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Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Bolsover is next door to Chesterfield, and we were promised a swimming bath. The lottery people were going to provide some of the money several years ago. We have not got a swimming bath in Bolsover. We would love to have one. We will help those people in Chesterfield if we get one. Will the Minister have a word with the people who run the lottery and the Minister for Sport to see whether we can get that swimming bath back on the road again? The money could be there if we got some from the lottery.
Mr. Lammy: I had a little feeling that my hon. Friend might raise that issuehe has done so in the pastso I tapped my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport on the shoulder this morning and asked him what was happening in Bolsover. He is happy to consider the proposal with the lottery providers and to take it forward, but he told me that it is important that the people in Bolsover come forward with a business case.
In the light of all that has been said, the situation in Derbyshire is serious, and the Government are monitoring it. I have heard what my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire said, and I am
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strongly of the view that there should be no diminution in services for the people of Derbyshire. It is clearly important that the council have regard to the existing facilities that people rely on, and the gap that will be created if the council moves to any new arrangement. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport visited my hon. Friend's constituency on Friday. He takes the situation seriously, and he is monitoring it. He intends to go back to the constituency, because he joins my hon. Friend in the concerns that she has raised.
I have been informed by the council that the pool in Staveley needs to close for health and safety reasons and that it has offered to provide alternative facilities, but in considering any alternative, it must bear in mind the concerns that people have been raising, such as their ability to travel the distances to other facilities and, particularly, the concerns of the disabled in the area.
Natascha Engel: The borough council has said that it will provide alternative facilities, but the problem is that once the pool has closed, people will not have a swimming facility for a number of years, and access to the nearest alternative facility is not good enough. How can we ensure that the pool does not close in the first place, until an alternative has appeared?
My hon. Friend has raised the issue at the highest level, and the Prime Minister saw fit to comment on it last week. The Minister for Sport has visited her constituency. The Government are committed to sport. More local authorities are opening facilities than closing them. On which side of the debate are my hon. Friend's colleagues in another party? They need to contemplate that decision in the days ahead. No doubt constituents will look at that future offer, and if there is no such offer they will go in a different direction, for which I would applaud them.
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Swimming remains one of our major success stories at Paralympic level. It is especially important for the disabled, many of whom look forward to practising, training and being involved in the Paralympic games. Our competitors at the Paralympics won 62 medals at Sydney, of which 15 were gold, and 52 in Athens, of which 16 were gold. That placed the UK at the top of the ranks for swimming, with only China achieving more medals in the pool. That is why hon. Members raise the subject, why our constituents care about it and why local authorities are responding to them. This country should be proud of its record. To maintain and improve it, it is important to invest in facilities so that we have first-class athletes, and young people can take up the sport of choice that they say they prefer above all others.
We are under no illusions about the scale of the challenge ahead as we try to ensure that we have facilities fit for the future, which will support our elite athletes. As I have outlined, however, there are many positive messages across the country about swimming, in particular swimming for disabled people. We have good facilities and, moreover, a talented and aspiring generation of disabled swimmers. We need to do everything we can to encourage more people to follow that example. That has to start with local authorities, including the one in Derbyshire, ensuring that there is good local provision that meets the needs of all sections of its communities.
I thank my hon. Friend for obtaining this important debate. I hope that political colleagues will take what has been said seriously and that her constituents benefit from first-class swimming facilities without the pause in provision that it appears others want them to experience.