rose to call attention to the development of sport in local communities and its contribution to the achievement of sporting excellence; and to move for Papers.
My Lords, this is a timely debate with
In 1997, when Labour came to power, sport was in the doldrums. Minister after Minister failed to get to grips with the declining sporting scene. Only the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, when in that position seemed to understand the problems we faced—as far as he was allowed by his masters or, perhaps more accurately, by his headmistress to act in the way that I am sure he would have preferred. I clearly exempt the noble Lord, Lord Monro of Langholm, who was a capable Minister for Sport, from that charge, but I am referring to a different period from when he was in charge.
I have to remind the House that the situation in 1997 was dire. School sport was in decline, with extra-curricular sporting fixtures, in particular, down by three-quarters. Every free-standing physical education college had been closed. It was reliably estimated that physical education in 40 per cent of our primary schools was not of a suitable standard. On top of that, 5,000 playing fields had been sold off, with many more under threat.
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but if he could speak under a microphone—there is not one in the aisle—our colleagues and friends opposite would be able to hear what he is saying.
I was saying that physical education in 40 per cent of our primary schools was not of a suitable standard. On top of that, 5,000 playing fields had been sold off, with many more sales in the pipeline. So in 1997 the incoming Government had a mountain to climb and have understandably taken some time to implement all the required changes to effect the kind of change necessary to put sport on the footing that it deserves. Enormous progress has been made. Even this week, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has announced plans to extend school days from 8 am to 6 pm, which will provide more opportunities for extra-curricular activities, including sport. I am sure that we will see the benefits in years to come and welcome the positive reaction of teachers and, in particular, headteacher unions.
The delivery of funding is improving, not least as a result of the reform that has taken place at Sport England, which has undertaken a rigorous programme of modernisation. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, will refer to that in his contribution.
I know that the current Minister for Sport has had to take some difficult decisions regarding funding streams to ensure that funds are being directed to those in the frontline, not being absorbed by bureaucracy. So too at UK Sport, where its own modernisation process has focused funding on performance ratings, as it targets the sports that can demonstrate that they will do well at forthcoming international events.
The development of sport within the local community thankfully is now at an all time high. So many successful schemes are being undertaken by various organisations, but I should like to highlight one or two which have impressed me. In the debate on the gracious Speech, I referred to the PE, school sport and club links, which will develop further as schools and clubs integrate into not only the provision but extension of participation by widening the scope of accessibility for young people. That mechanism will develop not only sport but emerging talent. That will encourage lifelong participation and activity.
I make no apologies for referring to one such scheme funded by the Football Foundation, of which I am president. Buckhurst Hill Junior Football Club, in Essex, had faced closure after an arson attack on its ground. The club was able to build a new clubhouse and purchase the ground from the local council as a result of a grant of £290,546 from the Football Foundation. Now the club is thriving, providing some of the best facilities in the country to hundreds of young people. Its membership has been doubled, with nearly 500 players using the site every week. Participation has escalated. Buckhurst Hill now has a girls' section, running teams between the ages of six and 16. About 250 boys are playing in 16 teams each week, as well as 160 adult male players, accompanied by 25 professionally qualified coaches who run sessions and provide after-school football for local children.
Local community sport is also important because of its wider benefits. By that I refer to the important impact that sport and physical activity have in improving community safety, health, social inclusion and cohesion. Sport can have many health benefits, including reducing obesity and combating heart disease. Such are the advantages of participating in physical activity and sport that the Government in their public health paper, Choosing Health, point to the use of sport participation and outline measures to promote the opportunities and benefits as a priority. In their health paper, the Government recommend the expansion of the scope of activeplaces.com, the facilities database, to ensure that everyone is aware of the opportunities that exist, which will drive up interest and participation.
There are also programmes within the Prince's Trust—for example, Positive Futures—and the work undertaken by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, which use sport and leisure activities to engage disadvantaged and socially marginalised young people positively to influence the participants of substance misuse and offending behaviour towards physical activity. Unique projects such as these use the power and popularity of sport to provide professional coaching and competitive games, as well as educational opportunities, training and healthy lifestyle information.
Those projects are undertaken in partnership with local organisations, the police and youth offending teams to combat anti-social activities within society. A recent survey of the project partners illustrates the potential that those schemes have already shown: 72 per cent believe that anti-social behaviour has fallen as a result of Positive Futures; 80 per cent believe that sport-based activities are more available as a result of Positive Futures; 78 per cent state that Positive Futures helps participants to relate better; and 63 per cent believe that local crime has fallen as a result of Positive Futures.
Of particular interest to my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham, who is on the Government Front Bench today, will be the Positive Futures programme in Oldham, which has received a grant of £91,293 from the Football Foundation to develop a programme in Oldham, which is part of Oldham's crime and community safety strategy. It will provide activities for young people between the ages of eight and 16 in several areas identified as socially and economically disadvantaged.
A scheme based in Manchester draws heavily on the idea of development of sport and the identification of talent. This scheme was originally organised by the head of leisure at Manchester City Council in 1992, but has been spearheaded since by the remarkable athlete Geoff Thompson, who comes from a socially deprived background. I am hopeful that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who will make a contribution today, will be able to speak in more depth than I on this subject.
Football clubs are playing their part in developing community schemes—for example Manchester City, which is to run a ground-breaking project aimed at encouraging disengaged 16 to 19 year-olds to return to full time education or employment. It is entitled Kick Start and is being organised in partnership with Manchester Youth College. A welcomed bridge between community level and elite level sport is the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme for young athletes. The Government in their manifesto stated that they have launched,
"2012 scholarships worth around £10,000 a year each for our most talented 12 to 18 year-olds".
Scholarships and bursaries can provide the young promising Olympians of the future with access to high quality facilities and sporting services. That is the sort of investment required to enhance the levels of sporting excellence by providing the opportunities that would otherwise not be available.
It is clear that sport is an important mechanism by way of inspiring and motivating more people to participate. Again, I refer to the Football Foundation, which uses Premier League stars in its ambassador scheme to promote,
"the work of the Foundation, the UK's biggest sports charity, at the grassroots of the game and highlight the essential role of football in the community".
I witnessed the launch of one ambassador, Wes Brown of Manchester United, in my home town of Stalybridge, at which many children, mostly girls, were present. Having a "star" at such events generates interest and engages more people in sport.
What better way to engage more people—children and adults—in sport in the future than hosting the Olympic Games? The Olympics is the epitome of sporting excellence and victory on
The country has already shown its capacity to deliver events of this kind and we cannot forget the contribution made by volunteers. Without volunteers sporting excellence would be only a fraction of what it is today. Volunteers play a massive role in national sporting life. The London Marathon relies on 6,000 volunteers and the Manchester Commonwealth Games involved 10,000 volunteers, thus suggesting that the role of the volunteer will be a vital ingredient to the 2012 Olympic bid. The development of sport at local and club level is also dependent on volunteers. Sport is the most common form of volunteering, accounting for 26 per cent of all volunteering.
In that context, I welcome the recommendations of the Russell commission report, which identified Sport England as a key delivery partner in meeting the aspiration of attracting 1 million more young volunteers. Volunteers have and will continue to make an important contribution to the development of sport and sporting excellence.
I am also pleased to say that the All-Party Group on Volunteering, headed by Julian Brazier MP, is campaigning for the rights of volunteers following the CCPR survey, which identified eight reasons why people were reluctant to volunteer—the top reason being the blame culture and threat of litigation. Last year, a Private Member's Bill in the Commons sort to provide protection for volunteers in that area, but it fell off the legislative timetable because of the general election. I am pleased that the Government are to bring in a Bill soon to rectify the problems in that area.
By way of conclusion, I wish to refer to the Cabinet Office strategy document, Game Plan, which has emphasised two major objectives; namely, increasing international success and increasing participation. These are the two interdependent aims that form the backbone of this debate. I therefore urge the House to back the Government in pursuing sporting developments within the community in order to increase the opportunities for sporting excellence in the UK. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, not only for what he has said, but also for what he does week-in week-out as chairman of the all-party sports group in Westminster. He brings most interesting people to talk to the sports committee. We benefit very much from getting together in a non-political sense to talk about sport, in which we are all so interested.
I was not going to talk about things that are on people's minds now, such as the Olympic bid, because we cannot do much about that except hope for success on
I want to turn, as did the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, to grassroots and talk about leadership—through teachers and volunteers. A good many ills of this country, right down to social deprivation, could be cured if we had much more effective leadership of young people. The problem is being addressed. Sports Leaders UK, which used to be the British Sports Trust, is led extremely effectively by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. The organisation is doing an immense amount to develop leadership through its chief executive officer, Linda Plowright. Courses are held all the time, with qualifications arising from them. Since 1987, some 300,000 youngsters have gained qualifications, and last year 91,000 young people attended its courses. It is important to note that all this is being done at minimum cost, funded largely by charities and sponsorship. The Government might bear that in mind as an example of value for money in terms of funding for sport. Perhaps they might think a little more on giving it additional support.
Full credit is also due to the Central Council for Physical Recreation, although I was sorry to hear that its chief executive officer, Margaret Talbot, is leaving. The CCPR has being doing a lot of very good things lately; for example, by providing papers for this debate, holding conferences and producing brochures. It represents the sports governing bodies of this country, along with the volunteers who do so much to make UK sport work. Indeed, a line from its recent paper states:
"Community sport is vital to the growth of sporting excellence".
We have to start at the bottom if we are to achieve success at the top.
I believe that sport and recreation can play an important part in the development of character, personality, confidence and discipline in young people, boys and girls. That has to be done partly in school time and in part after school, which is a problem for the education authorities. They simply must find time to give boys and girls the opportunity to participate in sport, particularly in team games, which do so much to develop character. I mention also outward-bound activities such as mountaineering and canoeing, in which youngsters should be pushed to the extreme limit without being foolhardy. They then find that they can achieve something far ahead of what they ever thought possible.
What is holding us back in this field? Not only are there continual arguments in education about how many hours children can participate in games each week, but also the nanny society seems to be taking over. Because of legislation and the threat of losing their jobs, teachers and volunteers are afraid of participating in case a child has some form of accident. I read in the newspapers last week about some of the guidelines being issued by Sport England and, no doubt, by the Health and Safety Executive. They overstep the mark. It really is ludicrous to tell a coach that he cannot take a youngster home after practice in case of later implications of paedophilia. That is ludicrous. We must grow up and accept that people in sport can manage their lives very much more effectively than some of those in officialdom seem to think. So let us hope that the Government will encourage the various bodies to consider again their guidance and to make it more practical and relevant to 2005.
I refer not only to health and safety aspects, but also to the fact that the Licensing Act passed by the Government in the last Session makes it almost impossible for a village hall to have a licence. The enormous cost cannot be borne, and that translates to sports clubs as well.
It must be of some concern to the Government that 70 per cent of all children give up sport when they leave school against only 30 per cent in France. Part of the reason may be that in the United Kingdom, total funding for sport per head is £21. It is £30 in Germany, £51 in Australia, £76 in Canada and £112 in France. No wonder the French are so enthusiastic about the Olympics when they put so much into basic sports provision in their country.
I want to mention the lottery. I am desperately disappointed in the Government's attitude to the lottery and in the new National Lottery Bill in another place. We cannot underestimate the immense value of Sir John Major's introduction of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. Without it, the vast sums of money being spent on sports, recreation, the arts and our history would not be available. Yet as soon as the Government came to power in 1997, they started to change the basis on which lottery money could used. It was quite wrong to take money away from the main causes set out in the Act and give it to education, school meals—that I heard only just the other day—environmental purchases in Scotland and medical equipment, all of which should be provided by the Government through the taxpayer under the scheme of additionality. But this Government are reducing the money available to the original causes in the lottery Act in order to save the taxpayer money. It really is quite wrong, and I hope that when the new Bill comes to this House, we give it a mighty rough ride and perhaps get rid of some of the worst proposals the Government have included.
I turn briefly to planning issues and school playing fields. In 2002–03, some 1,297 applications were made to change the use of school playing fields for development of one form or another. No fewer than 807 were approved. Thus some 62 per cent of those applications were approved by this Government at a time when they kept saying that they would avoid losing playing fields. Of course they will argue that some were being converted into all-weather pitches or that indoor facilities were to be provided, but by and large a huge number of playing fields have disappeared under this Government.
Two committees have been appointed to look into this issue, but neither has reported since April 2003, so we are two years out of date on the figures that in any event the Government usually try to smudge whenever I table Questions on them. What are the Playing Fields Advisory Panel and the Playing Fields Monitoring Group doing? How many playing fields have they saved? I want to know because it is a criminal shame that we are losing so many perfectly good playing fields at this time. It is only through the good work of the National Playing Fields Association, which monitors as much as it can and highlights in the media what is happening, that we get even some degree of attention.
I commend what I have read in the paper today, which is a good move on the part of Glasgow City Council. Although it is quite unusual for Glasgow, it is offering rate relief to sports fields provided that clubs alter their constitutions so that the fields cannot be sold for development. That is good, and I hope that many other councils will do the same thing.
I must quickly conclude, but must ask: can we not do a little more to help women in sport? The Women's Sports Foundation does first-class work. Indeed, leading sportswomen of this country such as Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe, Denise Lewis, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ellen MacArthur are making the headlines, but women do not get equal opportunities on television. The media are letting the girls down in this country. I am lucky enough to visit America quite often, and there one sees any amount of women's sport on television. There is basketball, tennis, golf, athletics and rowing, all of which seem to be taken much more seriously than is the case in this country.
Finally, I say to the Government: for goodness' sake, try to simplify life for people working in sport. They are fed up with the bureaucracy that the various governing bodies provide for them. Let us remove some of the red tape and put lottery money back into sport.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Pendry for initiating this debate on what is an important issue to me as the chair of Sport England and in view of my involvement in a wide range of sporting activities, not least our bid to host the 2012 Olympics.
Sport is one of the common denominators in our society. It reaches across the barriers of race, class and income. However, despite the fact that participating in sport makes people happier, healthier and builds good communities, we have to face the fact that it is difficult to move people into sport. Therefore, we have to look realistically at the barriers and what needs to be done to effect change. As the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, observed, we must build a structure that begins with participation and then build the pathways through to the elite. We will not win in 2012 unless we get the basics right here.
A lot has been done already and there is momentum in sport, as the daily coverage in the newspapers—and not just the reporting of football—shows. There is a momentum. Journalists are writing about sport. The effect of 2012 is enormous and is giving us the movement that we need.
Understanding the barriers to participation in community sport is critical if we are to make a difference. Today, 77 per cent of children aged eight to 14 have a television in their room; computer games are prevalent, and children spend hours a day on them; and children are driven to school rather than walk. It is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that the forces of passivity are rampant. Some 80 per cent of children have bikes, but only 2 per cent ride them to school. So there is an issue.
Secondly, the structure of society is changing. It is changing people's ability to find time in their busy lives. People's lives have changed dramatically. In many places, it is incredibly difficult to find 10 other people to make a football team on a Saturday afternoon. That is caused partly by our working practices. In the south-west of England, 36 per cent of the population work at the weekend because they are active in the tourism, leisure and retail industries and in caring. That makes the situation very difficult, but people are finding alternative ways. No longer do we have great workplace factories with playing fields. We are seeing a deconstruction in sport.
These problems are common to most developed countries—Britain is not alone in facing them—but whereas participation levels are a challenge everywhere, we in Britain face a particular problem. We are behind our major international comparators, especially the northern European countries.
The question of how that happened and what should be done to remedy it has been the subject of enormous debate. There have been various initiatives and the problem has been looked at, but the problem has existed over the years. Now, however, for the first time, we are beginning to get a clear understanding of what to do and the need to create diversified and diverse answers to these problems. There is not one central monolithic solution but a series of solutions.
As other noble Lords have observed, we need to start at the beginning and look at the school sports system. As has been said, in the early 1980s and the 1990s, school sport went into a steep decline for a number of reasons. After 1997, however, the Government set about reversing that decline. With enormous effort in the late 1990s and enormous investment now, we have seen that decline reversed. Critically, the first plank in the sports system has been restored. The rotting floorboards have been torn up and we have something firm on which to build.
Having addressed that issue and seen momentum, we now have to turn to what to do next. The noble Lord, Lord Monro, has rightly commented on the colossal drop-off after formal education. Some 60 to 65 per cent of those aged 11 to 15 participate in sport, but the figure drops to 25 per cent in the 16 to 24 age group. "Cliff effect" perhaps summarises the situation. Participation stays pretty flat thereafter until, like many noble Lords, people get into their sixties and are able to do a little less.
The situation is the same in every country. Young people, especially young women, discover other pressures. People want to do other things. In Britain, however, we have a steeper drop-off rate. Finland, which has been very successful, has maintained participation at 52 per cent. Germany and Canada—and France, as has been observed—are all doing better than us. We are at 21 per cent and we need to do something about that.
The key is to face up to the issue and not to be in denial about it. We have looked at international best practice and seen what works in other countries. We are setting about trying to create a systemic and systematic answer to the problem.
Sport is full of initiatives. There is no end of schemes that act on one issue at a time. However, we are looking to design a system that can address the issue in a big way. The first thing we need to do is deal with the tide of passivity. We need to get proactive messages out there—the message that activity in sport is good. That is being done in Germany and Canada. In the north-east of England, a pilot called "Everyday Sport" is under way. The early indications are that the programme is starting to drive behaviour.
However, it is no good coming up with initiatives that last a year or two after which the funding disappears. We need programmes that last long beyond one spending review settlement. The Germans have a very successful campaign called Sport ist Gut. It has run for 20 years and changed how people behave. In Canada, over 10 years, the Canada on the Move campaign and other campaigns have helped to increase participation in sport at the rate of 1 per cent a year. It is critical that we give people information. Investment in schemes such as Active Places and interactive databases for sports centres mean that young people can now go online, find out where the nearest facility is and go and participate.
After we have that piece right and have the encouragement, we need to build the pathways. The critical pathway is from schools into communities and clubs. That has been referred to. Countries such as Germany have got that right over a longer period. Again, however, the Government recognise the need to do something about the issue. The increasingly successful programme of getting PE into schools and clubs—the PESSCL programme—is building those critical links, making sure that when people go from a very structured society in school into an unstructured world, there is a link for them to carry through.
After we have got that right we have to find somewhere attractive for people to go and practise sport. Expectations have risen. People do not want to send their children to play on dog-fouled, dirty, waterlogged football pitches. They do not want to play themselves in such places. We expect better. In many parts of the country, that has been solved by investment, and in many parts of the country it has been private investment. Were it not for the nearly 1,800 private health care clubs that have been built in the past 10 years, participation rates in this country would have fallen back quite dramatically. Those private operators need all the encouragement they can get by relaxing planning to enable facilities to be built where they are needed—not where planners would like to put them but nobody would use them. That point requires attention.
Community sport relies on volunteers. As we have heard, 26 per cent of all volunteers are engaged in sport. We need to find ways of encouraging—and the Russell commission is very strong and helpful on this—those who are prepared to volunteer.
I should like to share an experience. Last Saturday, I went to a small football club in Hertfordshire called the Hormead Hares. Four years ago, four people got together in a rather run-down part of a village in a rural community. Between them, they have created 17 teams for children aged five to 16. It is a wonderful achievement. Two hundred children play there. There was no investment whatever; they built the pavilion themselves. But now they need help, and the help is there. They have applied to the Football Foundation and other organisations. The help is there, but we have to ensure that we get the money into the right hands. The point, however, is that it is these people who are changing things at the grassroots level and we need to support them.
What happened in that community can be measured. First, the community came together to solve the problem. Secondly, there is evidence that crime was reduced. Thirdly, and most importantly, young people were given a sporting legacy. We need these clubs. We need the pathway from club to elite sport. Reference has been made to the TASS scheme and other such schemes. The interventions are being put in place to move people up that critical pathway.
I have touched on the issue of infrastructure. In recent times, we have faced the problems of a decaying and crumbling sporting infrastructure. A lot was built in phases—some in the 1960s—and is now very old and needs replacing. At national level, there has been some success. We are building Wembley. There were beneficial effects from the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in terms not only of infrastructure but, above all, in regeneration. It is notable that east Manchester and the city have had a major boost from the effect of sport. And we hold high hopes for 2012 and what it will do not only for sport in this country but for regeneration in the east side of the city.
At community level, a lot has been going on. People understand what is needed. I turn to the issue of playing fields. There is a lot of talk about playing fields. Grass playing fields' utilisation rates are relatively low. On a grass playing field you can play maybe three, four or five times a week, but the grass soon wears out. In urban areas that does not work and therefore we must get all-weather pitches where people can play for 70 and 80 hours a week. So it is not just the quantity, it is the type of playing field that we get. Sport England and other investors are concentrating on getting the right answers.
However, despite all the investment that has taken place, we have the problem of ageing facilities in local government ownership. It is clear that unless we reignite local authorities as a major force in sport, there are parts of the country where there is market failure, where people go unserved. We must turn our attention to that. Discussions are under way to include the cultural block, of which sport is part, in the comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) mechanism, which guides local authorities' priorities. If it is not in there, it is not measured and local authorities tend not to pay it attention. We have to get this into a "must do" for local government.
I will show you a sign of how far sport has fallen down local government priorities in some places. In a visit to a local authority the other day, they told me they had 154 KPIs—the measurement tools for local performance—and in their priority list sport was 132. We have to turn that round; we have to put sport higher up that list. The Government have set us a target of increasing participation in sport by 1 per cent a year. They have very clear views on elite success. Momentum has started; reforms have been taken through. UK Sport and Sport England have been reformed; governing bodies are reforming quite dramatically; so sport is on the move. The prize to give it that final boost is to win the bid for 2012. It will help us to continue to transform that landscape. We are now, I think, only 19 days away. We have high hopes.
All those things coming together give us the opportunity to move people into happier, healthier, community-aware lives, and it is a challenge I think everybody in sport relishes.
My Lords, this afternoon I feel very much the club player among a glittering collection of former Olympians, but I think that we would all agree that most of us became sports enthusiasts in our early childhood. Equally we would agree that for every national hero there are thousands of players who compete simply for the love of the game and do not wish to become national achievers. As my noble friend Lord Monro said, it starts at the grassroots, from the bottom up, and is stimulated by the local community in what it has to offer. So it is through schools and clubs that we end up with elite sports.
In modern parlance, "sports" covers many aspects. It is interesting that we have a sports Minister and not a games Minister. The dictionary, however, puts it the other way round—defining "game" as a "kind of sport", a "contest for recreation", or a,
"competitive amusement according to a system of rules".
But there can be no doubt that sports and games over many years have formed an important part of British life. The Middle Ages boasted of jousting, hunting and archery, the latter of which still attracts many people.
But, since my early childhood, how times have changed within our sporting clubs and activities. Sport then was very much amateur, such as Wimbledon—which is coming up shortly—where all the players were amateurs and there were no professionals. Indeed, that degree of expertise and hope has altered the way in which young people regard sport today. They look to the professional players; they see the vast wages that many of the professional players have, and they look at the sponsor money that comes to those higher achievers.
Equally, sport has produced for the Government a lot of money in its own right. It would be interesting if the Minister could tell the House how much money the Government receive in taxes every year from sporting activities. If we leave aside the gambling aspect, there must be hundreds of millions collected in corporation tax, VAT on ticket sales, income tax on the salaries of professional players, to say nothing of the more oblique income generated for the state from such things as fuel duty on sports-related travel.
Can the Minister also tell us how much money is paid out by the state to support activities, and how much money for national activities comes from the lottery? Noble Lords have mentioned the lottery and I will return to it later.
Money raising associated with sport is not confined to the Government. Many sporting heroes go to inordinate lengths to raise funds for charitable purposes as well as promoting their own sport. As I speak, a dedicated band of famous cricketers is leading the Ashes Walk. It left from the Rosebowl in Hampshire on Monday and will visit every one of the Test cricketing grounds in England and Wales in the time it takes to reach the end of the Ashes series. Anyone can walk part of the way with them for a fee and they are attracting sponsors. The funds raised will be used in particular to promote cricket in inner-city schools.
Although I have a professional tennis-coaching qualification and at one time ran a tennis school, I propose to talk mainly about amateur sport and its impact. Most children at some stage enjoy playing sports that require some physical input, but some children are put off early at schools because they are not included in team games. But most of them will have the chance to play rounders in the playground, perhaps have the joy of being selected to represent the form in an egg-and-spoon race or a three-legged race, or to participate in the more structured competitions between schools and within the house groups of their own schools.
Nor is it always necessary to get that enjoyment in team games. That is something I would like to talk about at greater length because predominantly noble Lords have talked about the bigger team games. I know of many young people who have revelled in cross-country running—something, certainly, that I did not wish to do—cycle racing, dressage or show jumping. There is a whole range of water sports as well as swimming. I pay tribute to the many volunteers other noble Lords have referred to who give of their time freely, week on week, who help to run pony club camps, Outward Bound—mentioned by my noble friend—and other activities.
I would like to touch on an individual event, which can be a team event; namely, swimming. Recently my granddaughter was very proud that her school qualified for the national finals in a relay event in Sheffield. We went with no hopes of seeing any of them achieve a medal because the school is not known for its swimming. They managed to qualify for the final, in which they did their best but technically came in fifth. Much to their amazement and joy—and there is a lesson in this—they were raised to become third because there were two false starts by two of the teams. The lesson is that you should never give up because you might be a winner at the end of the day, and the lesson for the teams that lost out is that you should not cheat.
Swimming is a sport in which many can participate who are not physically able to participate in some of the other sports that we have mentioned this afternoon. I give credit to all who help with disabled sports because they play an enormous role and have a great importance in the daily living not only of school children but also of people in later life. Our disabled athletes did wonderfully well in their competitions last year.
Noble Lords have touched on one or two items that I find extremely worrying; that is, the question of litigation and the burden of legislation. For many volunteers who organise clubs and raise money, they have to get licences to do this or be qualified to do that. If they wish to have a fund-raising function, they have to seek a licence. Would it not be possible for some clubs to apply for a broader range of events to be qualified under one licence fee, rather than having to do it continuously? Obviously, that would save a lot of money.
Secondly, on the whole question of getting somebody through the approval system when going through the criminal records, if somebody is already cleared and accepted as a suitable person to help with a particular thing, could that qualification not carry them through other things that they might be able to help with? Again, that is a cost and an extra responsibility—but it seems ludicrous if an individual has to have four or five different clearances through the bureau.
On thinking about this debate earlier, one began to realise that sporting activities cut across many government departments, schools, universities, colleges, fitness clubs, fitness centres, Outward Bound activities, and regional and national activities. Our thoughts are focused on the 2012 Olympic Games, for which we hope that London's bid might be successful. But perhaps I am not the only one who fears that the Government failed in the first instance to put their full weight behind the UK application—a decision that may see the games going to Paris.
I also criticise the Government for their stance on discouraging team sports in schools. It was said at the time that if no one can be a winner, no one should be a winner. That is rubbish; we know when we compete that we are not going to win every time, but if we are not actually allowed to compete in anything, however can we hope to be achievers? Other noble Lords have already spoken about school playgrounds; picking up on that, I must ask the Government if they will stop the closure of school playing fields. Although the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, suggested that many had closed during our term in office, they continue to be closed, and that cannot be allowed to continue.
Sport and the exercise of the body is an important element in the development of a healthy body and mind. Obesity continues to be a problem, but to be a good athlete one needs to have a healthy and balanced diet. This week on Tuesday, I attended the launch of a charity called Farming and Countryside Education—FACE—here in London. Its aim is to tell young people about food, farming and the countryside within their own school setting, whether it is urban or rural-based. In doing so, we hope not only to encourage them to eat healthy food but to look forward to visiting the countryside. I am convinced that schools can and should do more; healthy eating and exercise, in my book, go together. We must give the new generation a better start in life.
Equally this week I was interested to call in at VisitBritain, which had an exhibition downstairs earlier. Talking to that organisation's representatives, I heard them highlighting the opportunities that there are in the countryside throughout the UK to continue to enjoy sporting activities, whether it is walking, canoeing or—much more testing—hill climbing. There are many opportunities out there for us to have a go at.
I am sure that this afternoon's debate will draw together fascinating contributions from so many who have had the joy and experience of sport. We are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for having introduced this debate. He, like others, will look forward to hearing the other contributions.
My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Pendry has secured this debate today. His support for sport of all kinds is well known. Indeed, I am surrounded by a wealth of talent from sporting spectrum. Many of us have already spoken in debates about the importance of sport, and today gives us the opportunity to relate that to sport in local communities—which in turn can improve aspiration and achievement.
This morning we discussed in your Lordships' House the issue of arts and regeneration in urban settings—at least, two of us did. While sport and regeneration is not strictly on the agenda today, I should like to make a brief reference to how sport has helped to regenerate communities by bringing in new industry and new building. I am thinking in particular of Manchester, as an unprejudiced northerner; in Manchester, the new sports building for the Commonwealth Games was successfully blended with the industrial landscape, including canals, railway arches and embankments, to create a truly beautiful and impressive new landscape for the city. I hope that if London is selected to host the 2012 Olympics, the lessons will be learnt from that. The people of Manchester are proud of the reconstruction of their city thanks to sport.
I know, too, that this debate is about achieving sporting excellence, of which I am all in favour. But I should also like to emphasise the importance of sport in communities for fun, fitness and social interaction, though other noble Lords have spoken about that already. We worry about obesity and people not being fit. Everyone who does sport is not going to be a champion or play team games, but that does not preclude them from enjoying sport. Sport is important if it encourages exercise for fitness; I follow on in that from what the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said—not that I would agree necessarily that learning to lose is a positive thing. I would rather that people kept fit.
Activities such as walking, yoga, pilates and so on, are increasingly offered in communities, and gym membership is increasing. It would be helpful if schools and facilities for young people, of which there are not enough, would encourage young people to enjoy some sort of physical activity, in which perhaps excellence is not achieved but being good enough is. More people taking part in sport at any level seems a worthy ambition, as well as excellence.
Sport can have a positive impact on communities in relation to social behaviour. For example, the Karrot scheme in Southwark is a crime diversion project at the Elephant and Castle leisure centre. It was piloted as a half-term sports activity programme, with more than 120 young people attending. Since the summer, regular sessions have been held for basketball, athletics, cricket and football. However, where excellence is possible it should clearly be supported. Sporting excellence starts at the grassroots—or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, would say, at the bottom—which usually means in the community, be it in a school or a club. It needs facilities, coaching and enthusiasm from the community.
I want to use cricket as an example of how that excellence can be built up—and I declare an interest as a Lady Taverner. That organisation raises money for young people with disabilities to play sport. And yes, I shall be walking for the Ashes. The England and Wales Cricket Board and the Cricket Federation are carrying out specific programmes to encourage the game at all levels, for men and women and boys and girls. The England and Wales Cricket Board's strategic plan, which is called "Building Partnerships" has a key objective of encouraging participation, especially among young people. It includes commitment to delivering a centre of cricketing excellence within 30 miles of 85 per cent of the population of England and Wales by 2009. It seeks to increase the number of school and coaching sessions to 20,000 by 2009 and to implement a £5 billion England and Wales Cricket Board interest-free loan for the development of cricket facilities.
The BBC sports competitions have involved 100,000 children in 6,000 schools in cricket; more than 14,000 clubs in communities have given rise to 333 accredited trainers; £9.4 million has been invested in focus clubs to improve facilities for young people; lottery money has been put into primary schools; and the "Chance to Shine" scheme aims to regenerate cricket in state schools by providing £50 million over 10 years for facilities, equipment and coaching.
I turn to the matter of volunteers. Cricketforce was a community-based programme in which volunteers spent significant time and money—around £15 million to £20 million—to undertake major renovations of clubhouses and grounds. More than 665 clubs all over the country took part involving some 50,000 people.
Other development initiatives from the England and Wales Cricket Board involve primary school activities such as Kwikcricket, Howzat, a teaching and learning programme, and the Pride Side, aimed to encourage children aged six and over to have an interest in cricket. In secondary schools, that is intercricket (also played in cricket summer schools and coaching programmes) and a county cricket programme for disabled players that has been set up with substantial funding.
For more talented players there are 800 district squads, 34 county squads, nine cricket academies and, of course, the national academy for cricket, which has improved the game enormously. There is, thus, a pathway from grassroots to senior level. In addition, local communities organise themselves into cricket squads of various kinds.
These cricket initiatives are unprecedented in recent times and are doing much to improve performances in competitive cricket at county and national level. Getting Australia out for 79 is not a bad start. Somerset beating Australia yesterday is not a bad start either.
I believe that schools are crucial in discovering and fostering talent. Many young people would not have discovered that they had a talent for sport if it had not been for their school. So, I want to ask the Minister a general question about support for health-related fitness in schools and for the chance to play sport. Are we giving enough time and encouragement to school sport? Are we providing enough facilities and coaches?
I believe that sport and the arts—two subjects covered by our debates today—are vital to the life of a civilised society. We should encourage appreciation and participation from an early age in all communities both for their own sakes and to combat anti-social behaviour and encourage regeneration.
My Lords, I, too, begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Pendry for initiating and introducing this debate today. His commitment to sport both in this House and in the other place is very well known to us all. His experience and knowledge are outstanding.
We have a glittering array of speakers here today, showing the strength of interest that they have in this topic. As this is a sporting debate, I say at the outset that mine will be a speech of two halves. I shall deal with the "now", both in general terms and with specific reference to tennis, which provides us with a clear model as designed by a major governing body, and then with my view of the future and how sport could and should be organised nationally.
My noble friend is so right to welcome the Government's positive commitment to the place of sport in our society. Picking up in 1997 when the profile of sport, and particularly the place of sport in the lives of young people, was depressingly low, we see a major turnaround in the importance our Government have given to the promotion of sport in its widest sense.
Perhaps all the publicity about obesity in adults and children has helped focus attention on more active lifestyles. That in turn has made us look critically at the diminished sport on offer in the school curriculum for all our youngsters. Thus health, sport and education have become inextricably linked. That development is to be welcomed.
However, whenever I speak about sport I always remind my listeners that sport is so much more than that. It can transform lives by creating a lifelong involvement in a specific activity and as such is a crucial ingredient in promoting social inclusion. And, of course, sport is fun. Thus all the initiatives that my noble friend so clearly outlined fall into context in the overall blueprint to create a sporting nation. Of course, by creating the widest possible grassroots participation we are well on course to create sporting excellence. From that success flows the spur to emulate our sporting heroes. We need those role models to galvanise future generations.
Like my noble friend Lord Pendry I welcome and acknowledge the huge injection of funds to facilitate our sporting expansion. Money for school sport, the setting up of centres of excellence and the encouragement of local clubs to become community amateur sports clubs are all invaluable and are already bearing fruit. The support for the British Olympic bid cannot be underestimated. Could there be a more public commitment to sport than a Government giving the bid the most outstanding backing from the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the Sports Minister? No nation could have had more wholehearted commitment brilliantly led by the noble Lord, Lord Coe.
I turn to a sport that is close to my heart—tennis. Government thinking is being echoed by the governing bodies with shared ambition to create an inclusive, vibrant and successful sporting nation.
I start with the LTA and its determination to produce more and better players. To that end it is pledged to increase the number of juniors playing tennis by 5 per cent a year, to modernise a vibrant network of clubs and to identify, develop and support the most talented players and achieve six players in the world top 100 by 2009. That is all entirely worthwhile. Those pledges are backed by "heavy" money coming not only from the LTA's source, the All England Championships, but additionally, and for the first time, from a very sizeable injection of government money to the tune of £16.5 million over the next four years.
The tennis club where I play constitutes a "village" with young and old playing side by side. It is a safe environment. Parents are assured of children's well-being. Like all habits—even good ones—the tennis habit once established can go on and on. That is why the LTA is focusing on clubs as the vehicle for development. Thus loans, grants and schemes linking clubs, schools and communities are at the top of the LTA's priorities. Alongside and additional to clubs the LTA is providing a framework for getting youngsters started. The first city tennis club in Hackney opened in 2001. There are now 28 such clubs nationwide and more than 25,000 kids a week are receiving coaching through the scheme. As has already been said, coaches are absolutely key to success. The LTA is creating more career opportunities to ensure that coaching standards rise and that all coaches are licensed to provide better protection for youngsters.
Sports colleges are the cornerstone of the Government's sporting package and the LTA has invested £1.5 million in creating indoor and outdoor facilities at those centres. Equally important is the need to upgrade tennis teaching skills in our schools. In the past academic year, 1,750 primary school teachers, 550 secondary school teachers and 750 students attended tennis courses. Their forehands can only get better.
While that LTA programme looks rosy, it is not without its critics. Tennis is still seen as a middle-class, elitist activity. So Tennis for Free has stepped into the ring in the form of Tony Hawks and his allies in a campaign to open up under-used and often run-down public park courts, refurbish them and offer coaching free of charge on a regular basis. Pilot schemes are already up and running in Merton and they are very successful. There is support from the LTA but not for the "for free" concept. That argument is yet to be resolved but as a believer in creative conflict, I know that both sides are wholeheartedly working for the better future of tennis.
I heard Billie-Jean King this morning endorsing the "for free" concept, especially as her illustrious career began on public courts in California. Indeed, here we are on the threshold of a new generation of young stars. We all looked with delight at Andy Murray last week at the Stella Artois tournament at Queen's. I am telling you; he is the real deal. He is the best technically that I have seen for years. He is also not what we are used to. He is fiery, thank heavens. As for his mother Judy, she is something else. I have known her for years and always admired her feisty play even when pitched against us at Oxfordshire at county week. Noble Lords may recall that for years Judy Murray was the Scottish number one. Well, there will be no more stiff upper lips from this tennis mum. A moment I will cherish at Queen's last week was when Andy fell down for the first time is of Judy shouting, "Get up and play!". That's my girl!
I hope that the media will treat Andy better than they have treated Tim Henman. Tim has been quite wonderful; his record of 10 years in the top 10 is unparalleled in any other major sport in this country; yet he has been derided as a loser. It has hurt the player both on and off court and it has been unforgivable. So, just in case anyone in the media is listening today, could we ask for fair treatment? Do not build a player up and then take pleasure in knocking him down. In that respect, let us become American or French; let us support and sustain our players through their highs and lows. That way, we could just have some stars in the making.
That is enough of the now; what of the future? Before making an argument for radical change in the way that sport is run in this country, I offer a few facts. Here, I echo the statistics given by the noble Lord, Lord Monro, because a good statistic is always worth repeating. In the UK, the Government spend £21 per capita; Germany spends £30 per capita; Australia spends £51 per capita; and France spends £112 per capita. The Prime Minister was quoted earlier this year saying that the Government do not run sport and nor should they. I may challenge that. The result of that strategy is that for decades successive governments have taken totally reactive responses to sport. Their strategy has been piecemeal, and the provision of even basic sporting facilities is a total lottery. Some far-sighted local authorities have taken it upon themselves to provide more than their mandatory obligations; others considerably less.
What makes a child take up sport? First, it is the introduction from family. In fact, children with mothers who take part in sport are 80 per cent more likely to take up sport themselves. An early introduction to sport through primary schools is sadly often offered by a reluctant junior member of staff with little or no physical education training. Crucially, proximity to facilities is important; living nearby within either walking or cycling distance to a club greatly enhances the likelihood of take-up. Thus clubs in urban areas, often fairly small, must be given protection from "nimbys" and encouragement to upgrade their facilities. In rural areas some parish councils take good responsibility, but the myth that children in villages have plenty of space in which to exercise and play is totally unfounded. They often have less formal and informal open space at their disposal.
I have laid out my prejudices. What proposals do I offer to the Prime Minister to transform the situation? First, let us be clear that there must be a Cabinet place for the Sports Minister, as sport in all forms and for many reasons is at the top of the agenda, the Minister must be able to influence Cabinet thinking not as some add-on later outside. Secondly, let us deal fundamentally with provision, not only of facilities but coaches, sport in schools and with volunteers within the sporting matrix. Let us take stock of the per capita funding outlined earlier. In other words, though it grieves me to say it, in this aspect France is right.
I hope that the Minister will be able to look at the responsibilities and suggestions that I have made. Unless we do so, there will be a high price to pay. For radical change to happen we must have a political consensus. I am suggesting a sporting revolution. Would one way of achieving that consensus be to set up a Royal Commission for sport? All sides of the argument could have a say and perhaps lay the foundation for a most profound change. That way forward lies our success.
My Lords, like all noble Lords who have spoken, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for securing this debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, said in her contribution, before this debate some of us had been taking part in another debate about the arts and their role in regenerating communities. I start linking those by declaring an interest in both those subjects. I am currently chairing an inquiry in Manchester funded by the Whitbread Foundation, whose terms of reference are,
"to encourage decision makers to maximise the contribution that the arts and sport can make to encourage young people to engage in work, education and training".
It is important to remember in generating interest among our young people in becoming citizens of the country that the contribution that both the arts and sport have to make to that process should be linked and encouraged.
"We know that sport can help to reduce crime, increase social inclusion, build sustainable communities and address inequalities".
Of the two phrases that the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, used about the game plan of increasing international success or increasing participation, I will concentrate on increasing participation, because that is what I am looking at in particular in the context of Manchester. I confirm the remarkable change that has come about in Manchester as a result of the Commonwealth Games. It has provided an impetus and an inspiration for Manchester that is tangible and touches many things other than sport.
In another place on
"an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man".
The only raw material that every nation has in common is its people. Woe betide it if it does not do everything that it can to identify, nurture and develop the talents of its people. By that I mean all its people. Nowhere is that process more appropriate than in sport.
The subject of the debate is "sporting excellence". What Manchester has done about that has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry. I should like to refer to the deliberate effort of Manchester City Council and Manchester Leisure to start a process whereby individuals could have talent identified in the community or at school that could be taken forward to international level. That came up with an idea of the talent identification being matched by provision in 11 sports, up to and including international level, because it was backed up by mentors or experts at all levels and backed up by facilities. In other words, the marriage of facilities and facilitators at all levels enabled each of them to be accommodated. Particularly important in that were a large number of sports clubs, which had a role wider than providing the sports facility, because they provided a social context in which the people taking part developed relationships among themselves that went outside and beyond the playing field.
Having succeeded in that, they have continued the process in two areas, first in leisure and adventure activities in parks, making canoeing and rock climbing and so on available; and secondly in 1995 they moved on to reach those in care and foster homes and those refugees and asylum seekers who were coming into Manchester to make certain that all their talents were identified. Instead of sporting clubs they developed community clubs in which those partaking in those activities could follow that up with social relationships as well.
In addition, to make sure that funding was available to help out and that people did not always have to go into that extraordinary drawn-out procedure of trying to apply for government money—which can take many months—they set up a contingency fund in Manchester so that bright ideas could be instantly financed and sustained, because the one lesson that seems to have come out of all this is the need to break away from annuality in those developments and have three-to-five-year funding to make sure that they be continued.
Among all that there is a remarkable figure whose name has already been mentioned: Geoff Thompson. He was born in Manchester: his father died when he was five, he came to south London with his mother, where, having a Manchester accent, he was picked on by people in south London. We can imagine the result: fighting and activities that are now called anti-social, which ended up with Thompson in a young offender establishment. He there came into contact with a Japanese karate instructor. We now fast forward to Geoff Thompson, captain of the Great Britain gold medal-winning karate team, having developed what he was inspired to do by someone he met in a young offender institution.
He then considered, if sport had been the way that had lifted him out of the trough he was in, what could he do to enable others to do the same. So he formed something called the Youth Charter for Sport, Culture and the Arts and went to look for mentors to go into the hard areas of Manchester to try to encourage people out of it. I first met him in a prison outside Manchester recruiting sportsmen from prison whom he felt would be easily able to relate to the people whom he wished to attract.
We then fast forward a bit further to Geoff Thompson being awarded an MBE for his work in helping to promote the Commonwealth Games. Geoff Thompson is now an agent for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, one hopes building on all those activities in the city, recognised by the people at the bottom who are causing all the trouble as someone who has come there and done it.
To me that emphasises the importance of role models, and particularly sporting role models among our young. We must not underestimate their potential for weaning people into leading useful, law-abiding and healthy lives with social responsibility. I am fascinated how, in all this process, I find marvellous work being done by Manchester City football club and tremendous work being done by the Bradford Bulls rugby league club among that ethnic cocktail in Bradford. There is also a development by Chelsea, working with Youth at Risk, to develop sport not just as sport itself but also the lessons for life that come from team games, discipline, fitness and integrating with others.
Therefore I feel very much that sporting excellence has a role in developing social responsibility that should not be ignored. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Carter, mention the role of the private sector. I should like to commend him not just for the marvellous work of Sport England but for the work that his regional representatives do around the country. It is helping hugely.
When thinking of social responsibility one can also think of corporate social responsibility and the role that the corporate organisations in communities have in developing those communities. I would like to see in all the programmes and plans that are made the government part including the corporate sector in the partnership of those people who are providing the facilities for helping people through this life.
I believe firmly that the importance of developing sport in local communities is not only what it does for those communities and those who live in them but what it does for the future. That future is pressed on by concentrating on sporting excellence as driving up the standard of everything, so we could say that sporting excellence is a way to community excellence.
My Lords, let me first join the queue and thank my noble friend Lord Pendry for initiating the debate. I must register an interest in that this week I became a member of the board of the Football Foundation; or at least I believe I did. I had something of a misspent youth: when I was at school I played a lot of snooker. In my defence it was in a local temperance hall, but my teacher said, "You'll never get into university".
When I got to university I played even more squash, and my tutor said, "You'll never go on to postgraduate work". When I went on to postgraduate work I chose to write a dissertation on the sociology of sport, which was not the thing to do in those days. I was at the London School of Economics, and if one was at the London School of Economics one studied work, not sport and leisure. My supervisor said, "You'll never get to teach in a university". When I got to teach in a university I sustained the interest in sport that I developed as a graduate student because sport makes a massive difference to people's lives. It matters an awful lot to an awful lot of people.
We live in a world that is rapidly changing, that is marked by the intersection between the global and the local. Nothing is a clearer exposition of that than sport, especially football. If we look at the last World Cup, the statistics are amazing. If I were to ask noble Lords how many people watched the last World Cup on television, you might not be able to tell me, but the number was 28.8 billion people over the 25 days during which the contest unfolded: four times the population of the world.
The 2002 Cup Final was watched by 1.1 billion people simultaneously: the most-watched event in the whole of human history. I do not know whether one is allowed to tell jokes in the House of Lords, but if I am excommunicated it was very nice to know you all. A man arrives at the gates of heaven and St Peter is waiting for him. He says: "I'm afraid I can't let you in unless you've done something either extraordinarily good or brave". The man reflects and says, "Yes, I did do something brave: I used to be a football referee. I was refereeing an important game between Liverpool and Everton. The score was 0-0; it was at Anfield; there was one minute to go and I gave a penalty against Liverpool at the Kop End". St Peter says, "That was indeed brave. When did this happen?"; and the man says, "Three minutes ago".
Sport is inspirational and aspirational. We cannot say that of many of our activities. That gives sport a fabulous transformative power. In the bulk of what I have to say I would like to discuss how far the transformative power of sport can be harnessed to social objectives and concentrate especially on the connection between sport and social exclusion. If we cannot solve some of the problems of social exclusion, we will not achieve the excellence in sport that this country needs.
It is important to recognise that the Government have been active on that front as have been a number of other voluntary organisations. In 1999, a study was carried out by the University of Loughborough on sport and social exclusion. It was commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and was fastened on to by the Social Exclusion Unit in No. 10. It became the basis of PAT 10—Public Action Team 10—which came up with a range of important proposals for utilising sport as a means of regenerating communities and overcoming social divisions. One also has to mention the communities action programme that Sport England has initiated.
Social exclusion is not the same as poverty. It is a better concept than poverty, because poverty is only one form of social exclusion. Social exclusion is whatever separates us from the mainstream of social life. I would like to comment briefly on three areas of social exclusion in relation to the role of sport. One is economic differences. Poorer people in this country participate far less in sport than more affluent people. The second is gender differences, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Monro. Women participate less in sporting and physical activities in the UK than men, which is not true in some other countries. The third is the question of most of us sitting or sleeping here— older people. Older people also fare poorly in sporting statistics in this country. Only 21 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women in this country do the recommended 30 minutes of exercise, four days a week, which is an appalling statistic.
Briefly, what can one do in those three areas? On the role of sport in regenerating communities and overcoming social divisions, the Government must recognise—as must anyone involved in the administration of sport, such as my noble friend Lord Carter—that sport often accentuates social divisions. It represents wider social divisions. To say that sport can simply and easily overcome them is disingenuous and false. I spent a lot of my life in Cambridge, which is radically divided in terms of sports facilities. The colleges have an amazing range of grounds for all kinds of sports. On the other side of town, you have a few recreation grounds for the whole of the rest of the town.
We know that sport is divisive, too. If you are a Tottenham supporter, who do you hate most? You should know if you come from north London. We were all brought up to hate either the Arsenal or Tottenham depending on which side of the fence we were on. Those communities that are closest often tend to have most animosity, so sport divides as well as integrates.
Nevertheless, we know that sport can play a major role in community regeneration. The work of PAT 10 and Sport England is important on that. We have learnt that sport—like the arts, discussed this morning—has to be integrated with community development programmes. You cannot simply have sport as an add-on factor. To have a positive effect, you have to use sport and what I described as its aspirational and inspirational qualities in direct conjunction with a range of other programmes.
By now, we know how that can be successful. For example, the Leyton Orient community sports scheme works in Tower Hamlets and a couple of other deprived communities. It has been very successful, because the people involved have not just sent one or two footballers down for the odd Sunday afternoon when they are not fully employed. They have been involved in a detailed and continuous way with leaders and ordinary people in the community. They speak regularly to teachers, doctors, business leaders and many others in the local community. You must engage in a positive way with the whole community.
What about gender divisions, which are so important to sporting activity and the health of the nation? I looked at some material on the United States, which is really interesting compared to the UK. The United States has a significant organisation in its centre for research on girls and women in sport. I do not think that we have something wholly analogous here, but we probably should. The organisation is practical as well as intellectual. In the United States—not wholly because of that organisation—you have a massive surge in women's participation in sport and physical activities, so that the statistics there look very different from those here. There, more women than men take part in sport and physical activity—55 million women compared to 43 million men.
We should aim for the same thing. There are problems, because class division again expresses itself through sport. Poor women in the United States are especially subject to obesity and other illnesses associated with lack of physical activity. There is a major class division to be overcome there, as in this country. If we cannot overcome such divisions, we will not be able to mobilise the power of sport.
Finally, I turn to older people, including most of us sitting here. A lot of discussion of older people in this country has been about pensions and, in many of them, older people are treated as a problem. Why should we not treat older people as a solution? In our own lives, why should we not treat ageing as a positive process, not just a negative one? Of course ageing is a physical phenomenon and is, in some degree, inescapable. However, studies of ageing recently are extremely interesting. They show that, on the latest estimate, about 40 per cent of the ageing process in the body is the result of not taking exercise and the accumulation of bodily fat that results.
Fauja Singh started running aged 81. He ran his first London Marathon aged 89, and has since run five of them. He is well into his 90s. Last weekend, he was due to be running in a relay marathon in Edinburgh. His team of five people had a total age of 400 years. Whether they won the event, I do not know.
I come into the House quite a few days and see the coat hooks, which I think remind us all so much of our school days. We are all older people. I would like to come into the House in two years from now and see far more tracksuits than sticks hanging on the hooks, and I would like to see that to be as true of noble Baronesses as of noble Lords.
My Lords, I shall take my first comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham. This is a debate on which there is actually little difference between us when we look at what is going on. One of the most worrying things about such debates is the fact that we agree with each other. We can go back and talk about the problems and why sport is in this state today. The "he said, she said" debate with which we started does not really help us, because the fact is that in 1997 sport was in a mess. That was the unintentional consequence of certain things that happened, particularly in the schools sector under the Conservative government.
However, the development that has undoubtedly helped us to reconstruct sport—the lottery—was done under the Conservative government. It has been raided by everyone ever since. That started with the Conservatives when they expanded the initial number of causes and set the precedent. If we can all take from the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, the idea of growing up and working together because there is not that much between us, we will get a little further.
I say that in the full knowledge that the recent publication of the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, was almost exactly the same in tone and emphasis as our party's recently constructed policy. That is probably because we spoke to the same people; much will come down to that. Also, many of the problems that it points out are ones that we experienced. Politicians are an incredibly bad group to talk about sport. We like to talk about misery, expenditure and 126 or 127 local government priorities. You cannot "coffin wave" about social services. The proposal that a group of us tried to put through, but were stopped, at our party conference was trying to link sport to health, taking the healthcare budget and getting someone big and powerful behind you to push the issue up the agenda. We should use the Westminster model of, "We want our Bill". It did not happen. There are universal problems and if we in this place are interested, we can achieve something.
Creating a great deal of fuss over the mess that sport was in has raised its political agenda. That included the arguments about playing fields. We realise that they are still being sold off and ask what is happening. But then you address the education budget and say, "Well we do not need the playing field for educational purposes, so let's get rid of it". If you are an education person, that is unarguable. I shall try to return to the subject of local sport, but the fact is that school sports fields were where virtually every amateur sports club held its first fixture. They were free of dog mess, you could play rugby on them without fear of losing an eye through infection and they were better maintained than the public park.
The public park is a second option, but is one element of an issue where everything must be brought together. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, fairly pointed out to me, as Sport England did a few months ago, that we do not just need playing fields any more, because artificial surfaces are good. That is fine until you all want to play on them at the same time. One large field can be marked out for several different sports and you can have many matches, including rugby and football, happening at different times. You cannot do that with greater investment in just one pitch. One needs an area on the ground where people can take part in organised sporting activities at a similar time.
One important factor has stopped sporting activity going into free fall in this country. Privately funded and owned amateur sports clubs have filled the gap. That is particularly true in our traditional sports of rugby, football and cricket, where a group of people have gathered together, purchased a ground and maintained it themselves. They have done that with virtually no government assistance. We have only recently started giving them taxation breaks—something that my noble friend Lord Phillips has been instrumental in—by gathering a group of us together.
As a political class, we have not taken a grip on what sport can do. We must all pay attention to it. Half of the errors in this field would not have been made if the people in political parties and their opponents had coherently, without being too partisan, pointed out what would happen. We all share blame for the problems and thus we can all take credit for a few of the improvements. If we continue to push forward on a united front, this House, whose great strength as a revising Chamber is dealing with fine detail, will have a greater responsibility for action in that field than even another place. We must address this as a group.
The recent publication from the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, pointed out wonderfully on page 224 how funding followed a "drunken spider's map". It is a simplified version. It looks like a madman has tried to travel between two points. Funding chases around itself for alternative sources and different departments become involved. That is without taking into account the internal politics of sport, involving the established "old boy" set-ups—the blazer brigade who defend their own territory and refuse to accept outside intervention. That world must be taken by the scruff of the neck and shaken hard.
Key factors must be addressed. One is that people drop out of sport at an alarmingly higher rate after leaving school in our society than virtually anywhere else. Part of that may be the historical problems that I have mentioned, but one of the main problems is that we have never fully developed the link between club and school. Everyone now agrees with that. The only disagreement that I have come across here in recent years is that when people say "school sport", I would say "school age sport". No single model will fit all. You should probably start by considering local circumstances.
I hope that we will always remember that the traditional second-rate public school model of playing for your school definitely does not work. It never did. As a student in Aberdeen, I was astounded by the number of ex-schoolboy rugby internationals who never wanted to see another rugby ball again the minute they got away from that school environment, because they did not want to play the game. They were just good athletes who were told that that was their prestige sport. We must ensure that people play a sport because they want to play it and we must allow them to sample enough sports within the cultural environment to find out which one is theirs.
Noble Lords have spoken about whether new sports such as tennis should be tried, as the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, mentioned. It is traditionally one of the most class-ridden sports in Great Britain. We must try to introduce that game as not being something that most people watch for, say, six weeks of the year. I was about 12 before I realised that tennis was played outside the Wimbledon forum. The sport must be made available and not be an interaction whereby you nick the balls from public parks. We must take it further and we are doing better.
Indeed, the great bug-bear for child activity is the interesting concept, the "rampant passivity" that was mentioned by a noble Lord. The flip-side of having a TV in every room is that people see other sports and realise that there are other things out there. We must maintain pressure on all the broadcasters to show that other sports are there. Ensuring that the final of the European women's final for football was on television and that women could go out there and play this game was a great achievement. The gender gap is not there. It has been knocked aside.
What is required to achieve higher levels of participation in sport? I have no time to mention levels of excellence, other than the fact that they do not sit as well with amateur and local sport as you might think, because it may never experience excellence if that is being selected and taken away at an early age. If you know at 16 that you are a potential champion, you probably do not want to play in your local first-11 or 15, or the local tennis tournaments. You want to play with the other elite kids of your age.
We must ensure that participation levels are increased by making sure that people have access to knowledge about sports as well as playing the sports themselves—probably in that order. It must be seen as a positive model. Government must ensure that we simplify the stream and that it is more integrated into our society—either as an educational or a health benefit because sport needs something hard pushing at it. I fully accept that the arts may be similar and might achieve many of the same things in terms of social welfare. Sport has shown itself to be too diverse and inward looking to push itself to the top of the agenda.
Government must put sport into the political process so that it can obtain the prestige to bring itself to the forefront. Unless we can find a way forward, we will come back and talk again and again. It will happen every time the next fad or fashion pushes sport to the back of the agenda, or when a degree of complacency creeps in. It has happened in the past and, unless we watch out, it will happen again.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing this debate. He has been a friend of sport for many years. He and I met through our lives in sport. At the time, he was in politics and I was still in sports administration, many more years ago than he would care for me to tell your Lordships, but it was at least 30.
Sport is an area in which I have had a lifelong interest. In line with what other noble Lords have said, it has certainly played a significant role in shaping my life from the age of about 13 until this very day, when I find myself still involved, and enjoying the involvement, in sport and in sport administration.
We are all aware that the Olympic Games are very topical at the moment, as we wait to hear the result of the 2012 bids on
I am a little disappointed that, heading into the final straight, we are in only the silver medal spot at the moment. I put that down to the Government's somewhat indolent attitude when they first started to get the ball moving, as one or two noble Lords have indicated. However, having seen the time that it took HMG to get under way on this major project, I do not have a great deal of confidence in their commitment to promoting, supporting and funding sport at local level.
I turn to the broader issue of sport in communities, which I have always felt is, or should be, cross-departmental and, therefore, in need of a clear, firm strategy. That has been reflected by other noble Lords. I suggest that sport, its effects and consequences, have repercussions for three main departments: first, the Department for Education and Skills, with its remit for the physical education and recreation of those in schools and colleges; secondly, the Home Office, which has to tackle a growing number of youths receiving ASBOs for causing trouble on the streets and similar problems; and, lastly, but certainly not least important, the Department of Health, which is fighting a losing battle against the problems caused by obesity in children, with the ramifications that that has for our society as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, made some very interesting points both for the young and for older people.
One would have thought that with such a large organisational task, Her Majesty's Government would be practising the joined-up government approach which I have spoken about on at least two occasions in your Lordships' House in debates on sport and about which we hear so much, and yet there does not seem to be any clear strategy at all—in fact, quite the opposite.
It cannot be stated too strongly that advances made in promoting and facilitating sport at a local level will have a knock-on effect and will save money across all departments. If our young people were given the promised extra two hours of sport a week—two years ago I was promised that in a debate—they would be less likely to be obese, they would have less time on their hands to cause trouble in the streets, and I suggest they would have more energy in the classroom, with perhaps less energy to get into mischief afterwards. Can the Minister give us some indication of whether HMG have a coherent policy or action plan working across departments? From where I am standing, that does not seem to be so.
Furthermore, if one examines the Government's efforts over the past eight years, one is struck by a complete failure to make even the smallest impact on the problem nationally. There has been initiative after initiative. This afternoon, we have heard of a number of individual initiatives, but where are the positive national results? As the title of this debate makes very clear, only by focusing on the development and support of sport at a local level can we hope to achieve the kind of sporting excellence to which we should aspire.
I have one positive thing to say about the Government's programme. I have been reading with interest about the so-called "Kelly hours" that will enable young people to be dropped off at school earlier and picked up later in the day. That will enable parents to work longer hours and allow young people to enjoy such activities as free sports coaching, which is a great idea. However, as I read the articles in the newspapers I had a strange sense of déjà vu. On re-reading the Conservative Party election manifesto, I came across this passage:
"We will give every child the right to two hours of after-school sport with our Club2School programme, at no cost to parents".
That begs the question: what is Ruth Kelly's bedtime reading?
I shall say something else positive about the Government's approach to sport. They are not shy of throwing money at the problem. I say "throwing money", but I should probably say "promising money". In his keynote speech to the Labour Party conference in 2000, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said:
"Today we set out plans to invest £750 million of lottery money in schools and community sport as part of a £1 billion investment over three years".
"I have told the new opportunities fund that I want some fast-tracking in the distribution of the £750 million for school sport: I want things to start happening by the summer".—[Hansard, Commons, 1/3/05; col. 999.]
Clearly, we were being led to believe that the money is there and the Government are keen to spend it. However, by
"We welcome Labour's announcement supporting more sport in our schools. However, Tony Blair's Government have consistently failed to deliver on school sport in the past seven years, so why should we believe his promises now? . . . Since 1997, participation in sport has gone down and we have the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe. Despite all Labour's manifesto commitments, our children are still losing out on vital sporting opportunities. Announcing sports policy is one thing, having the commitment to implement it is quite another".
I do not believe that anything has changed very much.
The Government need to address this policy now. They need action, where before we had only words and initiatives. We need answers from them as to why they are holding back from committing these promised funds. If, as I have just argued, only a fraction of the £750 million lottery funds have been invested, can we imagine that a similar proportion of the promised total £1 billion has been distributed? Of the money that has been invested, what transparency has there been to show that the money is filtering down to sport at local and grassroots levels? I fear that it may simply fuel the new sports bureaucracy rather than making any real difference to our young people and communities.
Under this Government and their predecessors, bureaucracy has burgeoned in sport. We now have nine regional sports bodies, nine regional sports councils and nine regional institutes for sport. One body, UK Sport, funds our elite athletes and another, Sport England, funds the sports development programmes. Tessa Jowell herself has admitted that it is a nightmare. We need an overhaul, as my noble friend from the Liberal Democrat Benches said, of these bodies, which suck dry our sports funding and greater accountability.
The funding of sport in this country is a total mess. The Government have had eight years in which to sort out the national administration of sport to their liking. In my view, they have achieved remarkably little. The negative aspects are more bureaucracy, fewer playing fields—mostly sold off by Labour-controlled local authorities, as they were in our day—less money at the coal face in real terms and, finally, a stealth tax on community sports clubs through payment of rates and licensing fees.
The biggest disaster of all, which has already been mentioned, is that there is less National Lottery money available for sport, thanks to the Government's continuous smash-and-grab raids on the lottery proposed in the Bill currently in the other place, where it has had its Second Reading.
My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate which has covered every conceivable dimension of sport and almost all sports. Our gratitude is due to my noble friend Lord Pendry for introducing this debate on the basis of his very long experience of promoting policies in this area.
This is a very challenging time for sport. The enhanced expectations of our nation are that expenditure on sport produces more effective performance. I take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and will seek to answer some of them. But would this Government be criticised more if they were not spending two-and-a-half times the amount on sport which the previous Government spent in 1997?
I hear what the noble Lord says about the problems of structure. We all recognise that there is complexity and I shall be identifying the way in which we are cutting through some it and guaranteeing that resources hit the target. However, I will not accept from the Opposition that somehow this commitment to extra expenditure on sport is misplaced. I do not see how, in any other walk of life, we can expect improved performance without increased resources, and I do not see that it is true of sport.
So I make no apology for the fact that we are increasing our expenditure on sport. Nor do I worry unduly about criticisms of certain aspects of the policy on school playing fields. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Monro, said. It was during his administration and, to a degree, on his watch as Minister for Sport—although I know that the Minister for Sport is not directly responsible for school playing fields—that the problem with selling off school playing fields reached crisis point. In 1997, we as a Government committed ourselves to introducing legislation which tightened up the procedures considerably and ensured that school playing fields would not be sold except in the most exceptional circumstances.
Such exceptional circumstances mean that all-weather pitches or interior facilities are superior to the retention of outdoor playing fields, with all the weaknesses they sometimes demonstrate of "unplayability" at certain times. Where facilities are enhanced by the provision of improved indoor facilities, there can be a case for the sale of the playing fields. However, that process which went on for two decades under the previous administration has largely been brought to a halt by this Administration. That is our commitment.
My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord says; indeed, there is some justice in it. But is any structure envisaged whereby if a school does not need its playing fields and other people do, they can try and defend keeping them? I have asked this question time and time again, because we do not seem to be talking to each other. I have not heard an answer about it from anybody.
My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord says. He is absolutely right that we cannot afford to under-use educational facilities because the wider community can benefit from them. But the advantage of the commitment to extend the school day is the greater use of such facilities. It enhances the possibility of increasing young people's participation in sport and brings a community dimension to educational facilities of the greatest significance.
Of course I am cognisant of the noble Lord's point. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Giddens referred to Cambridge where the educational sector can be enormously resource-rich, while the wider community surrounding it is relatively resource-poor. We need to address those issues and the facilities available. There is no doubt that it is necessary to have a strategy for encouraging commitment, interest and the value of sport. That is why we make no bones about putting a great deal of emphasis on sport for young people. Sport can indeed transform the lives of young people by developing their self-discipline, motivation, team-working skills and self-confidence.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred to team sports and of course we recognise their value. We are introducing schemes for team management and in particular for sports competitions to encourage schools to compete in team games. We recognise the benefits that derive from them for those who wish to participate.
I accept entirely the point of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. He gave a graphic illustration of an exceptional and outstanding case; the transformation of Geoff Thompson's life by the development of a skill in sport. Everybody in this House can testify to the fact that they know the transformational qualities of sport. We must provide such opportunities for people, not least because they tackle a range of other problems.
We can improve social inclusiveness. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and my noble friend Lord Giddens said that our health policy, concerned with reducing levels of obesity, needs to draw upon sporting participation. There is a clear link between encouraging young people at school to participate in sport and reducing the levels of obesity present in that group—they are certainly present in our adult population. We need to inculcate good habits early in life. That is a key challenge to which we are committed.
We intend that by 2010 all children will be offered at least four hours of sport every week. This will consist of two hours of high-quality PE and sport at school and, in addition, the opportunity for at least a further two to three hours beyond the school day, delivered by a range of school, community and club providers.
I accept that we need to recognise the beneficial effects which sport has on being able to call upon a high level of voluntary support and commitment. It is one of the areas of our national life in which we should delight; we all know of many members of our community who devote a great deal of their spare time to the work of their sports clubs, perhaps long after their own sporting careers might have ended. In some cases, they may not have had a sporting career but are drawn to and interested in developing a sport for others. That voluntary commitment is a resource that we ought to treasure, and we ought to recognise that it brings enormous benefits to the nation. That is why we are concerned to develop club links.
My noble friend Lady Billingham emphasised the issue with regard to tennis. In tennis and a range of other sports, we need to build up links between schools and clubs and encourage progression from school to club. We must make sure that clubs are interested in what is provided in schools and enhance the facilities and opportunities that exist in the schools. In that context, I mention the Football Foundation, of which my noble friend Lord Pendry is president and which my noble friend Lord Giddens has, he said today, just joined. The Football Foundation is an important model for the way in which clubs can be encouraged to relate to the community and develop interest, support and commitment. We all recognise that football clubs, above all, have the added glamour of a sport that, in television terms, has the most outstanding appeal.
Football has played its part, but our other major team sports, such as cricket, tennis and rugby, need to follow. We are prepared to back that with resources. We are putting an extra £35 million into the Football Foundation so that it can continue the good work, and we want other sports to recognise the enormous advantages of following that model. It means that we can ensure that young people receive improved coaching support, beyond that which they are likely to be able to obtain in the school itself, and it forges a crucial link between school and club, helping to tackle an issue of which we are all fearful and which we all acknowledge to be one of our worst problems. Participation in school sport may be lower than we want it to be, but we can adopt a strategy to improve that position in schools. However, it is the drop-out rate that is such a worrying factor. Often, the moment that young people leave educational institutions, they are lost to the world of sport and therefore do not develop their own health or create for wider society the benefits that sport brings.
I do not think that anyone expressed doubt in any of the many powerful contributions that have been to the debate about the transformational potential of sport and the way in which it can enhance people's lives. That means that we must get past the barriers that exist, including the much lower rate of participation in sport among girls and women. We must recognise that that section of the community will need the question of the sporting provision that is made for it to be addressed more significantly.
My noble friend Lord Pendry was kind enough to refer to the programme in Oldham that gives deprived youngsters access to football coaching and other footballing opportunities. The issue in Oldham is not just deprivation measured in economic terms; it is deprivation in ethnic terms, too. British football has enhanced opportunities for young people and has brought out some significant stars from the Afro-Caribbean community; one can scarcely think of a major side in Britain that does not have a black player. However, given the large Asian community that we have, one must ask, "Where are the Asian players?". Where has there been the stimulus to bring Asian groups into the sport?
That feature is even more noticeable in other sports. Cricket is a great love of mine, and we all know the talent of the Asian countries in that sport. However, we have been relatively slow in this country to tap into the rich resource that we have of young people who could be great exponents of the game but have been deprived of resources or have been frustrated by the fact that the clubs do not relate closely enough to the schools, so that young people cannot avail themselves of club facilities. That is an important dimension of the targets that sport has to meet.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that we must attack the issue of participation by girls and women in sport, but I want to ally it to the question of deprivation in the ethnic communities with regard to sport and the extent to which our whole community would be greatly enriched if we made progress in that area, too.
Reference has been made to limited participation. When we came to power, we had few robust statistics on participation in sport. I do not take any great pride in the fact that it took us several years to make progress on collecting the essential building blocks of policy: effective and accurate data on the problem. It was not until the health survey in England in 2002–03 that we were able to establish that only 32 per cent of adults in England undertook at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on five or more days of the week; that only 21 per cent of adults participated in sport at least three times a week; and that only 43 per cent of adults participated in active sport at least 12 times a year. That is a poor base for a healthy, committed and participative society. That is why we are concerned to spend the money that, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, fears, we may be spending too slowly. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, may have heard my noble friend Lord Puttnam, as he was closing the previous debate, say that one of the glories about expenditure on the arts from the lottery fund in this country is the range of projects that have not a breath of scandal because of the effective allocation of money and guaranteed security in the use of resources.
My department takes pride in that and we intend to operate the same degree of rigour with regard to both lottery funds and public expenditure from the taxpayer for sport. It is important that, when such initiatives are established, we have clear scrutiny to ensure that they are effective. That is why I make no bones about the fact that in crucial areas we are still involved in learning from the experience of developments in sport that we have initiated since 1997, but now have a blueprint for progress in both national and community sport throughout the country in succeeding years.
I also emphasise that we recognise the issue of the disabled. There is no doubt that the great breakthrough for the disabled in sport has been the development of the Paralympic Games. Britain came second in the medals table in the Sydney Olympics. We achieved the same level in Athens and I assure the House that we intend to ensure that resources are available and encouragement given to our disabled athletes to ensure that in the next Olympics we will reach the same level of performance. That area is a matter for collective pride. Our society has made considerable progress, although I always recognise the enormous need to guard against complacency.
In talking about the Paralympic Games, I also recognise the important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran; namely, that, in the four short weeks until the decision on
I want us to build on the achievements of the past, recognising that sport can provide role models. I am all too conscious of the fact that there can also be unfortunate role models in sport when young people at high levels do not conduct themselves in the way that we would all wish, but we recognise that the vast majority of our leading sportsmen and women set very high standards. We need those models in society to encourage others. That is why I was enormously pleased by the approach of my noble friend Lord Carter in his crucial role through the body that he chairs. He recognises that there is cause for optimism in the strategies being pursued to achieve higher levels than we have previously been able to achieve not just in participation but in achievement.
The attitude that has united us on all sides in this debate—I recognise that justified criticism has been made in certain areas—is that we recognise what capacity sport has to inspire people and bring out the very best in them in every way, not just in sporting excellence but to tackle the crucial problem of the level of the nation's health; and to give young people confidence, because they are engaged in worthwhile pursuits rather than anti-social ones, into which some will fall unless suitably inspired by other models.
The Government are making considerable progress. There is no room for complacency, but we may be holding this debate in advance of a very significant summer for British sport. The important thing is that we must enhance our performance in the future in any case.
My Lords, I congratulate all noble Lords on their contributions to this worthwhile debate. Because of the time, I will not have an opportunity to congratulate each and every one. I thank my noble friend Lord Evans for steering me to speak from a microphone. I have always spoken from that place and I have wondered often why people had not picked up my pearls of wisdom. So, from now on, noble Lords will have a boring time listening to my speeches.
I thought that my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was rather negative and disappointed me somewhat with the tone of his speech, but I agree with him on the selling off of playing fields. I must say that I am a bit guilty because I wrote the part of Labour's manifesto that said "You sold off 5,000 and we wouldn't do anything of the kind". As the noble Lord, Lord Carter, made clear, it is not quite as simple as that. Under-used playing fields have been replaced by well-used playing fields. We now see youngsters playing sport, often under floodlights, where they would not have been able to on normal pitches. I got the balance wrong when I wrote that, and I apologise to everyone who believed every word I said on that occasion—with or without a microphone. However, I would like the Sports Council to be more transparent about where we are at on that issue, because it is very important.
I welcome my noble friend Lord Giddens to the Football Foundation. He referred to the lack of women's and girls' participation in sport, but he will find that there is a success story at the foundation. The fastest-growing sport in the country is women's football. Perhaps my noble friend will be able to contribute to that at the foundation.
Irrespective of party, in this House there is a great love of sport. I thank the Minister for his wind-up speech. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.