– in the House of Lords at 7:36 pm on 27 September 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 7:36, 27 September 2000

rose to ask her Majesty's Government, in the light of the English Cricket Board's report for 1999-2000, what is their policy towards encouraging young people to take up cricket.

My Lords, I am delighted to be opening the season with a short debate about cricket. It is encouraging that so many of your Lordships--both those who are here today and those who cannot attend--have expressed interest in this topic. I look forward to your Lordships' contributions. I know that they will be knowledgeable and interesting if, unfortunately, brief. I am sorry that the person who inspired this debate in the first place, the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, cannot be present due to ill health. I know that he was anxious to speak, and I am sure that noble Lords will wish him a speedy recovery. I understand that he is making excellent progress.

I am indebted to staff from the MCC, the England and Wales Cricket Board and Channel 4 for discussing this topic with me and for sending me information in a most generous way.

I want to do two things today: one is to place this debate in the context of what is happening in cricket for young people; the other is to raise issues for discussion which I hope will remain relevant after today.

It may be worth reflecting for a moment on why cricket should be encouraged among young people and what it offers. For me, it is only partly about cricket being a competitive game. I think it encourages other values, even among those who cannot play cricket. Some young people are not good at sport, not good at hand/eye co-ordination. That does not exclude them from physical exercise, nor does it exclude them from appreciating the skills and values of sport, in this case cricket.

It was thrilling to see, during a most exciting Test series this summer, crowds of young people enjoying the game. Some qualities apparent during that series are, I think, inspirational for young people. I am thinking, for example, about the tenacity and determination of Michael Atherton, the exuberance of Darren Gough, the dignity and perseverance of the two great West Indian fast bowlers, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, and Nasser Hussain's expression of disappointment in his own performances, but his ability to stay above that and say that it was English cricket which was important and not himself. These qualities are about skills and values for life, about character, not just about sport. They should be part of personal social and health education in every school, not just part of physical education.

It was also encouraging that TV coverage from Channel 4 was both educative and informative. It pulled in people who have not previously been greatly interested in cricket--proof that thorough preparation, skilled presentation and enthusiasm are effective and powerful, which is another lesson for young people.

The very comprehensive report of the England and Wales Cricket Board highlights increases in the numbers of children playing cricket, developments at country and national level, such as inter-cricket and more tournaments, three new national coaches and four regional women's club cricket development officers, six university centres of excellence, new coaching schemes, cricket for those with disabilities and the Activate project in inner cities. It is very encouraging to note that girls are taking up cricket in increasing numbers and that there is an excellent national side.

Channel 4 Roadshows located at Test venues and county grounds have involved great stars such as Viv Richards, Alan Donald and Brian Lara, to name but a few. All of that provides encouragement and inspiration for youngsters.

Cricket faces competition among the choices of activity for young people today. Football seems to be a permanent force, not just during the winter. By the way, I should point out that this is not an attack on football. Television and computers have immediate attraction. Schools have problems in timetabling cricket in the summer, which is also the season for examinations. But there are many school initiatives now for encouraging early enthusiasm for cricket through quick versions of the game on a variety of surfaces both indoor and out--for example, with new mobile plastic cricket pitches such as the "Flicx" pitch--and the early development among young people in primary schools of skills such as catching and throwing.

An educational resource pack, "Howzat", is to be launched by the ECB and Channel 4 in November. That will be sent to all primary and secondary schools in the country to encourage cricket across the curriculum--a teaching aid.

Enthusiasm is, of course, where it all begins. Cricket has relied on, and will continue to rely, to some extent on parental enthusiasm in taking youngsters to watch and play cricket. That is how my enthusiasm grew: my father took me to watch matches. It will rely on keeping cricket talked about and analysed and upon enthusiasm being passed on nationally and locally. This is partly the responsibility of government in a visible and determined sports policy, including adequate funding. As many of our Olympic athletes have said recently, investment in sport brings results. And we have proof of that.

I am left with questions about the future of cricket and how young people can be encouraged to participate. Will investment in sport continue? Perhaps my noble friend the Minister can expand on yesterday's announcement of £1 billion for school and community sport. It can be confusing to understand which body deals with what in sport and how funding is delivered--and to what effect.

Is the structure of cricket right? How does the talented boy or girl get spotted? Are we tapping into the abilities of all children, including those from families originating in the cricketing nations of the West Indies, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan? Schools and parents can encourage cricket. Are schools, apart from public schools, equipped to do so? Is there specialist interest? Can they use spaces, such as halls and playgrounds, to generate interest in cricket? Do they take children to watch cricket? Are parents involved?

Is the link between local clubs and schools sufficiently organised? Some clubs and counties have excellent junior programmes. How can this be encouraged and augmented? How does the county game relate to towns?--for example, London has two county grounds. Oxford and Cambridge are the only two universities that are in county leagues. Football gains its supporters at a much more local level in towns or even in districts of towns. I believe that Australian cricket is organised on similar lines. It can be difficult to watch or play cricket in this country without travel and expense. Are there alternatives? These questions suggest that talent and enthusiasm can fall through the net and never be harnessed at a national or local level.

The report of the England and Wales Cricket Board is welcome and encouraging. I said earlier that enthusiasm at many levels is contagious and generates activity. Cricket boards are part of that dynamic at national, county and club level. So is government. I said earlier that cricket has much to offer young people in the way of building character, as well as physical skills. I hope that it becomes part of the curriculum at school for all pupils.

I have posed a lot of questions and realise that they cannot all be addressed tonight. But I hope that we shall keep the profile of cricket high. I also hope that my noble friend the Minister will reassure us that government support for this important national game is solid, that cricket will remain firmly on the sporting agenda, and, indeed, that sport for young people will be encouraged as an investment for the future to enhance and invigorate our reputation as a nation where sport matters.

Photo of Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth Conservative 7:45, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I should like, first, to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for bringing forward the debate. This is a very important issue. Speaking in my capacity as Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, the ECB, I can assure noble Lords that encouraging young people to play cricket and helping to develop them is an area of absolute priority. Whether these youngsters live in the inner cities or in the countryside, we want them to play the game. We are devoting significant resources to try to ensure that this happens.

I should also at the outset like very much to welcome the Prime Minister's announcement at the Labour Party Conference that £750 million from the New Opportunities Fund is to be earmarked specifically for improving school sports facilities. This is desperately needed money which will give more and more youngsters the chance to play cricket and other sports.

There are currently 2.4 million boys and girls playing cricket in our schools and clubs--a 10 per cent increase on the previous year. I am proud to tell noble Lords that cricket is reinvesting 11 per cent of its income from broadcasting rights in developing the grassroots of the game.

Cricket has established a charitable trust, the Cricket Foundation, which is dedicated to increasing and widening participation levels and improving the quality of delivery of cricket development programmes at grassroots level. This foundation has disbursed over £10 million in the past four years to our 38 counties.

Whether it be Hackney or Harrogate, we want to encourage young people to play cricket and we will do all that we can to support and encourage them. We now have 75 cricket development officers to promote cricket throughout the countryside with young people. Funding from Sport England has enabled us to appoint four Women's Club Cricket Development Officers. It is fair to say that it is already beginning to work. Women's cricket is now one of the fastest growing sectors of the game, with nearly 200 women's clubs now established nationwide.

The first county championship for the disabled was completed last year, with the final being staged at Trent Bridge. The ECB has a dedicated development officer for cricketers with disabilities. Last year we spent £270,000 on a series of pilot projects to promote cricket directly to youngsters in seven inner-city areas. An independent MORI survey showed that cricket was the only sport in the past five years in which there has been an increase in the number of children participating on a frequent basis.

Finally, I should like to conclude this very short speech by saying that the ECB has just completed a review of its international admissions pricing policy. I can announce today for the first time that next year children under the age of 16 will be allowed free into the last day's play of all the Test matches and that for other days they will be admitted at a discount of 50 per cent. On this note I shall end, but I hope that I have been able to assure noble Lords that cricket at grassroots level is flourishing. However, we still need more money to achieve our ambitions for this great game.

Photo of Lord Sandberg Lord Sandberg Liberal Democrat 7:49, 27 September 2000

My Lords, we are certainly indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for initiating this debate today. It is a most appropriate time to do so when we have not yet forgotten the England victory over the West Indies after 30 years of trying. Youth has been given a fillip and it is important that we do not lose momentum.

In the old days one of the great sources of imbuing love of cricket into youth were teachers. However, we all know how extremely busy teachers are. They do not have the time--although they may well have the inclination--to undertake this extracurricular activity as they used to do. We now have to substitute teachers for money, as it were. Unfortunately these matters cost money, as we all know too well. My own experience comes from the Surrey County Cricket Club where I was president and on the committee. We have done what we can to bring on the game. We started a cricket school which is aimed at not so affluent people in the Brixton and Kennington area. The school is not aimed only at the young. It has been successful and is now "washing its own face", although the cost of setting it up ran into the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Since then, in conjunction with the George Abbott School in Guildford, we have started a cricket centre there. The school raised some £1 million through appeals. Surrey County Cricket Club Youth Trust put in about £120,000. We are still paying £10,000 a year to keep it going. It is not an easy task but the measure is bringing youth into cricket. We should like to provide that help in other centres but, as I say, that costs money. We need to keep the momentum going and we need a sympathetic government who realise that cricket is not a wealthy sport in money terms. Hundreds or millions of pounds are not spent on players. As I say, we need a sympathetic government. My noble friend Lord Phillips has given an example of how such initiatives can be undertaken in amateur clubs. I hope that this short debate will encourage the Front Bench opposite and the Government to be sympathetic to what we are trying to do.

Photo of Lord St John of Bletso Lord St John of Bletso Crossbench 7:53, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I am also extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for having again introduced this important debate in your Lordships' House. I join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth, both on the outstanding success of the English team against the "Windies" and also, through his chairmanship of the ECB, on raising the standards of cricket, both at schools and at club level.

The ECB's report certainly makes encouraging reading. While a lot has been achieved to ensure that every young person has ample opportunity to play cricket, enormous challenges remain. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin, say that in the past five years cricket is the only game in which there has been an increase in the number of children participating on a frequent basis.

Having been brought up in South Africa, where sport is almost a national religion, and which is blessed with good weather--unfortunately, we do not have much of that here--and which has privileged, excellent facilities, I have a particular passion for this subject. There is no doubt that team sports play an important part in both the physical and social development of all children.

The ECB's report highlighted the fact that most children's experience of cricket is restricted to schools but that more and more young people are benefiting from cricket clubs, which have far more specialist coaches and team managers. It is essential that our most talented youth have access to both the coaching and the support which elite competitors need if they are to be world-class sportsmen and sportswomen of the future. There is no better time to talk about this matter than in the middle of the Olympic Games.

There is no doubt that National Lottery funding for sport has paid off handsomely. I was pleased to see that Sport England is allocating 20 per cent of its lottery funds to youth sport and that cricket was one of the sports targeted by it in its five-year sports development programme aimed at young people.

I entirely agree with the comments of the Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, who said that,

"achieving national sporting success depends on encouraging participation and developing and nurturing talent at an early age".

My three minutes are almost up. This important subject is not just about more funding; it is not just about better facilities; nor is it just about better coaching and more competition or about winning and losing; it is all about a co-ordinated approach between government, schools, the ECB and all the other organisations that are involved in cricket to ensure that all our young people, both boys and girls, are given every opportunity to play cricket and, I hope, be the bedrock of England one day becoming the World Cup cricket champions.

Photo of Lord Hoyle Lord Hoyle Labour 7:57, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for initiating this debate. I spoke in the debate on sports clubs on 19th April, as did the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge. I am sure that all noble Lords will wish him a speedy recovery. We miss his expertise this evening.

In that debate I said that I believed that Test and county cricket in particular were drawing their ranks from too small a base. If we want cricket to be a national game, we cannot depend on drawing players from public schools and fee-paying grammar schools. The net must be drawn far more widely than that. If we do not attract youngsters into the sport, its lifeblood will be gone for the future.

I admire the ECB report which mentions kwik cricket and the amount of cricket that is played at primary schools. I was rather surprised to read that 84 per cent of secondary schools include cricket in their curriculum. I am amazed at that figure as I thought that it would be far lower. However, it is extremely welcome.

I am also pleased to hear what is being done for the sport in inner cities. If we are to attract people not only to play but also to watch matches, we have to extend the sport in inner cities where the only sport that matters at the moment is football. Football has the advantage that it is easy to play provided one has a ball with which to play it.

I was also pleased to note in the report that 26 per cent more girls are participating in cricket at secondary level than used to be the case. That is good as we have to encourage both sexes to be interested in cricket if the sport is to succeed. I also welcome the £750 million that has been mentioned which is to be allocated to schools and community clubs and the fact that 1,500 schools will benefit from that. Much of that money is to be spent on indoor and outdoor cricket pitches. That must be for the future good of the game.

I return to the theme of my speech in the debate on sports clubs. The real lifeblood is the clubs. Sport is governed by them. I speak as president of Adlington Cricket Club which plays in the Bolton association. It runs teams for under-11s, under-13s, under-15s and under-18s. It represents the only opportunity those children have to play on a decent wicket and to be coached properly in the game. That is beneficial for the future, a factor which applies to all the teams in the Bolton association, the Bolton League, many of the league clubs and to cricket in general.

I make the plea made previously by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, for all voluntary sports clubs. I cannot understand why non-profit-making organisations cannot be treated in the same way as charities in relation to tax relief. I make that plea again today.

I am pleased with the announcement of the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin, regarding children and Test matches. But why does not county cricket give free tickets to youngsters, given that they would take their parents with them? Let us take a lesson from Rugby League. I am chairman of the Warrington Wolves Rugby League Club. Our gate receipts have increased 38 per cent this season, much of that from giving free tickets to children who bring their parents with them to the match. My plea is that we go in that direction as regards sport, and cricket in general.

Photo of Lord Alexander of Weedon Lord Alexander of Weedon Conservative 8:01, 27 September 2000

My Lords, in a few days' time I shall have the great privilege and pleasure of becoming president of the MCC. It is highly timely that the noble Baroness has introduced this debate because after some dark years English cricket has begun to taste success. We have far to go: the series against Pakistan, twice; and with Sri Lanka and Australia coming up within the next year. But youth is fired by success and this is promising. I believe that we owe a great debt to the English Cricket Board and, notably, to my noble friend Lord MacLaurin for all they have done to restructure the game, create a national Test squad, bring us out of our darkest hours, and not least to lift the spirit. We are also fortunate that our recent opponents, the West Indies, played with such a marvellous sporting spirit.

Last week the West Indies captain, Jimmy Adams, was the deserved winner of the first MCC Spirit of Cricket award presented by Ted Dexter, one of the giants of the game who chairs the MCC cricket committee.

We at the MCC maintain at Lords what is probably the finest ground in the world at which all international players most aspire to play. We are home to Middlesex. We host youth international finals and the final of the national village cricket championships. We play 400 outmatches against schools and clubs. We have excellent and widely used coaching facilities. We train and encourage our own squad of young cricketers. I am glad to say that at last we run women's cricket teams.

We also have responsibility for the laws of the games, recently revised by my noble friend Lord Cowdrey, to incorporate the spirit of cricket principle which places responsibility for the team's behaviour on the field firmly on the captain and gives extra powers to umpires. Behaviour such as intimidation, slow over rates, and appeals when the fielders know the batsman is not out are poor examples to youth.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin, has announced that there will be greater accessibility to major matches for youth. We at the MCC strongly support this. We want to give greater priority to state schools where the decline in participation and popularity has been all too marked. We want to advise them on preparation of pitches, to provide nets to community cricket associations free of charge, to establish links with inner-city cricket clubs, starting with Castleford in Yorkshire, and to pursue our Buxton MCC Cricket Challenge which concentrates on a very basic level of awareness and participation at primary schools.

This game must raise more sponsorship. This is a virtuous circle: it depends on success. We at the MCC seek no public funds to make our contribution, but we urge the Government to continue to back in every way possible the ECB in its excellent and targeted work.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Lords in Waiting (Whips) 8:05, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for introducing this debate. I agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alexander. I refer to the uplifting occasion when the huge crowd turned up for the final day of the Test match with the West Indies. That untapped enthusiasm for cricket was enormous encouragement. I agree with the noble Lord also that the West Indies side, although sporting, was, regrettably this year, very much below par of past West Indies performances, and the real challenges remain. We should recognise that our national side still under-performs and that enormous challenges lie ahead, culminating in the challenge of Australia next summer. We should recognise the extent to which we need to invest in our future by building up the cricketing skills of the nation.

There is no doubt that we are reaping some of the inevitable consequences of the withdrawal from the teaching of and coaching in cricket by school teachers some 20 or 25 years ago for reasons that we do not have time to go into now. The sale of school playing fields meant reduced opportunities for children in state schools. I applaud the development by the England and Wales Cricket Board of inter-cricket which is a little friendlier in terms of the ball used and a little easier to organise. It does not require the same degree of preparation with regard to pitches.

Cricket is a difficult, technical game with harsh penalties for failure. Those of us who have been "out" on the first ball of the morning in an all-day game know just how harsh that penalty can be for the batsman; and for bowlers the loss of confidence by one's skipper means that one does not have the chance to deploy one's rather dubious talents. One is reduced to fielding positions which can be somewhat hazardous.

We should not under-estimate the real challenge that cricket represents in its techniques and requirements in terms of encouraging the enthusiasm and participation of young people. That is why we need additional coaches; and we need to start in the schools.

I emphasise this point. A few years ago the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, introduced the famous test of what made an Englishman. In my constituency that weekend, on a summer evening, I sought to participate by just one ball or knock of the bat with Pakistani children playing street cricket. They had nowhere else to play. We should encourage the enormous enthusiasm of such youngsters and develop opportunities for them, guaranteeing more organised school cricket, so that they are welcomed by clubs. Cricket should be taught at university level. It can lead to a career. It is a skill. The older universities always regarded it in that way. When we give opportunities for those talented children of Pakistani origin, born in Britain but speaking with Oldham voices, to reach the heights in English cricket and to play for England, our country will be a better place and the performance of the English cricket team will improve.

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative 8:08, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, most warmly for introducing the debate. I believe that the ECB report is essential reading for anyone interested in cricket. It shows cricket to be, as it is, a socially inclusive sport. It is reaching out to all sections of the community in the countryside and inner cities alike.

However, contrary to what a lot of people assume, cricket is not a rich sport. The ECB's annual turnover is less than that of most--not just a few--Premiership football clubs. As the governing body of cricket, with all the associated responsibilities, it does not have a lot of money. Despite having a very successful summer, the ECB lost more than £2 million of revenue in ticket sale returns because some of the Test matches finished so early. That has caused the board some significant financial difficulties and the impact on the funding of the game should not be underestimated.

If the ECB does not have adequate funding, its efforts to develop cricket from the playground to the test arena and to improve standards in schools and clubs, as well as to ensure that all children in society have an opportunity to play the game on a decent surface and receive proper coaching, are at risk. Nobody who loves cricket and believes in the importance of sport to the health and well-being of society wants that outcome.

The report also focuses attention on the lessons to be learned about grass-roots funding, the success of the cricket club junior sections and the recognition that

"schools remain the natural vehicle to address participation for youngsters".

It is a credit to the work of my noble friend Lord MacLaurin and his colleagues that they have focused on the key issues of participation and excellence. Without nurturing grass roots participation, we shall never achieve the excellence that we want to see tomorrow. That is fundamental, not just to cricket, but across sport. The relationship between clubs and schools is critical in developing participation.

In my closing minute, perhaps your Lordships will permit me to extrapolate the lessons learned from the report--about the world of the drybobs--to the success of those who have been excelling as wetbobs in Sydney. There are many lessons in the ECB report that are of wide significance for British sport. Having had the honour and privilege to cox the British rowing eight to a silver medal in the Olympics 20 years ago, nothing has given me greater pleasure than seeing the success of the women rowers, the gold medal winning eight and coxless four and the remarkable achievement of Steven Redgrave, undoubtedly the most accomplished oarsman and finest endurance athlete in our lifetime and maybe in the history of the modern Olympiad.

Yet rowers and those sportsmen and women who have the potential to reach finals in a wide range of world sporting events face a serious threat to their future. We cannot have international success without continuity of funding at the elite level as well as in schools. I urge the Government to do all in their power to resist making cuts in the world class performance programme, which gives grants to many of our sportsmen and women at the Olympics. Cuts of between 25 and 33 per cent are threatened in next April's funding round. One solution is to bring the programme directly into an enhanced Sports Council budget. We cannot let down our gold medallists and our aspiring world class sportsmen and women by standing by as coaches are made redundant, teams are ill prepared and direct support to our sportsmen and women could be massively reduced.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 8:13, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for introducing the debate. I should like to spend my few minutes concentrating on cricket clubs and their voluntary financing. It is surprising that, in announcing a generous amount for school sport over the next three years, the Prime Minister apparently made no reference to the role of clubs. The truth surely is that clubs and schools are interdependent for their success. We cannot have successful school sports without good local clubs. Many clubs provide the incentive for youngsters to try hard at school because they see their chums and their fathers and their friends having a whale of a time at the local cricket club. Clubs provide holiday play that would not otherwise be available. They also provide facilities and example. Above all, clubs are a microcosm of life. They are one of the few institutions that span the spectrum of social class and occupation. I cannot resist quoting G. M. Trevelyan, who said in his great English Social History:

"If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burnt".

Today's inner-city problems are not altogether dissimilar. Clubs often provide the only organic, vibrant, all-purpose, all-class, all-occupation centre of volunteering and pleasure in many of our more run-down areas. We have declining levels of volunteering, but sport provides more than a quarter of all volunteering. In a few years, there has been a decline in the 18-to-24 year age group from 55 per cent to 43 per cent of people volunteering. There has been a radical decline in regular participation in sport. Some 54 per cent of our active adult population do not participate in any regular sporting activity. We have what the British Medical Association describes as a rising epidemic of obesity, which has all sorts of economic and social ramifications.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Sandberg and the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, for mentioning the campaign that I am trying to run to get the Government to recognise that, if they gave incentives to citizens to dip into their own pockets to finance their local sports clubs of all kinds, it would be the most efficient and effective way of giving a boost to grassroots sport. It would mean getting the citizen to provide the bulk of the cash, with £3 or £4 coming from the citizen's pocket to only £1 tax relief from the Government. That is a good deal. It would be effective and unbureaucratic. People would be able to give money where they knew that it would count and could follow up to make sure that it did. I commend the support and leadership given to the campaign by Kate Hoey, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, Sport England, the Rugby Football Union, the England and Wales Cricket Board and others.

I cannot resist a final quote. Who said this?

"Cricket civilises people and creates good gentlemen. I want everyone to play cricket ... I want ours to be a nation of gentlemen".

It was none other than Robert Mugabe. What could be more telling than that?

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) 8:16, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for affording us the albeit brief opportunity to highlight the importance of encouraging young people to take up cricket. I also join others in paying tribute to one of cricket's greatest role models, my noble friend Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge.

I want to add my perspective as someone who, while occasionally supporting my husband from the sidelines, used to regard cricket as rather tame boys' own stuff. Now, having watched my twin sons, Leo and Christopher, play for the under-11 Berkshire county team this season, I am a complete convert.

What I have enjoyed most is watching a group of young people selected from a number of schools in the state and private sector and with different ethnic backgrounds who, while at first apprehensive and tentative, joined together as a team, supporting each other and so obviously relishing the truly competitive spirit. Throughout the season, while parents focused on their sons' performance, the boys focused on the team and their collective will to win.

I have no doubt that that very positive experience will seriously enhance the preparation for life of those lucky enough to have taken part. It is a far cry from the years during the 1970s when Labour-controlled councils and Left-wing dominated local education authorities outlawed competitive sport in schools because any form of competition was said somehow to compromise our children. The direct effect of that frankly criminal approach to sporting education has been dire for successive generations. We lost confidence in our ability to succeed, so we kept losing.

At least now, with the Government's acceptance that competition is okay again, we can move forward. Thanks to the ECB, in conjunction with sponsors such as Vodafone and Channel 4, we can concentrate on nurturing talent from a young age and making cricket accessible to all young people.

As with all development programmes, long-term finance and the support of key partners is essential to the success of encouraging young people not just to take part, but to build and retain enthusiasm for the sport. We need to ensure that we have a strategy that will guarantee commercial sponsorship for the continuing development of the game, as is the case with football and rugby.

In addition, however much we invest in the game, standards will be raised only if we broaden the base of cricket by, I suggest, introducing more competitive levels of entry for the under-10, 11 and 12 age groups. In that way we could identify more cricketers at an early age and thereby provide a better feeder system for the county squads.

My final thought is that there has been considerable discussion this summer regarding the depressing growth in the yob culture. In stark contrast, I return to those young players out on the field this season whose hearts and minds were collectively absorbed with the love of a game. We must all encourage greater participation, particularly in team sports, both within and outside the school gate. I pay tribute to all those who give of their time and impart their love of sport on a voluntary basis to encourage the young to take part.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 8:20, 27 September 2000

My Lords, this is one of those debates when one feels that the party divisions around the House have almost broken down. I say "almost". Even if those divisions are divisions of the past, they sometimes recur. However, the general gist of the debate is that we should play more sport and that one sport in particular--cricket--seems to have something to teach compared to other sporting traditions.

It has also been stated that cricket is a technical sport that suffered from a problem of bad image. It has been seen as slightly unfashionable, uncool and unsexy (call it what one will) but has overcome those images and become more popular. Remarkably, until recently that has been achieved on very modest performances, and that is something else to be taken on board. If one works hard enough and has a cultural base, one can achieve.

Another point to be taken on board is that we need guaranteed funding if we are to have success in sport. We need a continuous flow of funding. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out correctly that if a person is developed, it is important to ensure that they have the chance to develop fully and keep going. We must all remember that it is not enough to make sure that we have sufficient playing fields or better gyms. We must develop people after they have been to those gyms.

We must also invest strongly in our coaches and ensure that they receive not only initial training but are kept up to date in their training. There is nothing quite so out-of-date or unmodern as yesterday's fashion. If we do not ensure that we have a rolling programme of training, we may as well not bother at all. We shall become fossilised in an era or a trend and we shall not progress. I shall leave that thought in the arena of the public domain.

We are always trying to make sure that we can control the mind. From all sides of the House this evening we are trying to focus the mind of the Treasury. This matter must be addressed not only when times are good.

I support the views expressed by my noble friend Lord Phillips and encourage the whole House to do so. We should ensure that voluntary clubs obtain a better deal from the tax man so that they can spend their own money in developing a base which takes on part of the role of schools. There has been a cultural shift in taking on people from school level and developing them to competition level, whether it be participatory or in the pursuit of excellence. The clubs represent an important step. A few people may jump over them but the vast majority will go through the club process on the way up and, it is hoped, on the way down.

The report referred to today basically is a success story in times of adversity. I hope that we can learn from it and that the Government will remember that they must persevere with their support.

Photo of Lord Luke Lord Luke Conservative 8:23, 27 September 2000

My Lords, these Benches will wish to join with other noble Lords in sending best wishes to my noble friend Lord Cowdrey. We miss him very much this evening and look forward to his return, fully recovered, as soon as possible.

In thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for putting down this Question, I state an interest as a long-term member of the MCC and keen cricket follower. I congratulate and wish a great term of office to my noble friend Lord Alexander of Weedon. My noble friend Lord MacLaurin and others have told us about the work that the ECB has done and is doing. The list of initiatives is most impressive, as is that of the MCC.

It seems to me that four major factors affect the numbers of children who take an interest in and, it is hoped, learn to play cricket. The first is the availability of playing fields. Here I must ask the Government to stop all further erosion of such facilities. One in four primary and secondary school teachers believes that the facilities for outdoor sport in their schools are inadequate. The Conservatives will establish a database listing all school playing fields and will work closely with the National Playing Fields Association.

Secondly, each primary and secondary school must have at least one teacher who is interested in and prepared to teach sports, including cricket. Teachers themselves need to be taught about sport, and particularly competitive team sport, in their initial teacher training colleges.

The third factor is active encouragement by parents. That has already been mentioned by other noble Lords and is linked with my fourth factor; that is, the incomparable motivation which comes from national success--the hero syndrome. Who was not inspired by Alec Stewart's great innings at Old Trafford? And what about our world-class quartet of fast bowlers? And I mention Channel 4 for its new and refreshing attitude to cricket commentating, as well as its other support.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that there would be an investment of £750 million over three years in schools and community sports. Of course, we welcome that wholeheartedly. However, can the Minister say whether or not the Government are responsible for allocating lottery money? After all, in the past we have seen this Government raid lottery funds meant for arts and sport and give them to the New Opportunities Fund. Therefore, are we now seeing a full turn of the circle?

My right honourable friend John Major--that great friend of cricket--was responsible for a large number of initiatives to encourage sport in schools. The next Conservative government will revive many of those and in particular will simplify the national curriculum so that some schools will no longer have the excuse that they do not have time for sports.

Cricket is in our blood. It is the best of games. Let us give it even more life with all our might. It is flourishing and that is a marvellous thing.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip 8:27, 27 September 2000

My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen for sparking this much too short but important debate about participation by young people in one of our national sports.

When looking at the list of speakers, I could not help but see, at first discounting Front-Bench speakers, that 11 people made up the team this evening. I thought that the order in which they were due to speak might be the batting order and I considered it to be a rather impressive team. Imagine an opening partnership between my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen and the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin! No bowling side would not want to face that partnership. I believe that the middle order (consisting of my noble friend Lord Hoyle, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham) would also be pretty impressive. Until I listened to the debate I was not sure who would open the bowling for the team. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, bowled a bouncer or two in her intervention. I shall not call the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, an old war horse but oppositions would be very frightened to face his fast medium. My wicket keeper is without doubt that most experienced of ex-sports Ministers and coxes, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. All in all, it is a pretty fine team.

More seriously, of course the Government congratulate the England cricket team and the ECB on the wonderful victory in the recent series. I am also very pleased that a number of noble Lords have mentioned the fact that this highly competitive series was played by both sides--winners and losers--in an amazingly good spirit. That contrasts slightly, perhaps, with some recent series in the not-too-distant past.

One should not underestimate the positive effect of such performances by national teams on motivating young people to take up and participate in cricket. As has been said, millions of people take part in and watch the game and it is clear that cricket means a great deal to a very large number of people in this country. According to research undertaken by the ECB, in the United Kingdom there was a cumulative audience of more than 116 million people for 553 hours of coverage of the cricket world cup held last year in this country.

The event, of course, also helped to stimulate the growth in the popularity of the game among women and a significant increase in ethnic support for cricket in this country. There is no room for complacency, and cricket, like other sports, requires investment and promotion so that it may continue as a leading and national sport which will interest future generations of young people.

The Government believe that cricket, together with other sports, has a significant impact on other matters: health, education, building communities, the economy and, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, social inclusion. We are determined to ensure that there is equality of opportunity for all in every area, including sport. We shall continue to do our best to remove obstacles which prevent people making the most of their abilities. Our policy of "Sport for All" is aimed at encouraging everyone into sport.

It is accepted generally that physical activity makes an important contribution to health. Benefits of increasing physical activity include a reduction in heart disease, strokes, hypertension and other illnesses. Any plans to increase participation must start with schools. But sports clubs and local authorities' sports development teams also have a crucial role. It is that link between adult provision and schools which seeks to ensure that pupils in their latter years at school are helped and encouraged to find their way into provision beyond their school years; to improve pathways to higher levels of competition for those with the potential; and to improve support for those who have reached national squads.

Sports such as cricket offer tremendous opportunities to participants and are powerful tools in shaping attitudes and behaviour. If we want a fitter and more healthy population which demonstrates the qualities--the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe referred to these--of co-operation, working together, responsibility, self-discipline and determination, we need to ensure that the opportunities to participate in and enjoy the widest range of sporting activities are available to everyone.

Cricket is one of the nation's foremost sports and has a crucial role to play. We support the ECB in its work to increase participation among young people through a number of initiatives and funding programmes. In taking forward the sports strategy "A Sporting Future for All", we are working to encourage all governing bodies, including the ECB, to have clear development plans for their sport, with a view to improving participation and performance at every level. We want to see more people of all ages and, importantly, of all social groups taking part in sport and, of course, more success for our top competitors and teams in international competition.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced the new £750 million investment in school sport in Britain. Up to £750 million of new lottery funding will be invested in creating modern sports facilities, including indoor and outdoor cricket facilities. The investment will also pay for improvements to existing sports halls and playing fields. The funding comes from the next round of projects from the National Lottery's New Opportunities Fund and is subject to public consultation over the next few months.

In England, the new money is part of a coherent investment package of just less than £1 billion over the next three years to put school sport back on its feet. The devolved administrations have their own programmes.

We believe that the new investment will back the Government's sports strategy. We see particularly strong potential in the thousands of local sports clubs in this country. We want to link them more effectively with schools and to develop club networks that provide good junior sections and teams and coaching catering for every level of ability. It is particularly important that clubs should not be exclusive but should be open and welcoming to all.

I turn to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. I thank him for those comments and for the assistance which he is giving at present, in discussions with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on the charitable status and otherwise of voluntary clubs. I can tell the House that my honourable friend the Minister for Sport and her officials are currently considering the merits of special relief for community sports organisations. The Minister will discuss that issue with her Treasury colleagues and the Government will, in due course, reach their conclusions in the normal way. I cannot give commitments this evening but the issue is being given active consideration. Likewise, the department is also in discussion with the Charity Commission in relation to the wider issues of sports clubs seeking charitable status.

Lottery funding has brought substantial benefits to cricket with well over 500 projects receiving awards totalling over £61 million. There have been 376 awards to cricket totalling over £1.1 million under the Awards for All programme. I could give the House examples but time runs on. The ECB is in the process of submitting a series of lottery applications for the installation of non-turf pitches at schools and clubs, all of which are committed to junior development.

On 25th July of this year, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced a doubling of funding for sport by 2003-04 to reach a total of £102 million. An extra £85 million over three years will be mainly focused on encouraging increased participation in sport among young people.

Cricket has been selected by Sport England to take part in the active sports programme, a five-year development plan aimed at young people at a local level through a partnership of clubs, schools, local authorities, education services and the England and Wales Cricket Board. Each of those partnerships has a full-time dedicated manager funded by Sport England and local sports agencies.

The national curriculum requires that children are introduced to team games from the age of five. At present 12,588 primary schools are reported to be taking part in cricket and, as we heard, there was a 42 per cent increase in the past year in the number participating in the Wrigley Schools Kwik Cricket Tournament. Moreover, 84 per cent of secondary schools take part in cricket, which is an increase of 10 per cent over the previous year. Whichever way one looks at the figures, that must be encouraging. The ECB has also introduced the game, "inter cricket", of which my noble friend Lord Davies spoke.

With regard to the identification and nurturing of talent, the ECB has submitted a performance plan to Sport England for consideration, with the aim of securing lottery funding under the world-class performance programme. The overall aim of the plan is to develop a structure which will bridge the gap between first-class county and international cricket. A decision on the plan should be made by the end of the year.

The initiatives which the ECB is introducing have been explained clearly and well during the course of the debate. In particular, I commend the ECB on setting aside 11 per cent of the £26 million per year that it receives from broadcasting revenues for the development of cricket. The total number of those playing regularly has now reached more than 2.4 million people. The Howzat! development initiative has also been referred to. That is coming onstream in November 2000. The Cricket Foundation, through its development funding awards, has also raised around £3 million in 1999. So many congratulations to the ECB on the work that it is doing and has done so successfully in the past year. I offer my congratulations too to the noble Lord, Lord MacLaurin, on his re-election for another two years, a re-election which occurred, I believe, last week.

I repeat my thanks to the noble Baroness for securing this evening's debate. It has been more than just helpful and interesting to hear the views of noble Lords on the promotion of cricket and participation by young people. I believe that there is consensus in the House that the Government, Sport England and the ECB are working together, which is also important, and are committed to providing and promoting opportunities for increased participation in cricket among young people so that its future as an important part of the nation's sporting life can continue. All of us here are biased. We all think that cricket is a wonderful game which has given us all individually, whether playing or watching, a great deal of pleasure. It is part of our job, I am sure, to ensure that many millions more feel the same.