6 Fay Jones debates involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

Tue 13th Oct 2020
Tue 21st Jul 2020
Mon 9th Mar 2020
Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords]
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & 2nd reading

Oral Answers to Questions

Fay Jones Excerpts
Thursday 24th March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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2. What steps her Department is taking to improve broadband and mobile phone coverage in rural areas.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
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4. What steps her Department is taking to improve broadband and mobile phone coverage in rural areas.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure (Julia Lopez)
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The Government are working hard to give people great connectivity whether they live in a rural, suburban or urban area. We are doing this by: making it easier for operators to roll out infrastructure; focusing public subsidy on connecting the hardest-to-reach areas through Project Gigabit; connecting schools and public buildings through our GigaHubs programme; and working with commercial partners on the shared rural network to tackle mobile notspots.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right: I am absolutely thrilled and delighted that she is asking me about mobile rather than broadband. She raises a really important point about misinformation and how it can stifle the roll-out of fast, reliable networks, which can substitute for poor broadband in areas like hers. I spoke recently at a conference with local councils on how to support the 5G roll-out. My Department shared with them public health guidance to bust and counter some of the myths about 5G. On mobile connectivity more generally, as I mentioned, we have the shared rural network that will see us jointly invest with industry more than £1 billion to increase 4G coverage in rural areas. In her region, that will see all four operators cover 87% of her constituency by the end of the programme.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones
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I am asking about broadband, once again. My constituents are extremely concerned that the universal service obligation, which aims to provide decent broadband coverage, is inconsistent in rural areas. Constituents in Knighton have expressed their concern about some of the contribution costs, which can be in the tens of thousands of pounds, despite some properties being only a few hundred metres away from the cabinet. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that decent and, above all, affordable broadband is being rolled out to rural areas? Will the Minister meet me to discuss some of the thornier elements of my constituency?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend. I appreciate her concern about the costs that have been quoted to her constituents, and it is an issue to which the regulator Ofcom is very alive. Ofcom holds responsibility for setting the universal service conditions, and it recently carried out an investigation into BT’s approach to calculating excess cost. BT has since provided assurances on what it will do to mitigate the consumer harm identified in the Ofcom report. Compliance with that report will be monitored, but as I say, I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the issue in greater detail.

Sport Sector: Financial Support

Fay Jones Excerpts
Thursday 19th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the availability of spaces and fields on which to play a game or, in fact, all sports. As I have said, the Sport England package of £220 million to help clubs of all sports through coronavirus is important, and today’s package will trickle down and help the grassroots. In particular, it will help sustain clubs where, of course, grassroots as well as professional and league games are played.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
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The Minister knows I care passionately about the sports clubs in my constituency, particularly the rugby clubs. I very much welcome this announcement and his efforts to get stadiums back open again, so that I might be able to go back to Gwernyfed rugby club very soon. He has already mentioned that this decision generates some funding for the Welsh Government. Can he tell me what can be done to make sure that the Welsh Government actually get the money to sports clubs in Wales?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend, and indeed it is not the first time we have talked rugby in this Chamber. To appeal to the common sense and good will of our colleagues in Wales is the most important thing we can do. There will be Barnett consequentials, but I respect the fact that sport is a devolved matter, and I am sure that they will be listening to this debate. As I have said, there will be Barnett consequentials, and therefore I hope that they will use this money appropriately.

Women’s Rugby: Government Support

Fay Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 13th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
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This is well past my bedtime, but I know that this debate will be well worth the wait. Before I go on, however, I should like to wish the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), a very happy birthday. I am sure he cannot think of a better way to spend his 50th birthday than talking about women’s rugby with us. I wish him many happy returns.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I am grateful to you for granting me this Adjournment debate on a subject very close to my heart. Being from Wales and choosing to talk about rugby in my first Adjournment debate is, I admit, something of a cliché, but across the world, more than 2.7 million women are registered rugby players, making up over a third of all rugby players in members’ unions, and some time ago I was proud to be one of their number. I took up playing women’s rugby when I was at university, and I proudly played tighthead prop for King’s College for four years. In my third year, I was fortunate enough to spend a year teaching English in France and so, to make friends, I joined the Gourdon rugby team, again playing in the women’s first team. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment playing rugby, even the occasional bruise and graze, and especially the social aspect of the team.

I found sport at a relatively young age when my knees did not creak and I could bounce back after 80 minutes of full contact rugby, but taking up sport at any age is a life-changing experience. The transformative lifelong rewards go far beyond health and fitness. I spoke recently to a former Welsh women’s rugby international and current referee, and she was clear that she would not be who she is without rugby. She said that rugby had provided her with the confidence, skills and work ethic to be successful not just in sports but in her work and personal life. Above all, playing rugby provided her with a sense of community, no matter where life took her.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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Will the hon. Lady give way?

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones
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To a Welsh international? Absolutely!

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
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I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this Adjournment debate on a topic that is also close to my heart, particularly because she is talking about wellbeing in the community of women’s rugby, which extends to France. I also played my rugby for the women’s team at Benetton in Treviso during my year abroad, so obviously there are many links with rugby. Does she agree that we need to ensure that the confidence that all sport gives women continues, particularly during the pandemic, and that women are encouraged to enjoy sport, do more sport and exercise more?

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Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones
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The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I will go on to talk about some of those things later in my speech, but if we can make just one point here this evening, it is that more women need to think of ways to prioritise sport and fitness for themselves, because the untold benefits to their mental and physical health really cannot be overestimated. She and I do not agree on everything, but we certainly agree on that.



Perhaps it is the love of the game of rugby that motivates the members of the Welsh national team to compete unpaid against countries such as England, which has offered 28 full-time 15-a-side contracts to women players since January last year. With that in mind, I welcome the Welsh Rugby Union’s recent announcement of its intention to make the Welsh women’s rugby squad semi or fully professional in the future. That is not only a recognition of the hard work that these sportswomen put in but an investment in the future of the elite women’s game in Wales, and I hope to see it come to fruition very soon.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing the debate; I spoke to her beforehand and sought her permission to make this intervention. Ulster Rugby has, in many ways, led in this area. The Ulster Rugby team wear the same shirts as the Ulster women’s rugby team, so whenever we see that shirt, we see not just a man but a woman. Does she agree that that decision gives equality and recognises the phenomenal job that the ladies do in representing Ulster? Their thrilling matches are every bit as worthy of the shirt as a men’s game, and the enjoyment is equal.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones
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I feel honoured to have been intervened on by the hon. Gentleman in my first Adjournment debate—I have truly arrived in this House. I could not agree with him more. Anything that raises the visibility of the women’s game and puts it on a par with the men’s game is welcome, and I congratulate Ulster Rugby on that step.

The elite and grassroots of women’s rugby in Wales are closely interlinked, and I pay tribute to the rugby clubs in my constituency who demonstrate that. Rebekah O’Loughlin had her first cap as a Gwernyfed Ladies player, a fierce women’s team in Talgarth near Brecon in my constituency. Wales captain Carys Phillips even takes the time to act as an ambassador for Red Kites, a female rugby hub for ages six to 18, also based in my constituency. So-called hubs such as Red Kites, which provide the opportunity for girls-only rugby, have seen an explosion of interest and participation. I spoke with the Red Kites female hub lead, and they stressed that the game is open to all, and those of all abilities can benefit from the family, team spirit and life skills that come from playing the game. Red Kites is just one of 32 hubs around Wales.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
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I thank the hon. Lady for her generosity in giving way. Because of local lockdowns, Welsh Rugby Union training had stopped. I visited West Swansea Hawks in Gowerton in my constituency and saw its fantastic set-up for covid-regulated training sessions. I pay tribute to all the women’s rugby hubs throughout Wales and the United Kingdom, who are doing a great job in keeping people safe.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones
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Again, the hon. Lady is absolutely right, and I congratulate all those rugby clubs who have worked incredibly hard to consider social distancing measures. It is a contact sport, and it is very much to be celebrated that we are getting community rugby back up and running again.

The number of girls playing rugby in the 95 schools and colleges with full-time rugby hub officers has gone from fewer than 200 to almost 10,000 in the space of just a few years. I can only hope that each and every one of those girls enjoys rugby as much as I did. While I am the first to admit that rugby is my sport of choice, I am a firm believer that all sports provide lifelong benefits. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that women and girls are still 20% less likely to participate in team sports than men and boys, with many contributing factors to why that is the case. Sport England research has found that the main reason for this lack of participation is fear—something that I am sure all women in the House can relate to.

Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab)
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Does the hon. Member agree that it is high time that women’s rugby teams, such as Coventry Welsh Ladies in my constituency, enjoyed equality of esteem with that afforded to men’s games?

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones
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I do not disagree. I think anybody watching the women’s game derives exactly the same amount of value and entertainment, and it is a sporting spectacle in the same way.

The fear identified in Sport England’s research as the main barrier to participation is a fear of being unable to participate, a fear of the judgment of others and, for many, a fear of choosing to spend time on themselves rather than their families. That fear is in addition to many other factors. For many women rugby players I spoke to, there are practical barriers to participation too, such as not having a club nearby, having to travel long distances to fixtures and, in one club’s case, only having two changing rooms, which meant that they were unable to arrange a fixture at the same time as a men’s match was going on. That said, I am pleased to hear that over the past decade women’s sport in the UK has been on an upward trajectory, and I wish to pay tribute to all those who have brought that about, particularly the Minister’s predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), whom we look forward to welcoming back to her place in this House very soon.

Increased resources from international and national bodies, alongside funding from brands, such as Vitality’s sponsorship of netball and Barclays funding of the women’s super league, have resulted in the growth of a variety of women’s sport. I wholeheartedly endorse campaigns such as This Girl Can, which has seen nearly 3 million women get more active, across all sports. The Welsh Rugby Union’s schemes such as rookie rugby and rugby fit are very much to be celebrated, as they challenge the perception that rugby is not for girls. This has allowed far more women and girls to reap the physical and mental benefits of playing.

However, it would not be 2020 if I did not have to mention the dreaded C word. Coronavirus is threatening the momentum generated over the past decade for women’s sport. During the lockdown earlier this year 42% of women, compared with 35% of men, reported a drop in activity levels. With a move en masse towards working from home, 32% of women said that they could not prioritise doing exercise during the lockdown as they had too much to do for others. Some 25% of women became worried that getting back into the habit of exercise would be hard, which I can say from personal experience is very true. As organised sport and exercise were put on hold for men and women alike, we saw the loss of events that showcase gender parity in sport, such as the Tokyo Olympics and The Hundred cricket competition. The visibility that these events provide for women’s elite sport is vital to making women’s sport a natural and accepted part of the sporting landscape. It can also have an impact on grassroots participation by highlighting to women and girls the possibilities of what they can do. At the elite level, although some men’s sport has started to return, women’s sport is further behind. The women’s premier 15s rugby was cancelled because of covid and started back only on 10 October, well after the men’s game, which restarted in August. In order for it to start significant changes have been made to the game so as to reduce face-to-face contact time and therefore avoid the expenses required for regular covid testing—these changes were not made to the men’s game.

Unfortunately, as sport returns, fans will not be returning. Admissions to matches provide a key funding source, particularly for rugby. Without that money, the WRU announced yesterday that its revenue was down from the £90 million level in 2019. The Rugby Football Union has predicted potentially losing up to £142 million and the rugby league union is also expecting losses, with the cancellation of the first home ashes series since 2003. As the rugby unions tighten their belts, I am extremely worried that women’s rugby will be the hardest hit. The RFU has already taken the decision to cut financial support to each of the 10 teams in the premier 15s by 25%, which means that each club will be receiving just £56,000, a reduction from the £75,000 this season.

At a grassroots level, clubs I have spoken to also have serious concerns about the finances of the women’s game. Some are worried that because women’s and girls’ rugby does not receive the same financial support as the men’s game, they will struggle to restart training and matches. But it is not all bad news, because in July the WRU committed to providing an additional £600,000 fund to support clubs in Wales. Enabled by the UK Government funding of more than £4 billion to cope with coronavirus, the Welsh Government have recently announced a £14 million fund for Wales’s sport and leisure sector. Significant support has also been provided to clubs by the Be Active Wales Fund, which has also seen funding awarded to seven bids from rugby union which positively target women and girls. I was also pleased to see the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport work with Sport England to make up to £195 million of funding available to help the sport and physical activity sector through the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The UK Government are also making more than £11 million of Sport England investment in the Rugby Football League. In May, the Government announced that the RFL would receive a further £16 million cash injection to safeguard the immediate future of the sport for the communities it serves.

I welcome the investment of up to £10 million in rugby league facilities to help drive the legacy from the 2021 rugby league world cup, which will, for the first time, see a combined men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournament. The visibility provided by the 2021 rugby league world cup and other future events, such as the Birmingham Commonwealth games, could really help to boost participation in women’s rugby. As the organisation Women In Sport has said, “Given the gap in participation between women and men, which has widened during covid, the visibility of women’s sport has never been more important.”

While I welcome the much-needed funds being made available for sport across the UK, we must fund the change we want to see in the sport. As we recover from covid-19, we should be aiming to increase the participation of women and girls in sport, the accessibility of women’s sport and its visibility. At the very least, we should not be prioritising men’s sport over women’s.

Sarah Atherton Portrait Sarah Atherton (Wrexham) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. A year ago, Wrexham rugby club set up the Valkyries rugby cluster, which recruits young women from across north-east Wales. It is vital that we in the House promote the role of women in rugby and get whatever financial support we can. I appreciate her doing this tonight.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones
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I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour. I would be delighted to learn more about rugby in north Wales. As far as I am aware, it is more of a south and mid-Wales sport, but I would love to see even more participation in north Wales, where people seem to be obsessed with the funny-shaped ball, not the proper-shaped one.

Here is my ask to our Governments: to the UK Government, the Welsh Government, sporting bodies and rugby organisations alike, please ensure that women’s sports receive their fair share of this emergency funding and that we continue to encourage more women to play sport.

When I began playing rugby at university, we were in a tiny minority and were seen as women playing a man’s game. That is far from true now, so let us not let all the progress we have seen in recent years be undone.

BBC

Fay Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
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I represent a heavily rural constituency, and I have been deeply concerned by recent BBC programming that portrays farming and the agriculture sector as either twee and backward or environment-wrecking vandalism. This is deeply wrong and misleading. With over 9,000 people over 75 years old in Brecon and Radnorshire, many feel deeply let down by the BBC at the moment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the BBC needs to take a look at itself and ensure that it is giving every taxpayer value for money?

John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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I am aware of some of the concerns that my hon. Friend refers to. Obviously it is not a matter for the Government to pass judgment on BBC programming, but it is possible for viewers to make their feelings known by complaining to the BBC and, if they remain unsatisfied, to take the matter to Ofcom.

Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Fay Jones Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
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Nearly six months ago I gave my maiden speech, in which I spoke of the international events that Brecon and Radnorshire is home to. They include the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, the Brecon jazz festival, the Green Man festival and even the international bog snorkelling championships in Llanwrtyd Wells. Sadly, all of these have been cancelled this year. Cancelling the Green Man festival in Glanusk deprives us of more than just great music. The festival employs hundreds of seasonal workers and attracts thousands of visitors, all of whom spend money in our pubs, restaurants and local shops. Some events have been able to move online. For example, the Hay-on-Wye literary festival showcased virtual events, involving more than 100 award-winning writers, policy- makers and innovators. This was a huge undertaking, and I congratulate the organisers once again on delivering Hay-on-wifi, as the Prime Minister christened it.

With my passion for farming and agriculture, I have to say that I am gutted by the cancellation of the Royal Welsh Show. This world-renowned agricultural event, the largest agricultural show in Europe, attracts visitors from far and wide, generating up to £45 million for our economy in the process. The Royal Welsh is more than just a show. It is a celebration of Wales itself. For many in the farming community, it is the highlight of the year. The social aspect of the show cannot be underestimated, particularly when one considers the isolation that so often comes with rural life— a point reinforced to me during a meeting with my local branch of Mind, the mental health charity, this week.

Having spoken to the Royal Welsh this week, I know that the team in Builth Wells are working hard to try to deliver the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in November this year, and I am pleased that the UK Government and the Secretary of State for Wales are supporting them all we can, but they need support from both our Governments. The Welsh Government have provided some support to key events such as the Eisteddfodau, our Welsh language celebrations, but nothing so far for the Royal Welsh Show.

In England, outdoor theatres can now open and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working closely with the arts and culture sector on when indoor theatres can reopen. In Wales, we have no clarity on that. Yesterday, I received an email from Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon. Since the lockdown, all performances have been cancelled and audiences have stayed away. The theatre staff told me yesterday that they have no idea as to when they can reopen. This could provide some optimism to the thousands of self-employed artists and performers who do not know when they will be able to return to work. Their counterparts in England have visibility, while we in Wales are left in the dark.

I have much to thank this Government for, not least the 10,000 employed and self-employed jobs that have been saved in Brecon and Radnorshire. Of course, there will always be more to do—more cause to go further—to keep on writing cheques, but the harsh reality is that the cake only cuts so many ways. This Government have dug deep to provide an unprecedented level of support in finance and guidance. If only we could say the same in Wales.

Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords]

Fay Jones Excerpts
Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank the hon. Member for that point and praise her for the work that she has done on unscrupulous secondary ticket sales. She makes a fair point. The dynamics and details of sales and enforcement relating to tickets have still to be determined, and I am sure that everybody has heard her comments.

The organising committee’s ticketing strategy will be underpinned by the values of fairness, affordability and accessibility. That will help to ensure that everyone who wants to experience the games will have an opportunity to do so.

Finally, the Bill contains measures on the funding of, and reporting on, the games. The organising committee has been established as a non-departmental public body. It is subject to standard controls on public bodies and will provide regular budgetary and financial updates to Parliament over the life cycle of the games. Indeed, the organising committee’s first annual report and accounts were laid in Parliament in September last year, and the report for the year 2019-20 is due to be published this coming July.

The Bill contains a technical measure that makes sure that financial assistance given to the organising committee continues to comply with financial propriety rules. Alongside that, the Bill also requires the organising committee to produce an annual report on its delivery of the games. However, those interested in the delivery of the games will not need to wait for a statutory report. The organising committee already produces quarterly updates on its delivery; the next one will be available shortly and will be published on its website. Indeed, I met the CEO of the organising committee, Ian Reid, during my recent visit to Birmingham and came away with a really strong sense of confidence that the games will be a huge success.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
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My hon. Friend probably already knows that people who exercise for 150 minutes a week are likely to live seven years longer than more inactive people. In my area in mid-Wales, my local health board says that only 50% of our young people are reaching that goal. Does he agree that with so many people inspired to get active after the Commonwealth games, it will be vital to meeting our public health challenge?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. She hits on a very important part of the games’ purpose, its legacy, and indeed, the Government’s sport strategy. We will be working much more on the issues that she raises to encourage more young people to participate in sport at the right level. The Youth Sport Trust and many other bodies play a key role in delivering that, as do our schools. Those of us who are parents have a responsibility too, but the games are a key chance to make sure that we double down on those opportunities and inspire young children to get involved in sport at a very early age, with the huge mental health and physical health benefits that come with that.