Sport in the Community

– in the House of Lords at 1:46 pm on 24 November 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Pendry Lord Pendry Labour 1:46, 24 November 2005

rose to call attention to the role of sport in the community; and to move for Papers.

My Lords, the importance of the Motion before us is such that I am convinced it will receive in the forthcoming contributions from noble Lords the recognition due to it. Sport has a unique propensity to appeal throughout the nation, binding people together in energy, passion and pride. In my speech I intend to touch briefly on the impact of sport in the community at various levels and in various walks of life.

Before I do that, however, it would seem strange to talk about this subject without acknowledging again the great achievement of the noble Lord, Lord Coe, and his team in securing the Olympic and Paralympic Games for this country in 2012. Winning the 2012 Olympics is testimony to the fact that Britain is a great sporting nation with superb facilities at the elite end. But this success does not mean that we should celebrate only the efforts of our country's most talented athletes. It means we also have a duty to ensure that their work and achievements are used to inspire others to get up and get involved.

We must make sure that access to opportunities are available to all, to benefit those who are already inspired to participate, and to act as a means of encouraging those who have either lapsed or have never been inspired to participate in sport in the first place. The Olympic success for London highlights not only the huge passion and involvement Britain has in sport at the very highest level, but will naturally shine a light on the quality of our sporting efforts at lower levels, in local communities and in schools.

As much as we might hope to show how well we can host the Olympics, the importance of sport in the community cannot be overemphasised and we need to ensure that the less glamorous, less televised, and the less high-profile sporting activities which go on all across the country are not overlooked. The 2012 Olympics will no doubt foster scrutiny of the British sports system as a whole, and we should view this as a chance to deliver outstanding success in all areas of sport and make sure we can be as proud of our school and community sport as we can of our champion athletes. Winning the Olympic bid for 2012 should not be a surprise to anyone because in its sports manifesto of 1997 the incoming Labour Government promised that:

"A Labour government would provide wholehearted support to efforts to bring major international events, such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games, to this country."

We have fulfilled one of those aims and I am sure people will also be aware of the recent announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to begin a scoping project for a potential 2018 World Cup bid. As president of the Football Foundation, I am sure that that exercise will be nothing more than a formality.

The foundation's Football Stadia Improvement Fund has ensured that we have stadia of which we can be proud throughout the country—from the heights of the Premiership through to the semi-professional leagues. Once we include the forthcoming Wembley Stadium, it is no idle boast to suggest that we have the facilities to make the English World Cup bid in 2018 the very best there has ever been. I am sure that every Member of this House will back that bid to the hilt.

In my time as president of the Football Foundation, I have been given first-hand experience of the important role that good-quality facilities can play in the community. Stadia from the heights of Manchester United's Old Trafford or Newcastle United's St James's Park, down to the more modest realm of Bower Fold at my own Stalybridge Celtic ground, are natural hubs for the community.

That may seem straightforward enough but, at a time when our lives are increasingly disparate, with the public often erring towards individual needs rather than those of the community, it is important that there is a place where people can come together. Too often in the past, football and other stadia have been the preserve of young white men. Although progress has not been quite as fast as we would have hoped, I am glad to say that that is changing. I commend the work of bodies such as the FA, the RFU, the ECB and others in their attempt to attract a wider and more representative community to engage with and enjoy their sports.

We have made much progress in developing sports stadia but recent years have seen something of an epiphany when it comes to their use. Gone are the days when a facility would be flooded with enthusiasm and light for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon only to remain idle for the next six days. It is clear that communities gravitate towards these places—the homes of their heroes. I congratulate clubs up and down the country which have committed to opening their stadia for a variety of community activities throughout the week.

As your Lordships well know, obesity is a growing problem in our communities. The public health White Paper 2004 states:

"Voluntary sector and community organisations are often much better than the statutory sector at engaging with groups of people who face most difficulties or who do not have access to the traditional sources of advice on health".

The Central Council for Physical Recreation recognises that its members have a key role to play in promoting public health and physical activity. The CCPR has more than 300 members, comprised of voluntary sports clubs, recreational organisations and the national governing bodies of sport, so they are well placed to make that kind of statement. They recognise the value of sport in engaging people in healthy pursuits and in both creating and maintaining happy, balanced communities.

The problem is clear: many of our young people lack enthusiasm and motivation, and one obvious reason for that is that they are unhealthy. Access to sedentary pastimes, which sap a person's energy and vitality, are quite easy to come by compared with access to active pastimes. It is no surprise that that is the case.

Future generations deserve better access to good sporting facilities—not simply to propel them to Olympic glory but to offer them healthier starts to their lives. We need to keep on making efforts to ensure that that happens. Fortunately, much has been done, not just with regard to health but in terms of sport being a vehicle for social inclusion, filling people's lives with a greater sense of purpose and fostering a sense of community.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, along with Kate Hoey MP, recently produced an independent review of sports policy in the UK, which took a constructive approach to the problems that I have described. It is heartening to see that they are aware of the good practice that currently exists and just as aware that much work still needs to be done. Their contribution to the debate on sport is welcomed.

Time will not allow me to highlight many more examples of the value of sport in our communities, but I certainly want to draw your Lordships' attention to a project that I have applauded on more than one occasion in this place—Positive Futures. The project draws on Football Foundation and Home Office funding to help to overcome youth offending in the most deprived communities in the country. Thanks to this programme, tens of thousands of young people are managing to turn their lives around by engaging in sport.

Positive Futures has also been working closely with SkillsActive, the sector skills council for the active leisure and learning sector, to develop new national occupational standards focused on facilitating community-based sport. That will ensure that a high standard of training is delivered to the next generation of youth and sports development officers. Their skills are essential in ensuring that the value of sport is realised in every community. It is pleasing that the Home Office has recognised this good work; it announced only yesterday that it would continue to back Positive Futures. Perhaps other noble Lords will raise that point.

Should noble Lords need to be convinced any further of the impact that sport has on local communities, perhaps one of the greatest examples can be found just five miles down the road. The Mile End stadium—a stadium constructed with a whole new range of floodlit pitches for the community to use—received £1 million from the Football Foundation.

Another scheme in Millwall was led by the Corporation of London—an organisation that perhaps one would not immediately imagine to be closely tied to support and partnership. With the Football Foundation, it has developed a community scheme at Millwall football ground which is first class. The Corporation of London has shown the kind of proactive approach needed to encourage people to engage with sport and to ensure that opportunities are made available to all aspects of the diverse community that it represents.

Sport is not just about having an impact in urban communities. The Labour Party has been accused many times of not attending to the needs of rural communities. But a number of my colleagues, including the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, have committed to delivering a sporting future for rural communities as well. As a member of the All-Party Group on Shooting and Conservation, I express my support for shooting sports. They offer a great sporting outlet which can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age, sex or ability. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has worked hard to include all types of people in the sport and to shed the exclusive image which the sport has had in the past.

Many noble Lords who have shared my passion on this issue will be aware of the tendency of certain outdoor sports to be rather territorial. In the past, that has caused tension and, in some cases, has led to a failure of sports to come together successfully to meet the common goal of participation. One such example is the difficulties encountered by canoeists—or paddlers, as I am told they should be called—where millions of people are denied access to many of the waterways of England and Wales. Admittedly, anglers have a strong case for protecting their right to fish in peace. However, I hope that a sensible compromise can be found so that the millions of anglers and paddlers in this country can enjoy their sports in harmony. I am sure that the British Canoe Union would welcome meaningful talks with the angling and landowning fraternities.

This is an exciting time for sport, not only with the hosting of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games but with the challenges which are to be met in sport at the grass-roots level, where record amounts of funding are going into schools and communities. Much more still has to be done to extract the full value that sport has to offer in every community, and I hope that, as a nation, we will respond to the challenges ahead. I beg to move for Papers.

Photo of Lord Chorley Lord Chorley Crossbench 1:59, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I am glad to be the first to thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for initiating this debate. He brought to us his unrivalled experience of sport—mainly mainstream sport—although at the end, when he got on to the subject of canoeists, he touched on the kind of things that I want to talk about.

I want to speak about those sports which principally take place in the natural environment. They are essentially non-competitive and tend to take place in wild and sometimes hazardous environments. It is that which makes them attractive. I am thinking mainly of mountaineering and rock-climbing; but also, for example, canoeing—which the noble Lord talked about—sailing and even serious hill walking. They are popular. The British Mountaineering Council, for example, had a membership of 56,000 in 2001. A 1993 survey by Mintel reckoned that 700,000 people participated in mountaineering. I must say that I find that quite difficult to believe, but that is what it said. Mountaineers and rock climbers are important to tourism, and therefore to the economies of our hill farming areas—a currently highly relevant point, given the depression in hill farming. They are not spectator sports, but they are practised by young and old.

For the purposes of our debate today, I will concentrate on the forms of the sports as practised by young people. First and foremost, they are healthy activities—an important point in an age of increasing obesity. They are attractive to young people because they are adventurous. I would suggest that man is an explorer by nature, and this is particularly true of the young—pushing into the unknown, testing their limits. Young people need adventure.

Some years ago, the late Lord Hunt of Llanfair Waterdine, John Hunt of Everest—the first director of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme—chaired a group which produced a report on the need for young people to have adventure. This led to the Campaign for Adventure, the subtitle of which was "Risk and Enterprise in Society". Its objective is to influence public attitudes to risk, fostering an attitude that chance, uncertainty, hazard and risk are inescapable dimensions of the human experience. John Hunt believed—as did others including myself—that there was no better way of creating good citizens and promoting a vigorous and enterprising society than by introducing young people to adventure, to identify and manage risk. Mountaineering and rock-climbing are a splendid way of doing this.

Regretfully, we live in an increasingly feather-bedded and risk-averse society. We are increasingly litigious. If something goes wrong, someone must be to blame. If someone can be sued, we are invited to call a lawyer. We are told that schoolteachers and others are becoming increasingly reluctant to take young people on adventurous activities. We are told that insurance arrangements are becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. We will shortly have before us the Compensation Bill. Whether it will make this particular situation better or worse I do not know; I suspect the Minister will not wish to be drawn on that at this stage, and I can quite understand why. It may be important to us, however.

Against that background, I wish to draw attention to two problems which I find worrying. They are quite different, but both could be said to reflect the law of unintended consequences. The first is a draft directive from Brussels called the "Working at Heights" directive. It is to be fleshed out with detailed rules and best practice by the Health and Safety Commission. The directive is, of course, directed at safety rules for high buildings and that sort of thing. The commission takes the view, however, that it must also apply to activities in the natural environment; for example, rock climbing, and even hill walking in difficult country. It maintains this view in spite of a clear opinion from Treasury counsel, commissioned by the Government, which said that there was nothing to prevent these sorts of activities being excluded and treated separately.

The Health and Safety Commission appears to be unwilling to listen to this professional advice from practitioners. Indeed, some of its proposed rules for best practice could, in certain circumstances, be positively dangerous. If the difference between industrial buildings and the natural environment is not recognised, I suggest two things will happen. First, many of the outdoor pursuits organisations, such as local education authorities, the Outward Bound Trust, the professional guides and, perhaps most important of all, the Mountain Leader Training boards, will have to alter, or even restrict, their activities. Secondly, as a consequence, the number of untrained young people going into the hills will perhaps increase and, inevitably, so will the number of accidents.

The second point is quite different. It concerns a knock-on effect of the 2012 Olympics. It appears, so I am told, that UK Sport is shortly to withdraw funding from all non-Olympic sports. In the field of mountaineering and the related activities, I have singled out two which will be badly hit, but I think there are another four or five in the same boat. One is Mountain Leader Training UK, which is the lead body for accredited training. Apparently, if grants came not from UK Sport but from Sport England, that would be perfectly okay—I do not understand the niceties. Another is the British Mountaineering Council. The sums of money involved, when set against the astronomical costs of 2012, are tiny. It is £28,000 a year for mountain leader training. We all want, do we not, to get young people out into the hills, to adventure, and to do so safely? They need to be taught, and the teachers themselves need to be trained in mountain craft. Do we really want to play with safety training like this, by eliminating such a modest but vital grant? The British Mountaineering Council gets a grant of £40,000, and uses it to make grants to people and groups organising mountaineering expeditions to the greater ranges; the Himalayas, the Andes and so forth.

The withdrawal of this funding may be devastating. It is ironic that we who invented the sport of mountaineering in the Alps 150 years ago and then explored the greater ranges, and we who made the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 and have continued to be among the world leaders in international mountaineering, should sweep all this experience and history aside. As I said, both are sad examples of the law of unintended consequences.

The last thing I want to do is to end my remarks on a sour, carping note. Mountaineers are a resilient breed. They are not whingers. They are independent and highly distrustful of bureaucracy and, indeed, of the nanny state. We hate rules; we cherish independence. That is why I and others like me, such as Lord Hunt or, today, Sir Chris Bonington, regard it as so important that young people should also have the sort of experience we were lucky to have when we were young. This sounds rather pompous, but surely this is how we should train young people for citizenship.

Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Labour 2:08, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Pendry for initiating this debate, and for his continuing championing in your Lordships' House of the cause of sport. We share a passion for football, as he has been chairman and president of the Football Foundation and its predecessor body the Football Trust, the funds for which came from contributions from the pools companies and which did so much to implement football ground safety following the Taylor report.

I declare an interest as the chairman of Liverpool County FA's Local Football Partnership and trustee of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, which is now entirely funded by Sportech, the parent company of Littlewoods Pools.

I pay tribute to the work of Everton's Football in the Community scheme. All Premiership clubs put great store by developing links with their local communities. As a past director of Everton, and a continuing shareholder, I am pleased that Everton is still in the forefront of community schemes. Everton's scheme became a charity in 2004, and for the second year running has been recognised by Business in the Community for a number of activities, including work with both primary and secondary schools, soccer camps across Merseyside, Saturday morning coaching courses for 5 to 12 year-olds and women's and girls' football programmes, while also running eight disability teams.

Liverpool County FA's local football partnership, in conjunction with the local authorities and other partners, continues to develop the FA's four-year plan for football, which is its response to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's challenge to improve the nation's health through sports activities. The LFP focuses the continuing development of club football through the FA's chartered standard programme as well as continued improvements in the delivery of football inside and outside the school curriculum, and the improvement of football facilities, with pitch improvements being a priority. Liverpool County FA's local football partnership has invested around £5 million towards those aims.

Sport continues to play a crucial role in the community at all levels. It provides a safe recreational environment, positively encouraging behaviour and attitudes, and inspiring both young and old of all abilities to maintain health or develop new goals. We live in a world whose pace of change is ever-increasing. People change jobs more often and consequently move house more often. More students spend informative years away from home. Sport clubs provide a healthy environment to meet and develop new friends, thereby bringing together communities through shared experiences and understanding.

Last week in your Lordships' House, via a Question tabled by my noble friend Lady Massey, we were made aware of developments in cricket. We were all thrilled this year by the Ashes win. Our sporting heroes are increasingly treated as celebrities. They play a large part in people's lives and help to develop participation. I was interested in the Minister's reply that 46 per cent of schools have links with local cricket clubs. I support the contention that sports links are developing from the situation in Cheshire. I can report that at grassroots level cricket is booming in the community.

The decline in cricket in schools in the past, which is reflected in the fact that this year's Ashes win was the first since 1986, has gradually been filled by clubs, spurred on by the pyramid structure following the McClaren report. Cheshire now has nine divisions, whereby a small club—Oulton Park Cricket Club is a concrete example—can progress from the lower echelons to the top. Last year Oulton Park, a small rural club in mid-Cheshire, won the double, topping the county's premier league, and won the Cheshire Cup. David Humphage, the chairman of Cheshire County Cricket paid tribute to Oulton Park, saying that it had raised the bar in county cricket. That result came from a small rural club.

That has been done in conjunction with the initiatives and schemes of DCMS and the ECB. Critical to that is the development of Clubmark, the equivalent of football's charter club programme whereby clubs must demonstrate child protection policies as well as good management, coaching standards, and so on. The Treasury has responded by instigating Community Amateur Sports ClubsCASC—which enable clubs to claim gift aid on grants and income. Sportsmatch has also enabled clubs to raise standards by matching pound for pound club sponsorships.

The result is visible. Cheshire, a minor league county, shared the national title with Suffolk in the minor counties final. It was shared because the English weather washed out the event—some things take time to change.

Sports development links between clubs and schools have been instrumental in consolidating success. Oulton Park Cricket Club now has links with nine primary schools, and is developing winter coaching in schools. The ECB has responded by making its £750 per premiership club dependent on that club fielding three players under 21. The funds to minor county cricket are dependent on the teams having an average age of under 26. Clubs now run teams down to under nine level.

In all that, we must not forget the progress of women's success. All that places a huge burden on infrastructure and facilities, and the Foundation for Sports and the Arts has responded with a successful pilot scheme in Cheshire to fund equipment purchases, such as mowers, seeders, rollers, sight screens, and so on. It is now looking to roll out a national scheme.

We have the prospect of the London Olympics in 2012. Already sporting opportunities have been identified, and must be shared across the nation. The structures have been developing under the Government's encouragement of the participation of all in sport. Each member of the community can find an appropriate sporting opportunity, and through achievement can build self-confidence. I am confident that we shall continue to enjoy those benefits.

Photo of Lord Giddens Lord Giddens Labour 2:15, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I suggest to the officials of this august institution that they should think of having meals-on-wheels for those of us who are dedicated enough to speak in two sequential debates lasting over lunchtime. A portaloo might also come in handy, and maybe some of those socks that you get on aeroplanes to stop thrombosis, as I have been wiggling my feet for the past two-and-a-half to three hours.

I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Pendry on initiating the debate, and more generally on all the work that he has done, in your Lordships' House and throughout the country, on the promotion of sport. I declare an interest that overlaps with his, as I am a member of the board of trustees of the Football Foundation.

I am a strong believer in the redemptive power of sport to intervene effectively in social communities; it is linked to the traditional position of its importance in the moral education of younger people; and it can help with the health and general well-being of the nation.

I shall start with a series of cautionary remarks. Although I appreciate the programmes that the Government have instituted to try to use sport for social ends, there are some cautionary tales that should be borne in mind otherwise some of the policies could easily misfire. First, sport can unite communities, but it can also split them. It can foster solidarity but can lead to something close to hatred between communities or different sections of a community. I am a Tottenham Hotspur supporter—perhaps I should have declared that as a special interest, as that is certainly what it is. I was going to a match against—well, let me say a neighbouring team of some importance. The biggest conflicts are always between close neighbours, as we know.

A group of Tottenham supporters, who were on the train, were not only violent looking, but one of them was smashing his fist repeatedly against the window. There was blood all over the window, and the burden of what he was saying was not exactly favourable to the other team. It was a horrible demonstration of what sport can do in dividing communities and creating as many problems as it might resolve.

Secondly, sport can help us to overcome class and ethnic divisions, but it can also enshrine and deepen them. I once wrote a dissertation on sport and society in contemporary England. One of the striking things is how accurately sport reflected class divisions. That still continues to some degree today. Some of us are mature enough to remember a time when the descriptions of the cricket players were different. Those who were professionals were not allowed to put their first name or initial on the list, but were known simply by their surnames, and amateurs sometimes had an asterisk by their name and were allowed to include their initial. Sport is riven with social divisions. Since it is a social phenomenon it often directly reflects those divisions. We should think of the division between rugby league and rugby union as a good example of that.

Tennis has developed as a middle-class sport. When asking why there have not been many Tim Henmans, the class system of our society is one of the reasons. Question: "How many players do you have in your tennis club?". Answer: "We have 750 tennis players. Well, actually we have 50 because the other 700 are all waiting for courts". That more or less is the position of tennis, which does not have the facilities that are necessary to generate the kind of world-class performance that we want.

Thirdly, sport can reduce gender inequalities. I echo what my noble friend Lord Grantchester said on the importance of this. However, at the same time, it can also embed them. We know that this has been true historically. There are sports that have been considered girls' sports, and these are often separate from boys' sports. We know that sport is an emblem of masculinity, an emblem sometimes of aggressiveness, of the differences between the sexes, rather than a phenomenon that unites them.

Finally, we all know that competitive sport in particular—and here we must watch the culture of the Olympics—can breed an obsession with success, which can have a very ugly side to it, in terms of players' behaviour and what athletes are called upon to do. We all know that this has happened when, for example, sport has been too closely controlled by the state. Think of those child gymnasts in eastern Europe and how they were bluntly exploited; they were exploited sexually as well as being harnessed to sport. There are some countries, which I shall not name, where one aspect of such practices seems to continue. When we look at government policy on sport—and this Government have, I think, encouraged sport—we have to bear these considerations in mind, in order to see how far these policies, and those organisations linked to them, are effective. Since 1997 this Government has introduced a plethora of initiatives on sport, including White Papers, taskforces, and so forth; it adds up to quite a lot, I think. My feeling is, and I would like the Minister to comment on this, that it still does not add up to enough. Sport has this immense motivational power, which has barely been tapped.

There are so many deserving schemes one could mention that seek to harness this motivational power. I would like to mention just one of them, of which I have been an interested observer: the Charlton Athletic Community Trust. Charlton Athletic FC has been one of the most community conscious of the Premiership clubs and it deserves a pat on the back for that. The project is based in Eltham, where 44 per cent of offenders under the age of 16 say that they lack things to do, and that that is the main reason for their criminal activity. Fifteen per cent of children in Eltham are classified as obese and general health indicators for the area are awful. The kinds of scheme that Charlton Athletic and the Football Foundation have been involved in are massively impressive in trying to enter these areas by means that could not be used otherwise. It is the power of sport that allows them to do this.

However, and this applies to a large range of this country's sport agencies, I feel that we need to gather far more evidence than we presently have as to what is effective. We have a large range of schemes; they look good on paper. They may be good in practice, but often we do not know. It is not enough to have good intentions or to repeat empty propaganda about how good sport is for us. For the reasons I mentioned earlier, a project initiated with very good intentions can rebound and produce the opposite of what was intended. I looked for evidence on the use of sport around the world to further such community objectives as reducing social exclusion, and the evidence is very ambiguous. Some schemes work and some do not. Disturbingly, research from the United States shows that some very well motivated schemes actually increased ethnic tensions. Sometimes the sports involved were seen to be simply for whites and sometimes simply for blacks. Sometimes they re-established a gang culture in the area, being taken over and monopolised by local gangs. We have to be on our guard against this. Generally, I do not think that there is enough evidence about which of those groups set up in this country work and which do not. It is not enough simply to say that we have good intentions.

The old bugbear of all government programmes also appears in sport. So many programmes are devoted to social improvement that even those who spend their lives working on them, as I do to some degree, do not know what they all mean or how they relate to each other. In the case of social exclusion, for example, you have sport action zones, health action zones, Sure Start, New Deal for Communities, neighbourhood management, Pathfinders—I could probably go on to name around 70 such organisations. A study of a small town in Cornwall found, I believe, around 70 government initiatives in that one town to help deal with social exclusion, but hardly anybody knew the overall picture. Maybe someone in Government knew, but the people in the local community did not. The Government should integrate its social exclusion policies more effectively.

What I said earlier implies, to me, that you cannot just use sport at a local level. It is all very well to have local schemes. The national structure of sport and local sport are intimately connected. If the national structure is corrupt, or even if it reflects the class divisions mentioned earlier, then these things are intimately part of the local community and attempts to change them will be far more difficult if there are not also attempts to change them at a national level. In the case of tennis, for example, many poorer people do not see tennis as a sport for themselves. We need more effective governance in sport. I was pleased to see the report on the FA recently and we need to push ahead with such governance. I give as an example national anti-racist programmes; it is important to support them as they have a very big impact on the local community, not just at a national level. So they should; that is what we want.

Finally, I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Grantchester, who talked about the importance of women's participation in sport. There are now extraordinary differences between this country and the United States. Women's football is one of the fastest-growing sports in this country, and rightly so, but in the US it is absolutely massive. A recent report from the monitoring organisation that regulates women's sport in the United States says that for the first time, if you include fitness activities as well as sport, there are more women participating in sport and fitness activities than men—the first society in which this has ever been known. I am not suggesting that this country should aim for a situation where women are more active than men, but we should aim for one where they are as active as men. Because of the stereotypes I mentioned earlier, I think it is necessary to include fitness activity alongside sport; not everyone wants to play competitive sport. Just as important is how far people undertake fitness regimes.

I would like to conclude by asking the Minister a few questions. First, how far do we support programmes for which there is no real evidence that they work? Secondly, how far does the Minister agree that there is an over-proliferation of programmes? Thirdly, what are you going to do about women's sport, especially increasing access to women's sport among poorer people? It is especially difficult to do this among poorer women.

Photo of Lord St John of Bletso Lord St John of Bletso Crossbench 2:28, 24 November 2005

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Giddens. The noble Lord has a remarkable ability to be a master of all subjects in your Lordships' House and speaks with such passion. I envy the fact that the noble Lord never uses notes; I shall be using my notes.

I join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing us to this very important debate. Indeed, we were very lucky to come up with a draw in Faisalabad today. As every speaker has emphasised, the importance of sport in the community cannot be overstated. People might say that it is not as important as law and order, yet sport keeps many people off the streets and away from the temptations of crime. People will say that it is not as important as health, yet regular participation in sport keeps people healthy, out of hospital and in work. It is not as important as education, people will say, yet sport teaches self-discipline, teamwork, patience and a host of other qualities.

It is not as important as the war on drugs, people will say, yet one of the best ways of keeping young people away from drugs is helping them and promoting them in sport.

The importance of sport in community is clear, and it would be unfair to say that the Government have not recognised as much since 1997. Whether they have done enough is another matter. What has been lacking for so long, and what is still lacking, is a properly integrated approach. Within sports structures, it often seems as if—like a lowly Premiership team when the England manager is in the stands—everyone is trying to do his own thing when teamwork would probably yield greater results. I have to declare an interest as a supporter of Chelsea, which is fortunately not in the lower ranks of the Premiership.

The timeless lesson of team sports—that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts—would be well learnt in the corridors of British sports politics. This point is well made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, who I am delighted is speaking in today's debate, even if he is not in his place at the moment, in his excellent Review of National Sport Effort & Resources, which was published in March this year. The third of his five key recommendations is,

"to improve the local delivery of sport and suggest the Government considers how it can support the co-ordination of public, private and voluntary sector investment—as well as LAs and regional bodies –in order to improve local sporting facilities".

I believe that this is the key. British sport should start playing as a team, with every stakeholder pulling in the same direction. The captain of that team, setting the strategy, has to be the Government. The lack of joined-up policy is nowhere more evident than in the delivery of community sport.

Who delivers sport in the community? In part, it is private companies, which provide a variety of gyms and specialist sports centres. Yet their plans, particularly plans for large footprint, multi-sport sites, are often constrained by lengthy and costly planning applications to local authorities. In part, community sport is delivered by local authorities themselves. Yet the age of the facilities and the standard of management at public leisure centres vary considerably. Again, drawing reference to the report of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the very best boroughs, such as Plymouth, generate a profit of 23p per visit from their sports centres. At the other end of the scale, the subsidy required for each leisure visit in the borough of Hackney is no less than £13. The national average is a subsidy of £1.34 per visit, which is equal to a total annual subsidy in England of half a billion pounds simply to keep the lights on at local authority sports facilities across the country.

Who else delivers sport in the community? In part, it is the education sector. Yet community use of school and college facilities is being unnecessarily hampered by VAT liabilities. It is hard to accept that when sports facilities are provided by a city academy or a voluntary aided or foundation school, community use can jeopardise the possibility of zero rating. Such costs fall to the school. The risk of incurring such liabilities means that many schools are reluctant to promote community use to the extent that they otherwise would. Joined-up policy is required. The team captain—the Government—should act.

These are specific issues with specific solutions that would significantly enhance the delivery of sport to communities up and down the country. I wholeheartedly support the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for the development and communication of,

"a single system for sport in the community".

It is surely the task of the Government to ensure that there is a common purpose and a shared set of performance targets from local level up through the system to government.

In recent years, much has been said in your Lordships' House and in the other place about the sale of playing fields. I welcome the fact that the rate of sales of playing fields has markedly decreased in recent years. Any sale of an asset, such as a playing field, which contributes so much to the community, seems a waste of resources, yet the Government deserve credit for progress made in this area. I am also pleased to note that in our schools, children are now being offered at least four hours of sport per week. Your Lordships will be aware that in this important aspect of education, we still lag behind many European countries, but at least we are starting to move up the table.

Ever since my upbringing in Cape Town, South Africa, I have had a great passion for sport and, perhaps because of my youth in that sports-mad country, I have never been ashamed of the fact that I enjoy winning. The British sense of fair play is naturally admired around the world, but I have always been bemused by the sense that this country is somehow more comfortable with a gallant loser than with an outright winner. That is absolute nonsense. There is, of course, no shame in defeat. But victory brings huge dividends. They were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in his powerful speech, and include increased participation and national morale. As a nation, we should sacrifice nothing in the pursuit of victory.

This year has brought outstanding examples of what sport can achieve when we win. Ask anybody involved in English cricket about the effect of winning the Ashes this summer, and they will tell you about the soaring interest in the game in clubs and schools, and about the dividends of victory. Ask anybody involved in the British Olympic Association or in sport in the city of London about the effect of London's successful bid to stage the summer Olympic Games in 2012, and they will tell you about the dreams launched in millions of young minds. In the Ashes and in the Olympic bid British people set out to be winners, not gallant losers, and sport in this country will reap the rewards for years to come. Sport brings this country together: the haves and the have-nots, the young and the old, and the north and south. Of course, our teams will not always win—I have mentioned our fortunate draw today in Pakistan—but my vision and hope is the day when our solid national structures, properly integrated within one national sports plan, will come to the fore and ensure the effective delivery of sport in the community. That, for me, is the win-win scenario.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 2:38, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Pendry secured this debate. Once again, he calls upon us to consider the importance of sport in benefiting communities, and I fully agree with his arguments. It is a great pleasure to be in a group of speakers with such a wide variety of interests in sport: participating, administrating, watching and supporting. But I express my concern that sport is not just about competition—a point that has been made by other speakers. Competitive sport is important, and I, too, like winning, but sport is also about health-related fitness, which is a vital concept to which I shall return in a moment.

As the only woman participating in this debate—although there are a few sisters on the Benches and maybe one or two honorary women—noble Lords may be expecting me to focus on women and sport. But I shall not do that today, as I have done it before. I shall focus my remarks on young people in sport and, as an example, I shall draw on the Cricket Foundation's Chance to Shine initiative. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Grantchester referred to the importance of cricket and to the importance of women.

I should declare an interest as a Lady Taverner. Lady Taverners raise money—close on £1 million last year—to enable young people with disabilities to play sport. I am proud to be associated with that aim. Young people with disabilities also belong to communities and want to be active.

Sport in the community affects a whole range of factors related to well-being, including health, fostering community spirit, and, thereby, combating negative issues such as drug and alcohol use and crime. Many communities recognise that and are sharing facilities such as school swimming pools, sports grounds and indoor sports areas. The extended school day and the implications of the Children Act, with its focus on integrating services, should develop that further. We shall see what happens.

In the many consultations that have taken place recently with young people, they identify being healthy as a key outcome; for example, in the report Every Child Matters. Young people have asked for community facilities where they can participate in sport and otherwise entertain themselves. The Green Paper, Youth Matters, points out that:

"Teenagers, their parents and communities all want more positive things to do ... when young people are involved in activities and are busy they are less likely to drift into trouble".

My noble friend Lord Pendry has spoken about the Positive Futures initiative in which young people are helped to take part in sport. This morning, I heard on the radio an item about antisocial behaviour orders. The Social Exclusion Unit on which the report was based—and which I now have to hand—relates to young adults with complex needs. Briefly, it says that it is not enough to punish young people but they must also be given support. Did we not all know that already? I welcome that and I believe that in all communities, including prisons and rehabilitation centres, sport can help to foster good self-image and self-confidence. I am glad to see a cross-government approach to this, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which has an aim of increasing the take-up of cultural and sporting opportunities by people aged 16 and over by 2008.

I return to my earlier statement that support should be at least partly about health-related fitness. Not everyone enjoys competitive sport. My noble friend Lord Giddens emphasised that—and I wish he would go to get his sandwich. Girls and young women give up sport in great numbers as they grow up and leave school. Yet they could be and are attracted to dance, yoga, pilates, to some gym activities and to many outdoor activities. I believe that we should expand on that type of activity in communities to provide young people, especially young women, with a positive option.

I now turn to the Cricket Foundation's Chance to Shine initiative as an example of how sport can be fostered in communities, involving schools and local facilities such as clubs. The aim of the programme is to regenerate competitive cricket in state schools. It was launched in May this year and has an appeal to raise £25 million over five years. At this point, it is appropriate to ask the Minister whether the Government will match that sum pound for pound, as I hope they will. Appeal money will be spent over a 10-year period to provide high-quality cricket in state schools through coaching and competitions delivered through focus clubs, coach and teacher training, resources, equipment, facilities and school holiday activities. In 2005, 12 pilot projects were undertaken in urban and rural environments. Given a continuing build-up, the plan is to have planted cricket firmly in 5,200 primary schools and in 1,500 secondary schools—almost a third of all schools—over 10 years. That is good news. The playing of cricket has been reduced over the past 20 years or so with disastrous results on the involvement of people in local club cricket.

Why an initiative for cricket? Why do I believe it is so important? Given the success of England's men's and women's teams against Australia this summer, many youngsters have been fired up to play cricket, as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, has said. I see them on commons, in yards and in the street trying out their bowling and batting skills. It is a great national game. I am glad that we have moved away from the concept of gentlemen and players, decried by my noble friend Lord Giddens, thanks partly to our late and much missed colleague, that great cricketer, Lord Sheppard of Liverpool.

The appeal document from the Cricket Foundation maintains that cricket enables young people to live healthy, purposeful and balanced lives. It is the ultimate team game. It encourages a wide range of social skills as well as physical and motor skills. It has high standards of conduct and provides good role models. My fellow Lancastrian Andrew Flintoff is a good example. His performances in the summer and his bowling recently in Pakistan have been inspirational. He remains modest, good-humoured and supportive of young people.

Cricket crosses the gender divide. I believe that cricket for girls is the fastest-growing sport. It provides for those with disabilities, such as those in wheelchairs or with visual or hearing impairments. It draws together people from many different cultures and backgrounds. It also develops patience, concentration and imagination. What better attributes could one encourage in communities? Local clubs and schools can work together to develop young cricketers and clubs will be encouraged to support young cricketers from local schools. That is already happening. Involvement from schools in the independent sector is anticipated. They, of course, have the potential to share facilities and traditional experience with state schools.

I want to give an example from one of the 12 Chance to Shine pilots which was carried out in Darwen, in Lancashire, where I was born and brought up, and where I watched my first cricket from the age of about three, when I was taken to the local ground by my father. No doubt thanks to that early inspiration, I went on to play first-class cricket and I developed a lifelong passion for it. In the pilot, coaches from Darwen Cricket Club worked with four primary schools and two secondary schools. Both secondary schools had been through difficult times; one of them was in special measures, was closed down and then reopened. The schools played their first cricket for many years as a result of Chance to Shine. One head teacher felt that cricket could play a part within his school in improving strategies and, as he said, "building responsibility and discipline".

I have described how one initiative can impact on communities. I am aware that there are many other sporting activities that are also dynamic and exciting. I return to what I said at the beginning of this contribution, that young people themselves are asking for facilities and activities that foster health and well being and sometimes that means sporting facilities. I do not think we cannot ignore their appeal.

Photo of Lord Hoyle Lord Hoyle Labour 2:48, 24 November 2005

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I want to thank my good friend Lord Pendry for initiating the debate. It is hardly surprising, given his interest in sport throughout his life, and it gives us all who are involved in sport an opportunity to put forward our views about community activities. I shall concentrate on two activities: cricket and, not surprisingly, rugby league. I declare an interest in both sports: I am president of my local cricket club, Adlington, and importantly I am chairman of Warrington Wolves.

First, I turn to cricket. Following on from what my noble friend Lady Massey said about cricket—that is, mainly league cricket rather than club cricket—particularly in the north-west, I want to talk about our activities in giving children the opportunity to play. We have four sections; namely, the under-11s, under-13s, under-15s and under-17s. Every Friday during the season the kids train. There are three qualified coaches to give them training. They play cricket on decent pitches, which is very important. One of the problems is that many state schools cannot provide the type of pitches that private schools can provide. Kids can get frightened by the ball, which can be dangerous. All these sections play in leagues.

In addition, boys and girls at the primary schools in our village have been brought together to play cricket. They played for a trophy for the first time this year, which is intended to be made an annual event. Adlington, unfortunately, straddles Bolton and Chorley. There is a Chorley development committee where all the cricket teams in the Chorley area meet every three months. Teams have been formed in the region—particularly for 11 and 13 year-olds—one of which got to the semi-final this time. There is always someone from the Lancashire board present at their meetings. That is going well. During the winter there are facilities for kids to play in indoor nets so that they do not lose touch with the game. All that is very important and augurs well, particularly, as has been said, because of our success in winning the Ashes. Let us hope that all is not lost in Pakistan and that we win the next test.

At Warrington Wolves we are so proud of what we have achieved. We won the Rugby League community awards in 2001, 2002 and 2003. In 2004, we were better: we won the national community award against opposition from other sports, particularly football. We claim that we do more for the community than Manchester United, which we can be very proud of.

We have also been given a boost with the new Halliwell Jones Stadium, which we moved into in February 2004. That gave us an opportunity to develop something that has not been done in any other stadiums, but an awful lot of interest has been shown in what we have achieved. Several football clubs and other rugby league clubs have been along. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Giddens is not here. He talked about enmity in sport. I am very proud that rugby league is a friendly sport. Spectators mix together. No one could get more excited or more involved with their teams than rugby league crowds. At the end, friends, just like players, go for a drink and talk over what went wrong in the game. We should all aim for that. In stating what has been achieved, I hope that I have put the doom and gloom a little bit right.

At the new Halliwell Jones Stadium there is a community floor. The community education section of the borough council has moved in, together with our community staff. Another side of the stadium is taken up by the primary care trust. In that we bring health and sport together. It is very important that in 2005 we founded the Warrington Wolves Community Learning and Sports Foundation, which brings together the Warrington Collegiate to provide educational facilities, the community education section of Warrington Borough Council and the Warrington Wolves community team. Together, we are able to provide classes and opportunities for adults as well as children. They come along and do not regard it just as a sports stadium, but recognise its education and health aspects. It is very important that we bring that together.

I am particularly impressed that youngsters come along and partake in classes and education in what is a new environment for many of them. Many of them are the most difficult children in some of our schools. They are kids who for one reason or another are contracted out of normal education. They come along and facilities are provided. We give them lessons on computer skills and so on that are linked to the sport that they may be interested in. A wonderful opportunity is provided for them to go forward.

We also know that not all children are interested in rugby league. I am sorry to say that, but they are not. Even in Warrington, we know that some of them are interested in soccer. We provide them with opportunities to play soccer, cricket, golf and even tenpin bowling. There is a wide variety of sports in which they can participate. But the fact is that these kids come along and see sport as something that they can enjoy. We have found that with a lot of kids who come along, the fact that the classes are allied to sport means that they have got an interest. Even if they do not participate, they take a big interest in sport. Certainly, we as a club benefit from all that we do in all these directions, which is extremely important. We have also got the primary care trust, which is running classes on healthy eating and helps kids with problems of obesity and so on. Altogether, there is a coming together of sport and education under the one stadium. To us it has made a lot of difference in our relationship with schools. All secondary schools in the Warrington area play rugby league.

This year, we are also encouraging girls and women to participate in sport. The fact that the European women's soccer championship matches were held in the Halliwell Jones Stadium has made a lot of difference in girls and women being interested in sport. A lot more local women's football clubs are participating. The local women's rugby league team has also benefited. So we are awakening interest. It has also been extremely beneficial for the club. Since moving into the new stadium, in two seasons, average crowds of just over 7,000 have increased to 11,000. A lot of young people come along. We offer not only facilities but also cheaper tickets. They bring their families, so the whole family is getting interested in sport, which is excellent.

The Halliwell Jones Stadium is allied with Tesco, which could not get planning permission for a supermarket just outside the area. However, it got it because we were allied to it. It was said that it was granted because we are a community stadium and because we had been able to build on that and look to the future. One of the most important aspects of the club is its community side. It brings together sport and education. That it provides adults with a wide variety of classes means that people see the facility not just as a rugby league stadium, but as a community stadium which belongs to the town and of which it can be very proud. Indeed, in a recent survey, Wolves' fans said the community activities were the most important ones. When we think of what we have achieved without putting any silverware in the trophy cabinet—a situation, I hasten to add, that the Wolves will hope to change in 2006—that shows that sport can help a community and give it hope and vision for the future.

I again thank my noble friend for initiating this debate. I stress how important it is to get people thinking about sport and playing sport, but, above all, appreciating the spirit of comradeship that should result from it.

Photo of Lord Carter of Coles Lord Carter of Coles Labour 3:02, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for securing this debate on sport in the community in what, after all, has been a very dramatic 12 months for sport in this country. I should start by declaring an interest. I am chairman of Sport England, which was previously known as the English Sports Council, and am involved in a number of other sporting organisations such as UK Sport, the London Marathon Trust and the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

Our success in winning the right to stage the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was founded on our record of achievement at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and our demonstrable ability to deliver in a confident way major infrastructure projects such as Terminal 5 at Heathrow and, of course, the new national stadium at Wembley. We have discovered how to do these things. Our national confidence has been further enhanced by successes on the pitch such as that in the Ashes, at rugby and, I hope, in the World Cup next year.

There is no doubt that, for these reasons, sport is on the national agenda in a way that it has never been previously. It receives more column inches; it is talked about; and it is seen as central to government policy. The achievements of our sportsmen and women are an inspiration to the whole nation. They are looked up to—mostly—and admired for what they do. They sit at the top of the sporting pyramid and comprise a relatively small cohort probably of between 1,000 and 2,000 people—no more than that. They are truly the elite. However, to maintain success, we have to continue to develop sport at the community level and think about how we serve the other 40 million of us who are not elite athletes. Without the foundations, we cannot produce the winning streak, as it were. We have to build the foundations to build up that elite body.

Much has changed in recent years. Of course, sport begins in schools. In the past five years, an enormous effort has been made and great steps taken to redress the decline in participation in primary and secondary schools. We now need to ensure, as our children pass from secondary into further and higher education or directly into work, that pathways exist to sustain the level of participation in which we have invested so much time and effort.

Community sport and the continued involvement of young people are based on creating this endowment at school level. It is an endowment on which they can draw for the 60-plus years of the rest of their lives. Regrettably, however, we have the worst drop-off rate in Europe when people leave compulsory education. This is a grave problem which we need to reverse by continuing to provide better information, better facilities, better coaching and stronger clubs. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, was right when he observed that we have had a plethora of initiatives. We have had "intitiativitis". We need and are working to bring about systemic change to meet our objectives. I think it is widely agreed that we need to do this because sport is clearly good for a number of reasons, the first of which is health. There is clear evidence now that an active person's lifetime healthcare costs are 35 per cent lower than those of an inactive person. We spend several billion pounds a year in this country on Avastatin and Lipitor to control cholesterol. If a little bit of that money were spent on sport, it may have some of the same benefits. We would benefit in education; we would benefit from reduced crime; and it would build cohesion in our communities.

However, it must be made clear that we cannot over-promise. A series of initiatives, while they are attractive, is not yet delivering systemic change. But significant steps are being taken to find out how we can bring about this change. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, referred to the most important of them. He made it clear that we have not measured the results of our investment. This is now being rectified. We are putting systems in place across the country to measure the impact of what we do, to determine best practice and to determine what works. To support that objective, various systems have already been developed. The first to which I refer is a website called Active Places. This lists all the sports facilities in England. If noble Lords go to www.activeplaces.com, they will a find a sports centre near them, and all its attributes and activities will be described.

As momentum has picked up in recent times, we have started to see more investment going into sport. Significantly, we have seen a large investment from the private sector, which is meeting market need. We have seen continued investment by some local authorities—but only some. Since sport is not part of the CPA, local authorities have often relegated sport to a very low point on their list of priorities. One London borough told me last week that it had 154 KPIs, of which sport was the 133rd. It is not yet in the right place. But we are continuing to invest. The Government, through the National Lottery and Exchequer funding, have invested more than £2 billion in recent years, and we have seen a renewal and expansion of our infrastructure. That is gradually becoming evident up and down the country. More needs to be done—of course, it always does—but the direction of travel is now right and the investment is going in.

In a mixed economy, the diversity of provision is very important at the community level. We have some wonderfully imaginative local authorities, such as Hampshire, which have brought some very innovative products in. In the north of England, if anyone has the time to go to the Bolton Lads and Girls Club, it is a spectacular example of what voluntary work in this country can do. Of course, the independent sector—the David Lloyds and the Esportas—and companies growing out of local authority provision, such as Greenwich Leisure, are all making a tremendous contribution. On top of that are the governing bodies themselves, and I pay a particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for his work in the Football Foundation, which has been a shining example of a sport taking seriously its responsibility to the community. It is interesting to note the work of the Cricket Foundation, which will follow on from that. Collectively we have seen an investment of several billion pounds in recent years. The infrastructure is being put in place—and no doubt the Olympic pull factor will see more of that.

On the next critical issue, which is that of coaching, having good buildings is worth nothing if you cannot transform people's performance within them. I acknowledge the work of my predecessor, Sir Trevor Brooking, who observed that the best way in which to keep people engaged in sport was to give them a good experience based on improving their skills. Therefore, access to high quality coaching is crucial. It is no good just letting people kick a ball around; we have to find a way in which to improve skills in every sport. In the past 12 months, 600 more coaches have gone into the system; by 2006–07, there will be a further 3,000 coaches, and we shall continue to build on that.

There are a lot of key players in delivering community sport. I have mentioned local authorities, the private sector, the leisure providers and so on. What is interesting and striking in recent times is the increasing professionalism that has come into sport. Even in my short time in sport I can remember the spectre of men in blazers. Someone said to me last night that when you thought back to the image of rugby, you thought of fat blokes fighting in a field. People's concept of competition was of men and women running fast. Professionalism has come into the organisations. Management has been brought in to deal with the wall of money that has come through sponsorship, which has been dealt with very responsibly; and those management skills are being used not only to get money into the sport but to deploy it down to the community level, as organisations such as the Football Foundation are able to do.

All our activity for sport after school comes together in the heartland of sport, which is the club system. Our nation's capacity to deliver winners is based on the unceasing and tireless activities of volunteers. Everything would collapse unless we had those volunteers—and last year we welcomed it particularly when the Chancellor incepted the Russell Commission, which looked into volunteering. It emerges that sport is the major volunteering activity, and moves are afoot to strengthen and build on that and to get some cohesion back into some communities through the efforts of people in those communities. Volunteering is the single greatest force in delivering community cohesion and inclusion. As other noble Lords have noted, the key is how we get it into the most deprived communities, which do not necessarily have the ability to self-organise—but showing the way can do that.

We are seeing a fundamental change, based on management, directed investment and something systemic going on. But to move from the general to the specific, I want to share what happened to me yesterday evening, when I crossed the river to Lambeth—always rather a dangerous journey for a north Londoner. I was able to see and participate in one of the most exciting schemes that I have seen in many years. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, referred to it—it is called the Positive Future scheme, and it has been funded in the best way of good schemes, by a number of committed partners, including the Home Office, the Football Foundation and, to a lesser degree, Sport England. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, is not here to hear this—but it is a programme that is proved to work. Some 80,000 young people have been through these schemes, and I wish that noble Lords could have been with me last night to watch the confidence with which those young people performed. They were not professional; they were young people being shown the way to do things, whether it was to be coached to play football better or to street-dance. There were no divisions along the lines of gender or race, and I could see none along the lines of class. It was truly a melting pot that worked and which, above all, gave people that confidence. As I left, I thought that if I was thinking of developing yet another career, I would be privileged to go over there and be a talent manager for some of them, because it was absolutely fantastic.

So what I wanted to report from the front line is that community sport is systematically being reformed. It started in schools, where much more investment is going. Rebuilding the community, as many people have said today, is going on apace. That does not mean we are doing enough—we certainly need to get a lot more done—but people's lives are being improved, and that is what this is all about. It is the power of sport reaching out to show people they can do things. It underpins our claims to be a great sporting nation and to be able to run the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics well—and, hopefully, subsequently to get the right to run the World Cup. This is an exciting time to be in sport. It is on the move at the community level, and will continue to deliver for this country.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip, People With Disabilities, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities 3:15, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, on securing this debate. This is one of those debates where, if you are to have any form of intellectual honesty, you cannot go into the trenches. We have realised that we have very similar goals regarding sport, we have established that there are certain ways we can achieve them, and the disagreement around them is minor.

We had a system that effectively fell apart from the school level on up as a result of educational changes. This was unforeseen and unplanned, but it happened. However, the system was pretty rickety in the first place if a slight knock in the number of teaching hours could lead to a lack of recruitment. It was something that was waiting to happen, and indeed, by giving it a kick start, maybe the Conservative government of the 1980s can say, "At least we got things to change and move on into the modern world".

The model of the school being the basic provider will not work any more. It was never that great, because it cut out choice. The idea that you were at a rugby, hockey, football or netball school—that was the school sport, and you did not play any others—was a disaster for participation. If you had a bad initial experience of sport, you stopped it. This happened for many people. Then we had an idea about taking things up later on in life.

We have arrived at a situation where we are developing a more coherent system. All three major political parties have looked at their sports policy of late and come up with very similar answers, for the simple reason that we spoke to the same people. We said, "What are we going to do? We do not like x and y that happened before. There are holes in there—let's fill them in".

We then come on to the debate itself. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, was wonderful, but it got me heartily cursing, because one of its major points was the fact that we have had lots of initiatives and there has been lots of activity, but there are questions about what has worked well and what has not. We have got to the point, and the Government can take some credit for this, where they have managed to create an environment—maybe through desperation; who knows?—where we have tried everything. Dozens of things are happening and different models are being brought forward from various sports, which all look rather similar, at least superficially. Which ones are delivering best, and which are not?

We have a system where we are trying to create something similar. The problem is diversity. It depends on the sport. There has been a wonderful scheme lately with regard to cricket, but even that shows its limitations. It was said it would reach a third of all state schools, which is great for those schools—but what happens to the other two-thirds? That is one of the questions we must ask ourselves.

The Government are now setting themselves a difficult new target. How do we get beyond the idea of an initial school age that produces cricketers, but then we fall away? That is a new and fundamental question about what we are trying to do. The difficult bit is a link between the clubs that are enthusiastic and those going outside. That is why finding out which of these schemes works best is the real challenge in front of us.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, has effectively been agreeing once again. There is a consensus of opinion about where we have to look to see what happens next. It is not what is to be done, but the best way to achieve it. We also have to address the thorny questions of political focus and resources.

One of the most important changes in political attitudes, and hopefully one of the positive things that has been encouraged by the Olympics, is the fact that the Minister for public health is now meeting frequently with the Minister for Sport. I myself was annoyed by my own party, because it refused, as and when we get into power, theoretically to move sport into the Department of Health. Perhaps this was bureaucratic empire-building or whatever, but it was stopped. If we bring these two things together, sport then gets a high-spending champion in Whitehall that will allow it to go on.

When the great playing-field debacle comes to the fore—when education authorities say, "We can do without a playing field; let us have one pitch. Let us sell the other off"—unless a school or an educational authority takes on board outside interests, it will probably say, "Yes, we can do that". They have to be stopped. If you are an educationalist whose priority is not, and has not been, sport, it is an absolute no-brainer that that is what will happen repeatedly. Unless someone says, "There are tremendous on-costs from doing that", that will happen.

If we can encourage the whole of government from local government upwards to take sport more seriously and see it as beneficial and as something that is probably directly in line with their responsibility—health is an obvious aspect—we will have a more coherent approach. At the moment we are riding a wave of fashion and reaction against disaster, or near disaster. Unless we structurally embed further this wave of enthusiasm could disappear. If, for instance, the Olympics do not turn out to be quite the success we are hoping for, everyone will put up their hands and shriek, "We do not want to get involved". I hope that that does not happen; I simply put that forward as a possibility. Alternatively, if we have a couple of bad World Cup matches, politicians will stop wanting to be photographed with the man with the Cup. Let us face it, all parties are guilty of this. Unless we can institutionalise sport in the Government's structure from top to bottom, we shall be in danger of that happening.

Politicians have to be pushed. My theory is that the average politician who likes sport soon discovers that it is not compatible with having to attend committee meetings and delivering leaflets. Thus, we are not the best informed group to ensure that we take sport seriously. We have to come to it late. We are the few people who do not look first at the back page of the newspapers—we look at the letters page on subjects other than how our football team performed. It is true, of course, that everyone who tries to be elected to office claims to be a great fan of their local football or rugby team, but how many of them could find the stadium without first looking at a map? I do not know. We must try to establish a more coherent approach and bring government together.

Government must start to grasp another thorny branch. If we are to achieve an expansion in the number of those interested in sport, we must achieve an investment in sport. There is a finite number of times that we can go to the Lottery. Football is the best example. Eighty per cent of people who play football play it on public land. It is not like the other sports which traditionally buy their own grounds. Are we to expand the number of pitches to allow 10 per cent more people to play?

Simply saying that you will better manage the time is a complete red herring because people have time to play sports only at certain times of the week. Traditionally, sport is played on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings. A few artificial pitches or few more sets of floodlights may take the pressure off as regards training, but the fact is that teams will get together at weekends. Some may say, "We have a wonderful Wednesday afternoon league for X number of sports", and certain sports will have slightly different traditions, but the biggest participation in sport—and I have checked this—occurs at the weekend. If a pitch is overworked four times, you will not have that pitch for very long; you will have a mud bath. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, defined the game of rugby as fat men fighting in mud, or at least as fat men fighting—I object only to the "fat" part of that. The same will happen in football except that it will be thinner men who are falling around in the mud. Indeed, it will be a case of thinner young women falling around in mud as they will be playing on the same pitch if we do not increase the number of such pitches.

We must ensure that resources are available. Do the Government plan to buy more pitches to allow people to participate in sport within their current recreation time frames? The alternative is to change the pattern of the working week and of our leisure time. I suggest to the Government that having a few more pitches would be much easier and cheaper. If the Government do not devote their attention to that approach, there are distinct limits on how far we can take participation. We have a great diversity of sports but we can take participation only so far in our present cultural environment, certainly in the medium term.

In the minute or so which is left to me in which to speak I should like to ask one or two specific questions, or rather seek government guidance on how matters are developing. I believe that a private company is touting its sports hub programme round local education authorities. Under that programme a physical and aptitude assessment is carried out on children of school age to see which sport they might be best suited to physically and in terms of aptitude. To what extent is this programme or something like it being introduced in schools to ensure that people are encouraged to try the sports which they will enjoy, or at least stand a chance of enjoying? If we are to expand our base, we must go beyond what we have done traditionally.

The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, said that Warrington rugby club is encouraging members of the local community to try other sports. It would be too much to suggest that a rugby league club should encourage people to try playing rugby union, but that is a good example of someone being interested in one sport subsequently becoming interested in another. If you participate in a sport you may have time to take part in two or three sports at certain periods of your life. A top flight football player may not also play cricket, but someone who has a kick around with a Sunday morning football team may well play cricket during the summer. That level of participation and diversity of effort will ensure that participation rates are good.

I could go on at great length, particularly stressing the fact that everything I have said applies also to women. Indeed, we will have achieved sporting equality when 51 per cent of sport participants comprise women. I believe that reflects the female percentage of the population. What are the Government's thoughts on the next stage? They are in the unusual position of experiencing a great deal of good will across the entire political spectrum in this regard. However, there is always a danger that that good will may be spent without achieving as much as it might.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Spokespersons In the Lords, Northern Ireland 3:28, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I feel a little timorous about speaking at this Dispatch Box today as I am still recovering from a very memorable evening at Admiralty House last night where I was the guest of none other than the Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn, and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell. However, I am sure that the Minister will be disappointed if I do not attempt to offer some constructive criticisms of Her Majesty's Government's performance regarding looking after sporting activity in the community. I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for once again initiating a debate on sport in your Lordships' House. This has been no less lively and informative than any previous debate on sport.

The prospect of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 has served to focus public and parliamentary attention on the highest level of sporting achievement. However, this debate has proved a pertinent reminder that it is at grassroots level that investment of both time and money needs to be made in order to find athletes for tomorrow. We have established that sport plays a crucial role within communities, encouraging group participation, teaching new skills, breaking down barriers and encouraging a healthy way of living, all of which are essential in today's cultural climate. Sport teaches essential skills and values of life—teamwork, discipline, communication and self-confidence. It also instils a competitive spirit and drive. It can do that only if facilities and safe instruction are readily available.

The Government are keen to promote sport as a means of reducing crime and obesity; so are we. They do much to highlight our sporting triumphs; for example, the bus tour of the victorious Ashes team. Yet, in reality, HMG has so far done little at grassroots level. The power of sport to influence those who find little else in life which appeals should not be underestimated. David Beckham, Jonny Wilkinson, Freddie Flintoff and Kelly Holmes—all sporting heroes—have far greater influence than merely within their own sport.

A wide range of initiatives is needed to focus on those most likely to be disillusioned and least likely to take part in extracurricular sport—the economically disadvantaged groups, young people and ethnic minorities. The continuity between school and club sports seems still to be almost non-existent despite the efforts by school sport co-ordinator programmes to strengthen these links and despite efforts by my party when in government and by the current Government. The dropout rate at school leaving age is still alarming. The country needs to maintain a wider pool of across-the-board talent to compete on a world-class scale. Initiatives are needed to tackle motivational barriers such as time and cost as well as failures in provision; in particular of playing fields and sports grounds. It seems that a review of the usage of sports grounds is needed. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said just now, but I believe that the sharing of sports grounds should be more common, as should programming to maximise the amount of time that any facility is in use. That facility does not need to be a rugby pitch.

We are told that overall number of participants in various sports have increased, but that the actual number of hours the average person spends exercising has decreased. For 2001 to 2004, DCMS had a public service agreement target to raise significantly, year on year, the average time spent on sport and physical activity by those aged five to 16. The DCMS annual report for 2003 admitted that the average amount of time spent on sport and physical activity by five to 16 year-olds had declined since 1999. Overall, 69 per cent of pupils in partnership schools participate in at least two hours of high-quality PE and school sport in a typical week. Therefore, even after four years of a school being in a partnership, 30 per cent of the pupils are not spending two hours a week on PE. It is difficult to see how the Government will reach the target of 75 per cent of all school pupils doing so by 2006 given that many schools are not yet part of a partnership. How do HMG intend to achieve that within the time frame that they have set themselves in their manifesto?

Political correctness is now having a serious negative impact on young people in sport. For example, it is suggested that children should not play competitive games, because losing is demoralising. Dance teachers are frightened to touch pupils, which is essential for activities such as ballet where teachers are required to move pupils' limbs in order to change position and posture. Extracurricular activities such as Outward Bound are similarly declining in popularity. I declare an interest here, having led an Outward Bound team for two years in the services, in which time we took 850 young men a term into the mountains and to the rivers. That decline is in part due to the growth of a compensation culture in UK schools. Schools and clubs are frightened to take youngsters away from home, or to encourage them to try new activities where risk may be involved, such as riding a horse or rock-climbing, for fear of being sued. In 2003, one child died as a result of an incident on a school visit. But more than 7 million children went on school visits that year.

There is concern that people who act with reasonable care and skill could be held liable for untoward incidents, which will be a disincentive for teachers and parents to accept roles of responsibility and make insurance almost impossible. I had that debate with Richard Caborn last night, and he is very concerned to try to find a way out of it. The ratio of adults to children in different age groups should be kept under constant review and is spelt out in the guide to good practice. However, the review process should ensure that the opportunity for young people to participate in all sorts of sports and outdoor activities is not restricted.

Added to the dilemmas raised by health and safety and political correctness are those of bureaucracy and complicated paperwork. The Government announced on 16 September 2005 that from 1 April 2006 a one-stop approach to high-performance sport would be created by transferring full responsibility for its funding and development to UK Sport. The Independent Sports Review by my noble friend Lord Moynihan and Kate Hoey produced a report, Raising the Bar, which considers that the Government's plan to shift responsibility for world-class development to UK Sport does not go far enough.

On another front, having improved the lot of CASCs by giving mandatory rate relief at 80 per cent if they are registered as a charity, the Government have now landed them with the Licensing Act, which has increased costs and caused further confusion. Maldon Cricket Club, when asked about the impact of the Licensing Act, replied that there are two types of cost—financial and time—and went through how they add up. The cost of the licence was £100, plus a £70 annual charge, so the total cost so far has been a minimum of 15 hours spent and £384, and the club has still not yet been told whether it has a licence. The regulatory impact assessment accompanying the regulations estimates that about 20,000 non-profit-making members' clubs would be affected by the new fees. Many clubs will lose a valuable source of revenue as they will not apply for the expensive new licence.

The Government rhetoric about investment in community sport sounds positive, but the reality of the figures is shocking. In 2000, the Government pledged to invest £750 million of lottery money into school and community sport as part of a £1 billion investment over three years—fantastic. That was supposed to be joined-up government, including the departments responsible for health, education, crime and drugs. I wonder whether the Home Office, the Department of Health or the Department for Education and Skills got the message. Updated figures revealed on 6 June 2005 show that still only £70.4 million of the £750 million has been spent, although £620 million has now been committed—I believe as a result of the current Minister for Sport's boot being used in the right direction.

The managerial costs of the various sports bodies are phenomenally high. Raising the Bar reveals that the administration costs for Sport England in 2003–04 accounted for 30 per cent of its £52.5 million budget, whereas the Millennium Commission kept its overheads to 4 per cent. Nearly £14 million was spent on consultancy costs, administration for the regional sports boards and staff costs for the regional sports councils. The English Institute of Sport—the EIS—cost £120 million to establish and had £7.9 million in administration costs in 2003–04 and £8.5 million in the most recent tax year. The new Sports Foundation proposed by Raising the Bar would review the assets of the EIS, incorporate the services that are in demand and discontinue the others. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that those figures are truly shocking. What are the Government going to do to reduce that bureaucratic waste?

Sport in the community is being hindered at every move by new restrictive government legislation, health and safety and political correctness. The point of increasing the amount of sport in the curriculum is to encourage group participation, exploration and confidence, none of which can be achieved if all risk is removed. Whether it is the local football team or our Olympic athletes, sport can draw together a wide spectrum of diverse people and focus their energies into a channelled direction. Without the challenge of team sports and the adrenaline of outdoor activities such as caving and mountaineering, there is little to attract people away from their computer games and television sets. None of these activities need be high risk as long as the coaches or group leaders are properly trained.

In summary, community sport has of recent times been in the doldrums, the major issues being an over-bureaucratic approach by government, which makes the routes to funding difficult; political correctness; and overbearing health and safety regulations creating a culture of claims and fear by those responsible—something which I know the Government and we are keen to remove. Added to that is the eternal problem of maintaining young people's interest in sport and outdoor activities after they leave school. The crossover from school to club is still desperately in need of a support mechanism. The great outdoors and community sport have so much to offer to all of us, and it must be the duty of all governments to maximise those assets.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 3:40, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Pendry for introducing the second debate that we have had on sport in a matter of months, thanks to his diligence and his good fortune with regard to ballots. We have very much enjoyed this debate today which has given a good airing to the issues of community sport.

Last time when I spoke at this Dispatch Box I looked forward with some optimism towards a summer of success. This was in June, when we had not made a great deal of progress with regard to the Ashes, which is certainly a success. Nor had we succeeded in landing the Olympic bid—in fact the House was suffused with a certain gloomy reluctance to expect us to host it but a couple of weeks later we duly succeeded. If I am more optimistic than some contributors to this debate, I hope that the House will recognise that it is on the basis that the last time I spoke here, optimism proved to be fully justified.

There are real issues that we need to confront and I am grateful to my noble friend for having introduced them. I share with him the sentiment that building upon success, the Government's approach towards a feasibility study for that rather long-distance event, the World Cup soccer finals in 2018, ought to start now because it helps us to prepare the ground. As we know from the Olympic bid, you cannot start too early and you cannot over-prepare when bidding for success against other rival countries for such events. However we are looking at making some progress towards a bid which does not have to be tabled until 2011, so that is a somewhat more distant horizon.

Although we are talking about community sport, national sport acts as a role model for so much stimulus for activity at a local level. It is the heroes—the Kelly Holmeses and the Andrew Flintoffs of this world—who inspire our young people. These people—who are sometimes castigated in the press if they fall short of impeccable behaviour—are nevertheless role models. As such they are important to young people and that is why we enjoin them to concentrate upon their sporting success and not let us down with rather less attractive behaviour, either in their sport at times or elsewhere. Role models are important to young people and our sporting heroes are bound to play an important part in that. That is why sport has such significance.

I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said. It was an important counteraction to those of us who enthuse about sport to remind us that there can be a downside; there is no aspect of human activity which does not have its downside as well as its heights. I took on board his comments. Certain aspects of sport may not be wholly beneficial to society. But even the noble Lord identified—perhaps grudgingly, whereas others did so more enthusiastically—the extent to which sport can play a part in bringing communities together. It can produce a sense of identity and can certainly open up opportunities for young people.

My noble friend Lord Giddens was concerned to establish a relationship between sport and society. But one difficulty with regard to sport is that the relationship between education and skills is still poorly developed in this country. Over many generations we have over-emphasised academic success and have downplayed skills. That has been apparent in a whole range of areas of national life, and it also impacts on sport. After all, sport is the cultivation of skills, but our education system has not concentrated enough on developing it as an area of opportunity in which young people can excel.

I shall respond to one or two individual points that were raised during the debate. I assure my noble friend Lord Pendry that access to water is more a responsibility of Defra than it is of my own department, but we have drawn Defra's attention to the access of canoeists. Given the Olympic Games, that will be important as we hope to develop skills in that area to a higher level than we have done in the past, and we hope to be successful. We recognise that whereas in Scotland access to water is more regularly granted, there is a tension between the angling community and all other users of water, and we are keen to develop policy in this area.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, reminded us that there are sports other than competitive, organised and team sports. He made a very important contribution to the debate. We all recognise that walking accounts for the largest amount of exercise taken by people in this country, and the noble Lord also identified mountaineering, rock climbing and fell walking as other activities.

I heard what the noble Lord said about risk. That was reinforced to a degree by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, who laid a rather heavy emphasis on political correctness. Perhaps I may make the obvious point. We all want young people to be faced with a challenge but we are all distraught when that challenge results in calamity. When mistakes are made in leadership so that children are exposed to being swept away in mountains because they have not been sufficiently supervised, or when people are taken out canoeing and disaster occurs because the leadership has not recognised the threats, or even, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, mentioned, when swimming coaches ill-treat their charges, of course there will be a community response and of course we will be concerned. That may be defined in disparaging terms as political correctness, but we expect our young people to participate in a sporting environment in which they are guaranteed to benefit from additional skills and exercise; we do not expect them to be placed in a position of vulnerability, which can ruin young lives. So a balance has to be struck.

My noble friend Lord Grantchester raised the important issue of the relationship between professional and community sport. There is no doubt that, whatever government do, the hugely vast resources that obtain in certain areas of professional sport because of the attractiveness of that sport to television rights and resources do play a part in enhancing community facilities.

My noble friend Lord Grantchester gave evidence about Everton Football Club's community scheme. That was reinforced by my noble friend Lord Hoyle, who emphasised what a wonderful success Warrington represented in terms of its community scheme, and its triumph in the national appreciation of those efforts. I have no doubt that, just as the heroes are the people on the pitch, the facilities also have a glamour. I do not think that any young person who gets the chance, at however low a level, to play once—or appear in a starring capacity—at their local Premier League or rugby club stadium, does not get a thrill from that experience. Those experiences stimulate young people to participate, so our facilities are important. Of course, national facilities of those kinds quite rightly have to be supplemented, and are only a fraction of those which we need to provide at local community level. There is no doubt, however, that these national facilities represent the power of sport, which is a motivational pull bringing a large number of our people into sport.

I was glad that my noble friend Lord Giddens asked me what we are doing about matching the United States in the increasingly active role played by women in sport. I am happy to tell him that he is right: the fastest growing sport for women in the United States is soccer. That is also true in the United Kingdom. The growth of women's soccer is of very real significance to us, because it helps to put young men and women—boys and girls—on an equal footing in their enthusiasm for what is still the major national sport. We commend that.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, raised the virtues of sport in a convincing way. I know from his sporting background that he is going to be one of the most enthusiastic contributors to any debate on sport. He did not let us down today. He raised one or two issues regarding city academies and their use. That is something which we need to address. City academies have significant facilities. The noble Lord is right that in one or two cases—not many—there are problems in making these facilities available to the wider community because of where VAT cuts in. The Government are actively seeking a way to resolve that. We would certainly not see city academies fulfilling the role which we expect them to play in the community if we did not get past barriers of that kind.

My noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen spoke of cricket and its significance to women. We welcome the Chance to Shine scheme to which she referred, which seeks to improve competitive cricket in schools. It is already having a significant effect, and it needs to. If there has been one feature of this very significant sport over the past three decades or so, it has been the decline of school cricket.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, emphasised the question of the nature of facilities. The Government have put a stop to the sale of school playing fields. We are, however, committed to recognising that we can, at times, produce better facilities—of an indoor, covered type—than existing playing fields. We are eager to do that.

In particular, we are exploring a number of options in which there could be a government contribution to the Cricket Foundation scheme, to which my noble friend Lady Massey referred.

On the general issues that were raised with regard to community participation, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said that the Government had an ambitious target of ensuring that young people have two hours of sport outside the curriculum or PE. That ambitious target is 75 per cent; it is 65 per cent at the present time. The noble Lord is right. It is a tough target. There is not much point in the Government setting targets unless they require activity and appraisal. I am confident about achieving that target in 2006. I do not underestimate the challenge that it represents, but I am sufficiently convinced of the momentum that we are building up on this issue.

If we are to tackle the wider issues, to which noble Lords referred, that sport is important to the health of the nation, particularly in tackling obesity and ensuring exercise, we must build the recognition in schools that greater emphasis must be placed on exercise and the opportunities for sport than has obtained recently.

The debate has covered a wide range of areas. I heard what my noble friend Lord Giddens said about the evaluation of the multifarious nature of these schemes. That is an important aspect, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Carter who delineated clearly the extent to which we recognise our obligation to know value for money and the effectiveness of programmes.

Giving support to sport, as my noble friend Lord Carter identified, is no easy matter. Sport is more varied than almost any other recipient of government resource. We have to relate so much to the volunteer aspect in sport. Without voluntary contributions in sport we would be at a loss to provide anything like the facilities that we have at community level. We all know that the vast contribution to almost any sports club comes not from professional resources but from people who are prepared to give up their valuable time in what is often that stultifying role of bureaucracy— the usual despicable phrase that we use whenever there is something that we do not want to do. Administration and bureaucracy are important to every activity in sport. There is a vast difference between a rugby club with 12 or 15 sides to be organised and a small table tennis club with two or three sides and limited facilities because resources are so much more limited. I assure the House that table tennis clubs are as assertive in their demands to the body with which my noble friend Lord Carter is involved, as are rugby, cricket or soccer clubs.

It is the variety of sport and the extent to which we have to work with the grain of local participation and commitment that makes funding difficult. I accept the charge identified by my noble friend Lord Giddens. Let us get better value for money and identify what works and what does not. Let us also not underestimate the challenge that that represents to us all, given the sheer variety of sport, and the fact that we have to relate crucially to a huge amount of volunteer participation. It is that voluntary participation that stands this country in very good stead.

Of course we should be concerned about high achievement. That could not be otherwise at the moment, when anyone who follows sport has their eyes on next year's World Cup, and our preparation for the Olympic Games in this country in a few years' time. We cannot have such perspectives without being keen for high achievement. However, we also need to look at community sport, to encourage more of our young people to participate in sport, and to continue to sustain their interest past the crucial break. This is an educational, as much as a sporting, issue. Young people drop out of education at the age of 16 in far greater numbers than in any other advanced country. At the same time they turn their backs on institutionalised sport, sport having been provided for them only at school. That has to change; we must bridge these problems with greater success in the future. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Pendry for introducing a debate that has helped to clarify the issues and advance the cause.

Photo of Lord Pendry Lord Pendry Labour 4:00, 24 November 2005

My Lords, I said at the beginning of this debate that noble Lords would give due recognition to those who do so much for sport in the community. We have had outstanding contributions from many, if not all, noble Lords who spoke. I believe that Parliament, and this House in particular, is at its best when debating issues such as sport—long may that prevail.

I will not be able to respond to everyone but I say to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that I am glad he follows some of my thinking about the importance of rural sport. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, always brings in his beloved Everton and, rightly, the particular work it does within the community. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, always begins his speeches with his customary humour, though today he then became very serious—so much so that I began to wonder which side he was on. Then he came through and I agree with much of what he said and the points he made to the Minister.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, coming as he does from South Africa—a great sporting nation—clearly has a great passion for sport and that came through in his speech. The noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, made a great point about cricket—she was a Lancashire cricket captain—talking to the House about the importance of Chance to Shine. I also serve on the Cricket Foundation and it is doing much there. What she did not say is that, while it is a scheme for state schools, there is also a great link between public and state schools in this scheme. Public schools are opening many of their playing fields to state school cricket teams, which I think is very commendable. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, always bangs the drum for Warrington, where he was a Member of Parliament for many years, and is very much concerned about sport in that area. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, made very forceful speeches and I hope they will be read by those who follow our debates on sport.

As Opposition spokesperson, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has to put his party's point of view. Nevertheless, as a great Olympian himself he has a great passion for sport and that came through. I say to the Minister that I am very pleased he replied in the way he did and answered the points that were put to him. I would very much appreciate that sort of contribution outside the House some time, about some of the issues he and I feel very strongly about. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.