As part of the national school sport strategy, we are supporting links between schools and clubs. We have exceeded our target to increase the percentage of five to 16-year-olds from school sport partnerships who are members of, or participate in, accredited sports clubs from 14 to 20 per cent. by 2006. The 2005-06 school sport survey shows that 27 per cent. of young people from school sport partnerships are now participating in clubs linked to schools.
I very much welcome that response, but does the Minister agree that to build on that excellent record and to provide a fitting legacy for the 2012 games it is important to develop amateur sports clubs that provide services for children? Will he therefore agree to support proposals to extend gift aid, or other financial support, to amateur community sports clubs, specifically for the work that they do for children's sports?
Our work to strengthen sports clubs includes community amateur sports clubs grants, and gift aid can generally be accessed by such clubs. I hope that more amateur sports clubs will apply for CASC grants and the 80 per cent. managing rate relief that goes with that, because currently only about 4,000 have done so out of a potential 40,000 to 50,000 clubs that are entitled to do so, and those 4,000 that have applied for it are now receiving some £15 million. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that there are other areas in which we could bring in fiscal incentives, to incentivise young people in particular. I have no doubt that my colleagues at the Treasury will be taking suggestions on that very seriously indeed.
May I draw the Minister's attention to the unanimous view of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that Sport England's ability to support sports clubs will suffer if there is any further diversion of funds from the national lottery? Given the Chancellor's new-found enthusiasm for supporting sport for young people, will the Minister press him to protect the national lottery from any further raids?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges—as, I have no doubt, do all members of the Select Committee—that Exchequer funding for sport has risen by 30 per cent. since the last spending review. That shows the commitment not only of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who gives great support to sport, but of the Government in general. I have no doubt that they will do nothing to undermine that continued investment in sport.
As secretary of the all-party rugby union group, I receive regular briefings from the rugby world on the progress being made by the Government in putting money into sport and the community. If the Minister cannot give me the answer to the following question now, will he respond to me through the Department? How many new participants have been recruited by sports clubs that have received community club development funding since that programme began?
I cannot give the exact figure. However, I can say that in the group that I referred to—five to 16-year-olds—there has been a 27 per cent. increase, and there is no doubt that the Government and the governing bodies have recently put considerable investment into strengthening the club structure, which was weak. We are now reaping some of the benefits of that investment in the numbers of those young people who participate and in the numbers of those who will get on to podiums in stadiums around the world in years to come.
The 350 children who are members of the Beavers swimming club in Wootton Bassett in my constituency are delighted that, after the Minister's intervention—among other things—this time last month, the Liberal Democrat district council has decided to reverse its decision to close Lime Kiln leisure centre in Wootton Bassett, but the 250 children whom I met at Cricklade last Friday and whose sport centre is now closing, and those in Calne down the road whose sport centre is also closing, are asking me if the Minister will not bring special pressure to bear on the Liberal Democrats to keep their sport centres open, too.
I do not know whether the magic wand will be used again, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me with specific details on that, and if there is a case to answer, we will make sure that those who can answer that case get the question posed to them.
Fifty-seven per cent. of people in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend Huw Irranca-Davies are classified as obese. Does the Minister recognise the importance of working in partnership with the Department of Health, as well as local government, to increase participation in sport, especially for young people, because of its long-term impact on health in the country?
Very much so. We have a very productive dialogue with my colleagues at the Department of Health and, indeed, at the Department for Education and Skills on that very subject, because we think it important that we start to factor physical activity into young people's lives in particular. That is why we are committed to providing two hours of quality physical activity or sport for every child every week from the age of five to 16, and a further two to three hours beyond the school gate. That is important not just for the sake of sport itself, but for the sake of health, social inclusion and education, because it is clear that where that happens, academic attainment levels go up and truancy and exclusion levels go down. It is a win-win situation, and one of the most successful policies of this Government.
One of the barriers for existing sports clubs seeking to do more for children is their rising cost base in other areas. A good practical example is Headcorn football club in Kent, whose licensing fee has risen from £25 every five years under the old system to a staggering £900 every five years under the new system—an increase of over 3,000 per cent. That money could otherwise be spent on youth development. Given that the Government are entirely responsible for creating that problem, what do they intend to do to sort it out?
I do not know about the situation regarding that club, which I will look at, but all I can say is that if it has a licensing fee of £900, it must be making considerable profits from bar takings. We have heard about these situations before and I have answered such questions. The Central Council of Physical Recreation will distribute a paper to Back Benchers that unfortunately cites racquet clubs that use halls for banqueting purposes. If that is true, they are in competition with other private sector organisations in their area. It is a question of fairness. If the money is going directly into grass-roots sports, we will take that into account, but if it is a commercial organisation that is taking on the rest of the leisure industry, that is a different matter. I will consider the specific problem.