David Rutley, MP for Macclesfield, last night championed a debate in Westminster on the Value of the Outdoor Economy to Britain, paying tribute to the contribution that the BMC and other organisations play in supporting sports related activities.
On Tuesday 5 February, David Rutley MP, co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Mountaineering, spoke for 15 minutes on the importance of outdoor pursuits after which the Sports Minister Hugh Robertson gave his response.
Mr Rutley outlined the importance of increasing participation in sports and sport-related activity saying "Increasing the volume and value of tourism in the great outdoors, particularly activity and adventure tourism, is of fundamental importance to the Government's wider strategy for jobs and growth, for the lasting Olympic legacy and for rebalancing the UK economy in favour of many rural communities."
He also presented the House with supporting evidence for the health and well-being aspects of outdoor pursuits as well as the 'enduring' economic benefits and asked the Minster to continue to recognise and promote the opportunities for outdoor pursuits stating, "Britain on Foot in particular is a scheme that we need to get behind. It is an amalgamation of groups, including trusted campaigners such as the British Mountaineering Council, the Ramblers—which we have already heard about—the Camping and Caravanning Club and, of course, the National Trust, along with 200 businesses involved in the outdoor industry and related matters. Those groups are vital. The public launch is in May and there will be three major projects: "Get Britain walking" week, led by the Ramblers, the "Outdoor adventure" week and the National Trust's "50 things to do" week, which will encourage younger people to get involved."
The discussions also drew on the importance of outdoor education with Gutu Bebb, MP for Aberconwy saying that, "through the outdoor partnership, the Plas y Brenin centre is trying to make young school children feel that this is something that people in their local area are involved in. Participation has grown significantly as a result."
The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson) responded in the final 15 minutes of the debate by recognising the important role "that outdoor pursuits such as camping, hill walking, climbing and outdoor adventure play in underpinning key local tourism economies" and that his Department "is entirely supportive of the aims of the Britain on Foot campaign, as they align with increasing activity in the great outdoors and the subsequent economic benefit for tourism businesses."
The Minister went on to outline the commitments across Government to develop new permanent access rights, the importance of our rights of way network, our national trails and open access, as well as Natural England's commitment to "increasing the number and range of people who can experience and benefit from the natural environment."
The BMC welcomes the debate last night and takes reassurance from the comments made by the Minister. As expressed last night by Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire), in order to achieve the aspirations outlined by Hugh Robertson, it will also need other Government departments such as the Department for Health, Department for Education (and the Department for the Environment) to also take note as "they have as much at stake in this matter" as the Department for Sport.
The full Hansard transcript can be downloaded here.
Let's hope in the coming months, the debate will continue and through the APPG on Mountaineering, we can hold further discussions with other Government Departments on the importance of outdoor recreation in supporting tourism, the health and well-being agenda as well as the rural economy. The next meeting of the APPG, supported by the BMC, will be held on 27 February.