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School Sports

7. Mr. David Kidney (Stafford): If she will ensure that new opportunities fund money contributes to greater community use of school's sports facilities. [53968]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The facilities funded by the new opportunities fund through new opportunities for PE and sport will be a resource for the whole community. Funding is available through that programme to support the development and promotion of facilities for wider community use.

Mr. Kidney: I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that the scheme provides a brilliant opportunity for opening up school facilities for community use? Does he agree that the new opportunities fund is right to focus on community use as an important part of the bid criteria? Is he aware that Staffordshire's bid majors on community use of school facilities? Can he let me into a secret and confirm that Staffordshire will be a major beneficiary of the fund?

Mr. Caborn: I think that Staffordshire has received just under £6 million. However, my hon. Friend is right; the scheme is an element of the funding needed to start establishing links between schools and communities and to strengthen amateur sports clubs. Some 70 per cent. of young people who leave school and go into the world of work or further and higher education never go back into active sport. We have got to look at structural weaknesses, including facilities, so the Government are investing probably the greatest amount of money for a long time—£0.75 billion, including £580 million in England—to start addressing that problem.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Although I welcome the greater use of school sports facilities by the community, does the Minister share my concern that children spend more than twice as much time watching television or playing computer games as they spend doing sport or physical education? Has the right hon. Gentleman had any recent discussions with his counterparts in the Department for Education and Skills to try to reverse his Government's ridiculous decision to take sport out of the core curriculum for all schoolchildren?

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman might like to know that we have a monthly meeting with colleagues not just from the Department for Education and Skills, but from the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, to encourage sport, which is a powerful tool for delivering many of the Government's policies. We discuss how we can develop within the education structure—in which there is now massive investment—sports colleges, school sports co-ordinators, sports opportunities in all primary schools, and the commitment to two hours a week of quality physical education or sport for every child throughout their school life. The investment referred to in the question shows the Government's commitment to use sport as a tool to deliver many agendas.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), will the Minister confirm that a

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recent report indicated an increase in the number of overweight and obese children, at a time when primary schools at least are cutting the time devoted to physical education? Is it not, therefore, of the utmost priority not only that school sports facilities should be used more by schools, but that sport should have a higher place on the agenda in the school curriculum?

Mr. Caborn: Sport should have a higher place on society's programme, if I may say so. Because of obesity, £2 billion is being lost to our economy, and the cost to the health service is £500 million. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments about young people, who are being affected by obesity and diabetes because of lack of physical activity. That is a worrying sign. We are addressing the problem through the new opportunities fund investment of £750 million, through the sports colleges and sports co-ordinators, and right from the primary schools, through the commitment to a minimum of two hours of PE or sport for every child each week throughout their school life.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore): Does my right hon. Friend recognise the importance of the link identified by the Sports Council for Wales and other bodies between community sports organisations and schools? The time when youngsters move away from physical activity and active sport is when they leave school. The structure of formal clubs working with the schools is vital. What is my right hon. Friend doing to ensure that that is promoted?

Mr. Caborn: We certainly recognise the importance of that link. As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the charitable status of amateur sports clubs will be strengthened. If all the clubs apply, that could inject £40 million into them. My right hon. Friend also took cognisance of the representations that had been made and gave amateur clubs certain tax breaks. There is a clear commitment from the Government to strengthen the link between schools, communities and sports clubs. We must address the fundamental weakness in sport, which results in almost 70 per cent. of our young people not going back into active sport once they leave school. Wales gets £48.75 million from the new opportunities fund for facilities in Wales.

Seaside Towns (Marketing)

8. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): What proposals she has for including seaside and coastal towns in generic marketing activity by the English Tourism Council. [53969]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): The new body that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a few minutes ago will have a remit to set the strategy for all tourism marketing in England. Seaside and coastal resorts are some of our most important tourist attractions. To communicate our determination to work with local authorities, development agencies and everyone else involved in regeneration, during the coming months I

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shall visit seaside towns and resorts in the north-west, East Anglia, the north-east, Yorkshire and Humberside, Lincolnshire and the south-west.

Mr. Marsden: Notwithstanding the churlish response of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, will my hon. Friend accept that my conversations with those involved in the tourism industry in Blackpool and with others in seaside and coastal resorts show that they warmly welcome the restoration of the marketing role of the English Tourism Council? I also welcome the fact that he, in his inimitable style, intends to do some on-the-spot investigation in such resorts. As he does so, will he take on board the need for the generic marketing of seaside towns to include promoting their use as hubs so that more visitors will stay nights in our seaside towns and see the coastal and rural hinterlands as well?

Dr. Howells: I thank my hon. Friend for his question and his great work on behalf of coastal towns and resorts, including Blackpool. He is right to highlight the importance of coastal towns and resorts having a working relationship with their hinterlands. There are now some very good examples of such relationships. I have been especially impressed by the north Devon partnership and by the way in which Bournemouth and the New Forest have been working together to develop new sorts of holidays. Often, these are niche holidays in which people can have a traditional break at a seaside resort, but also go cycling or engage in other activities in the hinterland. That is a good way forward for resorts and their hinterlands.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): We heard a lot of bluster from the Secretary of State today about the creation of the English Tourism Council. Will the Minister show a little humility and explain to the House the reason for the welcome re-creation of the English Tourism Council, which is that the changes made by his Government to the structure of tourism councils in England in the early part of their term in office have been an absolute disaster?

Dr. Howells: No, the changes have not been a disaster. The way in which the industry was tested in 2001 certainly showed up weaknesses in the structure of support from public funds. We have taken cognisance of that fact and tried to learn from it. I should have thought that, rather than taking such a churlish approach, the hon. Lady would welcome this development and contribute by suggesting how it could be made even better. That would avoid the yah-boo nonsense that we so often get in the Chamber and help the Government to ensure that the lessons that were learned—or that should have been learned—during 2001 mean that we will come out of what happened with a stronger tourism industry, not a weaker one.

Women's Football

9. Mr. John Grogan (Selby): What plans she has to encourage the development of women's football. [53970]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): I am pleased to say that women's football is now the fastest growing sport in England. The development of women's football is the responsibility of the Football Association

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and a major component of its five-year development strategy. My officials are working very closely with the football authorities and other sporting organisations to raise the profile of women's sports. Probably one of the greatest boosts to women's football has been given by the film "Bend It Like Beckham", which I understand is bringing hundreds of young girls and women into football.

Mr. Grogan: Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should welcome the first ever terrestrial television coverage of the women's FA cup final on BBC 1 last week—even though sadly, on this occasion, the pride of Yorkshire, the Doncaster Belles, were beaten by a London team, Fulham? Does he agree that such coverage, and indeed films such as "Bend It Like Beckham", can only encourage participation in the sport, especially among girls in their teenage years?

Mr. Caborn: Absolutely. If I may give a little advertisement, England are playing Germany in a world cup qualifier on 19 May at Selhurst Park. The match will be broadcast on Sky Television, but nevertheless, England are doing extremely well. Our concern about the lack of young people going from school into sport, which I mentioned earlier, is even more pronounced in relation to younger ladies leaving school. Anything that we can do to encourage such participation must be welcome. I hope that the FA will continue its good work and that we can capitalise on the fact that 2 million people have now seen "Bend It Like Beckham".

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): In welcoming the terrific success of women's football in this country, is it not a great pity that both the women's cup final and the international match will not be played at a national stadium in England? Is it not about time that we realised that Wembley will not work, and instead allowed the Birmingham site to proceed—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman is out of order; those matters do not relate to the question.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West): Does my right hon. Friend accept that women's football UK-wide, London-wide, and particularly in north-west London, would benefit enormously from a new national stadium, especially one based at Wembley?

Hon. Members: Order.

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is also out of order. Hon. Members on both sides are out of order.

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