Andy Burnham speaks to Labour Party Conference

Andy BurnhamAndy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, spoke to Labour Party Conference on Tuesday 23 September.

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Conference,

It's a tradition for Minsters to stand before you and make big claims for our departments.

Well, I'm no different. But, this year, I think I've got the trump card.

Ministerial reputations were on the line. But it was government delivery at its confident best.

It showed our belief in British talent. Unlike many policies, it raised a smile on the face every man, woman and child in this country.

Conference, I hope you were chuffed as us when we won our Olympic bet with the Aussies.

So, let's raise a cheer for our Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe – a fine example of leading from the front, if not international diplomacy.

But the real achievement at Beijing, of course, was not ours.

I hope you will join me in thanking our Olympic and Paralympic athletes for lifting, inspiring and uniting a nation.

Just look at that final Paralympics medals table. Britain standing proudly above the world, a country with a tradition of giving sporting opportunities to all and the home of the Paralympic movement.

Britain at its best.

And don't you think the BBC did a great job in Beijing too?

After the Olympics, the world's media departed China. The BBC – one of the very few international broadcasters to stay and cover the Paralympics.

Doesn't that say something good too about British public service broadcasting?

Great British values in sport. Great British values in broadcasting. Labour values.

Opportunities for everyone. Valuing all people. Celebrating all talent. The best things in life freely available to all.

And now we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance – as Olympic hosts – to take these Labour values to all parts of our sporting and cultural life.

A chance to change for good people's life chances.

Remember what Tory no-such-thing-as-society values did to sport, culture and the arts?

Add-ons to be cut from shrinking public budgets. Luxuries for those who could afford to pay.

I remember all too well, because I was at school in the North West in the mid-1980s. We loved our Saturday morning football. But it dried up overnight and didn't come back.

Not just football. But after-school cricket, music and drama too. And for 10 years between the 80s and 90s, no serious attempt was made to bring it back.

A generation of young people failed. Opportunities denied. Talent lost.

Atlanta 1996. One gold medal, Britain 36th in the medals table.

No just bad luck. But what you get when you devastate public facilities and a country's sporting infrastructure.

Beijing 2008. 19 Gold medals. 4th in the medal table. What you get when you revive facilities and invest in our talent.

This country has always had the talent. But Labour knows you need to invest in people if you want to bring it out.

We have always known that enjoying music, sport, dance and theatre goes to the heart of what it is to be alive. To have hope and dreams.

That's why we have had a decade of raised investment in culture and sport, led by Gordon Brown as Chancellor and Prime Minister.

Not just in people but places too.

We took the best that this country could offer in culture and sport to the places that were crushed by Conservatism.

Regeneration of towns and cities up and down the country led by culture, sport, the arts, heritage and the creative industries – no better illustrated than here in Manchester and Salford.

Insipirng hope, raising aspirations, lifting the human spirit.

My own constituency of Leigh – left on its knees when the mines closed - now the proud owner of the £80 million Leigh Sports Village.

And the Olympic Games won by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Tessa Jowell, starting to regenerate East London and some of the poorest wards in England.

Labour at its best.

Putting back hope where the heart was ripped out.

A vision with people at its core and no better expressed than in Liverpool, European Capital of Culture.

There were those who laughed at a city crushed by the Tories.

We gave it a massive vote of confidence, and the investment followed. And now the city of my birth has risen to the occasion and I'm proud of it.

Now, Conference, this Party must rise to the challenge of making the most of this Olympic era.

A time for Olympic ambitions, embedding Labour values in culture and sport.

School sport is back on its feet. Nearly nine of out ten children do two hours or more each week.

Now we go further – five hours of quality sport, good coaching and competition for all.

Working towards five hours of culture too, as Margaret Hodge has said.

Arts professionals working in schools inspiring children with music, dance, drama, art and film.

Young people encouraged to find their creative talents. Young minds opened to new possibilities.

But let's make the Olympics reach everyone - sport and culture freely available for all.

A journey only Labour could take.

Chris Smith began it by taking away Tory charges to enter national museums and galleries.

Critics complained it would clutter museums with pushchairs and prams.

They were right, it did. And what a great thing that is.

So we apply the same principle to sport, which has the same power to lift people and change lives.

We won the Olympics because we said we would use it get our nation active.

And we know that swimming is the activity most people are likely to do if they were to become active.

It has universal appeal. It is fun. It can be enjoyed by families together.

But unlike other sports swimming has a barrier to regular participation and it is the entry charges to pools.

Some Labour Councils have started to remove them. But what a great Olympic legacy to make swimming free.

We invited councils to bid for funds to do this, starting with the over-60s and the under-16s.

Conference, 300 councils have now signed up for our free swimming scheme.

From next April, swimming will be free for under-16s and over-60s in nearly 85 per cent of councils in England.

And I'm proud my own Labour council Wigan – which gave me the inspiration - pledged to make swimming free everyone from next April.

Conference, one final announcement.

The original Olympic vision was sport and arts together, combining to inspire.

So the journey continues and we take these Labour values to the performing arts.

Culture has the power to change lives. But some people feel it is not for them.

To change that, people aged 26 and under will be able to book tickets to the theatre for free on the quieter nights of the week.

A million free tickets to the major subsidised theatres in every part of England from next February – filling them with new audiences, life and laughter.

So, Conference, take heart.

Our values are the right values to make the Olympic era a true celebration for everyone.

Free culture, free sport – inspiring ideas that proclaim Labour values loud and clear.

Policies that reach young people, telling them what our proud Labour Party is all about.

A Party that believes in people and deals in hope. The best things in life free for all to enjoy.

Labour lifting spirits, improving lives.

Conference, Labour at its best.