have increased since the Olympic games. The lesson of this contrasting picture on either side of Offa’s dyke is that investing in an event but afterwards cutting away access and infrastructure to the activities promoted by that event will achieve no positive legacy. In Wales, partnerships between the Welsh Government and the national governing bodies has led to a record number of 3G pitches being built, to multi-use leisure centres and learning centres opening in communities, and to the location of crèche facilities within sports, leisure and library services.
Order. It would be very helpful if Members could shave a little bit off their speeches. I am not going to reduce their speaking times, but any help that they can give will help me to be useful, because I want to be able to call everyone who wishes to speak.
I am grateful to you for calling me, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I shall bear your stricture in mind. Of course I had a great speech to make, but given what you have said and given that some of what I was going to say has already been said more eloquently by others, I shall make just two points.
It was a great privilege for me, nearly 10 years ago, to congratulate the then Secretary of State, Tessa Jowell, on bringing the Olympics to London, and on her assurance that the work to secure a legacy would be done on a cross-party basis. I therefore found it disappointing to see the word “squandered” in the motion. I do not think that any analysis of the regeneration to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred, along with the cultural legacy and the increase in participation that we have seen—notwithstanding some of the more recent falls—would prompt the use of that word. As Lord Coe said, the Olympics lit up the world and inspired a generation.
Let me make a serious comment. Perhaps those who want to use the word “squandered” should consider the legacy itself. There are a couple of points that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) did not make in his speech. First, a legacy is not something that happens two or three years after an event. The legacy of the Olympics will be judged by whether we have champions in 2020, 2024 and 2028, because that is where the grassroots come in. However, the hon. Gentleman was right to say that from 2005 onwards—and, indeed, from 2012 onwards—participation in sport had increased, but since October 2014 the increase has begin to tail off. That information comes from Sport England’s campaign for active participation in sport. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman wants to query it, but it is true.
The question that we must ask ourselves is whether we can sustain the legacy, and that is not true only of the Olympics. As many Members will know, I represent one of the greatest constituencies, and it is going to host a little tennis tournament next week. I remember being told time after time in the House that the legacy in that regard was that we were not producing champions, despite the money being spent year on year by the Lawn Tennis Association.
In the context of participation in tennis, is it not a disgrace that the Labour-run council in my constituency closed the public tennis courts and then put money into private tennis courts that only the most affluent can afford? The Scottish Government are trying to improve access—
Order. Interventions are meant to be short. Members must not just come out with lists. I am sure that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) has understood the hon. Lady’s point. I am trying to save time so that Members who have been waiting all day have an opportunity to speak.
Given your stricture, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will not respond to the hon. Lady’s intervention,
My second aim in this short speech was to—well, to get the press release in, obviously. I would have liked to say more about the legacy, but our legacy in Wimbledon is a new floodlit BMX track, which is open, is being used and has a growing membership, and the new beach volleyball courts that have opened in Wimbledon Park, which also has a growing membership. London, in contrast to a number of other places, is experiencing growing participation in sport, and I think that that is part of the Olympic legacy.
I want to talk about women’s participation in sport. As I said earlier, 212,000 fewer women have participated since 2012. That is a real issue, because there is already a wide gender gap: 1.8 million fewer women than men engage in sport once a week, and 80% of women do not get enough exercise to benefit their health. That is why this is a serious issue, and that is why we should be discussing it.
Even before the recent falls in participation, there were reasons for us to be concerned about the gender gap. Nationally, 40% of men participate in sport every week compared with 30% of women, but the figures for women are much lower in some parts of the country. It is all very well for Conservative Members to talk about London, but the position is not the same in Greater Manchester, and it is not the same in Salford, where the figures are 20% and 24% respectively. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) said, the low participation rates in some parts of the country will lead to diabetes, coronary heart disease and strokes. That is why this is a serious issue.
A number of barriers have been identified, as the Secretary of State said, to increasing female participation in sport, including practical, personal, social and cultural issues, but there are also financial reasons, which my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees) laid out so well. I co-chair the all-party group on women’s sport and fitness with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. One of its three main aims is to investigate the participation of girls and women in sport and to reduce those barriers to participation. Its first meeting is next Tuesday and I urge hon. Members to attend, if they can, and to join if they care about this issue.
I congratulate the new sports Minister on her role. I know she cares about these issues. She was a member of the all-party group in the previous Parliament, and she has said that the Government have an out-of-date sports strategy. She says she is going to rip it up and start again. I hope she does.
The Minister might want to think about a couple of things as she does that. Unequal funding is the key issue running from school sports through to the unequal pay and poor sponsorship levels in elite women’s sport. Yesterday was the 43rd birthday of the Title IX legislation in the United States: landmark civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in any educational programme or activity that receives federal support. It has been law since 23 June 1972 and is famous for its transformative effects on girls and women’s athletics. The US has the highest level of participation of girls in sport in the world, largely due to Title IX bringing in equal funding for girls and women. Figures show that participation has increased by 990% in high schools and by 560% at college level since the law was passed.
In this country, however, we do not have that law. We have very poor media coverage of women’s sport and a lack of sponsorship. The Select Committee that the current Secretary of State chaired looked at those issues, but we have to do something about it. The sports strategy must include working with the media to ensure better coverage of women’s events.
Finally, on pay and sponsorship, the pay levels of women footballers playing in the women’s super league and in international competitions are very low and probably a surprise to many. The majority of centrally contracted players earn about £20,000 from their clubs, but there are players in the super league who are on as little as £50 a week. Those who are tempted to comment on the standard of women’s football need to think about that low level of reward. We won the women’s rugby world cup with a team who were not even paid professionally; nearly all of them had other jobs. How could any of us train and win at international level if we had other jobs to do?
There are so many other issues we could talk about, and they will, I hope, be explored in other debates; that is a very sound idea. We will definitely explore them at future meetings of the all-party group.
I, too, pay tribute to the wonderful maiden speeches that the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) made. My hon. Friend has done tremendous work to enter the House, and I pay tribute to that.
I cannot claim to be an elite athlete, but, along with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), I am proud to represent what I believe is the peak of all-party groups, as co-chair of the all-party group on mountaineering. As we consider the motion before us, we should be concerned about levels of sports participation, but the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has missed the point and a real opportunity by focusing on, and calling on the Government to boost, participation in traditionally defined sports. That is important, but the real focus should be on getting people physically active—helping them to be less physically inactive. That has to be the focus, but it can be achieved only by looking at a much broader definition of sport, which includes recreation and, in particular, outdoor recreation. It is clearly time to think more broadly.
The sports Minister has been on an heroic journey to climb Cotopaxi in Ecuador, where I know she developed a greater love—maybe that is too strong a word—for the outdoors, but I think that she, like many Members, understands the real importance of outdoor recreation. It leads to improved activity rates. Some 30% of the UK population is inactive. The figure for Scandinavia is only 8%, because people there have a broader sense of getting active outdoors. The “Moving More, Living More” document produced by the Department of Health shows that the costs associated with physical inactivity come to £20 billion, so we should all have an interest in tackling that huge challenge. Clearly, there are also big health and wellbeing benefits to be had, through working with groups such as Age UK Cheshire East or the East Cheshire Ramblers and its 700 members. That is clear to all those who participate. It is clear to all of us who are involved with the outdoors that a vast blue and green gym outside this place is available to nearly all of us, if we just make that extra effort. I should also mention the benefits in another important area: the rural economy. The “Reconomics” report by the Sport and Recreation Alliance shows that outdoor recreation will boost the rural economy by £21 billion.
There is good news, there is a clear opportunity and progress is being made. As I have said, there is clear cross-party support for making further progress in this area. We have had extensive debates in Parliament on this subject, notably on 20 September, when the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) led an impassioned debate and many others joined in. There is a coalition of interested parties on moving this agenda forward, including the British Mountaineering Council, the Ramblers, the Youth Hostels Association and the Outdoor Industries Association. Last year, before the election, they made six key proposals for the Government to take forward, including measures on access and opportunities for young people. More than anything they wanted a clear focus. They were calling for a long-term strategy for outdoor recreation that is cross-departmental and that sits alongside or, even better, is integrated with the Government’s successful sports strategy. It was refreshing to see how the different Departments, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, are working together in this cause. We have an outstanding sports Minister and I give her every vote of confidence in the work she does. Please remember this broader definition of sport and recreation in that work.
Many thanks for allowing me to participate in this debate, Mr Speaker. I do so as a keen sportsman and a true believer in sport as an essential element in building stronger communities, improving public health outcomes and teaching our young people the value of team ethics and fair play. In my younger days, I played rugby for London Welsh at junior level and for my college at university. Clearly, the motivation for doing so was partly that I was doing my constitutional and patriotic duty as a Welshman, but of course it was also based on my love of sport as a crucial feature of Welsh culture and identity. In my constituency, every weekend I see rugby’s power to bring our communities together across generations. Of course rugby is just one example of the power of sport as a unifying force for good.
It is against that backdrop that I must express my deepest regret at the failure of the coalition Government to build on the Olympic legacy. The 2012 Olympics created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the fitness levels of this country’s children and young people, but that opportunity was squandered by the coalition Government when they decided to scrap Labour’s school sport partnerships. Those partnerships played a crucial role in enabling primary school children to do competitive sport, and the decision to scrap them has led directly to the proportion of pupils doing two hours of sport a week collapsing from 90% under Labour to 50% under the last Government. Cuts to local authority budgets have also hit leisure centres and playing fields hard. In Wales, the £1.5 billion cut to the block grant has had a deeply damaging effect. In my constituency, the Cymmer community pool is threatened with closure, much to the despair of the local community, who are fighting hard to find a way to keep their pool, which plays a crucial role in community life and public health, open.
This Government must do better than their previous incarnation. The last five years saw a lack of strategy, piecemeal initiatives and announcements, and an absence of joined-up thinking. The coalition Government’s sports strategy can best be described as a litany of failure, with some of the lowlights including: scrapping Labour’s target for school children to do at least two hours of physical education and sport in school each week; undermining Labour’s successful school sport partnership, which was helping more children to do sport; watering down regulations on school playing fields; failing to carry out an audit of sports and recreation facilities available to local communities across the country; and failing to capitalise on the spirit and enthusiasm of the volunteer games makers.
The concerns that I am expressing are not narrow party political points. On the contrary, they are felt by a wide range of stakeholders, including the Olympic gold medallist Darren Campbell, who said back in 2013:
“I have grave concerns that cutting the funding to the School Sport Partnership network will have a hugely negative impact on the sporting opportunities that are available to our young people.”
Chris Dunne, headteacher of Langdon Park School in Tower Hamlets, London, described the Government’s decision as an
“enormously destructive act, verging on vandalism.”
He said that it was a tragedy that sporting opportunities had been cut back dramatically after the games.
The seductive vision was that the £9.3 billion invested in the games would not only hasten the regeneration of a neglected corner of east London and unlock a host of other benefits, but act as a corrective in Whitehall to the attitude of politicians towards sport. No longer would sport be left at the back of the policy queue when it came to funding discussions. Instead, it would be incorporated into policies on fighting obesity, tackling crime, boosting educational achievement and bringing communities together. If we fast forward to 2015, we see that a properly integrated, properly funded, cross-departmental plan for sport and wellbeing remains as frustratingly elusive as ever.
Meanwhile, childhood obesity rates continue to rise, PE in schools continues to decline, provision of facilities remains frustratingly patchy, and participation figures suggest a widening gap between the sporting haves and have nots.
Let me make it clear at the outset that our reference in the motion is to sports participation. We bid for the Olympics because we understood all the wider aspects of the success of the Olympics.
We have had a wide-ranging debate with some very interesting speeches. I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) on her maiden speech. She questioned whether there was a legacy from the Olympic games for Scotland. If she goes back and checks the figures, she will find that there was a considerable spin-off from the games. But the purpose of this debate is to find out how we can all benefit more widely from the legacy.
We also heard the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson). She spoke very fondly and passionately about her constituency. I am sure that she will be a fine champion of her local residents and constituents in the years to come.
There have been a number of well-informed speeches. The right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) spoke about the wider generational issues. I found nothing in her speech with which I disagreed. The Olympic games will continue to benefit people more widely on a whole range of issues that go beyond sport, which is why investing and bidding for these major sporting events is so essential for the country.
While we are discussing participation, will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to praise those who enable others to participate in sport—those who drive the buses, cut the grass, make the food and drink, and carry the bags week after week, as they have done in rugby clubs up and down my constituency for many, many generations? Do they not also perform a vital role?
Absolutely, yes. A number of Members, especially the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), and my hon. Friends the Members for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and for Bassetlaw (John Mann), specifically referred to people at the grassroots of sport. I could not agree more with my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), because it is time that we empowered those people. They are the ones who do the heavy lifting. They make a real difference in our communities. They know where the resources should go to make the biggest difference, and it is time that we had a long-term strategy for sport that empowered those people at local level, allowed them to make decisions about how resources are used and where they are targeted, and gave them oversight of local development plans for sport. When we use the term “sport” we must remember that we are talking about not just sporting activities but physical activities of all kinds. That point was made very well in one of the contributions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) called for a comprehensive, long-term plan for sport. When we talk to people at the grassroots, the one thing they consistently say is that they want an end to the stop-start approach that they get from politicians. In saying that, they criticise us all, not just the current Government. We need what many speakers asked for: a long-term plan for sport, where all of us, in all parts of the House, agree on how we can take things forward and engage with people at the grassroots. It is an unfortunate fact that, in the past, the only consistency has been a consistent run of bad figures on participation since 2012-13.
Our motion focuses on participation. On the back of winning the Olympic bid, participation went up by 1.8 million people from 2005 to 2012, but since then participation figures have been going backwards. It is no good hon. Members saying, “Look at all the figures for transport, regeneration and jobs.” We accept all that—we are not criticising that side of it—but one of the targets for winning the Olympic games was to drive up participation. That worked from 2005 to 2012, on the back of winning the bid, but under this Government’s watch, since 2012, performance has not been good enough.
I accept that there has been a boost in London, but we are looking at the overall figures. There are underlying issues, which were highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley). The figures for women’s participation are down, as are those for people with disabilities. There are some important issues that we need to address.
In a recent survey by the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association, 70% of local authorities that responded said that they were looking to recover all or part of their costs through fees and charges. In the participation figures, the worst-affected sports tend to be those that rely heavily on local government facilities—sports such as gym exercise, dance, swimming, football and cricket. The impact is bound to be more severe on those who rely on those facilities—people from low- income households. Nearly half a million fewer people participate in sport now than in 2012. It is that form of social exclusion that we should be tackling.
I accept that the sports Minister was in earnest when she said that the figures are not good enough and that the Government have to accept part of the blame. Sport England has said that the figures are disastrous. We can bandy figures back and forth, but we have to accept that what people are looking for is consistency. All they have had consistently so far is bad figures, year after year since 2012. We need to work together on this. I wish the sports Minister all the best in convincing her right hon. and hon. Friends to give sport priority in the future, although I have to say that her predecessors failed woefully. I will be there supporting her all the way if she can convince them that we need a cross-Government, long-term plan for sport that we can all work towards.
We need to empower the people who do the heavy lifting: the coaches, PE teachers, school games organisers, volunteers, people who run the clubs and classes, academics, businesses, local authorities and county sports partnerships. Incidentally, if anyone recognises any of this, it is similar to the points Steve Hilton was making just recently, only I wrote it all down a year ago.
Sport governing bodies have a role to play. They have nothing to fear from being part of a strategy to increase overall participation, as they can then fish in a much bigger pool of talent for the next generation of elite athletes. We need a long-term plan, so that policy does not change every time we have a bad set of figures or the Minister changes. We need to empower the people at the grassroots, let them tailor what goes on in their area to meet local needs and oversee local sports plans, and trust them, because they can do it. Let us put the failures behind us. Let us do what people out there want us to do: trust them, and set out a long-term plan that we can all work towards, so that we get our nation healthy, happy and active.
This has, on the whole, been an excellent debate, not just because of colleagues’ contributions, which I shall turn to shortly, but because despite the Opposition’s attempt to say otherwise, we have a good story to tell about London 2012 and its legacy.
I will briefly turn to the 13 contributions from the Floor of the House. I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) on her excellent maiden speech. I am very fond of Edinburgh, which has much sporting heritage of which to be proud.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), as a former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, brings real expertise and knowledge to the debate. I pay particular tribute to her—and indeed my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant)—for progressing the issue of women in sport; my right hon. Friend was right to say that the Olympics started that process.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who was of course the first female sports Minister—I am merely the third—gave a brilliantly measured speech. I reassure her that there will be a proper cross-departmental approach to the strategy, and I certainly share her passion to increase grassroots sport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) spoke incredibly well. I am hoping that if I say wonderfully nice things about his excellent speech, he will be very kind to me, now that he has been re-elected to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.
I know how incredibly passionate the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) is about sport. He is a man of great foresight: we spent 21-odd days climbing a volcano for charity, and he lobbied me then on facilities for his constituency, 12 months before I was made a Minister.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) on her maiden speech. I was delighted to hear her story about Cheadle Town football club and its score line. I believe the club was founded as Grasmere Rovers. She should not worry about the 22-nil drubbing; I have been a manager when we have won with a similar score line, but I have also been a player when we have lost with the same score line. Both are equally embarrassing.
The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) made some very interesting comments. She has been in the House for a while now, but I must pay tribute to her late predecessor, Alan Keen, who also served on the Select Committee and was a real advocate for sport. She has picked up his baton wonderfully.
My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) of course made an excellent speech about a legacy that he helped deliver. As Mayor of London, he gave us a memorable games, and he is right to be incredibly proud of all that the Olympics and Paralympics delivered.
The hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) was right to talk about the link between physical activity and health outcomes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) was right to point out the long tail of the participation legacy. Those inspired by London 2012 may not yet be out of primary school. His points were well made.
I have worked incredibly closely with the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) on the issue of women in sport. She raised important issues. There has been progress, but challenges remain, and I look forward to working with her on those.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley) is a fantastic advocate for outdoor recreation, but it is his fault that my knees have not yet recovered from Cotopaxi.
Finally, the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) focused on school sport. I assure him that the Government have committed to funding the physical education and sport primary school premium for a further four years—something that Labour has not done. Furthermore, according to an independent assessment, 96% of schools reported improvements in pupils’ fitness, and 91% observed an increase in the quality of PE teaching.
If unnecessary attempts at political point-scoring were an Olympic sport, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) would win gold every time. He has done his best to impugn the legacy of London 2012, but the simple truth is that we have a great deal to be proud of, and it is shame that the hitherto consensus has been shattered. [Interruption.] I will come to participation shortly, but the legacy is more than that. There is the legacy of the park, the village, business, volunteers and the collective knowledge accumulated by those who delivered the games. The park is outstanding, with wonderful venues that are open to the public to enjoy. The Olympic stadium has an exciting and sustainable future. Unlike so many previous host cities, there are no white elephants from London 2012.
No, because I do not have much time—I am sorry.
The London 2012 games were the perfect showcase for the skills of our people and our businesses, which led to £14.2 billion of trade and investment benefits to the UK. British business has already won £60 million-worth of contracts for the Rio 2016 games, with up to another £100 million to come. About 200 people who worked at London 2012 are helping to deliver the European games in Baku and assisting Rio in its preparations. [Interruption.] If hon. Members will be patient, I will turn to participation shortly. As the Secretary of State said, games maker-style volunteers have become a fixture at major sporting events. London 2012 changed the perception of volunteering, and the nation has embraced it—a direct legacy that appears to have been forgotten by the Opposition.
I now turn to participation. I am happy to have an open and honest debate on this. The fact is that 1.4 million more people playing are sport than in 2005, and sport participation has increased by 300,000 since October 2010. Yet that is not enough—it is as simple as that. London 2012 has, without doubt, inspired many people to get involved in Olympic and Paralympic sports. There has been an increase in the number of people doing athletics, cycling, archery, judo, sailing and many other sports. Let us not forget, though, that inspiration and measurement do not always run concurrently. The girls I met in my local boxing gym are in the ring because of Nicola Adams. They are not measured on any survey because they are under 14. We will have examples like that from all our constituencies.
The strapline of London 2012 was “Inspire a Generation”. The participation results show that our 16 to 25-year-olds are, on the whole, “steady”. That is good, but not good enough. When the last active people survey results were issued a couple of weeks ago, I made it clear that I am not happy with the decline in the number of people participating in sport. However, let us be clear: the last time an all-encompassing sports strategy was drawn up was in 2002, and it has been the template for sport delivery since then.
Clearly, as the Opposition have admitted today, their strategy is not delivering. This Government have been working on the basis of a strategy that was delivered in 2002 and is no longer fit for purpose. So I have ripped up the old strategy, and before the recess I shall publish a consultation on a brand-new sport strategy that will reform how we deliver sport in this country. I am sure the Opposition will embrace this opportunity to revive the consensus that helped deliver such a successful games.
We are absolutely committed to continuing to make the most of the opportunities that London 2012 gave us and to make sure that generations to come benefit from that fantastic summer three years ago. It is unfortunate that through the wording of their motion the Opposition sought to denigrate the legacy of London 2012. For that reason, we shall oppose the motion.