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Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD):
Will the Minister acknowledge that, apart from the free swimming initiative in which many local authorities in Essex have chosen not to participate, there are very few up-and-running projects that will secure peoples active participation in exercise? Furthermore, the lack of a logo that could be used to publicise events linked to the
Olympics remains a hindrance. Have we started early or left it too late to meet the target of 2 million extra active people by 2012?
Tessa Jowell: I absolutely do not accept the hon. Gentlemans pessimistic view. As he will know, the Inspire mark can be earned by organisations that have demonstrably achieved in relation to Olympic goals; he might like to encourage the sports clubs in his constituency to do that. He could also take the time and trouble to talk to the governing bodies across the board about the generally impressive efforts that they are making, not just to see their sportsmen and women compete and succeed at the highest level, but to get more and more people participating in sportrowing, cycling, sailing, athletics; I could go on. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could focus his questions on the basis of a knowledge and understanding of what is actually going on, rather than promoting this climate of pessimism.
Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Essex is one of the counties that has been making representations about the cost of policing venues external to London. I appreciate why the Department has not been able to answer questions on the issue until now, but given that the security plan was published at the end of last week, is the Minister now in a position to confirm whether the £600 million inside the main Olympic budget earmarked for security will cover the cost of policing venues external to London?
Tessa Jowell: As we made clear last week when the Home Office published the security plan, it is our expectation that the funds reserved for security£600 million plus an allowance for contingency, as the hon. Gentleman knowswill be sufficient. However, the hon. Gentleman has received a briefing on the issue; for reasons that he will understand, the detailed costing of individual elements of the security programme will be developed over time, taking full account of the threat level at the appropriate time.
The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): We are making very good progress on the implementation of plans for the legacy of the London 2012 games. We recently provided Parliament with an update on the progress and future plans in the annual report on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. That was published on 5 February. The nature of the priorities for the Olympic legacy will vary across the regions of the UK, and it is important that those regional preferences are properly reflected. As I said, the Government have the big ambition of using the motivational power of the Olympics to inspire 2 million more people to be active by 2012, 1 million of them through sport.
I totally agree with my right hon. Friends sentiments. Will she ensure that everything possible is done to support groups such as West Cheshire athletic club, which has an Olympic-standard track
along with associated facilities? It is vital that the hard work done by volunteers and organisers to develop the club and support new young athletes is protected well after 2012.
Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend and recognise the part that he has played in getting that excellent facility for his constituents. I understand that there is some anxiety about the consequence of local government reorganisation. I hope that the new authority will honour all the commitments that have already been given, especially in recognition of the important role that local authorities up and down the country have to play in ensuring that 2 million more people are physically active and taking part in sport.
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): The Minister will know that research from the Womens Sport and Fitness Foundation has shown that fewer women than men are involved in sport at all levels, whether as participants, coaches or officials. What plans does she have to use the London 2012 Olympics to ensure that the legacy tackles the problem of womens under-participation in sport?
That can be done in very many ways, starting with the school sport programme, where ways of engaging girls, in particular, are very much a focus,
using dance, aerobics and so forththe kinds of physical activity that are more likely to be attractive to girls. We must then seek to address the other barriers to girls participation, whether they are to do with gender, ethnicity or religion. We must then ensure, at the very top of sport, that women have equal chances with menand, in some cases, men have equal chances with womento take part in Olympic events. Let us take cycling as an example: Victoria Pendleton should have the opportunity to compete in as many events where she has the potential to win a gold medal as possible, as should male colleagues.
Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the south-west region may not be as successful as other regions in attracting Olympic sports? Will she therefore agree to meet me to discuss the legacy and how we can improve that for the south-west?
Tessa Jowell: I would be absolutely delighted to meet my hon. Friend. I hope that she is reassured by the excellent work that is being done by the nations and regions group in the south-west through the marketing of training camps, the promotion of participating and volunteering. That will ensure that the economic benefits flow to the south-west, as they should. However, I would be delighted to meet her to ensure that even more is achieved.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to trouble you on this matter, but from time to time I have had cause to raise this with you. Are you aware of the increasingly dilatory nature of the time taken by Ministers to send ministerial replies? That is discourteous not only to their colleagues but, much more importantly, to our constituents, who have every expectation of receiving a prompt reply to the matters that they raise. May I ask you again to raise with Ministers, when you have a chance, the need to reply promptly at all times to colleagues correspondence?
Mr. Wills: In line with the indication I gave in Committee, we have considered raising the recordable and reportable thresholds in view of the concerns expressed by parties about the burden of compliance with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. As the House knows, the 2000 Act was a landmark piece of legislation that brought, for the first time, transparency to the sources of political funding. It has been a huge step forward for democracy and I am sure that all in the House agree that we are all the better for it, and that our democracy works better as a result.
However, we must also address legitimate concerns about the burden of reporting relatively small donations in the context of the publics interest in bigger political donations. We had a lot of discussion on this matter in Committee, and there is a balance to be struck. We have to act in a way that is transparent and accountable to the public whom we serve, but we must never forget that political activity in this country is largely carried out by volunteersselfless people who give their time and effort to political parties across the House. Without them, none of us could function effectively in representing our constituents.
Mr. Wills: As my right hon. Friend says, without those volunteers, none of us would be here. We have to be careful about placing burdens on them, or about putting barriers in the way of their activity, which might discourage those selfless volunteers from giving their time and effort in the future. There is a balance to be struck.
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