Amendment 7 (to Amendment 6)

Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Baroness Grey-Thompson:

Moved by Baroness Grey-Thompson

7: After Clause 1, in subsection (1), at end insert “and support local schools to maximise use of their facilities to engage children and families in sport and physical activity”

Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench

My Lords, I declare that I am chair of ukactive, which is listed in the register of interests.

The absolute base thing that we need is a good Games. There is no doubt that amazing sporting performance inspires young people to be active and play sport. That is usually in the summer and then reality sets in in the cold winter nights, and you realise that, actually, becoming the next Jess Ennis or Dave Weir involves training 15 times a week, 50 weeks of the year, and it is slightly different.

We need to think about legacy: it will not happen on its own, whether it is about investment or a change in mindset. It is really important that we think about that. I would love physical literacy to have the same status as literacy and numeracy in school: for me, it is about healthy mind, body and spirit. It is outside the remit of this legislation to look at changing the school day or how we train our PE teachers. That is perhaps for another time, but my amendment is quite simple in what it is asking for. It is about maximising schools’ facilities before, during and after the Games to get the best possible legacy that we can for young people and their families in the area. The good news is that my proposal would require only minimal investment from the Government. However, if they would like to invest more and open it to the whole of the UK, I would be more than delighted.

We have to think differently about how we use our school sites. The reality is that, as much as we have this incredible elite success, today’s children are the least active generation ever. Sport England research in 2018 showed that just one in four boys and one in five girls in England achieved the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. As children lead increasingly sedentary lives, they are at bigger risk of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. That has serious implications for the NHS. We know that children’s fitness declines by as much as 80% over the summer holidays, so when they come back in September they are way behind where they were at the start of the holidays.

Announcing levels of government funding for the Games in June 2019, the then Sports Minister Mims Davies MP said:

The Games budget is a significant investment in Birmingham and the region. It will deliver benefits to local people for years to come. It will increase participation and encourage more people to get active and stay active.”

But we need to do more. The Games are a key sporting milestone, but we know that post Games there is a spike in participation, but then it drops quickly. If we look at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, there was little increase. The figure was 67% in 2013 and 68% in 2016, so my idea is to discover how we can open schools and use them as community hubs during the summer holidays. Children live on average 2.4 miles away from a school, with the average distance falling as low as 1.4 miles in inner cities, where levels of deprivation are much higher. What I did not realise until relatively recently, which I perhaps should have done, is that 39% of sports facilities in England sit behind school gates. When they shut in the summer holidays, not just young people but anyone who accesses them no longer has the opportunity to do so.

I am already involved with pioneering a model which opens schools in the summer holidays, giving young people two snacks, lunch and physical activity, from 9 am to 3 pm. They run around and are active. Nutritious food is a really important part of that. In 2018, 24 schools across England and Wales hosted holiday clubs for young people aged between five and 15. Importantly, at the end of that first pilot it was reported that the number of children meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for physical activity increased by 29%. The children were not all going throughout the summer holidays; they might pick a week or two weeks, although some went through the whole summer. The programme went from 25 sites in 2018 to 70 in 2019, offering a total of 10,000 free places for children on free school meals. Over 30% of these clubs were located in deprived areas.

Through that pilot we have seen a continual increase in the number of schools the model operates in, working with partners. There is consistent increased participation and we need to do more to look at opening schools in the Easter holidays for children most at risk. This model, if used at local schools before, during and after the Games, would engender a lasting legacy for increased participation, feeding young children into sports clubs if they wanted to go into sport, and helping set them up for the rest of their lives.

This is a really important thing we could do around the Commonwealth Games. At least if we did it around the Birmingham and wider West Midlands area, it would give young children in some quite challenging communities—I lived for four years in Ward End, which is quite a challenged part of Birmingham—a real opportunity to think differently about themselves and education and set them on a positive path. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blower Baroness Blower Labour 6:30 pm, 25th February 2020

My Lords, I have been unable to speak in this debate previously but am enthusiastic to have the opportunity to say something on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. It concerns me that we have talked about sports legacy for a very long time but have never willed the consistent funding and approach to genuinely embed it for generations of young people. I speak as a former convenor of the Commonwealth Teachers’ Group and am therefore actively engaged with teachers across the Commonwealth. I am very excited about the Commonwealth Games.

I am slightly concerned that, when I started teaching in 1973 in the ILEA, we had many sports clubs in schools. It has been a consistent rollercoaster of up and down; sometimes sport is well funded and sometimes it is not. Sometimes Ofsted is keen on it; sometimes Governments are keen on it. If everything that has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is to come to fruition and we are to see that young people in our schools have these serious opportunities in term time and during the school holidays, we must think about the legacy of these Games not just in terms of headlines but hard and long about how we fund all the things we want and need to happen in our schools.

I absolutely believe that there is a commitment from the teaching profession that schools, as the hubs of their communities, should be open more of the time. But that requires resources. It requires that the facilities, which will be used in addition to the time when the schools are in session, be maintained. It requires that there be coaches and other available teachers. It requires that schools work together. In Birmingham, for example, we have a plethora of different types of school, some of which work well together and some of which do not necessarily work so well together. We heard earlier in this debate about the problems vis-à-vis the financial challenges potentially facing Birmingham, and I am sure noble Lords will know that there is currently a significant issue around education funding generally, whether for sport or other issues.

For all the reasons already given in some of these fine speeches, there should be a real legacy that relies on young people having an absolute right to the level of physical activity which we all seek from them. I hope that noble Lords who may have the ear of Government will ensure that this sports legacy is not just a headline but a reality, perhaps initially, as the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, has said, in Birmingham and the surrounding area but spreading out across the whole country—ultimately, so that GB can be a model of the kind of sports legacy to which our young people can aspire and have as an absolute right in their lives, in not just term time but school time. It will result in a healthier school cohort and possibly even more medals.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour

My Lords, I echo my noble friend’s point that we often debate the use of school facilities and bemoan the fact that they are in use for a disappointing percentage of time in the average week. However, we must face the financial reality that school governing bodies face at the moment. In Birmingham, a lot of primary schools are now closing at lunchtime on Fridays because they simply cannot find any other way to balance the books. The idea that the education system of schools in Birmingham can somehow magic up the ability to open their facilities for hours on end, particularly in the summer holidays, will not happen. I am sure that the Minister’s department wishes very much for schools to do more, but we have somehow to find a way to give them the ability to do it.

I hope also, although the amendments before us do not mention health particularly, that there will be a way to find an opportunity for health bodies in Birmingham to take part in some of the discussions. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, has talked a little about young people’s health and well-being, but I am afraid that Birmingham’s obesity levels are very high. I have always hoped that the Commonwealth Games might be a catalyst for us to try to do something about it. The health service needs to step up to the plate, because its enthusiastic involvement in legacy planning could be very important. Health interests and sport interests do not always mix easily, partly because people in health worry that things such as the Commonwealth Games stress the joy of competitive sport at the expense of everyone. I understand that, but they can sometimes be very precious about it. I still believe that the two can run together, but opening the door to health interests now would be a good way to see whether they can be round the table and proactive in promoting legacy. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, put it so well: this time we should ensure that we get legacy right.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I will make a few comments. First, on my amendment, I think we covered part of the international co-ordination and spreading the events in the previous debate, but if the Minister has more to say on that I will of course listen gladly. The main thrust coming through here is represented by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, effectively asking whether the Government will enact their own sports policy properly, which involves the department of health co-ordinating with the Department for Education and local government to make sure we have facilities to get out there and participate in grass-roots sport. Competitive sport is there at grass-roots level; it is just not as well done. I pray in aid my own sporting career. I am afraid that I missed Second Reading because I was playing rugby against the French Parliament. Yes, we lost. I recommend parliamentary rugby to anybody who wants to see the detail of the game, because we are so slow that you do not miss anything.

A good sports policy alone does not create champions. They often come by freak and fluke, and the very lucky get through. A good system will leave a supply of them. A really good sports policy will provide second-team and third-team players for small clubs and address the health problems, et cetera. People saying, “Wow, isn’t he great, let’s look at him on TV”, but then sitting down with beers and chips and saying, “Let’s try another channel” does not help very much. We need to get people out there to take part.

Perhaps we should be set up differently, but schools are a great facility. I started my club career playing on a school pitch that was lent to a small club that had just got itself a ground. We came through after 10 or 15 years of using school pitches. We must not stop that spontaneous growth of sport. We have a tradition of organising ourselves at a far higher level than any other country in Europe. Doing it ourselves means a cheaper facility. We should help and support that, as these amendments would do, enacting a sports policy which says, “These bits of government should come together”. Surely if something as exciting as a Commonwealth Games cannot allow us to do that, we really are missing a trick.

Photo of Lord Foster of Bath Lord Foster of Bath Chair, Rural Economy Committee, Chair, Rural Economy Committee

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, is 100% right; schools must be involved in trying to ensure the sporting legacy that we desperately seek. There have been financial problems, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. However, there have also been many initiatives over the years to do the most sensible thing: link sports clubs with schools, so that youngsters have an opportunity to try a far wider range of sport and find one that they are interested in. When they leave school, they would then have somewhere to continue participating in that sport. Sadly, we still have dreadful figures about the drop-off rate of sports participation at the end of the school years.

I support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, which has my name attached to it. He rightly points out that although in all the multisport events in this country over the years, we have had a range of very good legacies—buildings, contracts, upskilling and so on—we have failed to develop a sporting legacy from any of them, and certainly not at anything like the level that we hoped for.

I notice that the organising committee’s current legacy plans were on just one page of the Social Values Charter it put out in October 2019, saying that everybody is working together and that it is still in the process of developing long-term legacy plans. As I am sure noble Lords have seen, a number of new appointments have been made to the legacy and benefits committee; I welcome that. It has identified nine key themes for legacy. One of them is what we are speaking about: physical activity and well-being. Against each of the other eight, various organisations are also referenced, but in relation to physical activity and well-being the DCMS is listed as the lead body. The Minister said that it is the responsibility of the organising committee, as an NDPB, to produce regular reports on issues, and we have been assured that legacy will be one of them. But can she tell us what plans the Government have—and her department has—to produce a legacy planning report? It would give those of us who are interested an opportunity to comment, and perhaps collectively achieve for the first time what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is keen for, as am I: a true, lasting sporting legacy from a multisport event.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health) 6:45 pm, 25th February 2020

I also want to speak to the amendment on the legacy of the Games, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Moving away slightly from the issue of sports, I refer to its proposed new subsection (3)(a), where he talks about:

“the impact of the Games on the local community in which it was held”.

One of the key impacts is on capital development. I want to put on record my thanks to the Minister, and the team from Birmingham 2022, who came to talk to me about housing standards, which I raised at Second Reading. Although I will refer to it on the next group of amendments specifically in relation to disabled athletes, I want to make two brief and wider points on legacy.

I mentioned the lifetime homes standard for a very good reason: its category 2 makes just enough provision for an ordinary unit of accommodation to be adapted for less than £2,000, to be suitable for an elderly or disabled person but not somebody living in a wheelchair, whereas it takes in excess of £20,000 to adapt most units of accommodation, for example with slightly stronger walls where grip bars can be put up or slightly larger bathrooms with walk-in showers or baths. I am very disappointed to discover that, of the 1,472 plots on the Perry Barr residential scheme, only 20% will reach category 2, which is “flexible and adaptable”. The vast majority will be category 1, “visitable dwellings”. Hopefully, somebody in a wheelchair can be taken into one of them, but this category still permits steps into the building, which makes it utterly useless. Habinteg, an expert in lifetime standards, says that category 1 should not be used by the Government or anyone else and that category 2 should be the minimum. There are very few units at category 3, which is for those who live in and use wheelchairs. I will come back to why that affects sportspeople on the next group.

Having heard all that, I did some quick research. The Birmingham Mail reports that of the 1,472 units, only 58 affordable houses of family size will be built, despite there being 2,500 families in temporary accommodation in Birmingham. That is a massive missed opportunity. Over 1,000 of these units will be sold, so there will be very few left for affordable use by local communities or housing trusts. This is one lesson we can start to learn already. A large amount of taxpayers’ funding is helping to purchase and build the site—£185 million—yet the legacy of affordable housing in Birmingham has been missed completely.

Photo of Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)

My Lords, I do not want to say very much—honestly, I do not—but I have grown increasingly impatient with myself as this debate has continued. We need a full-scale debate, rather than one under the rigours of debating a Bill, about why and how the legacy of the Olympic Games did not deliver the ideals that have been mentioned, and why, despite the fine words, the legacy from these Games is just as likely not to be delivered. This involves far more than somebody putting a clause in a Bill. I put a great deal of effort into the two inner-city schools that I have some responsibility for. People can use their facilities any time they like—because we have not got any.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Moynihan’s Amendment 6, and Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, consider the sporting legacy of the Games. I thank them for highlighting the importance of Birmingham 2022’s legacy. I know that they have also taken a keen interest in other areas of Games delivery—my noble friend in the development of the organising committee’s Social Values Charter and the noble Baroness in the organising committee’s accessibility work. I thank them for that.

It is right that legacy and realising the very real benefits of hosting major events, such as the Commonwealth Games, are areas closely scrutinised by Members of your Lordships’ House. As we have discussed, the Games will bring economic growth, through new jobs and business opportunities, accelerate regeneration through infrastructure projects and create new ways for more people to get involved in culture and volunteering in their local community. In particular, I share the enthusiasm of this House for maximising the opportunity that the Games present to promote sport and encourage people to become more physically active. Our plans to promote physical activity will include maximising the impact of the new sporting facilities being delivered for the Games, as well as existing facilities.

The new facilities will include: the redevelopment of athletics facilities at Alexander Stadium, to increase permanently the number of seats from 12,000 to 18,000 post-Games; the creation of a brand new aquatics centre in Sandwell which, in legacy, will provide a 50-metre Olympic-sized swimming pool, a 25-metre diving pool and 1,000 spectator seats for community use; and the addition of new cycle lanes across the city. As my noble friend Lord Moynihan pointed out, the Government have an important role in catalysing the impact of these new facilities. We are therefore working with all the Games’ delivery partners and local stakeholders in the region to develop programmes that will harness the power of the Games to promote sport and physical activity. For example, the Department for Education recently announced £20,000 of funding in Birmingham to encourage more young people to become volunteers and coaches in sports clubs and the local community in the run-up to the Games. This will provide a boost for Birmingham and develop a pipeline youth volunteer workforce ahead of the Games. We will also draw on the evidence from Sport England’s £10 million local delivery pilot investment to promote physical activity among hard-to-reach groups in Birmingham and Solihull.

To respond to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, we are working with schools across the region to ensure children and young people are able to access all the opportunities to get involved in physical activity that the Games will create. As well as making the most of the new facilities developed as a result of the Games, we will look at how we can make better use of existing facilities. Sport England is already working with the Active Partnerships network to open up school facilities outside school hours, following a £1.6 million funding boost to help schools make better use of their sporting assets. We will continue to work with the network to explore ways in which school facilities can play a part in the physical activity legacy of the Games.

I am aware that a number of the points made by the noble Baroness are broader than simply the potential of the Games, which are a hotspot for focusing on that. However, a lot of work is going on in the department on investment in grass-roots football and a wide range of youth activities. I am more than happy to meet the noble Baroness, if that would be helpful, to discuss how we can use our combined wits to try to make the best of that issue.

A commitment to publishing a legacy plan was given during passage of the Bill in the previous Parliament and I am pleased that we are making good progress on that, with the development of the evaluation framework under way, including learning lessons from previous Games such as London 2012 and Glasgow 2014. As we develop the plan, and in recognition of their experience in this area, I would welcome the insights of my noble friend and the noble Baroness regarding physical activity and sport. I will also ensure that a copy of the plan is placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, asked how the reporting on the plan would take place. That is being done as a partnership. It is a work in progress but I shall make sure that the House is kept updated on it.

The Games partnership is keen on draw on a broad range of insight. Noble Lords touched on this at Second Reading; the Committee may be interested to know that the organising committee recently appointed five influential community leaders to the legacy and benefits committee, a cross-partner group set up to ensure that the city, region and country maximise the benefits of the Games. The new members bring expertise drawn from a range of diverse backgrounds. For example, one of them is the founder of the Beatfreeks collective, which works with creative young people in Birmingham to have a positive impact in the city. She is joined by others with experience based in sport, education and skills, accessibility and the arts. The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, highlighted the considerable task ahead of us to achieve this change, but we are working hard to bring the right people in to help lead on this work.

I turn to Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I am sure that other noble Lords will congratulate him on his participation, not just in interparliamentary rugby but the tug of war between your Lordships’ House and the other place. His amendment would require the Government to lay a report before Parliament on lessons learned from Birmingham 2022 and how lessons have been learned from previous events. With regard to previous Games, the Commonwealth Games Federation orchestrates the formal exchange of information between previous and future hosts to understand successes, lessons learned and areas for improvement. Lessons for Birmingham 2022 have also been taken on board from London 2012 and Glasgow 2014. Not only are there practical lessons from their approach to delivery; we are also learning from the inspirational way in which those events harnessed the community spirit of their host cities.

I turn to the lasting impact of Birmingham 2022. We have been clear that we want the positive effects of the Games to be lasting for Birmingham and, more widely, for the West Midlands. Hosting the Games is already accelerating infrastructure and public transport improvements across the city and region. In addition to the new sports facilities, the Games will act as a catalyst for new housing in Perry Barr—although I hear the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton—and improvements to University and Perry Barr railway stations, not to mention the infamous Kings Heath station.

The long-term ambitions for the Games are to improve health and well-being, bring people together, be a catalyst for change, put us on the map and help the region to grow and succeed. We are carefully considering how this story is told once the Games end, while working with partners to look at how best to measure and report on the impact of the Games, including the impact on the local community. We will keep this House updated. We are committed to taking forward any lessons learned from the Games into planning for future major sporting events, and confident that effective plans are in place for doing so, which is why such a provision is not required in the Bill.

I hope that noble Lords are reassured that plans are in train to deliver, learn from and report on the benefits that come from hosting the Games. In view of that, I hope that the noble Baroness and my noble friend will be happy to withdraw their amendments.

Amendment 7 (to Amendment 6) withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative 7:00 pm, 25th February 2020

My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this interesting debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, highlighted, this is an area of responsibility for government. It is even built into the documentation for the Games. Quite frankly—I say this with a heavy heart—we should not be funding events if we are not prepared to fund the sports legacies of those events. To give a final example, while pressure is applied to local authority spend the fact is that it is discretionary spend and will always be squeezed first. I hope my noble friend the Minister can take this point away: sport and recreational provision is discretionary spend in England. It is the largest source of funding for sport in this country.

However, until we recognise the importance of sporting opportunity: for the young in educational terms, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, said; in aiding the fight against obesity, which was highlighted in terms of health; in providing the only language understood by too many of our young people who find the classroom alien and who, without the medium of sport, would find themselves on an escalator to crime; in overall health terms; in learning teamwork, the mantra of any further education; in management skills from shopkeeping to JP Morgan; and in realising the opportunity of a multibillion dollar industry worldwide, with new media and global social networking access, then the discretionary funding of sport will see sport and recreational facilities, and their legacy, wither and die on the vine of cost savings. With it will go the inspiration awakened by a great Games for so many young people in 2022.

There needs to be a concerted sports legacy policy—not just a plan but a series of policies—to open up our schools to dual use and make the sports legacy a reality. I make no apologies for being passionate about this subject, and I will make the case until they carry me out. But with those words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.