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Covid-19: Sporting Sector

Volume 676: debated on Thursday 4 June 2020

Covid-19 has significantly impacted sport at all levels right across the country. To fully understand the issues faced by the sector, I chair a fortnightly meeting with more than 25 sporting organisations representing millions of people who participate in sport. Sporting organisations have been supported by the Government through their job retention scheme, business loan scheme, business rates relief and business grants. In addition, Sport England has announced £210 million of funding to help sport and physical activity organisations with the effects of coronavirus.

With all these Ministers running in and out, it is less like a Westminster farce and more like a Whitehall farce, but I hope that the Minister will appreciate my tone slightly more than the Home Secretary did yesterday, because I want to congratulate him on his efforts in getting live sport back, which is not only a huge boost to morale across the country, but a major provider of jobs. To take one example, racing alone supports more than 80,000 jobs, but in addition, the betting industry supports 100,000 jobs and pays £3.2 billion in tax each year to the Treasury. Will he ensure an early return for a properly regulated, job-providing, successful, British-based gambling industry?

I do appreciate the right hon. Member’s tone, and I agree with him. Indeed, we are very relieved. Millions of people across the country were very pleased to see racing back this week, and other sports are coming as well. It was great to see Newcastle races on Monday. We have Newmarket today. I would like to thank everybody involved in making sure that we are able to get sport back safely.

Sport England’s research tells us that one positive aspect of the lockdown is the increase in people doing physical activity, but, as we might expect, its data shows that the trend is not so strong for people who have limited access to outside space. What specific and permanent change will the Secretary of State make so that we can tackle that health inequality?

I thank the hon. Lady for that comment. She shares my passion to make sure that we get sport and physical activity really high on the agenda. There are all sorts of things we can do. At the young people’s level, we will be revising the sport and activity action plan so that we can get young people engaged in 60 minutes of sporting activity and we will be looking again at the sport strategy, and I look forward to her comments in developing that as well.