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Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Gentleman's ludicrous and class-based analysis of cricket is shown to be spurious by the fact that the most reviled person on the Bodyline tour was its captain, the extremely wealthy Douglas Jardine, who was very much an establishment figure. He suffered far more prejudice and attacks than Larwood or Voce ever did.

Mr. Cryer: That is complete fantasy. Jardine continued to captain England. I could become very passionate about

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this subject, because I am that sort of person. Jardine captained England against India and continued to be a first-class player and captain. Larwood and Voce were both ditched by the establishment.

Mr. Bob Russell: In what year did that happen, and what does it have to do with this debate, which is on Government support for sport?

Mr. Cryer: The hon. Gentleman should stop nitpicking. It happened in 1932-33. We should be aware of our history, whether in sport or anything else, because it enables us to know where we have come from and where we are going. That should be self-evident to all hon. Members, apart, perhaps, from those on the packed Liberal Democrat Benches.

During the past 10 or 20 years, we have seen an influx of big money into sport, especially football, in which there has been a shift of focus from the collective effort of the club and team to the individual. That movement towards a more individualised process has been largely due to the big money. I am not speaking about Government investment or sponsorship, although I must say that it always irks me to see cricket grounds covered in sponsors names and so on. I refer mainly to television money, which has had an especially long-term and corrosive effect on football. It has tended to take the sport away from supporters and to put it in the hands of a few individuals who form an elite right at the top.

Such money has also had a corrosive effect on professional boxing, although it cannot be said that there has ever been a golden age in the professional game. For example, there was no golden age during the 1950s and 1960s in America, when boxing was largely controlled by the Mafia. Frank Carbo was the most notorious person involved in boxing in those days. He ran, among others, Sonny Liston, the heavyweight champion. These days, however, the big money comes from television, which demands blood and a spectacle of the sort that was not demanded 40 or 50 years ago.

Some of the greatest British boxers in past decades, such as Alan Minter, Howard Winstone, Tommy Farr and Len Harvey, were comparatively light punchers. None of those boxers had especially big punches, but managed to build up their points by clever counter-punching. A particular boxing hero of mine when I was growing up was Herol Graham, the great Sheffield boxer. He was a superb counter-puncher and should have been world champion. Unfortunately, various circumstances denied him that achievement. That era seems more or less over, with the current demand for big punching and blood and gore.

The British Boxing Board of Control does a pretty good job of governing the sport. The professional game is a great deal safer in Britain than in America. Far fewer serious injuries and fatalities occur here, where amateur sport is very much safer. As I said earlier, most public schools have given up boxing, which has been abandoned by the vast majority of schools in Britain. Only a handful of schools still provide amateur boxing, which is ridiculous. The statistics for injuries accrued in the amateur ring compare roughly with the statistics for injuries in swimming. I was a competitive swimmer for 20 years and I saw one serious injury in the pool.

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I think that Winchester was the last big public school to give up boxing. If my memory serves me correctly, it did so approximately 10 or 12 years ago. Radio 4 broadcast a programme about it at the time, which included an interview with one of the boys who had been an enthusiastic boxer. He was appalled. He spoke about the school's track record in rugby and pointed out that in the previous couple of weeks, there had been two broken noses, a broken leg, a concussion and various other minor injuries. That does not happen in a year in the boxing ring, but schools have decided to abandon the sport, which is a great shame.

In my constituency, there is a large variety of clubs covering the whole range of sport. We have a successful amateur boxing club at Elm park and several cricket clubs. Rainham cricket club is in the south of my constituency. Rainham--a former village near the River Thames--is not a wealthy or particularly privileged area and Rainham cricket club struggled for years to raise the resources to put nets on the pitch. I have played cricket--pretty unsuccessfully, but I could on-drive, cut, hook and pull absolutely superbly, but unfortunately largely without making contact with the ball. Cricket has always been a great passion of mine.

Rainham cricket club had no nets until it managed to get the money from a local landfill trust. Anyone who plays cricket will know that youngsters, or people of any age, cannot be attracted without practice facilities, so there must be cricket nets on the pitch, where people can go and practice week in, week out and hone their skills. The club was able to put up the nets, but they were then vandalised. I like to think that I played a modest part in raising the money for the nets, so I was enormously angered when the secretary of the club told me that they had been vandalised two weeks after I had opened them. They have since been repaired, but I was particularly appalled that they were wrecked by mindless yobs--probably half out of their heads on drugs--given that volunteers devote their time to Rainham cricket club. They give of their own time and struggle--week in, week out; year in, year out--to make the club a success, to get the proper facilities and to attract youngsters, which they are starting to do.

I have discussed with the Home Office and the local police how to make our public parks safer. My hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) raised that issue. It is particularly important in places such as Rainham, which have few facilities and where even those that exist are not particularly great and do not receive much investment.

Swimming is another sport close to my heart, because I competed in it for so long. There are several successful swimming clubs in my area--probably the most successful being a club called Killer Whales.

Mr. Bob Russell: I have heard of it.

Mr. Cryer: Yes.

Killer Whales is one of the most successful swimming clubs in the country. It has sporadically managed to compete with the really big clubs, such as City of Leeds and City of Bath, which employ a lot of full-time staff and have big turnovers. Killer Whales has a tiny turnover and is run almost entirely by volunteers, yet it manages to compete with the very best. However, the swimming

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facilities in Havering--the borough in which my constituency lies--are not particularly great. Chaffords swimming pool in Rainham does not even have any showers--a pretty basic requirement for a swimming pool. It is bang next to a school--also called Chaffords--which should provide a great opportunity for children to swim. They use the pool, but it is not a good facility; it needs investment. The council has put in some money, but it needs more.

I welcome the Government's investment in sport. We are seeing the fruits of that investment, and we shall continue to do so in the future, but some places, such as Rainham, are receiving no real investment.

I should like deal with safe routes to schools. That issue might not have an apparent connection with sport, but if we could invest more in creating safe cycleways, children could cycle to school and they would be fitter. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell) mentioned the fact that current generations are much less fit than previous ones. That is true, and the culture of not walking, cycling or engaging in physical activities is part of the problem.

In my constituency and, I suppose, most parts of the country, many parents drive their children to school, even if the school is just around the corner. We will not get those children on to bikes or get them fitter unless we create roads on which people on bikes feel safe. In Greater London--even in Havering, which is right on the edge of Greater London--people do not feel safe on bikes. I know that because I use my bike regularly. I often use it to get to constituency events. People feel very vulnerable on Britain's roads today, and real investment is needed to overcome that.

The problem is that many borough engineers come from an era when the car was automatically regarded as absolutely supreme, but we are moving on to a different era. Those engineers seem to think that painting a few lines on the road is enough to encourage people to cycle, but they will cycle only when they feel safe. When they feel safe, they will, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, swap Playstations for playing fields.

On school sports, which is an important consideration, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), who is not in his place, mentioned tennis coaching at his school. I assume from his comments that, like me, he went to a comprehensive. The sports facilities at my school were, to say the least, pretty third rate and tennis coaching, so far as I can remember, was non-existent. I do not know whether his comments were intended as a criticism of comprehensive education--he is not here to clarify his remarks--but if they were, that would be deeply unfair.

Comprehensive schools face two problems: they have never been properly resourced--there is no comparison between the resources available to public schools and those available to comprehensive schools--and, traditionally, many children at comprehensive schools, including me, played sports outside school in the evenings at cricket, football, boxing and rugby clubs. However, that is not a reason for not starting to pump money and resources into the provision of proper sporting facilities in all state schools.

Trevor Brooking's role with Sport England was mentioned earlier. He regularly visits my constituency, where we hold a half-marathon each year, and does an awful lot of work, much of it in his spare time, to encourage children to take part in sport, particularly football and cricket.

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I understand the point that the hon. Member for Colchester made about the £10 fee for police checks. I raised that matter when I was a member of a Standing Committee that considered a child protection Bill. I should rather have a £10 fee, which is modest, and a check than no fee and no check, which would mean that people would not be properly vetted. However, it would probably be better to consider abolishing the fee and use state funding to carry out checks. Although the fee will turn people away, many of those who will be turned away will be people whom we want to be turned away from children's organisations.

In view of the various factors that have influenced the decline in many sports in this country, we need, in the longer term, to invest in schools and to make facilities available in schools--all state schools--so that children can participate in their chosen sports. We also need to invest in clubs outside schools, such as Rainham cricket club and Killer Whales. Such facilities will produce the champions of tomorrow. The telling fact that we did not win a swimming medal at the last Olympics, despite our successes in other sports, was mentioned earlier. If swimming receives investment and facilities, we will start to produce champions.


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