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Sport, Recreation and the Arts - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:27 pm on 19th December 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative 5:27 pm, 19th December 2018

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moynihan for securing this debate. Like him, I thank everybody who has sent briefings—there have been a lot of them. I want to follow up on his worrying comments about the amount of corruption that there is in sport today.

Sport has been an important part of my life, as I suspect it has for others taking part. It began with netball at school, followed by hockey, tennis and, in later years, golf. We were encouraged to take part and do our best but, as others have said, always to remember that we were part of a team. That is so important. I am glad that Sport England is investing some £40 million in large-scale facilities and that its community asset fund provides grants of up to £150,000 to organisations and communities that want to take over the ownership of spaces in their local areas.

This weekend, we have had a feast of the year’s sporting successes. All are to be congratulated, especially the Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas on his cycling achievements and the English women’s netball team on their success in winning at the Commonwealth Games in April. Perhaps even more moving were the successes achieved at the Invictus Games, where individuals who had overcome life-changing disasters showed that can-do attitude and, in turn, have gone on to inspire others.

In preparing for this debate, my mind went back to the 2012 Paralympics here in London. It will be a turning point in the recognition of the contribution made by all competitors. The opening set, with athletes suspended high in the air, was followed by fiercely competitive events that will be long remembered. I believe that that summer hotels, transport companies and many others realised that they must improve access for people with disabilities. I think it went further than that. I think employers then began to realise that people who were disabled but had commitment should succeed in the workplace, which is to be greatly encouraged.

I now turn back to the start of sport for many. I am lucky to be president of Young Leicestershire, which, through its clubs, gives young people the opportunity to take part in recreational skills including football, boxing, snooker, badminton, abseiling, fishing and canoeing, to name but a few. The river canoeing test, run over some 100 miles, celebrates its 60th anniversary next year. These clubs have been proud to see Leicestershire youngsters go on to many successful careers. Indeed, we are very proud to claim Gary Lineker and Mark Selby, who started with our clubs for young people.

I turn my thoughts to the benefits of music. As someone who learned the piano as a child, going through the agony of learning scales and arpeggios, my early enthusiasm was nearly killed off. I wondered whether it was all worth while, but music and movement can benefit us all, whether young or young at heart. Music and its rhythms speak to us in a personal way. Whether it is traditional or modern, pop or Christmas carols, one cannot help be uplifted. UK Music’s 2018 report states that the industry contributed a record £4.5 billion to the economy. It is reported that music is helping people with Alzheimer’s gain mobility and get greater enjoyment out of life.

My noble friend spoke of recreation and its value to well-being. Each year, millions of people take breaks or longer stays in the countryside. They visit the seaside, the uplands, national parks, National Trust properties or the National Forest and those visits are long remembered. Whether good brisk walks or slower rambling, playing games or taking on a more challenging venture such as rock climbing, outdoor recreation has much to offer. For many, being a volunteer with a wildlife group, where work is undertaken to improve habitats, blends hard work with enjoyment. We live in a beautiful country which has so much to offer.

I now have some questions for the Minister. First, the BBC covers many sporting events but I am concerned that more seem to be taken over by other broadcasting companies. Do the Government have a view on that change? Secondly, will radio coverage continue to exist in future years? For people travelling long distances in cars, the radio becomes an important part of that journey, and there are still many people who would rather listen to the radio than watch television.

Today is a very important day. Those of us who care very much about sport and recreation will have enjoyed this debate enormously. I again thank my noble friend for having introduced it.