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Sport, Recreation and the Arts - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:46 pm on 19th December 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Conservative 4:46 pm, 19th December 2018

My Lords, I most warmly congratulate my noble friend on a magnificent speech, on a subject that I am sure unites the House: the importance of sport for young people—able-bodied and disabled—and the part it plays in people’s lives in their sense of well-being, their health and their education. There is critical concern over disreputable behaviour, dishonesty, the lack of integrity, and drugs at an international level which cannot be ignored.

Thirty years ago, my noble friend and I were fellow Ministers at the Department of the Environment—my noble friend as Minister for Sport; I was a very junior Minister responsible for the green environment, heritage and local government, I believe. This was a troubled time for sport then—the time of the Hillsborough disaster, and getting all-seater stadia. I remember from my time in court that Mondays were always full of villains—the football hooligans who had been picked up over the weekend. A huge amount has changed, but even then my noble friend talked about the importance of dual-use facilities, and getting all maintained schools involved in sport.

I went to the Atlanta Games when British gold medals consisted of one only— Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave won the single gold medal. I was delighted that it was for rowing, but it was a disappointing time. This was, of course, before John Major’s intervention, as has been said. He has said that:

“My original vision for the Lottery was to fund a renaissance in sport, the arts and our heritage. I saw the opportunity to fund projects the Treasury would never be able to afford”.

Frankly, a lot of my time later as a Culture Minister was spent stopping the Treasury getting its sticky fingers on that money and using it for their own purposes.

To think that at the last Olympic Games in 2016, we won more gold medals than China—a greater number than ever before. In the year I went to Atlanta, our comparators were Algeria, Ethiopia and North Korea, with our low level. Now we look forward to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where I hope sport will have the same opportunity to lift the spirits and provide a lasting social, economic and sporting benefit to the local community. I know that the West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, has declared his aim,

“to restore pride in the West Midlands”,

and Birmingham will surely rise to that challenge.

Let me turn to the arts, which is what I really want to focus on. There has been an extraordinary investment, with £5.6 billion going to arts organisations through 118,000 grants and £7.9 billion to heritage projects through 43,000 grants. Sir Ernest Hall, a great lover of the arts over the years, said:

“Through the Lottery we have an opportunity to do for our towns and cities what the enlightened patronage of the Papacy and the Medicis did for the cities of Italy. We can realise Blake’s dream of making England ‘an envied storehouse of intellectual riches’”,

and so say I. Our many magnificent institutions were tired; to reinvest in the British Museum, the Tate, the Albert Hall and institutions up and down the country has been absolutely phenomenal. I mention in passing that when the British Museum, which opened in 1759, was funded by a lottery, William Cobbett, a resident of Farnham, said:

“Why should tradesmen and farmers be called upon to pay for the support of a place which was intended only for the amusement of the curious and the rich, and not for the benefit or for the instruction of the poor? If the aristocracy wanted the Museum as a lounging place, let them pay for it”.—[Official Report, Commons, 25/3/1833; col. 1003.]

I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Cormack is not in his usual place to reflect upon these words.

At a regional level, the transformational effect of the National Lottery was realised in Hull City of Culture 2017. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, will say more about this. The City of Culture was entirely transformational: there was the “Made in Hull” light spectacle, Spencer Tunick’s “Sea of Hull”, the Freedom Festival with Kofi Annan, the Ferens Gallery and the Turner Prize award, with Lubaina Himid being the first black woman to win it. I applaud the work of the chairman, Rosie Millard, the brilliant chief executive, Martin Green, and the 2,400 volunteers. Council leader Steve Brady was determined we would win that accolade. We were all set to work: I was appointed Sheriff of Hull and I lobbied ruthlessly. The noble Lord, Lord Hall, was absolutely magnificent; we had the BBC programmes “Woman’s Hour” and “Today”, as well as Radio 1’s Big Weekend, in Hull. James Graham—the playwright who went to the University of HullTom Courtenay and others all played a part. There was a great launch with the glitterati of the art world—Nick Serota, Peter Bazalgette, Tony Hall. In short, it had a really serious send-off.

The effect has been evaluated and it is so heart-lifting: there was an increase in investment, with 800 new jobs and £300 million contributed to the economy; 95% of residents participated at least once over the year; nine out of 10 cultural organisations were able to do more; 87% of people felt optimistic about the future; 75% of residents felt proud of living in Hull. I dislike people who are even remotely disparaging about Hull, but I know that in 2003 it was labelled the most “something” town in Britain—I do not feel able to say the word in this House. What a transformation: in 2016, Hull was identified as one of the top 10 cities to visit by the Rough Guide. We look forward to Coventry having the same opportunities in 2021. Only yesterday, I was with Margaret Casely-Hayford, the chancellor of Coventry University, talking about how transformational this opportunity can be.

John Major said:

“Man cannot live by GDP alone ... A country can only be strong, healthy and contented if it burnishes its heritage, encourages its citizens to pursue excellence in sport and cultivates widespread appreciation of the arts”.

I support my noble friend.