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Physical Activity: Lower-income Families

Volume 748: debated on Thursday 18 April 2024

Getting people active is absolutely vital, particularly those who are not active at the moment, which will include those from low-income families. That is why we have a sport strategy to get 3.5 million people more active. It is why we are investing around £400 million in grassroots sports facilities up and down the country, including £4 million in Newcastle upon Tyne Central. We are ensuring that that money is targeted particularly on the most deprived neighbourhoods.

I hope the Secretary of State will join me in congratulating Newcastle United women on their promotion to the championship. This season, they have helped inspire more than 300 young girls to take part in Newcastle United Foundation’s Premier League Kicks sessions, but with a third of young people in Newcastle inactive and our childhood obesity rates the highest in the region and among the highest in the country, we cannot leave it all to the foundation. How frequently does the Secretary of State meet the Department for Education to ensure that disadvantaged young people have access to sporting opportunities in schools? Specifically, what comparison has she made between sporting facilities in the state and private school sectors?

This is a really important area, and I congratulate the Newcastle United women on their success and, indeed, all women taking part in sport. That is why, through the future Lionesses fund, we have invested £30 million for 30 pitches across the country to make sure that women get more activity and more opportunities to take part in sport. The specific question was about engagement with the Department for Education, which I have regularly. In fact, it sits on the taskforce I was talking about to get more people active, as do other Departments. We all need to work together to make sure we get more sport in school, more people active and equal opportunities for young girls in schools across the country.

More than 1 million girls who considered themselves sporty while at primary school drop out of sport as teenagers. I was one of those girls, and I did not do any sport from puberty until my late 40s, when I discovered running. This weekend, I will be running my second London marathon in aid of Bristol Refugee Rights—feel free to donate. On this Government’s watch, inequality between girls and boys on physical activity has got worse, with 22% fewer girls than boys taking part in team sports. I do not want any tepid words about things the Secretary of State says she is committed to. We have 860,000 girls missing out on the joy of physical activity—why?

I hope the shadow Secretary of State does very well on Sunday, and I wish her the best of luck. I am absolutely committed—these are not just warm words—to ensuring that more girls and women get involved in sport. I say that they are not just warm words because we have a plethora of policies already in play on this issue, whether that is: investing in football and working with Karen Carney on her women’s football review; building pitches to ensure that girls and women have priority access to sport; the £400 million for multi-sport facilities, which goes across the country; or the taskforce that I talked about, which will get 1 million children more active. We are particularly prioritising people who are inactive at the moment, which unfortunately does include girls.

I call Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi to ask question 3. [Interruption.] Will the Secretary of State answer the question and allow the shadow Minister to come in?