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Rugby Union

Volume 611: debated on Thursday 9 June 2016

Sports such as rugby union bring tremendous benefits to the individuals and communities who engage in them. Between 2013 and 2017, Sport England is investing £20 million to get more people playing rugby.

We certainly know how lucky we are in Devon.

There are 47 rugby union clubs across Devon, and they provide people of all ages and backgrounds access to the game and a chance to get more involved in their community. What further support can the Government give those clubs and Devon Rugby Football Union to enhance further their role of getting more people involved in the game and their community?

I take this opportunity to congratulate Devon RFU on the work that it has been doing to provide so many opportunities for people to get involved in the great game of rugby. Across Devon, Sport England has invested £319,632 to upgrade, improve and repair nine grassroots rugby clubs since 2010. As I have said—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) should listen. We listened to her yesterday when she was waffling on about the BBC, so she should listen today to get some facts. We are focused on getting more people from all backgrounds involved in sport and physical activity.

Talking about the BBC, rugby union is only one of many sports covered by the corporation with its editorial independence. Has the Minister taken time to reflect on yesterday’s BBC debate, reviewed today’s press coverage and realised that Government interference in editorial issues such as the proposed “Scottish Six” is deeply unwelcome?

I was here listening to the debate yesterday, and I commend the excellent speeches of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy.

With the support and the help of the Minister’s Department, we had the first ever mixed ability rugby world cup in my constituency last year. Will my hon. Friend’s Department continue to help and support mixed ability rugby, and will he use his good offices to extend the mixed ability format, which has been so successfully run in my constituency, to other sports as well?

I have noted what my hon. Friend has said, and I know what a champion he is for his area and his constituency. We very much believe in inclusion and getting as many people involved as we possibly can. I will look at what he has to say and reflect on it.

Has the Minister had a chance to look at the success of schemes such as Rugby Get Onside, which is run by Saracens Rugby Club with young offenders at Feltham? Rugby has a great role in rehabilitating young offenders. Will he discuss that with the Justice Secretary and consider the role that rugby can play as part of his Department’s reforms of prisons?

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, and I will certainly do that. Rugby is a fantastic game that brings together all sorts of different people from different backgrounds and has great opportunities for community.