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Sporting Activity (Participation)

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 22 October 2015

The number of people playing sport hit an all-time high in 2012, but has since begun to decline. That is unacceptable. The last time the Government published a strategy for sport was back in 2002, 13 years ago. Later this year, I will be publishing a new, cross-departmental strategy for sport and physical activity which will deliver our vision for an active nation.

I hope that my local football club, Brereton Social FC, is bringing on the football stars of the future. The difficulty that the club faces is that, in the winter, the youth teams cannot play because the pitch is either waterlogged or frozen. It really needs a 3G pitch. What support and funding is the Government making available to clubs such as that to complete projects and, in turn, to help children participate in sport?

Having been involved in grassroots football for many years, I have spent goodness knows how many Sundays wondering whether a stud will go into a frozen pitch or whether a muddy middle is fun or dangerous, so I sympathise with the hon. Lady’s point. Shockingly, compared with the 4,000 plus artificial pitches in Germany, we have only 680 in England, but through the Park Life project we will see more than £60 million going into developing facilities, which will include major investment in, and the expansion of, artificial pitches.

Notwithstanding the early departure of England, holding the world’s third largest sporting event here was always going to provide a good opportunity to encourage people to take up rugby. The festival of rugby, which is running alongside the tournament, has already had 1,000 events and a million people taking part. The Rugby Football Union legacy programme has already achieved its target of introducing rugby to 400 secondary schools by linking with clubs. Does the Minister agree that we have had a fantastically exciting tournament so far, and that these events are great ways to get people involved in the game?

May I take this opportunity to congratulate Scotland, Wales and Ireland on reaching the quarter-finals of the rugby world cup? Some might argue that at least one of our home nations should still be in it. [Interruption.] I know how to play the crowd. The 2015 rugby world cup has been the biggest ever, with attendance and tickets outstripping previous cups. Nearly half a million people have visited the Fanzones to which my hon. Friend refers. I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating all those who have helped to deliver such a successful tournament.

Although some schools make a really good effort in ensuring that their sporting facilities are available to the wider community, others do not. What discussions has the Minister had with her colleagues in the Department for Education to ensure that schools do a much better job in ensuring that their sporting facilities are available to the wider community, particularly in the winter months?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I regularly meet my counterpart in the Department for Education and we discuss all matters relating to school sport, including facilities. It is important that we ensure that our schools are properly equipped to deliver an appropriate and adequate physical education curriculum.

I wish to put on record my thoughts and appreciation of Michael Meacher. He was a great support to new MPs in this House.

What plans do the Government have to include transgender people in sport, as they are often excluded? It is important that sport is an inclusive activity.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. The recent consultation on sport ensured that we looked to see that everybody is included in participating in sport and physical activity, and it contains a significant section on discrimination. The responses to that consultation will form an important part of the sports strategy.