Adjournement Debate: Participation in Outdoor Pursuits - David Rutley MP
David secured a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 5th February
on "Participation In Outdoor Pursuits." He opened with this speech:
"It is not often that the indoor activity of parliamentary debate focuses on participation in outdoor
pursuits, so I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for selecting and granting
this debate on this important subject. I am also grateful for the presence of
the Minister of State because I know that today has been particularly heavy
for him and his Department, and thank him for being willing to respond to the
I also want to draw Members' attention to the register of all-party groups and say for the record that I
am co-chairman of the all-party group on mountaineering, vice-chairman of the
all-party group on mountain rescue —it is good to see members of both those
groups present—and secretary of the all-party group on national parks.
I am a passionate participant, when time and this job permit, in outdoor pursuits. I am also a great supporter of
the Government's efforts to increase participation in sports and
sports-related activity. I believe that outdoor pursuits play a vital role,
which is sometimes undervalued, in achieving that aim. The health and
well-being benefits associated with participation in those pursuits are clear
for all to see.
There are also economic benefits. 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
It is right to put the spotlight on activity and adventure tourism in particular, because I believe that this
sector has the greatest as yet unexploited potential for sustainable economic
growth and jobs.
The experiences associated with outdoor pursuits, such as hill walking, rock climbing and mountaineering, are
real and tangible. If we add mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing and even
ghyll scrambling, we will see that there is huge potential that needs to be
There is lots to do. My contribution is less about having my head in the clouds and more about
having—in the best traditions of mountaineering—a summit in mind and a
determination to reach it.
According to VisitBritain's most recent edition of Foresight—issue 111—the Olympic and Paralympic
games have already massively improved the nation's brand, with 99% of
international communications experts saying that the games have helped
tremendously to move our brand forward. We need to build on that
extraordinary momentum, which the Minister himself was pivotal in making
possible. He will know, no doubt, that, while we are ranked fourth in the
world as a tourist destination—primarily for our culture and heritage—we are
a very disappointing 18th with regard to the rich natural beauty of our
outdoors, and that that is an improvement on where we were before the
Olympics. A lot of work needs to be done.
Given that the North Downs way runs through the Minister's constituency, he will appreciate that our national
trails are a very important aspect of what we have to offer and they need to
There is more to be done. When VisitEngland speaks to visitors within the UK, it is clear that they do not
know what the options are. Somebody said in one focus group:
"I was struggling to think of places I wanted to go to, because I don't know the country, what's all this
in the middle?"
There is the Peak district and the Pennines for a start, as well as many other wonderful places. We need to get
the word out and help people understand what is going on. We need to provide
opportunities for the sun seekers to come and find winter excitement and
enjoyment in the UK. People need to have access to information. The
Minister's Department has an important role to play in that.
We are making Britain a more welcoming place, but we need to find a way of making our outdoors more
welcoming. The new "Walkers are Welcome" initiative is certainly doing that.
It has created a number of welcoming destinations for walkers, which
currently total 100. That will be important in putting the focus on that
This debate is not just about tourism; it is about sports-related activity. Interestingly, hill walking and
mountaineering is one of only four sports that are growing in participation.
Indoor rock climbing is seeing explosive growth, particularly among younger
people. It is incredible to see that. Climbing is one of five or six sports
that have been shortlisted for inclusion as an Olympic sport. The
International Olympic Committee will make a decision on 7 September. Perhaps
the Minister will consider that bid, offer advice and support that aim.
The health and well-being aspects of outdoor pursuits are clear for everybody to see. It is important to note,
as Change4Life has pointed out, that regular activity reduces the risk of
early mortality by more than 30%, and yet only 6% of men and 4% of women aged
16 and over meet the Government's recommendation. Outdoor pursuits can help
to tackle that.
Thank goodness we have organisations such as the Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme
that engage young people, places such as Plas y Brenin and the Manchester
climbing centre that engage people who are disadvantaged or who have disabilities,
and charities such as the David Lewis Centre that get involved in these
pursuits and allow people to expand their horizons.
Progress has been made. The Minister has met the British Mountaineering Council and he supported the
first ever reception for the Great Britain climbing team here, with the great
Dame Kelly Holmes. That was an outstanding event, for which I thank him. We
have also had the launch of Britain on Foot, an important scheme that the
Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe
(Anna Soubry), came and supported, so the participation is there. 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.
Britain on Foot is ahead of us, so momentum is building. We have heard about volunteers doing their work,
creating the Bollington walking festival and walking festivals elsewhere
across the country. Let us get behind those things. The Government are moving
forward on the Olympic legacy with the "Adventure is GREAT" campaign, which
is now an important pillar of that legacy. I hope we will hear about that
from the Minister.
I would like the Minister to focus on three things—if he is in agreement—as he looks at this great, hidden gem,
in this Aladdin's cave of opportunity for British tourism. First, we would
like him to recognise the important role—which we all recognise—that
opportunities for outdoor pursuits play in our rural communities for
participation in sport and for health and well-being. Secondly, we also very
much hope that he will be able to spend time meeting a group of people from
the outdoor organisations we have talked about and the industry, to consider
how to come up with pragmatic plans—which will hopefully fit with some of his
that are already in place—to move the agenda forwards. Finally, we urge him
to ensure that his Department and the related bodies, including VisitBritain,
VisitEngland and, for that matter, English Heritage, give their full support
to the Britain on Foot in the campaign over the months ahead. It is
interesting to note that President Obama is supporting such initiatives in
the States. The US has a "Great outdoors" month. I am not particularly
competitive —not much—but I think we could do a lot more, a lot better than
the US. The ideas we have discussed this evening would be great for that.
I want to end by recognising the huge contribution made by some of this country's great adventurers, such as
Bonington and Whillans—all these great climbers—but let us focus on Whymper,
who was the first to climb the Matterhorn, in 1865. He said:
"There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared
to dwell, and with these in mind I say, climb if you will, but remember that
courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary
negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look
well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end."
Determined and inspired words, and hopefully from my remarks tonight the Minister will feel a similar resolve to
reach new summits in sports and the other activities mentioned today. The
view from the top? Enduring economic benefits and the improved health of our
nation. It is surely a climb worth making."