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Physical Activity (Participation)

7. Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): What progress her Department is making in increasing participation levels in sport and physical activity. [216954]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): About 31 per cent. of the adult population currently take the recommended level of exercise each week. Each year, we aim to increase that percentage by 1 per cent., which means getting 480,000 people a year to change their lifestyles and exercise regularly. On children, we are on target to meet our objective of ensuring that 75 per cent. of schoolchildren spend a minimum of two hours each week on high-quality physical education and school sport within and beyond the curriculum by 2006.

Mr. Reed: As my right hon. Friend knows, we have implemented plans for school sport and are moving in the right direction. On elite sport, she visited Loughborough university last week, where she saw some of the best-trained athletes in the world. However, we must do much more work on increasing participation among young children and the adult population. What progress does she believe can be made towards the target, which is daunting? A number of years ago, "Game Plan" stated that we want to reach 70 per cent. participation, which is a long way off. Does she believe that we can make progress? Volunteers are the people
 
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who will make a difference and, in the year of volunteering, she should back them to ensure delivery at the grass roots.

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The target is tough, but it will be achieved by two routes. First, Departments will work together closely to promote public education and public understanding of the benefits of exercise and, secondly, the regional sports boards will provide delivery. The Tories threaten that objective, because they would cut regional sports boards.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Why do only 75 per cent. of children take part in physical activity—the statistic was part of the Secretary of State's original answer? Will she encourage competitive team sports in schools, so that all young people can take part, because, as we know from the cases of paraplegics and others, even those who have some form of disability can still participate in sport? If we did so, we would suffer much less obesity.

Tessa Jowell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. The target is for 75 per cent. of children to participate by 2006, for 85 per cent. of children to participate by 2008 and for the two-hour objective to be exceeded by 2010. We are investing in the promotion of competitive sport in schools: about 90 per cent. of the schools participating in the linked arrangements focusing on school sport are holding sports days and have reintroduced competitive sport. If we are to win medals at the 2012 Olympics in London, our children need to be competing now.

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that the time has come to give every schoolchild an entitlement to play after-school competitive sport and receive qualified coaching in the main sports?

Tessa Jowell: Yes, I certainly do. The investment in and focus on sport in schools means that we should achieve that objective over the next four to five years. It takes time to implement such policies properly, because, as my hon. Friend said, trained coaches and PE teachers are necessary to engage children with sport and to teach them properly, and that is what we are doing.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I am sure that the Secretary of State agrees that obtaining the 2012 Olympics would boost people's interest in sport and help to achieve the targets, and I congratulate the Olympic bid team on its work in the past week. Does she agree that we can have little confidence in the Government's aspirations for the targets set out in "Game Plan", when we discover that the target for 70 per cent. of the population to be active by 2020 is already 20 years behind schedule and was rejected by Wanless and Sport England? The 70 per cent. figure came from a mistranslation by the Secretary of State's Department of a document from Finland, which claimed that 70 per cent. of Finns already achieve the target, when the actual figure is only 30 per cent.
 
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Tessa Jowell: I shall not go into all the background that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, which is questionable. The objective is very tough. No other country has achieved such high participation levels at such a pace, but because physical activity is so closely related to reducing deaths from heart disease, cancer, obesity and so forth, we are determined to focus on that challenging goal.

Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North) (Lab): Is it not time that that we spent a bigger proportion of our lottery funding on sport instead of culture, and will my right hon. Friend consider introducing a tick box on lottery tickets to allow people to decide whether they spend their money on culture or sport?

Tessa Jowell: Over the past four to five years, there has been a very substantial increase—from memory, more than 100 per cent.—in funding for sport. In the run-up to 2009, there will be an opportunity for lottery players to express their views about how the money for good causes should be allocated. However, my hon. Friend should reflect on the enormous value that arts investment through the lottery has for those around the country who feel passionately about the arts.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Is it not staggering that, despite the provision of considerable sums of lottery money, the general household survey shows that the number of adults participating in at least one sporting activity has fallen from 64 per cent. in 1996 to 58 per cent. in 2002, the last year for which figures are available? Has not the time come to change Government policy to direct funding and resources through the sports national governing bodies directly to amateur sports clubs rather than through wasteful regional bureaucracy?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman rightly reflects on the variation in the level of participation. I hope that figures will shortly be available showing the way in which the trends are going. Nobody denies that this is a very tough target, but the best way of implementing it is to pull together everybody who needs to be part of the mission to achieve it at a regional level—that is, through the regional sports boards, which would be abolished were the Tories ever to return to power.

Sports Clubs (Tax Relief)

8. Jane Griffiths (Reading, East) (Lab): What discussions she has held with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on tax relief for amateur sports clubs. [216955]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): I correspond regularly and have a close working relationship with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who takes a close interest in the welfare of amateur sports clubs, particularly as regards progress with the community amateur sports clubs scheme. I am delighted to tell my hon. Friend that more than 2,000 clubs have registered and are enjoying the benefits not only of the CASC scheme but of mandatory rate relief. That has enabled them to invest on a much more certain basis than has been possible for many years.
 
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Jane Griffiths: I thank the Minister for that welcome reply. Will he join me expressing good wishes to the Palmer Park velocycling club in my constituency, which I feel confident will produce cycling stars like Bradley Wiggins and Nicole Cooke for the future?

Mr. Caborn: Very much so. I hope that the success of that club will be mirrored around the country, particularly given that investment in school sports is probably the highest that it has ever been. In terms of amateur clubs, it is important that we arrest the figure of 70 per cent. of school leavers not continuing in active sport. Building up the club structure, with the support of the governing bodies, is very important if we are to have a sustainable sport infrastructure in future.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): I confirm that Conservative Members very much welcome the CASC scheme, which, the Minister will no doubt be delighted to learn, I promoted in my local press last week. While tax relief is indeed helpful, it is the total level of costs and taxes that interests amateur sports clubs. Why then has the Minister reneged on a commitment made to me in Committee by his predecessor carefully to consider discounts on licensing fees for sports clubs?

Mr. Caborn: I thank the hon. Gentleman for congratulating the Government on their work on the community amateur sports club scheme and mandatory rate relief. Those clubs waited 30 years for that but at least we have now delivered it.

I believe that the licensing fee would be approximately £90 for sports clubs. The minimum fee for sports or social clubs is £25. The cost per person would therefore be negligible and could be reflected in the product sold behind the bar. The Licensing Act 2003 provides for many advantages for sports clubs. It amalgamates six licensing authorities into one. It covers entertainment and the development of clubs. If the provisions are used effectively, clubs will make considerably more profit than £90, the licensing fee.

Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is an illogicality in giving some of the amateur clubs rate relief and taking it away by setting the licensing fee on the basis of the rateable value? For example, much of the rateable value of a bowling green in my constituency is based on the greens, which have almost no source of income. Surely local authorities should treat such groups favourably in the licensing process.

Mr. Caborn: If people want free booze at the clubs, that is fine. The CASC scheme is designed for those who play sport and many sports clubs do not run a bar. The CASC scheme and mandatory rate relief will apply fully to them. My hon. Friend refers to clubs that have a bar. They will pay £90 for that in the first instance.

Mr. Moss: More than that.

Mr. Caborn: Well, if they pay more than that, they are selling much more booze and making a much greater profit. The sports clubs that have licensed bars should be able to reflect the fee in the price of the commodity. The
 
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CASC scheme is not only about licensing authorities. Many sports clubs do not run a bar. They will receive the full benefit of the CASC scheme and the mandatory rate relief.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Does the Minister recall that, in the halcyon days when there were lots of pits in the coal-mining areas and we had miners' welfares—probably 70-odd in Derbyshire alone—many operated on a similar basis of rate relief, which enabled the clubs and welfares to continue to play football, cricket and so on? Now, because of the closures of the pits and welfares by the Conservative party, we do not have the same number of facilities. In Bolsover, we would be only too glad to pay the tax if we could get back the Bolsover swimming baths, which were lost when the Tories were in. Let's get the show back on the road.

Mr. Caborn: I can honestly say: third time lucky. That is the third time that my hon. Friend has asked that question. I have visited Bolsover and we are trying to work towards a solution so that my hon. Friend's constituency will have the swimming complex that used to be there. We will continue to work towards that. I will take up the matter with my officials and I hope that he will not have to raise it at Question Time again. [Interruption.] No, that is not a commitment—it is an aspiration.


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