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15 Nov 2002 : Column 306—continued

12.23 pm

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): In the Queen's Speech, certain words keep reappearing. The word Xmodernised" appears four times and Xreform" appears 12 times. I hope that it is not lése-majesté to suggest that the phrase that I missed most was XMy Ministers, in the process of modernising the procedures of Parliament, will set a good example by curtailing the length of their speeches from the Front Bench." I looked in vain for the word Xsport", almost as for most of this morning I have looked in vain for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whom I now see in the Chamber, but who did a runner from it for most of the proceedings. However, she is back and I welcome her, because she has to wind up the debate and it will be a good thing for her to listen to some of the speeches.

I want simply to address the importance for the country and for London of a bid for the 2012 Olympic games. I believe that they should be located at Stratford in east London and that such a bid should have the full support of Her Majesty's Government. The games would greatly regenerate a part of our capital that urgently needs more jobs and an improved infrastructure. In spite of those temporary disadvantages, Stratford has key features that would make it the ideal location.

A stakeholders group has been under way for some time. It comprises representatives of the British Olympic Association, the Greater London Authority and the Government. The BOA has the sole right to suggest a city for the United Kingdom's bid. Clearly, it must do so with national Government and local government support.

To his credit, the Mayor of London—I trust that he will not be Mayor for much longer—has made it plain that, in his judgment, Stratford is the right location. The Government said that they are continuing to deliberate on the matter. They must reach a conclusion by next January. They also said that they hope to hold a debate in Parliament. This is a thoroughly healthy proposal, which I welcome. I trust that the debate will take place before Christmas.

The Arup report, which was compiled by the ill-named Xstakeholder group"—I suppose that we know what it means—of the BOA, GLA and the Government, is worth perusing. There is a copy of this admirable document in the Library. Its analysis is thorough and its argument cogent and compelling.

First, the report deals with the questions, XWhy London?" and XWhy the United Kingdom?" Europe will host the games in Athens in 2004; they then go to Beijing. It would be good if a capital which represents freedom and liberty in another continent should succeed Beijing.

However, we would delude ourselves if we imagined that a later bid, for xample, for 2016, would succeed. After Asia, Europe will probably have a good chance of hosting the games in 2012, and Paris is bidding hard. If we do not get 2012 for London, we may miss the opportunity for a generation. We would also miss an opportunity to regenerate a key part of our city.

There was talk of a west London site, perhaps around Northolt near my constituency, but the controversy about the third runway for Heathrow airport has shown

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the extent to which that area is congested. The hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) nods. I do not believe that it would be the right location.

Stratford is a nodal point on the railway system, which will be served by crossrail by then. It is close to the airports of Luton, Stansted, the City and Southend, and will not be too far from the expanded Heathrow, with terminal 5 in operation. It will therefore have good transport links. Providing a village for the athletes, a stadium and a warm-up track would create many jobs for the region and a permanent infrastructure which would be useful to the area and the capital for many years after 2012.

After all, 11,000 athletes would attend 300 events over 16 days. In addition, there would be 5,000 to 6,000 coaches and officials, 4,000 members of the Olympic family and 7,000 sponsors to accommodate, as well as 4,000 athletes for the Paralympics and the 2,500 officials who attend them. The Paralympics are an important feature of the Olympic games.

We must not forget the 20,000 journalists who would need not only accommodation, but the pubs and entertainment which are traditional for them. Furthermore, 9 million tickets would be sold—some 500,000 a day—and 63,000 operational personnel such as stewards, drivers, marshals and so on would need to be recruited. The enterprise would be immense, but if we consider the benefit that Sydney has obtained, we can recognise that it could be a big commercial winner for London too.

Section S8 of the Arup report on the quantified costs and benefits contains an analysis which concludes that the surplus over the whole enterprise should be about #82 million while the downside would be minus #145 million. However, the inward investment, tourism and publicity gained by London would, I am sure, be measurably and demonstrably positive for a long time to come. There would also be a cultural benefit and the project would be an example to our young people of the merits of healthy competition and vigorous participation at the highest level of athletics.

I hope that the Government take a lead. I know that the Secretary of State is undertaking a programme of visits to cities which have either recently held the games and benefited or that could perhaps be competing, so I trust that all of us who believe in our country and in London as the right location and who want to build on the Manchester Commonwealth games, which were an achievement of which we can be proud, will get involved. In the international context, however, a capital city must be the venue, and I think that it should be London in 2012. We should all get behind London—the Government, the GLA and Parliament.

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12.31 pm

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): I begin by offering my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, who has left the Chamber for a moment or two, my congratulations on his appointment. I also congratulate the teachers in my constituency of Brent, North: I believe that I have some of the finest in the country—and some of the finest head teachers to boot. I know that simply because I see what they have achieved in their schools over the past five years.

The figures for key stage 2 English SATs were 65.2 per cent., but they are now up at 74.6 per cent. The maths results have improved from 61 per cent. to 75.8 per cent. The science results, which were 68.7 per cent., are 85.2 per cent.—a 16.5 per cent. increase in five years. I pay tribute to the work done by those teachers and by head teachers, parents and pupils. A-level grades show a similar rise. In 2001, the figure for grades A to C was 54 per cent. This year, it is 62 per cent., which is an 8 per cent. rise in just one year. That shows the commitment put in by teachers and by students. I welcome it and congratulate all concerned.

I must also highlight the Government's work in investing in those children and those schools. In particular, I want the House to consider the fact that, over the past year, #2.7 million has been going into Wembley high school in my constituency, achieving specialist technology status for it. Also, #2.7 million is going into Kingsbury Green primary school in my constituency, which has created 13 new classrooms, a new hall and six special educational needs rooms for the deaf children who learn there. That sort of investment has achieved the results that I mentioned.

Let me also discuss how the private finance initiative has worked in education. In the past year, one of the oldest schools in the world and one of the most academically excellent schools in the country has come to my constituency. I refer, of course, to the Jews' Free school, which was previously located in Camden. It has moved to Kenton in my constituency, into a new school that was built under the PFI scheme, on time and to budget, costing #47 million. It is a staggering investment in the future of those children and in excellence. The Xsmall" sports hall is bigger than the entire Chamber of the House of Commons, and one needs a pair of binoculars to see across the large sports hall. We need such facilities and resources in all our schools, and they have been delivered, under the PFI model, in that school for the benefit of the children there.

I wish to utter a word of caution to my hon. Friend the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education about the problems that PFI can bring. A consortium of schools in my constituency, including two primary schools, Preston Park primary and Wembley junior and infants, put in for the first round of bidding for PFI funding. Putting the bid together took a tremendous amount of human resources, hours and commitment. The schools were not successful—it was a highly commended bid—and were encouraged to re-submit, only to find that the criteria were to be changed for the re-submission. Obviously, all the time and commitment that went into the preparation of the initial bid have been lost and the schools must start again from the beginning. The Minister will appreciate that head

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teachers and local education authority officials spend tremendous amounts of time putting forward such bids and they find such things extremely depressing.

Some of the schools in my constituency need extra support. My part of north-west London has an extremely varied population. One of the great strengths of the borough of Brent is that it is more diverse than any other borough, not just in the country but I believe in Europe. More than 120 different languages are spoken as mother tongue in our schools and an enormous number of asylum seekers locate in Brent, North. Although that brings great cultural diversity and other benefits to the area, it puts a tremendous strain on resources in local schools. Two years ago, in a reception class of 29 children, 21 different mother tongue languages were spoken. In the same school, there has been a 40 per cent. turnover of pupils in a single year. That has a destabilising effect on schools and they should command extra resources.

I understand what the Government are doing in looking at the funding formula, and I understand all the policies surrounding asylum issues and the dispersal of asylum seekers. However, those schools need that assistance. I do not contend that ethnicity is a perfect indicator or criterion. Research reports have shown that different ethnic groups do well or poorly in varying degrees. It is not a necessary consequence of a large ethnicity that groups will pose extra burdens on a school. However, when the funding formula is assessed, and when the local education criteria are established, in areas where there is multiple ethnicity, especially multiple language that goes with a transient school population, those needs must be reflected in the educational standard spending assessment criteria. I hope that the Minister will pass my comments on to her colleagues in the relevant Department, because such action is vital for the educational achievement of children in my constituency.

My central argument relates not only to education but to the role of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. More sport must be played in our schools. I want to set out how that can be achieved. In particular, I would argue that sport in secondary schools should be increased from the current aspiration of two hours per week to a timetabled allocation of two hours per day. Physical education lessons should remain part of the core curriculum, and would be in addition to the two hours of sport a day. The school day should be increased to run from 8.30 am to 6 pm to account for that.

The benefits of sport are enormous. I shall outline and document the benefits for health, social inclusion, reduced youth crime and academic standards in our schools. Sport has always played a large part in the curriculum, but in recent years the importance of sport in schools has declined markedly owing to pressure on school timetables coupled with 18 years of Conservative Administration in which playing fields were sold off.

The Government's policy is that all pupils aged five to 16 should be offered two hours of sport per week either in school time or after school. That was announced in January 2001 as an intention, since when Ministers have referred to it as an aspiration or, more recently, as an expectation.

Sport in the United Kingdom is in a state of decline. Lack of investment over the past 25 years has left us with a decaying infrastructure and no clear direction. Sport

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has been pushed aside as a budget priority, and with constant pressure on funding for the poor public services the case has to be made that sport is integral to the delivery of every aspect of the Government's policy, including health, reduction in youth crime and academic achievement.

Some sources have commented that the best way to encourage and foster the take-up of sport is to stress the importance of sport in schools. Despite Government attempts to safeguard the amount of time that is devoted to sport in schools, timetabled PE and sports lessons are at their lowest for many years. Pressures on the school timetable make it unlikely that that will change in the current climate. A wide variety of benefits would accrue from an increased take-up of sports by secondary school pupils. In the short term, benefits would include a reduction in youth crime, improved academic achievement and social cohesion. In the longer term, there would be associated benefits to public health, as today's schoolchildren grow older.

Members will know of the National Audit Office report that came before the Select Committee on Public Accounts, which looked into obesity. One of its key findings was that the present generation of children are more obese and that by the time they get to middle age they will be the first generation who are likely regularly to pre-decease their parents, because of the diseases associated with obesity such as diabetes and blindness. Those common problems are predicted by every health authority, and by the recent convention in Copenhagen that looked into this issue. We in the United Kingdom face a great threat.

Encouraging the take-up of sport among the young is widely recognised as the most successful way of increasing participation. Moreover, young people who are involved in sport are more likely to be physically active throughout the rest of their lives. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport put it this way:

If take-up is to increase, investment is required. Some investment has already been made, but it should go further. My proposal to the Government would give existing funding a firm policy direction. A radical reform of sporting provision would cement the good work already being done in the Department, and would provide a framework within which future investment could be made more effectively.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows, I have introduced a pilot scheme in my constituency involving four or five schools, but I think it vital for us in government to make the case for school sport. British children engage in less sport than those in most other European countries; worse than that, they engage in sport of a lower quality than those in most other European countries. Twenty-eight per cent. of children engage in sport regularly or intensively in the United Kingdom; in Finland 28 per cent. do so occasionally or rarely, while 39 per cent. do so intensively and 33 per cent. do so regularly.

We must reverse the situation. We must aspire to what countries such as Finland and Sweden have already achieved if we are to produce a healthier, fitter nation that is more successful. That will be reflected in

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more economic benefit and fewer absences from the workplace. The annual cost to the British economy of obesity-related diseases is #2 billion, #0.5 billion of which is incurred by the national health service.

We spend #750 per head on health care, and #1 per head on sport. That is nonsensical. It is a scandal that we, a Government who believe in preventive action in terms of health and are examining the primary care delivery service, do not see that by taking a few pounds out of that #750 and spending it on sport we could transform the health and well-being of our population.

The best way of easing the pressure on the NHS is to improve the general standard of public health. Sport England's national survey found that in 1999 only 33 per cent. of six to 16-year-olds spent two or more hours a week at school in physical education. In 1994, the figure was 46 per cent. We have gone backwards. The Public Accounts Committee found that

A significant amount of research has concluded that obesity is on the increase because less sport is being played. The national diet and nutrition survey found that schoolchildren are becoming less active as less sport is being played in school. The relevance of the correlation between children becoming less active and obesity becoming more prevalent is stressed not only in the NAO report. We cannot ignore it.

By setting in place a definitive time for school sports and placing that in the middle of the school day, we will ensure that sport is played and therefore improve the health of the nation. We will reduce the costs to the NHS and the wider economy and ensure that demand for sporting provision is kept constant and high.

The revised timetable would facilitate the introduction of breakfast clubs at the start of the school day. Research by the National Policy Institute has shown that breakfast clubs have a large beneficial impact not only on the health but on the concentration of students, on punctuality and on secondary school pupils' attendance.

One of the central recommendations for reducing obesity contained in the NAO report was:

Other sources have identified sport as crucial to improving the nation's health. The Wanless report stated:

Social exclusion, the breakdown of community and the need for regeneration have been much discussed in the Chamber. Significant positive results can be achieved from encouraging sport in the community,

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particularly among schoolchildren. A report by the Cabinet Office's policy action team on the effects of sport and the arts on social inclusion noted:

The Denham report, which looked at the causes and effects of the Bradford riots from 6 to 9 July 2001, recognised the importance of sport for young people in avoiding the breakdown in community that caused the riots, noting that

The report goes on to stress the importance of those opportunities for young people in particular. It notes that the first efforts to rebuild community relations in the area following the riots involved setting up sports schemes for children to get involved with during the remainder of their summer holidays, using sport not just for its benefits to health but for its ability to draw people together. Those benefits of sport could be exploited more efficiently in the school context.

While crime has been steadily falling since 1997, certain forms of crime—street robberies in particular—have been rising. Indeed, many of the crimes that have been on the increase are seen as youth crime and the criminals that commit those acts are often children of secondary school age. The Secretary of State for Education and Skills talked earlier about the problems of truancy and street crime and the relation between the two.

Sport has been identified as a key method in reducing youth crime. The positive futures schemes, run by Sport England, the Football Foundation, the Youth Justice Board and the Home Office drugs unit, aim to get young people off the streets by encouraging them to play sport.

An increase in school sports and an extension to the school day would have the effect of reducing youth crime. Two of the Home Office-defined risk factors show that youth crime is on the rise when children are hanging around after school and when they are unsupervised by their parents; when parents do not know where they are. The youth lifestyle survey said:

By extending the school day and making space for sport we would reduce the possibility of children hanging around in public places and the chance of their committing crimes. Children would move from school supervision to home without the three-hour gap between the end of the school day and supper at home. By extending the school day we would remove the fact that parents do not know where their children are and children hang around with nothing to do.

The contribution that sport can make when incorporated into our schools in quite incalculable. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is working closely across Government with the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills and I commend that work. However, we should be

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moving faster and further. Two hours of sport per week is a commendable aspiration, but it is not enough. One of the barriers to providing more sport in schools is the lack of facilities and resources. I have already referred to the sell-off of sports fields under the previous Government.

I also urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to review provision within our schools so that more than half a year group can have changing facilities at any one time; so that the whole school can engage in sport; and so that facilities are available to enable children to participate in a way that will improve the long-term health of our nation, reduce the juvenile crime statistics, reduce the amount of truancy in our schools and improve academic standards. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look carefully at the results of the pilot scheme in my constituency over the next three years. As she knows it will not start until next September, but I believe that if we can show them the results that I confidently believe can be achieved, the scheme should be a model for the Government to follow.

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