Shadow ministers call for a coherent physical activity policy
On 18 June the Sport and Recreation Alliance, as part of what it hopes will be a series of events with all three major political parties, hosted the Shadow Secretaries of State for Health and Culture, Media and Sport at a meeting in the House of Commons. By sharing the platform, Andy Burnham and Harriet Harman hoped to send a “message of cross-departmental cooperation”, and called for a coherent policy for physical activity beyond London 2012.
Andy Burnham, a former Health Secretary and himself a keen footballer, opened with a warning about the “diminishing focus on sport and recreation” which he believes poses an early threat to the nation’s ‘Golden Decade of Sport’. He told the audience of governing body representatives how he had "winced" at the funding cuts to School Sport Partnerships and the removal of free swimming, and criticised the current Minister of Sport for referring to the latter as “a luxury that we can no longer afford”. In response, Mr Burnham put forward the argument that, far from being a luxury, “a proper physical activity strategy is a necessity in austere times.” The starting point for developing such a strategy, he suggested, should be to clearly determine where responsibility lies for getting the nation more active:
“The Prime Minister must re-establish a sense of national mission about physical activity rates and leading more active lives, give the job to drive change to an enthusiast in the Cabinet – and behind a lead department accountable for a clear national target, most probably Health, he should pull together all others Departments who have a crucial role in driving change.”
Referring back to his time as Health Secretary, Mr Burnham recalled arguments he had had with departmental officials when it came to prioritising physical activity. The theme of challenging Government thinking in this area came through strongly, although Ms Harman told the audience that DCMS would get opposition backing when it was doing the right thing.
The Shadow Culture Secretary’s comments focussed on the need to support and extend opportunities for young people to play sport. Drawing on the principles of equality of opportunity, Ms Harman asserted that access to sporting opportunities should not depend on the ability to pay, and emphasized the importance of parenting in encouraging young people to stay physically active. “We should recognise that sport brings families together,” she said, “but right now there is no policy approach to support this.”
The role of women within sport also featured prominently in both speeches. The two Labour Party colleagues agreed that much more needs to be done to raise the profile of women’s sport and to promote positive female role models in the media. Ms Harman noted that women are over half the population, and yet are treated "as if we were a minority" when it comes to sport, supporting Mr Burnham’s call to change the terms of the national conversation.
The contributions from the Shadow Ministers were followed by questions from a range of governing bodies and other sporting organisations including the Football Association, Archery GB, the Ramblers, the County Sport Partnership Network and the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. In closing, Alliance chair Andy Reed highlighted that a similar invitation had been extended to Ms Harman’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts, and that he looked forward to continuing the conversation about the future of sport beyond London 2012.
To read the full transcript of each speech, please click the links below. For more information please contact Simon Butler.
|Andy Burnham Speech 18 June 2012.pdf||216.95 KB|
|Harriet Harman Speech 18 June 2012.pdf||553 KB|
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