HC Deb 23 June 2004 vol 422 cc1328-9
6. Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab)

What assessment he has made of the potential of sport to help regenerate deprived communities. [179834]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper)

Sport can play an important role in renewal programmes by building community links, improving health and engaging young people in popular activities. The Department has recently published reports that examine the links between sport and regeneration and provide guidance for local programmes.

Andy Burnham

Leigh sports village is a fine example of how to regenerate a deprived former coalfield area with first-class sports and education facilities. It carries the hopes of thousands of people in Leigh who have been let down many times previously. The plan is currently with the Department in a submission from the Government office for the north-west. Will my hon. Friend listen to the 95 per cent. of people in Leigh who support the scheme, give it the green light without a damaging delay and 1et us get on with rebuilding a better future for Leigh?

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend knows that we cannot comment on planning applications that are going through the process. We are keen to support more sport in the neighbourhood renewal areas and in neighbourhood renewal programmes as a valuable way in which to get local people, especially young people, involved in community life.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD)

The Under-Secretary will agree that the provision of such facilities is good for deprived communities. Does she also agree that the cost of admission for the use of those facilities can be a disincentive? What advice does she give local authorities to encourage greater use of facilities by people in deprived communities?

Yvette Cooper

Local partnerships are pursuing various programmes, sometimes for reduced admissions in specific areas. The programmes are often for school children to encourage the use of sports facilities. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that can make a big difference in deprived areas and we would encourage more of it. There are some great programmes, such as the street games programme, which we would like to be developed in other areas. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members should keep the noise down.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)(Lab)

Does the Under-Secretary realise that Bolsover fits neatly the criteria of being a deprived community, mainly because every single pit was shut in the 1980s and 1990s and some of the miners' welfare facilities went with those closures? Now we have a programme for brand new swimming baths in Bolsover, but we need some money and help. Will she have a word with my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that we get the show on the road in the next couple of years?

Yvette Cooper

I am happy to look at the proposal that my hon. Friend mentions. He is right that we have had decades of under-investment and decline in the coalfield areas. The pits were shut and nothing was put in their place. We have now had seven years of good investment in our coalfield communities. That is bringing jobs back to the coalfield areas where they belong.