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Westminster Hall

Thursday 14 July 2005

[Sir John Butterfill in the Chair]

Elite Sports

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Tony Cunningham.]

2.30 pm

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn) : I am very proud and fortunate to be the first Minister for Sport in 60 years to stand before hon. Members and say that London will play host to the world's greatest sporting event—the Olympics. It was just a week ago that we flew back from Singapore. Unfortunately, we flew to a London that was very sad, but we brought back good news for London and the country.

By any standards, securing the right to host the Olympics is an outstanding achievement for a nation. It is a tribute to the extraordinary dedication and imagination of all those involved that they took the project from being a dream to becoming a reality. I pay tribute to Lord Coe, Keith Mills, Mike Lee and all the teams. They have been immense. As was said in the House the other day, tribute should also be paid to all the Opposition parties, because our unity of purpose was a clinching factor in convincing members of the International Olympic Committee that we were serious and that the whole nation was behind us.

I also pay tribute to Barbara Cassani, because, as many people have said, she has been missed out. Had she not put together the company that she did and brought together some of the personnel to whom I referred, we would not have done as well as we did. Halfway through the process, after she got us on to the shortlist, she had the courage to say that somebody else should take things forward, and Seb Coe then ably led the team from thereon in. The bid was the culmination of several years of hard work, commitment and investment and it reflects our commitment to not only elite sports, but sport in general.

Our thanks also go to the IOC, because, in the end, its members showed the confidence in the United Kingdom to award us the bid. We were up against some pretty fierce opposition. The other four bids had a tremendous amount to commend them to the IOC, and any one of the five on the shortlist could have produced a first-class Olympic games in 2012.

There were powerful reasons why we wanted to bid for the Olympics and the Paralympics in 2012. Indeed, the Paralympics are coming home, because the first such games were held at Stoke Mandeville in 1948. I hope, and know, that we will put on a first-class Paralympics again.

The games are the pinnacle of international sport and have an unparalleled ability to inspire, to mobilise and to excite people in their millions. Indeed, we saw what happened when it was announced that the bid would be coming to London and the country. We saw the pride up and down the nation.
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The performance and success of our athletes at the games, and indeed of athletes from around the world, will motivate our young people to become involved in sport and remain involved in it for the rest of their lives. That is why it is important that we invest in sport at all levels and provide individuals with opportunities to strive to become the best that they can.

The national lottery should not be forgotten in all this, because it has played a significant role. I pay tribute to those involved in it for the support that they have given sport. The lottery has taken many people from the playground to the podium. It has also enabled us to target funding at our top athletes by introducing the world-class performance programme. That funding has ensured that athletes can train and perform at the highest level. It has helped athletes to pursue their sport while in employment or full-time training. As a result, we have come a long way since the disappointing haul of medals that we had—or did not have—at the Atlanta Olympics. The UK can, and now does, perform at the highest international level.

Since the Atlanta Olympics, there has been increased investment in each four-year Olympic cycle. At Beijing in 2008, our elite athletes will benefit from the biggest investment in elite athletes that has been made to date.

We will continue to make use of first-class training facilities and, indeed, the superb support personnel at those facilities. We have already seen the difference that that investment can make in the performance of our top athletes in recent Olympics and Paralympics. From 36th in the medal table in Atlanta, we went to 10th at Sydney and Athens and in the Paralympics we moved from fourth in Atlanta to take second place at Sydney and Athens. I believe that the increased funding that has been made available for the Beijing cycle and the no-compromise investment strategy that has been adopted by UK Sport will enable us to attain increased medal success at the games. We should make no mistake about it—people talk about lifting the bar, and the bar at the Beijing Olympics will be lifted considerably.

At elite level, it is not enough to stand still. Every country is constantly striving to do better and we must do more than simply match that. The status quo is not an option. The spread of medals in Athens was quite interesting. I think that 76 countries achieved medal status. That base is expanding, which is welcome. That is why we now look to tomorrow's stars. We must be rigorous in identifying talent and nurturing it to its full potential. An approach called the talent development pathway is helping to identify and to develop sporting talent from the playground to the podium.

Our athletes need to be supported at every step of their evolution from talented youngsters to elite performers. We all know—I know it as a father and a grandfather of two—the pressures on young people today. Many diversions are put in front of them. That pressure is significantly increased if they have talent, and there is a need to combine their pursuits with starting and maintaining a career or course of study. It is important that those things be married together. That is where Gifted and Talented has an important role, focusing on improving the identification of talented young athletes, as well as the support and provision for them.
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If we are to realise our sporting potential, we must have a system that supports our talented youngsters through that critical period. The talented athlete scholarship scheme, known as TASS, and the 2012 scholarships fit into that. The programme bridges the gap between junior representative sport and world-class levels. TASS will enable our athletes to maximise their sporting potential, while continuing further and higher education and—this is important—employment. There may be many young people who are talented athletes who may not be academically brilliant or bright, and will not stay on in education. We need to make sure that the talent of those who leave school earlier to take up apprenticeships is not lost, and that those people have access to all the facilities.

The 2012 scholarship is a strand of TASS. It is designed to fast-track the 12 to 18-year-old group to elite sporting programmes such as UK Sport's world-class performance programme. That programme will ensure that outstanding talent, which might previously have been lost for ever, is nurtured, supported and developed. The programme builds on the partnership formed between education and sport. Education establishments have always been important contributors to our sporting culture. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to our schools and further and higher education establishments, which play a significant role in supporting sport at all levels.

The investment that we are now making in giving every child two hours of quality physical activity or sport every week from the age of five to 16 is starting to pay dividends in many varied ways. That is emerging clearly from the report by Ofsted. Moving from that base to a further two to three hours a week of extra-curricular activity will be important. We want to ensure mass participation in physical activity and sport, and to identify the talent that comes through.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I join the Minister in praising the work of our schools and I agree about the importance of the two hours of physical recreation in schools that the Government are pressing ahead with. Does he agree—I am sure that he does—that we need also to focus on the current high drop-out rate? The latest figures suggest that about 70 per cent. of young people will stop being involved in any form of physical activity when they leave school. We must deal with that.

Mr. Caborn : Very much so—we are doing that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are investing £60 million through the governing bodies to develop sports clubs. We are encouraging the club-school link, whereby we can ensure that sport is played not only in school but afterwards. Evidence is emerging of the benefits of exposing young children to more than two or three sports. It is argued that the more sports children are exposed to at school, the more likely they are to enjoy those experiences and to carry on participating in sport after they leave school.

One problem is that some sports have been male-dominated. That is true of football, but it is less so now. The film "Bend It Like Beckham" encouraged a lot of young women and girls to play football. About 1.5 million girls and women are registered with the Football
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Association. Football is the fastest growing participation sport among girls and women. We must offer young people access not only to facilities but to a number of sports. Through the links with the top four governing bodies and others and the multi-sports club approach, we will begin to address the 70 per cent. drop-out rate.

The further and higher education sectors are leading the way on TASS and the 2012 scholarships. The Government believe that TASS and the 2012 scholarships provide the bridge between raw talent and the finely tuned athlete, and are key to elite sports. Our aim is to increase participation in sport and physical activity, especially through the education system, and to identify and nurture talent under TASS and the 2012 scholarships. TASS will receive Exchequer funding of £12 million over four years, and the 2012 scholarships will receive £3 million over three years. We are looking into how we can invest more.

I want our most talented athletes, from whatever walk of life, to follow in the footsteps of our great athletes such as Kelly Holmes, Amir Khan, Ben Ainslie and Bradley Wiggins, who will compete in Beijing in 2008 and in future Olympics and Paralympics.

We have already enjoyed significant success with athletes who have been supported by TASS and the 2012 scholarships—about 1,100 have participated in TASS and 200 or 300 have been awarded 2012 scholarships. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) will be aware that Shelley-Marie Rudman and Amy Williams, whom I met at Bath university, won gold medals at the world university winter games in January—Britain's first gold medals since the games began in 1960. They told me that what we are doing helped them with their achievements.

More recently, TASS bursary recipient Andrew Kennaugh was a runner-up in the 2005 boys doubles at Wimbledon, and Oliver Fisher, who has a 2012 scholarship, has been selected for the GB and Northern Ireland golf squad for the Walker cup. At 15, Oliver is the youngest athlete to represent Great Britain in the competition. On behalf of all hon. Members, I congratulate them on their achievements and wish them every success.

A number of athletes on the TASS programme will represent England at next year's Commonwealth games in Melbourne. We hope to see them on the podium realising their dreams.

It is not enough simply to identify talented people and support them individually through sports governing bodies. We must also ensure that our top and aspiring athletes have the appropriate training facilities to enable them to compete and to deliver success at the highest level. That is why we have invested heavily through Sport England in the English Institute of Sport. We have a nationwide network of facilities and support services for our high-performing athletes.

There has been significant capital investment in the development of those facilities, with Sport England providing more than £175 million from lottery funding. The network consists of nine regional hub sites based at various locations, including dedicated centres and
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universities. The hon. Member for Bath will know that Bath and Loughborough are probably the two leading universities in that area.

Mr. Don Foster : Hear, hear.

Mr. Caborn : I thought the hon. Gentleman might say that.

The institute is providing for Olympic and Paralympic sports, and our athletes will have the opportunity to take advantage of first-class training facilities and services. Make no mistake—it works. Six to eight weeks before the Paris world athletics championship, which took place a year before the Olympics in Athens, Kelly Holmes went to the EIS in Sheffield, and she says that that made the difference between being good and being the best. She took silver in Paris and went on to take double gold in Athens, which is the difference between getting good support and the very best. That is what the EIS represents—probably the best in the world. We want to continue to build on that.

Examples of the facilities available to our athletes include 50  m swimming pools at Bath and Loughborough. They are fantastic to visit. As I said, I was in Bath a couple of weeks ago, and I went also to Loughborough. I saw kids from the local community, probably with their schools, training in the same place as aspiring athletes and, more importantly, world-class athletes. The inspiration that the youngsters get from swimming in the same pool as a gold or silver medallist is fantastic, and that is shared across the sports—on the track, in the swimming pool and in the gym. That is also happening at the athletics facilities in Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham, and at the Manchester velodrome.

That is in addition to the iconic stadiums at which top competitors already perform, such as Lords, Wimbledon and the soon-to-be-completed—thank God—Wembley. Furthermore, following the success of the London 2012 bid, our athletes can look forward to competing in several major new facilities, not only in the lower Lea valley, but across the whole of the United Kingdom. For example, there is the aquatic centre, velopark, hockey arena, indoor sports arena and main stadiums, as well as the canoeing centre.

It was interesting in the press conferences in Singapore to talk about our innovation in building sports facilities. We will build an 80,000-seater stadium in the east end in the lower Lea valley, which will be converted into a 25,000-seater stadium dedicated to athletics. However, if we then want to hold the Commonwealth games and increase the capacity to 40,000, we can do that. Let us contrast that with the stadiums in Barcelona and Sydney. Neither has an anchor tenant and both are a financial liability, particularly on the sporting purse.

Unfortunately, that has happened in several cities where the Olympics and other major events have taken place, and there has not been the legacy that the International Olympic Committee wanted. One of the most compelling parts of our Olympic bid was our innovation, part of which I have described. Another part is that, of three arenas, two will be temporary and can be moved to other parts of the UK. Not one facility
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built for the 2012 Olympics will not have an after-use, either with an anchor tenant or having been moved elsewhere in the UK.

It is an exciting time for our engineers, whether they are construction, mechanical or electrical engineers. Their challenge is to lead the world not only in design but in usage of the facilities.

Mr. Don Foster : I agree with the Minister, but will he acknowledge that, if we are to get real benefit from the technological development and building work, we need to ensure that people in this country get the contracts for the work? Does he acknowledge that there is an urgent need to work with the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that the right skills training is taking place, so that we have people with the relevant skills to win those contracts?

Mr. Caborn : I hope that the Learning and Skills Council is moving in that direction, and not just for those schemes. About £1.5 billion of investment is being made in sports facilities in London alone. One need only look at what is being done at Wembley, at Wimbledon—where they are putting a roof over Centre court—and at Ascot, where £178 million is being invested in the race course.

We have some of the best designers and architects in the world. However, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that to put up the buildings we will also need other skills. I hope that the regeneration of the east end will be a true regeneration, and that it will be regenerated by the indigenous population constructing those buildings, and not by imported labour.

Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): I thank the Minister for his assurances about the investment that will be made in the east end of London. However, may I ask him about my own constituency of Hove? In my constituency, we hope within the next few years—if planning regulations permit—to have a new swimming pool designed by Frank Gehry, the architect of the Guggenheim in Barcelona, with a less than Olympic-sized swimming pool, plus a new premiership-style football stadium at Falmer. Can the Minister offer any hope for my constituency that we will be able to share in the training opportunities and the investment that will reach London?

Mr. Caborn : I hope so. In Athens, 202 teams participated in the Olympics, and one assumes that the figure would be roughly the same for the 2012 Olympics. Many of those teams came to the host nation some weeks, if not months, before the Olympics. We will therefore be looking to identify suitable holding camps. For example, the British team had a holding camp in Cyprus for many weeks, if not months, before the Athens Olympics, and spent a similar time on the Gold Coast, which is in north-eastern Australia, prior to the Sydney Olympics. There will therefore be great opportunities for the British regions. In fact, this evening at 5.30 pm, I will be meeting Sir Charles Allen to discuss the regions to try to ensure that the regional development agencies, the regions and their sporting infrastructure are positioning themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that will be available. We will be looking at that with the Olympic company to ensure that we give assistance.
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I have talked about real estate, but the EIS is much more than that. It not only provides world-class facilities, but ensures that athletes have access to the best in support services, principally sports medicine and physiotherapy, along with sports science and strength and conditioning work. These days, that is important. We have been disappointed on many occasions by there being far too many injuries, and by the fact that it has taken a long time for the athletes with those injuries to get back on to the park or the playing field. I hope that that is now changing, due to the type of back-up for our athletes in which we are investing. The provision of such services is a vital part of an athlete's training programme to ensure that they are in the optimum condition to compete. For this financial year, more than £10 million has been provided to the EIS company to deliver those key services.

One issue particularly close to my heart, which threatens severely to damage the integrity, image and value of sport, is that of performance-enhancing drugs. Taking banned substances is cheating—there is no other way to describe it. We want our young athletes to know that they can compete and win without resorting to taking drugs. Our Olympic athletes are role models. We cannot be proud of sporting success unless we are certain that it has been delivered cleanly and on merit.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): Some years ago, in 1988, I did a film for Channel 4 about David Jenkins—a 400 m runner—and drug abuse. I urge the Minister to push for compulsory drug testing of all athletes for 2012.

Mr. Caborn : As my hon. Friend knows, I am a member of the foundation board of the World Anti-Doping Agency. I think that the majority of athletes who win medals will be tested automatically. There is no doubt that the key to ensuring that we have drug-free sport is random testing. The one thing that athletes fear more than anything is the knock on the door and somebody asking for a sample. They do not know when or where it will come, but it is a deterrent that is important for the integrity of the wider code. While I do not disagree with my hon. Friend, I would still say that the best way to eradicate drugs is to increase the number of random tests. However, testing is expensive, so we are trying to get more resources for the World Anti-Doping Agency to ensure that that can happen.

The UK can be very proud of its anti-doping programme. As my hon. Friend said, it is some time since he was involved, but we have been at the forefront of the campaign. As the UK's national anti-doping organisation, UK Sport has carried out some 29,000 tests across more than 40 sports in the past five years, and I am pleased to say that only 1.5 per cent. of tests—that is still 1.5 per cent. too many—resulted in adverse findings, demonstrating that the vast majority of our athletes are competing drug free.

An anti-doping policy cannot, however, be simply to say no to drugs. We need to back up our strict liability rule, and athletes committed to competing cleanly must be given support and access to the best advice. Bad decisions, as we know, can cost them their jobs, their
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reputations and their lifelong dreams. If we do not educate them and their support personnel about permitted substances, we will put them in a difficult position.

Therefore, we need not only to say that strict liability is not negotiable—it is not—but to provide good education and back-up information for athletes and those who train them. The World Anti-Doping Agency has outlined the importance of education in the fight against drugs in sport, and the responsibility of each country's anti-doping organisation to develop and to implement an educational programme. Thanks to the work of UK Sport, our athletes have received anti-doping education by a variety of means, including booklets, workshops and guidance on UK Sport's website and e-mail service.

UK Sport's drugs information database is the most comprehensive and up-to-date sports drug information service available to athletes and support personnel in the world. UK Sport has recently launched an innovative scheme, the anti-doping education programme, "100% me". It is the first to be accredited by WADA, so, again, the United Kingdom and UK Sport are leading the way. The programme provides the information and resources that current and future athletes will require to help them to make informed choices as they strive to become the best in the world. "100% me" will raise the profile, both domestically and internationally, of the positive and innovative work that UK Sport does to help our elite athletes to achieve success while remaining free from prohibited substances and methods.

In conclusion, if we want to see British athletes on the podium in Beijing, and then in London, with medals around their necks, we must show the partnership and purpose that the bid team showed in achieving the gold medal of bringing the 2012 Olympics here. It has been pleasing in the past three or four years that all the sports have come together, as have the British Olympic Association and EIS, with a sole objective: to produce more world records and more medals, wherever they may be. That effort has coalesced around UK Sport. It is good to see UK Sport as the single body heading the structure. I hope that that will continue. I encourage the BOA, the EIS and other responsible bodies to join the partnership with UK Sport. That is the direction in which we should be moving.

The Government want to be seen to be playing a supportive role in relation to sport. That is why we positioned ourselves behind the bid team and, to an extent, it is how we won the bid. We should do exactly the same when we work with UK Sport and the other constituent bodies that will deliver the infrastructure for elite athletes. We need to ensure the same strong partnership, determination and focus from now until Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. UK Sport's one-stop plan has brought clear business planning to UK governing bodies. It will ensure that we can make progress in tandem with those governing bodies, and it will aim to assist them to deliver more medals.

I firmly believe that the system of support that is in place, together with the overall investment that we will make in our elite and aspiring athletes, will ensure that they continue to enjoy success at the highest international level. However, we cannot be complacent. As I said, the challenges are great. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and I continue to review
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the structure of support and to consider how best we can ensure that we deliver the best for our young people and elite athletes. At the elite level, there is often a fraction of a second between first and second place.

As London has been awarded the honour of hosting the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, we must use that opportunity to do everything that we can to ensure that our athletes are the most highly skilled, trained and cared-for athletes in the world. Only with the best preparation and planning will we be able to realise the dreams of the finest talent that we have in this country.

3.1 pm

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Today is a particularly appropriate day to have a debate on elite sports, coming as it does a week after the success in Singapore and a day before the Department of Culture, Media and Sport publishes the London Olympics Bill. I am sure that we all look forward to its Second Reading next week.

On behalf of the Conservative party, I congratulate the Minister for Sport and Tourism on the part that he played in bringing the 2012 Olympics to London. I am well aware of how many contacts he has through his work with the World Anti-Doping Agency, and how much work he did in Singapore. It was clear that the lobbying that he and his Department did played a large part in the decision, and I thank him for it.

It is my view and that of my party—indeed, I would be surprised if this view were not reflected on both sides of the Chamber this afternoon—that the decision to award the 2012 Olympics to London will mark a watershed in the relationship between Government and sport. There are five main reasons for that.

It has been clear in recent years that sport is moving up the list of Government priorities. Again, I pay tribute to the Minister for the part that he has played in that. All of us who believe in sport would say that that is a good thing.

We are now at the stage where the promises made during the bid process must be delivered on. Quite properly, as a result of that bid process and the decision a week ago, public expectation has risen enormously, and it remains an unfortunate fact that the public will probably judge us not only on how we stage the games but, to put it brutally, on how many medals we win.

The seven years between now and the 2012 Olympics is a very short time in which to deliver the games and to do all that we can for elite sports. We must start now if we are going to get it right and deliver on the many promises that have been made. This will affect all of us in the political process.

I shall put five issues to the Minister, using the key theme that London 2012 has changed the whole map of sport, particularly elite sports. I do so, I hope, in the spirit of the cross-party support and co-operation that has characterised the bid thus far.

The first issue is funding. Since I returned from Singapore, it has been obvious to me that the existing lottery funding streams will soon be under considerable pressure. We already know that £1.5 billion is required from various sources to fund the 2012 bid.

Already on Tuesday, the performance director of UK Sport said that an extra £20 million is needed for the world-class performance programme, on top of the
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£47 million that UK Sport already has. There is also pressure from UK Sport and others to deliver that funding over a longer time—eight years, or two games' worth. Sports bodies outside the Olympic movement are already slightly agitated that the funding will be concentrated on the London 2012 Olympics and that they will lose out.

The expectation is enormous. If anyone doubts that, I draw their attention to remarks by the Prime Minister on Wednesday when asked about Olympic facilities in Wigan:

That is quite an undertaking. It is a huge blank cheque and, as I say, expectation is high. If we accept that, it becomes clear, as we look at the pressure that lottery funding will be under, that the lottery cannot fit that bill. In this new era, post-Singapore, what discussions has the Minister or his Department had with the Treasury over the funding package necessary to deliver on the considerable promises made during the bid process, not just for the London 2012 Olympics but across sport?

Secondly, I want to raise the question of the structure of sport. I do not think that that will greatly surprise the Minister. When he took office, he made some fairly uncomplimentary remarks about the organisation of sport in this country. Only a year ago, on 11 July, the Secretary of State described it as "a nightmare". Everyone here knows how complicated the organisation of sport is. When the four sport consortiums appeared in front of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, they complained at some length about the seven different funding streams.

I notice that the director of performance at UK Sport, Liz Nicholl, following a meeting at the British Olympic Association on Tuesday, complained about the five different funding streams. If The Daily Telegraph is to be believed, she said:

Does the Minister believe that the structure of sport is fit to deliver in 2012, or, indeed, in 2008? If, as he suggested on the day that he took office, that is not the case, what is he going to do about it? It is my view, and that of a number of people to whom I spoke in Singapore, that pretty radical surgery is needed.

Thirdly, I want to raise the issue of the impact of devolution. There seems to be wide agreement that, if we are to succeed in British sport, a British philosophy must drive it. I know that that is an extraordinarily complex political issue, but if we are subsidising athletes who compete against us that has to be nonsense. Four athletes in Northern Ireland competed in Sydney 2000 for the Irish team; we gave them the grand total of £18,200 of English money to compete against us. At the Athens Olympics, another seven drew £35,715 out of our budget to compete against us. That is pretty ridiculous. I notice that the British Olympic Association described devolution recently as the

The core issue must be the attitude of the home country sports boards.
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My own view is that devolution is young enough. I do not underestimate the difficulties for a moment, but there must be some way to put the appropriate measures in place to ensure that home country sports boards do not focus on their own success at the expense of British sport. Does the Minister have any views on that and what steps has he taken to tackle the issue?

The fourth question is that of school-club links. I congratulate the Minister and his Department on the progress that has been made on school sport. Specialist sports colleges are proving to be a success—there is no doubt about that—and school sports partnerships likewise. The Youth Sport Trust, which I visited just before the election, is a fantastic organisation.

There are, of course, still issues with school sport. No one would deny that. The child obesity rate remains the worst in Europe. The two-hour target, although participation is going up, is still only for those in a school sports partnership who have responded to the survey. That takes the figure down a bit. As the Minister's last written answer to me revealed, of the £750 million pledged in 2000, only £106 million has been spent. We will need to do much better than that if we are to deliver in 2012. However, like the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), I suspect that the biggest problem we face is the drop-out rate after school. The people I spoke to in Singapore recently were clear that the school-club link is vital in overcoming those problems. Getting clubs into the schools more effectively would ensure that people were picked up while they were at school as well as after they left. What plans does the Minister have to further the work that is being done and to develop those links?

Finally, I pay tribute to UK Sport for its work on drug testing, which is pretty much the Minister's specialist subject. It has done well, but with the award of the 2012 Olympics, I ask whether an excellent legacy would be for Britain to be acknowledged as the world leader in anti-doping. As I said, I acknowledge the work that is already going on, but there must be a conflict between drug testing and promoting elite athletes. Does the Minister have a view on the matter? Does he think that a suitable legacy for 2012 would be a wholly independent anti-doping agency, separate from UK Sport?

I finish my speech where I started. Again, I pay tribute to the Minister and to his Department for the work they did to bring the Olympics to London. It is the most fantastic opportunity for sport. If we are to make the most of it, it must mark a sea change in the relationship between Government and sport.

I ask the Minister to address the five points that I put to him on funding, structure, the impact of devolution, youth drop-out rates and school-club links and doping. The seven years between Singapore and the start of the London Olympic games in 2012 seems a long time, certainly in parliamentary terms.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I almost called him my hon. Friend because of our sporting links; in debates of this sort, that is only right. Although he
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rightly focused on the seven years until 2012, does he agree that there is a danger of our forgetting 2008? We need to be sure that we do well in Beijing.

Hugh Robertson : The hon. Gentleman is right. I suspect that there is a danger coming our way in 2007. There is euphoria and a huge sense of purpose behind the whole business at the moment, but if we are honest we know that the track and field stable is bare. Achieving some of the targets that have already been set for medals in Beijing will be quite an undertaking, especially if the Minister is right in saying that the bar will be raised considerably in 2008. If, two or three years hence, the 2012 project is bogged down in any way—for instance, if there are delivery problems and the costs look as if they might rise—just when we are going through a sticky period in track and field, it is likely that public support for it will drop, as often happens in the middle of a project. We must all guard against that. The hon. Gentleman made a good point.

Seven years seems a long time at the moment but, as hon. Members know, the reality is that it will be a considerable challenge to deliver the success in elite sports that this country requires over that period. As I said, I hope that the decision in Singapore marks a watershed in the relationship between Government and sport. The difficult thing will be to deliver it.

3.13 pm

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The way in which cross-party unanimity played a part in the build-up to our being awarded the Olympic and Paralympic games 2012 has become apparent during the debate. It will also become clear from what I say that there is a fair amount of cross-party unity about what we are doing now and what needs to be done.

I apologise to you, Sir John, and to the Chamber for echoing some of the points that have been made in the two preceding speeches, but I begin, as did the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson), by saying how delighted everyone should be about our success, despite having to come back to a London devastated by bombs. That should not take away from the huge achievement of the 2012 bid team. We should continue to give our thanks and praise to Lord Coe—I note that one newspaper has labelled him "Lord of the Rings"—to Sir Keith Mills and to the rest of the 2012 team.

Equally, we should acknowledge the enormous work done in Singapore and before by the Prime Minister, by the Secretary of State and, as others have said, by the Minister himself. I congratulate the Minister and thank him for the enormous work that he did in helping to win such a fantastic opportunity for sport, tourism, culture and much more, not only in 2012 but in the intervening seven years, which will give us the chance to showcase what we can offer the world.

I join the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent in praising the Minister for his work with WADA, particularly in the few weeks preceding Singapore, and his latest initiative to seek money from pharmaceutical companies for education and research into anti-doping. He has already successfully persuaded some companies to part with money, and I wish him well in persuading others to do so. He is right to ask them to become
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involved in education and research but not in anti-doping activities. To do otherwise would create the potential for a conflict of interests.

As others have said, winning the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games means that sport in the UK is now operating in a different landscape. It is crucial that we use that change, that new opportunity, to ensure that we do well in Beijing in 2008 and here in 2012. We can be proud of what we have already achieved. We won 30 medals in Athens, which was two more than we won in Sydney and 15 more than we won in Atlanta in 1996. It is not only in the Olympics that elite sportsmen and women are doing well. I pay tribute to Ellen MacArthur, who recently broke the record for non-stop solo circumnavigation. Many other examples could be cited. Expectations for sport in the UK are rising in the lead-up to 2012.

It must be acknowledged that that success comes at a considerable price. UK Sport invested more than £70 million in the British Olympic team for the Athens games. I do not want to be mercenary, but that works out at £2.35 million per medal. For Beijing, we have a target of 47 medals. More would be even better value for money, but if we achieve that target, it will have cost £1.6 million a medal. However, funding is important not only for elite athletes in the build-up to the Olympic games and other important sporting events, but for the work necessary to support grass-roots sports, from where will come the elite athletes of the future.

As the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent said, many bodies are involved. When I was given the job of speaking on behalf of my party about sport, I asked someone in my office to dig out a map of how things work. We cannot place a map on the record, but it is pinned to my office wall to remind me how incredibly complicated are the linkages between the welter of bodies involved.

As the hon. Gentleman said, the subject has been referred to recently by a number of people. I reflect on the words of one representative of the Rugby Football Union when he was giving evidence. He talked about the urgent need to find ways to simplify all the different funding streams. As the hon. Gentleman noted, the Secretary of State herself has said that the plethora of bodies and the plethora of links between those bodies are a nightmare.

The Minister was right to highlight some of the good work that is being done by the different bodies. He did not make much of the world-class performance programme, which is doing some phenomenal work. It is doing not just the work that people intuitively think it should be doing, which is supporting individual athletes, but so much of the additional work that is necessary to support the athletes, such as coaching, sports science and medical back-up, ensuring that there are opportunities for acclimatisation and providing the appropriate training facilities. It is one of the many bodies that are working hard.

If we are discussing all bodies and all the funding that they provide, clearly some difficult choices must be made. It is easy to put in more and more money, and I acknowledge that we cannot just call for more money, even though more money would be welcome. It is worth reflecting on the fact that, during the 2001 to 2005
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summer Olympics cycle, UK Sport gave £70.4 million to 17 Olympic sports, including badminton and softball, supporting an average of 480 athletes.

UK Sport's total investment for the next four-year cycle, 2005 to 2009, is scheduled to go up by 7 per cent. to £75 million, but at the same time it plans to support 160 fewer athletes. It is taking a different approach that targets specific medals for the Beijing Olympic games in 2008. By doing so, it means that several sports will lose out. For example, we have discovered that gymnastics, triathlon and judo will not be beneficiaries of the increased funding.

Derek Wyatt : Is there not a dilemma? If one is talking about elite sports, one must be ruthless. Either the sport is elite, or it is not. It is elite if gold medals are won in it, such as in rowing or in cycling, which then receive more money. If those sports do not deliver, it cannot be the fault of the Government, it must be the organisation.

Mr. Foster : I entirely agree. Tough choices must be made, and that is what UK Sport is doing. We must recognise that as a result, however, some sports will lose out. We must ensure that, through other means, not necessarily the elite sports programmes, of which there are perhaps too many, we continue to recognise the importance of other sports. Giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the RFU representative said:

We must understand that, and we shall have to make tough choices. UK Sport is right to make them, but I hope that we shall find other ways of supporting sports that, as a result of such decisions, may lose out.

Several sports may lose out because the IOC changes the list of sports that are deemed to be Olympic sports. After we left Singapore, the IOC continued its deliberations, and baseball and softball were dropped from the IOC programme. I say not entirely tongue in cheek to the Minister that we have an opportunity to select one additional sport for the 2012 Olympics. My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) would not forgive me were I not to suggest to the Minister in a gentle way that, now that darts has been accepted as an official sport because of my hon. Friend's untiring efforts, we should consider choosing darts as that sport. By saying that, I have paid a debt to my hon. Friend. I will leave it to the Minister to respond appropriately.

The hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent rightly pointed to the issue of where the money will come from. We must be clear that there are concerns about future funding support for our elite athletes. We know that the amount available through the national lottery has decreased. That money is, to some extent, being made up for by a modest increase in funding from the Exchequer.

As there is pressure on the other aspects of sports funding because of the introduction of the Olympic lottery game, we need to be sure that we do not reduce the support and funding for our grass-roots sports activity while we try to find the money that we urgently need to ensure that we can deliver the games in 2012.
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I join the hon. Gentleman in asking the Minister to give us his thoughts on how the overall package of funding from the national lottery, in its various guises, will pan out. I share the hon. Gentleman's desire to hear more from the Minister about the Department's plans for helping to simplify the complex map to which I referred earlier. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has described that map as a nightmare.

I also pay tribute to the Minister for a number of the other schemes that he has been responsible for establishing. TASS is crucial. It is doing phenomenal work. The addition of the 2012 scholarship to that is vital. I was delighted that he praised the work that is going on in schools and drew attention to the crucial link that is being developed between local community sports clubs and local schools. That link was long overdue, but it is happening and it is to be welcomed. I also welcome his comments about the importance of making available in our schools a wider range of sporting opportunities for young people through the club-school link.

Only by giving a wide range of opportunities to young people in school will we ensure that they can find a sport with which they feel comfortable, which they enjoy and a passion for which makes them want to carry on doing that sport after they have left school. As I said in an intervention, it is particularly disturbing that the 70 per cent. drop-out rate has remained constant for a number of years. We must break that, not only to help us to find elite athletes for the future but because of the other side of the issue about sport that is so important: tackling this country's obesity time bomb. The link between club and school will, I suspect, be one of the key elements in helping to break those disturbing figures.

I am grateful that the Minister referred to the important role that the English Institute of Sport plays in helping to develop some of our athletes. One of the many things that I picked up and which I heard about more than I expected to when talking in Singapore to a number of our elite athletes and sporting heroes, was the issue of coaching. Many of them displayed a clear desire for us to find ways to improve coaching facilities and provide support and training for coaches. I welcome a number of the schemes that have started. It is clear that, if we are to have success with our elite athletes, they need the best in terms of medical support, sports science and so on, but in particular they are keen to have improved coaching facilities.

The Minister was kind enough to refer to the university of Bath and the sports activities that go on there. I pay tribute, of course, to the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) and the work that he has done at Loughborough—the two of us seem to be a double act on these occasions. The Minister will be aware that Bath university has a coaching programme as part of its university degree activities. There is an urgent need for him, perhaps working with his colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills, to see whether it is possible to help to develop that programme.

The Minister will be aware of the wonderful work that is already going on at the sports training village based at the university of Bath; he was there recently. He will know that it is a purpose-built, world-class training
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facility. It already provides a training home for some 300 British elite athletes. Fourteen sports have chosen to base some or all of their training programmes in the city, and people there are looking forward to further investment to keep them ahead of the international competition. I hope that they will receive Government and lottery support as they seek to move forward to provide the best and perhaps even get further ahead of Loughborough in terms of the facilities on offer—that is a battle that the hon. Member for Loughborough and I will have separately.

Winning the Olympics provides a fantastic opportunity but, as others have said, much remains to be done to turn that opportunity into reality. We must ensure that the promise that we made to people throughout the United Kingdom—that every part of the United Kingdom would benefit—is delivered on.

I end with the other hope on what we will achieve. The Minister said that it was a dream that has now been turned into reality, but what I remember most was watching the presentation to persuade the IOC to back London for the games. Above all, that presentation said that what we aspired to do with our bid was to give a dream to young people not only in this country but around the world. So the dream is not over. We must ensure that the work that we do over the next seven years builds up that dream not only for every person in this country but for many around the world.

3.33 pm

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): I was not quite sure what the tenor or scope of this debate on elite sport would be, but I am glad that I have attended it. When the Minister said that he was very proud and referred to the first time in 60 years, I thought that he was going to say that this was the first ever debate on elite sport. He did not say that, but I do not think that there has ever been a debate on this issue in the history of the House, so this one is good and timely, coming just after the success of the Olympic bid. The debate would have been just as interesting if we had lost the bid, because then we would also have had to rethink what we were doing. In any event, it is good to be here.

Sport has been part of my life. It might be difficult for people looking at my body today to appreciate that, but I was a top-class rugby player and I was also the leading long jumper in the United Kingdom at under-17 and under-19 level. Sport has changed my life in many different ways. I have to admit that I was even on the coaching staff at Bath university.

Let me give one or two reactions to what hon. Members have said. At the moment, sport is out of kilter politically. We have said that the Olympics provide a great opportunity, but we can get rid of the bar charts, the flow charts and the management speak that tell us what sport is only by coming together and demanding a Secretary of State for Sports. Given the Olympics in 2012, we have the chance to do that over the next four years.

It is important that we merge Departments and include health education and sport at school. Most of us have spoken about sport and school, but the poor Minister has no real control over that, although there is a joint committee in the Department for Education and Skills. That is one problem and why one Department on
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its own would help. I cite the example of what is now the Department for International Development, which used to be under the thumb of the Foreign Office until it was separated and which now has a bigger budget than the Foreign Office. That would not have been possible if international development responsibilities had not been de-merged into its own Department. If we want elite sport, we must have elite Government Departments too.

Rowing and cycling are our best sports—I touched on that in an intervention on the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). We were outstanding at judo and the martial arts in the 1980s and early 1990s, but for some reason they have slipped. Those sports are not in the big five that the Minister mentioned—rugby league, rugby union, cricket, tennis and soccer—but they do not need to be, because they are so brilliant in themselves. However, I ask the Minister to consider whether those sports demand skills that the others do not.

We are not that brilliant at soccer or rugby, we have not won a world cup at cricket, and as for tennis, let us not go there. We have not had a woman win Wimbledon since 1977—in fact, I do not even think that a woman has gone further than the third round since Sue Barker and Virginia Wade in 1977. There is something fundamentally wrong, so I wonder whether the big five could learn something from rowing and cycling.

When we say culture in this country, we mean opera or literature, but not sport, although I think our society is on the cusp of a real change. Sport is beginning to nudge the opera set, the literature set and the media set, and the Olympics give us the opportunity to push that boat a little more. There has been a cultural lag, but the Olympics give us a wonderful chance. Having seen the Commonwealth games for a week, I know that I shall be at the Olympics every day. I cannot believe that we will have the opportunity to see the Olympics.

I commend my co-tenant, the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson)—our constituencies are next door to each other—for raising the big issue of funding. It has been raised before, but I will keep going. We have the 12p in the lottery pound, although we still do not know whether we get it back for the Olympics. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point that we will not have enough money. Securing the funding might be difficult because the DCMS is not seen to hold its own against the Treasury. Therefore—I shall be shot by the Whips for this—I wonder whether it would be helpful for a joint Olympic group to come to the House with the ministerial team and give a presentation to Treasury civil servants.

Might it be possible to float the idea of an Olympic bond? I think of Patrick Carter's thinking outside the box as chairman of Sport England. When we think about the audit of need, we find that most counties and metropolitan boroughs do not have very many good Olympic facilities. As has been mentioned, 202 teams are coming, but when push comes to shove only about 35 teams will set up camps in the United Kingdom, for swimming, tennis or whatever else. However, we do not have the facilities in our counties or metropolitan boroughs to host so many teams. If enough countries liked the bid, 60 or 70 might come, for a range of Olympic sports, and we would be overwhelmed. As a result, those teams would look to France, Germany or Italy to take them and we do not want them to go there—we want them to come here.
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We are in an interregnum, during which we are not sure what will happen next. I know that the London Olympics Bill will arrive on Tuesday, but I am not sure that it will contain such detail. I cite the example of Kent county council, which is my senior authority. We have no Olympic facilities in which we would want to host a team from America or Australia. I asked Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the Conservative leader of Kent county council, whether it would be possible to put together a group comprising a team from the South East England Development Agency, a team from Locate in Kent, a team from the Kent ambassadors—the business group—MPs from Kent and Sandy himself, so that we could better understand what we need. More than that, and since all MPs will be involved, could we have some sort of Olympic challenge day? The Minister could speak, and perhaps Seb might be asked. Would it be possible to do that in October or November?

We are struggling. My little constituency of Sittingbourne and Sheppey has the best windsurfing facilities in the world, but it has no hotel, and there is no chance of building one that could host windsurfing teams from around the world. Not only that, we would need a post-use for the hotel, so I start to think that we could bid for a specialist sports school for water sports. Then I ask whether the hotel could be used as classrooms afterwards and whether there would be some way to attach it to a school. When one gets to that sort of detail, one must ask the International Windsurfing Association whether it can host the teams. It is confusing to have to go through the international organisations for all the Olympic sports before we get to the national organisations or the Olympic bid. One can understand why most people find it complicated. Could the Minister could put together a challenge day so that we can better understand what has to be done?

There is no question but that the Olympics are exciting. Everywhere I have been in my constituency, people are really excited. They are also excited by the tourism opportunities and the infrastructure and all that will come with the games. I asked about sports schools during the statement in the House last week. Is there a ban on the use of the word "Olympic"? Could we have Olympic sports schools that would become hubs for the sports? There are eight sports schools in Kent. It would be great if we could say to them, "Tomorrow you can change your name to Olympic sports school." Such schools could be used during the next seven or eight years to build up confidence and expertise and get kids involved. That would be such a fantastic thing to do.

In my spare time, I am a trustee of TimeBank, which has been charged with the volunteers programme for the Olympics. In fact, we were charged with it before the Olympics were awarded to London. Hon. Members might like to know that every four seconds someone registers to volunteer. We have been going only a month, but 15,000 volunteers have already registered. That is spectacular, and I am sure that we will get 70,000.

The buzz around the Olympics bid was extraordinary, and it was there all the time. We had a debate on the Olympics about a month ago in this Chamber, and one could feel the change at that time. One could feel the change in the team and in the confidence of Seb and everyone else. They deserve more than a pat on the back. They have done brilliantly well, and so has everyone who supported them.
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Let me finish with an idea about the extended school hours initiative. My local authority, Kent, has been given £10 million for out-of-school activities from 8 o'clock in the morning till 9 and from 4 or half-past 4 till 6. As that money will not go very far in the largest authority in the country, I wonder whether the Minister could come up with an initiative to involve clubs and bodies that would like to do coaching in the schools during the extended hours.

We could be even braver and pick up on points that have been made in the past two years and that the hon. Member for Bath made again about obesity. I hear people gasp when I say that my children get reports with marks of, for example, B-plus, D-minus or A in their subjects, but for sport, the report says "Tries hard". It does not give hand-eye co-ordination or body-fat measurements.

I know that there are issues about whether one should include a body-fat measurement, but could a voucher scheme be offered to parents and children who need to take care? For instance, if my son were to get a B-minus in maths after getting an A-plus the year before, he would get a note that his parents would have to sign to agree that he would take extra maths—bless him, he does not have that trouble. Why can schools not offer extra physical education, salsa dancing, rock climbing or whatever if they are needed to develop good behaviour and good sporting techniques in children? It would be a useful challenge to come up with a way to build the Olympics brand and include it in out-of-school extra activities.

Everyone else has said well done to the Olympic bid team, which has done spectacularly well. As I said, we have the most amazing opportunity for probably the first time since 1948 to galvanise sport in our society.

3.44 pm

Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): I thank the Minister both for the successful bid and for the investment that the Government have made in schools in Hove and Portslade. I draw his attention to an area of sporting activity that is popular in my constituency: the use of the sea for sailing, surfing, windsurfing, kite-surfing and kite-buggying. Those are fast-growing sports. Indeed, extreme sports are the fastest-growing area of sporting activity in the country. The world championship kite-surfer is a British athlete, yet he and many others found that when they were schoolchildren—he is only 17 so that is not long ago—individual sports such as kite-surfing and tennis did not get the same funding as the team sports mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt), including rugby, football and netball.

Individual sports are difficult for young people to pursue to a county or regional level. I appreciate that the very best tennis players are given additional help, but the middle-level players, such as my son—perhaps I should declare an interest—find it difficult to explore the sport without private funding or sponsorship. Although the initial outlay for extreme sports is very high, at least the sea is free. In the case of tennis, though, it is difficult for young people to find a level without playing with opponents of a similar standard and belonging to a
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tennis club. I appreciate that 70 per cent. of the schools in the school sports partnership have tennis as a major sport, and use of the facilities at schools will increase after the extension of school hours, but I would like an assurance from the Minister that participation in those sports will be free to all and that they will be open not just to those who can afford them, but to those who would have to request help with funding, which, as I am sure he is aware, is not something that parents like to do.

As I know from experience as a school governor, an educator and a parent, participating fully in tennis is difficult without professional coaching, extended hours for tennis and the funding to move around the country to participate in competitions. Young people find that enjoyment and local success in the sport is difficult unless they have financial backing. Even in many of the clubs that young people can join if they have financial backing, participation is difficult because they are designed primarily as leisure facilities. Perhaps they are seen as places to play an elite sport—in the wrong sense. In other words, they are aimed at over-25s and people who enjoy playing tennis rather than those—particularly the young—with a hard competitive edge. Young people need to feel valued and welcome. The Lawn Tennis Association has tried to address the issue many times, but it has significantly failed and has not yet coped with the elite aspect of tennis, particularly at county and regional level.

I urge the Minister, if possible, to put more money into individual sports for young people and to ensure that the guaranteed two hours of sports a week include individual sports as well as the team sports that raise a school's profile and improve its reputation in the immediate area. I beg him to put as much effort as he did into darts into sports that young people in particular find most exciting, such as extreme sports and surfing—the sports of the sea that are so important to my constituency. I hope that elite sports will include the sports that young people find exciting and challenging—sports that are not seen regularly on television or watched by millions of people, but for which people in my constituency have a lot of passion. My hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey mentioned that an elite sport is a sport in which we win medals. Surely the fact that we have a world championship should ensure that kite-surfing at least is seen in that way.

3.50 pm

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): I apologise for not being present at the beginning of the debate; I was trying to return as quickly as possible from participating in the best elite sport that I have ever been involved in—representing the House of Commons and House of Lords tennis team at Wimbledon this morning. This is the first report to be made. Unfortunately, we lost gloriously. I think that someone did take a set, but it is, I am told, the taking part that counts on such occasions. We certainly took part, if nothing else. To follow on from the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Ms Barlow), it was a fascinating example of differences in experience—in this case, my experience of the tennis that my son plays on a hard court in my constituency compared with the glorious facilities at Wimbledon. That is one of the reasons why today's debate is important.
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The debate is rightly focused on 2012, the excitement of last week and what we can achieve. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) said, elite sport is present all the time. It is not as if no one will do anything between now and 2012 when we will focus all our attention on it. This country has world champions; I am sure that many hon. Members have one or two in their constituencies, and in a range of sports that do not get great national attention.

Netball is an example. We have the netball centre at Loughborough university, and we are fourth in the world at netball. Because it is not an Olympic sport it does not get the profile that it deserves. Admittedly, we are fourth and would like to do much better, and I am sure that many other sports could also benefit. However, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said, there are difficult choices to be made in funding elite sports.

I shall discuss some issues that have already been touched on in the debate, and shall pay some tributes, in the light of the position we have come from and where we are now. The hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) rightly highlighted the number of medals that we won in 1996, and how many we anticipate winning in Beijing and after that in 2012 in the UK. I was given a joke to use at the Labour party conference, although I never got to use it, after the 1996 Olympics when we came back with only one gold medal—the joke was about it being typical of the country in those days to win a gold medal for going backwards faster than anyone else.

Derek Wyatt : It is a good job my hon. Friend did not use it.

Mr. Reed : That is right. That is why I said the joke was given to me, rather than being my own. However, it symbolised the difficulties at Atlanta and how difficult it was to compete at the international level.

Since then it has been interesting to talk to elite athletes about the difference between Sydney and Athens. My friend Jonathan Edwards won a gold medal with a worse performance than he gave when he did not win one. Sometimes the focus on winning gold medals is counterproductive; someone can perform worse than they might on another occasion, but if everyone else does that too, they may still come away with the gold, not even having achieved a personal best. We should think about whether success is measured in gold medals, personal bests or even world records. There are many ways of measuring how we are doing at elite level.

There are areas in which we are having difficulty. Track and field have already been mentioned. I am afraid that most people regard the Olympics as track and field, and that people focus their attention on that, rather than on other sports at which we may do particularly well, such as sailing, rowing and cycling—in which we are currently winning our medals. That presents difficulty for us, in relation to reaching elite level, and not just in 2012. We do not want to come away from Beijing without securing a decent number of medals. The danger is that the people who will be performing in Beijing are already in a world-class performance programme. We will not find them suddenly in school. Some may emerge late, and I hope that there will be many opportunities for that to happen, but, in reality, we shall be working with the pool of talent that we have now.
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I am sure that those hon. Members who are lucky enough to have constituencies where parts of the English Institute of Sport are situated, and who know some of the 150, 120 or 200 international athletes on our campuses and towns, are very proud of our achievements. However, everything can rest on one day's performance. I am very proud that Paula Radcliffe is one of my constituents. We all know about the great hope: she was guaranteed a gold medal at the Athens games, but one day's performance can change things quite significantly.

We know from Sir Clive Woodward's performance on the Lions' tour to New Zealand over the past few weeks that someone can go from hero to zero very quickly in sport. I will not dwell on the Lions' performance, but they were supposedly our best prepared and best trained team and they had gone out there with as many back-up staff as players. I note that there are several Welsh colleagues present, and they will have their own reasons to explain why we were defeated. None the less, we provided the best and allegedly had the most elite players in that particular sport, but we still managed to come up short. Therefore, although it is right to talk about funding and other issues—and I shall come to those later—we sometimes simply need to have the right people, in the right place, at the right time. At the end of the day, that will have an important impact on our performance and our readiness for the Olympics, because not only a lot of preparation, but a lot of luck goes into these things.

The hon. Member for Bath and I seem to be shadowing each other in these debates, and we have a great common interest in these issues, because we have the facilities on our doorsteps. Seven or eight years ago, however, there was very little at Loughborough or Bath, although the universities both had great reputations, based on what they had supposedly done in sport. Now, Loughborough university consistently sweeps the board in the British Universities Sports Association championships. I first went to watch sport with the chancellor on a Wednesday afternoon, and of the 60 games in which the university took part, it won 57 at first, second and third-team levels in every sport. The vice-chancellor was disappointed that we had lost the other three games, but that shows the standard that was expected.

When one looks at the facilities, however, one sees that the elite swimming squad was swimming in a 25 m pool built in the 1950s—strangely enough, it was built for the old Loughborough college by my father-in-law, who was involved in property at county hall. One crucial point, which has been mentioned already, is that, because of the coaching that we had at Loughborough, swimmers came to the university not only from across the United Kingdom, but from the Swedish squad—we were producing medals out of a very old, defunct 25 m pool, which is still there and is still used. That demonstrates again that there has to be a combination of not only facilities, but coaching and the right athletes, who must be in the right place, so that they can be identified and can get through. There is, therefore, an element of luck, but we can only build on that luck by putting in place the right facilities, the coaching and all the other support that goes with that.

We are very lucky in what we now have in Loughborough. Some £35 million has been spent on the campus over the past four or five years. That has
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attracted other facilities, and I am grateful that the cricket academy has its home there. A great deal has been learned cross-sport, and athletes in many sports have learned from each other simply by being in the same training rooms and the same athlete break-out areas and by using the same performance centre. All those things have enabled sports to learn from each other, and that will make an enormous difference.

Clearly, as part of the 2012 games, Loughborough, Bath and parts of Sheffield will be hoping to host major teams. The Chinese, for example, have visited the Loughborough and Bath campuses to look at the facilities, and I am sure that they have made favourable noises to both. Negotiating hard is a good Chinese technique, and they have raised expectations on both campuses. However, simply the fact that teams at that level would be willing to locate in our towns and are impressed by our facilities demonstrates how far we have come in eight short years.

I was on the Loughborough campus last Friday and I will be there again this week. I get a real buzz just from being there, from seeing the athletes, the work that they do and the facilities and from knowing that we are giving them the best opportunity. Seb Coe and Dave Moorcroft were at Loughborough in their early days, and when one talks to them about the facilities and opportunities that people have now, they go watery-eyed.

The reason, however, why we have had to make such changes is that the rest of the world has moved on, too. If we are to keep a level head on expectations, we must realise that, 20 years ago, very few people were competing in some of these sports, particularly at elite level and in the Olympics. Now, Ethiopian and Kenyan runners are running not only for Ethiopia and Kenya, but are being bought—literally—by middle east states and running for them. When our athletes come to the 5,000 m or the 10,000 m events, they often find themselves running against well honed and well trained athletes who can take positions one to 10 quite easily. Our heritage in middle-distance running has suffered somewhat as a consequence.

We must recognise that some of these things go in cycles. We have had excellent middle-distance runners, and we have had enormous 400 m squads and sprint squads but things shift over time. We put a great deal of pressure on young athletes, particularly the 18 and 19-year-olds who have to decide whether to go to the world junior championships or to the Olympics to learn their trade. Athletes, like the rest of us, learn from their mistakes. It is necessary to have enormous confidence—almost arrogance—to believe that one is No. 1 in the world. It is a British trait not to like such arrogance and to laugh at people who say that they are the best in the world and then fail. Other nations seem to be able to recognise that such an attitude is a positive attribute when it comes to sport.

As others have said, the time differences that won us the five gold medals in track and field at the Athens Olympics were, when added together, less than half a second. By the time that athletes get to the Olympics, all the preparation that they have done in the years since their talent was first identified in a junior club can boil down to a 100th of a second—there is a nose-hair's
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difference between winning and losing. We must ensure that we do not put enormous pressure on people; we must not only allow them to think that they are the best in the world, we must give them the facilities to be the best.

Loughborough is a fantastic facility. I spoke about what we have been doing in Bath and at other places because we have lagged behind. Loughborough was already doing well in the 1950s—it had swimming pools and other facilities—but we rested on our laurels for 30 or 40 years. We seemed to win medals almost by accident rather than by design. Although we have fantastic facilities, such as those in Sheffield and in Bath, we must keep an eye firmly on the ball, and modernise and update them. Otherwise, when we get to 2012, some of them could begin to look aged.

Some of the science that we learn in the next seven years needs to be incorporated into the work that we do in those places. For example, the performance centre at Loughborough university has strange-looking pieces of equipment that were specifically designed by athletes who wanted to replicate a particular muscle group or action. The machines have been built on the campus; they are not available anywhere else in the world. We have to develop such equipment all the time, and we need to stay ahead of the game. We need funding for ongoing support, even for capital projects in places such as Bath, Loughborough and Sheffield. I always mention Sheffield because I hope that we will be looked upon more favourably as a threesome than if I ask yet again just on behalf of Loughborough.

EIS is working, and so is UK Sport, but I come back to the problem that each of us has mentioned.

Mr. Don Foster : There is much that I would like to say about Bath in response to the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I think that he knows it well enough. In passing, our winter sports facility has a wonderful bobsleigh training facility that he does not have in Loughborough.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree, however, that the Minister was right to reflect that a number of our elite athletes will not have the benefit of having gone to university? In Athens, 70 per cent. had been to university. We anticipate that by the time we get to Beijing, it will be as many as 85 per cent. Therefore, it is crucial to develop links with our universities. It is equally important to develop and add to good facilities such as those in Bath.

Mr. Reed : This is a crucial issue. In America, the collegiate system is almost the elite path. We have not designed anything like that. We do not have one unified system. When I went to university and, I am sure, when the hon. Gentleman did, only 7 or 8 per cent. of people went, so that was clearly the wrong route to use for sport. There were times at certain universities, probably even at Loughborough, when people would not have gone there other than for the sport, and they have managed to survive on the back of that. I am sure that Oxford and Cambridge did that, too. Some of their rugby teams looked like remarkably good rugby teams, but not like particularly good groups of academics. However, university was always a narrow path to sport.

The unique thing about Loughborough—I am not sure about Bath and Sheffield—is that we have a specialist sports college attached to the university, with
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accommodation. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey that it is possible for a sports college to develop to such an extent that it can afford accommodation on site. We have some of the country's best non-public fee-paying tennis players based not only at the university but at the college. It is not necessary for them to be in higher education, but it is necessary for us to look at the accommodation and other facilities that we provide for those not going to university. They do not have to be at Loughborough university to benefit.

That brings us back to the structure problem. Each Member has talked about it, and, like others, when I came into post as a chair of the regional sports board, I asked for a map of funding streams and how things fixed together. At that stage, there were 57 funding streams to the region. A lot of that has been simplified, and I pay tribute to the Minister for playing a part in that and many other changes in Sport England. However, one still creates a horrendously complicated and complex chart if one tries to understand how sport fits together.

If a constituent or club in my constituency asks how to get hold of money to do x, y and z, I find it extremely frustrating to give them a list of names and addresses, depending on the sport, that has at least seven or eight partners on it as a starting point. At that grass-roots level, we need to have just a single point of contact, even if it then draws down from others. We would not want to get rid of many of the bodies—for example, we would not want to abolish Sportsmatch. Individually they all seem good, which is part of the problem. I found in my discussions before the election and before the bid was finalised that most bodies—UK Sport, Sport England and the British Olympic Association, for example—all agreed that there needed to be a unified funding mechanism and that things should be tidied up. I suspect that the problem is that each thinks that it should run that mechanism at the expense of the others.

Now is the time for a mature debate—that is the politest way to put it—and some hard decisions. The bodies have had to make some hard decisions about the sports and individual athletes they fund, and it has been tough on sports such as triathlon, which is also based at Loughborough. However, the Minister, the Secretary of State, and possibly the Prime Minister have to take a grip. Over the summer, they have one opportunity to get everything right. It will be tough choice. I am glad the Minister is in that position of making it, but there is a golden opportunity. There is a unification in sport whereby people are willing to make a big leap. When there is nothing to win or to gain, people tend to hold on to what they have. However, as there is a golden prize of doing well in the 2012 London Olympics, I get the sense that sports administrators are willing to take a leap of faith and back the Minister in whatever decisions he takes to simplify and unify the system.

Having said that funding is not the be-all and end-all, I will also put my bid in for additional funding, although its stability is just as important. Most people can work on a little less if they know exactly how much they are getting for a longer period. The way that we currently fund sport relies largely on the lottery. That has worked well, and the Minister again deserves praise. He is finally sorting out a four-year funding period, so at least between each Olympics we have a rough idea of what we have for the funding period. However, I think that the
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period should be much longer. We always reach the point straight after the Olympics in which we ask whether we did well enough or whether we can scratch around to make a large enough investment for next time. Stability is crucial.

It was reported this week that UK Sport has asked for an additional £20 million a year to make a crucial difference. I know from some of the notes that I have received that that figure is roughly what it wants, and it sounds reasonable from my experience of what has been done in the past and what it could do in the future.

Finally, we should look at whether we reach the stage in which Exchequer finance plays a greater role in the funding of sport in this country. Fortunately, in 1998–99, Exchequer funding was doubled, although doubling not very much to not much more has not made a substantial difference compared with the losses seen in the lottery take. We know that the figures have reduced, although they reached a plateau and have perhaps risen in the past 18 months, which is good news. With the potential of an Olympic lottery, there may be a danger that we see a reduction as people switch between the two.

I have never bought a lottery ticket. I usually blame such things on my strict Methodist upbringing, but it is actually that I am mean and I do not like parting with money. However, I will be tempted to purchase Olympic lottery tickets. I know that I would be excited to buy into something worth while. People might also like the idea of a bond. I hope that the Olympic lottery generates additional funds, rather than reducing available funds.

As the hon. Member for Bath said, it is important to think about those sports not placed among the elite through UK Sport. One of the benefits of hosting the 2012 games is that we might enter teams for sports such as volleyball, in which we have traditionally not done well or in which our teams have not participated. We should take another look at some of those sports. We may have to make choices. We may not want to send a volleyball team to the 2012 Olympics simply to be humiliated in our own country. However, it is possible in those seven years to make a substantial difference.

The Americans did not have a particularly fantastic record in volleyball over the years, so rather than looking for people who could be trained to become volleyball players, they looked for those who had the physiology to make good volleyball players—for instance, people who played basketball or other similar sports. The rest is history: America went on to do well in the medals table.

With a concerted effort, with a great plan, with the backing of the sports' national governing bodies, with funding from UK Sport and with funding through our support for specific sports, it is possible for those who have not done well in the past to achieve great things. We know from the medals tables that the host country always does better per medal, per funding and per participant. It is a golden opportunity.

We also need to manage our expectations. It has been quite exciting over the past couple of weeks to see young children talking into microphones or attached to a camera crew saying, "Yes, I'm going to be the next 800 m champion." However, when we work out the age groups of those individuals, we can often see that they are not going to be ready to win medals in 2012.
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We need to tap into that enthusiasm, but it must be done with a sense of realism. The last thing I want is for 2012 to be a fantastic success—and then nothing. There will be a dip, just as we see with school sport; there is great participation until the children are 13 or 14, particularly among girls, but it then drops. The same happens with Wimbledon. For two weeks, there are no free tennis courts; for the other 50 weeks of the year, they are all empty. We must tap that enthusiasm and ensure that it feeds into grass-roots sport, but we must also identify talent so that we have a pool of people to go forward to the many other things happening before 2012.

We have concentrated on 2012 and even Beijing, but there are also the athletic world championships, the Lions tour, the rugby world cup in 2007 and the football World cup in 2006. We have some fantastic opportunities even between the Olympics for participants to shine in the major sports, but there are loads of world championships in the minor sports. In fact, we have hosted about 50 world championships since 1997. We sometimes think that we have failed unless we can host the Olympics or the world championships in the major sports, but we have won most of the bids that we have put in for world championships. We have a proud record.

I do not know whether he was paid to say it, but Federer said that Wimbledon was the greatest tennis tournament. Indeed, we say it ourselves. None the less, we have a worldwide and growing reputation for giving elite performers a chance to participate here. We have moved on since the troubles with Picketts Lock, Wembley and so on. We now have a system in place that recognises what needs to be done to win the hosting of such tournaments. Again I congratulate the Minister on his part.

I know from my discussions with elite athletes—not only those at Loughborough but others whom I know—that they all have their own way and their own path to success. Many have achieved it despite the system rather than because of it. Whatever is said today and whatever we do to create a perfect system, it still may not work for some—yet even they can come through. However, the two key themes highlighted by the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent, which we must get right before 2012—if we do not, we will suffer badly—are funding and structure. I look forward to hearing about the Minister's plans, his negotiations and the assistance he may need to increase funding. I look forward more importantly to the plans he has to improve the structure of sport and the speed with which we can deliver not just for our grass roots, about which we like to talk most of the time, but for our elite athletes, who we would love to see, to cheer and to support in London in 2012.

4.15 pm

Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk) (Lab): I apologise for not being present in the Chamber at the beginning of the debate. I was in Committee and had intended to attend the debate, but I was held up. I was sitting in my office watching this debate on the monitor, when I heard an exchange between the hon. Member for Bath (Mr.   Foster) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt), which encouraged me to get down to the Chamber toute de suite to pass comment.
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The hon. Member for Bath mentioned judo. Today's debate is entitled "Elite Sports", rather than "Elite Athletes". To the hon. Gentleman's credit, he made that distinction. My hon. Friend pointed out that funding should follow success, and that there was success in certain sports at the previous couple of Olympics. If funding follows success, however, there is a tiny danger that we will, in the most benign way possible, create a conservative formula. Of all UK medallists at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 80 per cent. had attended private schools. That statistic radically improved for the 2004 Athens Olympics, but it was still 40 per cent. If we do anything before 2012, and we could do many things, we should sort out the fact that such a low proportion of our Olympic medallists attend state schools.

There is a gamut of reasons why private schools do as well as they do. One could argue that they take sport much more seriously, that they have historically had more money to invest in sport, and that, as a consequence, many private schools have the most fantastic facilities. Arguably, the best example is Eton and its rowing facilities, which are absolutely marvellous, and it produces the most fantastic athletes.

I agree that there should be a link between the sports of Olympic gold-medal winning athletes and funding, but the link should not be absolute. There is a danger if funding follows medals. When gold is won by a rowing eight who are marvellously good-looking, super-athletic and hugely articulate young graduates, they are all over the television when they return to the UK and, needless to say, the size of rowing as a sport in Britain and the space that it takes up in our national consciousness becomes huge. Meanwhile, some judo man or woman who gets a bronze medal, who does not come from the same educational or social background and who is not as televisual does not have the same impact.

That is the only point that I want to make, but, as you would expect, Sir John, I should like to extend it. We ought to be very careful about the idea that funding should necessarily follow success. Between now and 2012, the Olympic agenda, as much as any other Government policy, should be a social agenda. There is a great deal on which we can all agree, such as how much we should increase spending on sport and how we can achieve enormous amounts as part of the richness of our national culture and in all sorts of other ways, but I say to Government Members in particular that we must remember that a social agenda permeates all our policy, and the Olympic agenda is part of it. That might sound like I am trying to create a gap in the all-party consensus, but I am not. I would be hugely disappointed if, as a consequence of how we fund sport through the Olympic lottery, the current lottery or Government funding, we were to celebrate a huge clutch of medals in 2012, but we were to miss the fact, as most people do, that people have a much greater chance of being successful in the Olympic games if they attend a private school. The reality is that the vast majority attend private schools.

I am in no sense being critical of private schools; in fact, in many ways the state school sector can learn a great deal from them. One of Scotland's finest Olympic gold medallists, Chris Hoy, attended a good private school in Scotland. If one has the talent, there is a natural inclination to do well, and one will attend a well funded private school where sport is taken seriously.
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However, if funding simply follows success, and historically success correlates closely with social class, there is a grave danger that we will be justifying a sports funding programme that perpetuates the class divide.

To put my credentials on the line, I was never marvellous enough to be the best sportsman in England at any sport, but I was once the Scottish judo champion, admittedly not in the most shining year for Scottish judo. So, I have a sense of how hard sports people work.

Some sports are less celebrated. The idea of an elite sport may be vaguely acceptable as a technical category for accounting and funding, but the term "elite athletes", which my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) and the hon. Member for Bath used, makes more sense. People in minor sports face challenges that are often missed. For example, if someone declines in performance in a minor sport for a year or two, they are finished. They probably earned no money from the sport anyway. Someone who plays a team sport can move around the team and if they are hugely talented take part over many years in Olympic games. I think of rowers, many of whom are highly talented. They can sit in a four, an eight, a coxed two or a coxless two. There are many options. In minor sports—I call them that although it is a pejorative term, as it is the one by which they are normally referred to—that is not an option.

There is a correlation between social class background and the sports that people take part in, particularly for sports such as judo. The British Judo Association may pull me up for making this point, but judo is taken up primarily by people from working-class communities. I was the British student champion, so I know that there is a strong student base in the sport, but the great majority of people attending judo clubs throughout the country—and there are many of them—come from working-class backgrounds.

My single point, which I have greatly extended over five minutes and which I reiterate one final time for the Minister—he might want to say whether he agrees with it—is that the Government's social agenda extends to the Olympic games. When we consider funding formulas, be they using the Olympic lottery, the special lottery, the national lottery or other aspects of Government funding, we must take into account people's background. It affects which sports they take part in and the possibilities that they have to reach the Olympic games.

4.22 pm

Mr. Caborn : I thank all hon. Members for their contributions. They have been incredibly positive. Sport is one of the things that brings people together. When the IOC was here and we were trying to present our case forcefully, which we did successfully, one of the highlights occurred at No. 10. I sat round the table at No. 10 with the IOC committee and the evaluation team. On the other side were the leaders of the Opposition parties—the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy)—and the Prime Minister in the chair. They all sang from the same song sheet. I thought, "Five or six weeks before a general election, what else could bring all those people together to sing from the same
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song sheet?" Sport did that—hostilities broke out five minutes later, but at least sport had that effect for that period.

It was also interesting, as the IOC team was going from London to Paris, that a question was asked about the trade unions. A strike was about to take place in Paris. I flicked a note to the Prime Minister saying that Seb Coe was the only Tory who had ever addressed the TUC. I think that that is right. Anyway, it was the information that I had been given, so we all had a good laugh at Seb's expense. That showed the power of sport, and how it can be used to unite people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. Joyce) talked about minority—or minor—sports. When I was in Salt Lake City I had an opportunity to do some curling. I did not do it very well, because I forgot to let go of the stone and went with the ruddy thing down the ice. None the less, it was amazing to see how many people watched that final. I cannot remember the figure, but it was huge—about 9 million. Probably 99.9 per cent. of that viewing audience had never watched curling before, but they got behind the team. It is incredible how sport, even what is by any definition a minority sport, can lift a nation.

It is fantastic that we have the Olympics, but as hon. Members have said, that event will not happen in isolation—make no mistake about that. When I was given my job as Minister I was told that sport had to be fundamentally reorganised to deliver Government policy on health, social inclusion and education, that it was an asset that was being massively underused, and that there had to be a root-and-branch reform. That is what we are doing. We have gone through the school structure to deliver first two hours of sport, then two to three hours beyond the curriculum, which I hope will lead to five hours of quality physical activity for every child.

We are not doing that because it is good for sport per se; one of our main targets is to reduce obesity among children under 11, because type 2 diabetes in young people has increased by a factor of four since the 1980s. That is a time bomb. There are practical reasons why we want to get the nation more physically active and playing more sport; that will deliver on the health agenda, and prevention is better than cure.

We know that every time a kid goes off the rails and has to be put in secure accommodation, it costs taxpayers £100,000 a year. It would be better to keep those kids doing judo, boxing and so on. I am deeply involved with Brendan Ingles in Sheffield, who has certainly kept more kids out of jail than any probation officer. On a Saturday morning 100 of the roughest and toughest kids are at his gym—and they all learn discipline, because when they go into the boxing ring they are on their own. They have to have respect for their bodies, so they cannot take drugs and so on. That addresses the social exclusion agenda, too.

For the first time we are measuring the impact of sport and physical activity on academic attainment levels. When sport is at the centre of a school's ethos there are fewer exclusions and less truancy, and academic attainment levels rise. It brings discipline and gives young people a focus. That is a wide agenda, which is why the Government are investing in sport to deliver their policies, and the two hours' commitment, the
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further two to three hours of sport, and club-to-school links contribute. It is also why we are investing in coaching structures, introducing the level 5 certificate or grading and putting in 3,000 community coaches to encourage talent identification in secondary schools through TASS and the 2012 scholarships, and linking that to the EIS. That will produce one of the most sustainable sports structures probably anywhere in the world. It will be exciting both to have mass participation and to deliver the elite agenda. Much more needs to be done, and many changes will be needed. However, the agenda for sport has been taken up and is being used effectively.

I shall go through the specific points that have been raised, because it will be interesting to consider them against that background. On funding for the Olympics, I know the arguments about the 12 per cent. betting tax, but that is a matter for the Treasury. If, as Minister for Sport, I am asked if I want more money for sport, the answer is yes I do, and I will continue to argue for it. It was great to get rate relief for community amateur sports clubs—an idea that had been whizzing around the sporting world for about 20 to 30 years. Coupled with the four or five tax breaks available to those clubs, that means that we are moving in many and varied ways to bring more money into sport.

The budget and the financial framework for the Olympics are very robust. Before we could convince the Treasury that going for the Olympics was right, the Secretary of State and I visited many cities that had run the Olympics. I went to Sydney, Moscow and Munich, and twice to Athens, as well as to other cities, and asked a simple question: "What would you do differently if you had the Olympics again?" Certain themes emerged. For example, do not underestimate the budget, because having to go back on the budget means being seen as a failure. The budget should be robust, realistic and sustainable.

Another recommendation was to get the necessary planning permission and compulsory purchase orders for all the facilities being developed. Broadly speaking, we have done that. The budget is robust, although obviously, the Treasury is a lender of last resort. That was drilled in deeply when the International Olympic Committee was here closing the chapter on finance.

Of course, I would still like there to be more investment in sport. People are not throwing figures around with regard to elite sport. We clearly stated that we want to project two four-year funding streams for the periods between the Athens and the Beijing games, and the Beijing and the London games. We must work to those cycles if we are to bring young people through the system. The first such cycle is being put in place, and commitments for it have been made on the back of the old sports plans, which governing bodies have presented to UK Sport. We are investing in that, and that is where discipline will come in.

The approach in the Chamber has been realistic, but things are a little different out there. We must be realistic about attainment levels and how they are reached. If standards do not come up to scratch, funds will be withdrawn. We began that approach after the Sydney Olympics with swimming, for which we had the worst medal tally—reduced by 50 per cent. A new coach, Bill
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Sweetenham, was brought in, and within two years the team had taken the best haul of medals since the 1970s at the world swimming championships. That was about focus and ensuring that people were serious. We are serious: things will not be sloppy any more. If we are to drive the agenda for the elite, there must be discipline. There are four sports whose representatives are sending letters to me in droves, but I shall refer them to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), and say that he told me that I had to be disciplined and ensure that the agenda is carried out.

Mr. Reed : The Amateur Swimming Association is based in my constituency. Most people would accept that the swimmers secretly expected to get only two medals at the Athens Olympics, although we might realistically have expected to get eight, which is why their performance was regarded as a bit of a failure—but the same swimmers succeeded and did so well at the world championships. Does the Minister agree that it is dangerous to focus on medal tallies? Good performances do not always lead to gold medals. If everything depends on gold medals at the Olympics and other factors are not taken into account, sport could miss out in the long run.

Mr. Caborn : That is right. Although we just missed out on the medals, we got into about 17 finals, I believe. With half a second's difference, we could have had one hell of a medal tally for swimming. I know that the team was disappointed by the medal tally, but the quality of team members got us into those finals. I look at those aspects as well as at medals.

I am confident that that kind of financing for the Olympics is robust, but hon. Members also asked about finance in general. That is difficult. We have only to consider Sport England. When I came to this job, about 80 or 90 schemes had been hatched up and passed from the centre to regions and sub-regions. People simply ticked the boxes and got the dosh, and nobody ever did any measuring. We spent about £1.15 billion and increased participation by only 0.3 per cent., so that was not a huge success. That aspect needs to be addressed, and we have been doing that with the regional structure, which has been streamlined, but not to the degree that I want; work still has to be done on that.

Things are changing in sport. People can talk about the independent school sector, but if we consider the private sector in sport generally, we see that it has changed dramatically over the last five, 10, 15 and 20 years. The number of sports clubs and health clubs has increased. There are more swimming baths in this country now than we have ever had, and there are more in the private sector now than in the public sector, which is a change. We have to manage the changing landscape.

It is people from social classes A, B and C1 who tend to join health clubs and private tennis clubs, and we have to be careful that the public sector does not deteriorate. The challenge for the public sector is to lift the quality. There is an arrangement involving JJB Sports whereby indoor five-a-side football has been linked to a health club and a swimming complex. That is working well and bringing in many Cs and Ds through the medium of football. Local authorities, too, are spending considerable amounts of money directly and making a major contribution. When we talk about
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funding sport through the public purse, everyone looks at Sport England or UK Sport, but funding goes much wider than that.

With my colleagues at the Treasury, I have been working on mandatory rate relief for CASCs—community amateur sports clubs. Tax breaks and mandatory rate relief bring in considerable amounts of money. I think that some 3,000 genuinely amateur clubs are now receiving about £6 million a year. I am talking about not just one grant, but money year in, year out. Once those sports clubs get the tax breaks and the mandatory rate relief, they represent continued investment in the clubs. We have to consider these innovatory ideas on financing and ensure that we continue to push them forward.

On the structure of sport, which was the second question—

Hugh Robertson : I accept everything that the Minister is saying about the financing of the Olympics. I am sure that the process has been fully drilled down and is robust, but the key point is surely that part of the success of the London bid was that we were going to deliver on a much wider agenda. We were going to reinvigorate sport in this country in a way that had never been done before. I take what the Minister says about rate relief and so on, but I cannot see that the promises can be fulfilled without some front-end loading from the Exchequer, so the question for him is: are there any Government plans to front-end load the development of sport through Exchequer funding?

Mr. Caborn : I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman means by "sport". If he is talking about the Olympics, I can tell him that there is no doubt that the strategy that we put forward is to front-load the vast bulk of the investment. Why? The answer is simple, and again we learned this as we went around the world. We have to have the starting blocks in place. Misc 25—the Cabinet Committee dealing with the Olympics—met yesterday, and will meet again next week. The Bill on the Olympic delivery authority was already drafted; some hon. Members here know what is in that Bill, and we hope to have all-party support for it. The lottery Bill was also drafted well before we knew whether we were going to win. Today, we are three years ahead of where Athens was at the same stage.

We start pressing the buttons on Tuesday, when the London Olympics Bill will have its Second Reading. As I said, Misc 25 met yesterday and will meet again next Tuesday. Why? If we can get the contracts laid, whether for power lines or for a stadium, we are in control. Once people move towards the finishing date, they start losing control, and that is when it becomes costly. We have learned from the dome, Wembley, Picketts Lock and the Commonwealth games. When I was appointed a Sports Minister, my first job, with the Secretary of State, was putting another £100 million into the Commonwealth games. The sum went from £200 million to £330 million. That was to rescue the project; it would have gone belly-up otherwise. That was, in my view, crisis management. Why did it happen? Because there were underestimates in the budgets and then people were scrabbling around for money.

I can assure hon. Members that we will not go down that road with the Olympics. We are clear about the three stages: winning the bid, delivering the
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infrastructure and delivering a first-class games. Three different sets of skills are involved, and the investment needs to be front-loaded. That is what we are talking seriously about now, and that will be the most cost-effective way to deliver the games.

I agree with the point made about the structure of sport in the sense that we have been trying to rationalise it. That is why we have the regional sports boards—to reduce the influence of the centre. I am talking now about Sport England. We undertook that rationalisation with the aim of engaging the wider constituency of health, education, local authorities, business and the private sector at the regional level to work towards a benchmark, with a target of increasing participation. Away from the schools, we want to increase national participation in sport by 1 per cent. per annum. Only one nation—Canada—has achieved that before. However, we believe that it is achievable.

A third of the nation is doing what the World Health Organisation says that they should do: five half hours per week of reasonable activity. One third of the nation do that now, and we think that another third want to do it, and will do so if we give them encouragement and adopt a user-friendly approach. The other third will be more difficult to deal with, and we will probably have to adopt different schemes for them. Sport England has a clear target of increasing participation year on year, and linking that to what we are doing to change the culture in schools.

This debate is about elite sport, but it is also interesting to note that for the first time in decades we are consciously having to build physical activity back into our daily lives. For the past decade or more we have been taking physical activity out of people's daily lives, whether by taking stairways out and replacing them with escalators or lifts, or through town planners or architects designing towns such as Milton Keynes around the motor car, whereas now there are attempts to reintroduce pedestrianisation.

The current approach is to try to build physical activity back into our daily lives rather than designing it out. That is a big challenge, not just for sport, but for providers of other services, including architects, town planners and the health service. That is why we have tried to change the structure of sport to engage those constituencies that have a vested interest in it, such as health, social inclusion, education and the private sector. Those who are more progressive in the private sector know that a healthy work force are more productive work force, which will help them to hit their bottom line. We want to work with those forces in our communities and our society to ensure that we can deliver that agenda. That is why the structure of sport has been changing over the past few years.

A question was asked about the impact of devolution. Devolution is here, and we have to manage it. We have problems with the organisation of sport. For example, next year, Scotland, Wales and England will be competing against one another in the Commonwealth games in Melbourne, but two years after that, in Beijing, we will be there as a British team, in which all those elements will be brought together.

We have to manage the results of devolution in sport, which is sometimes difficult. For example, some of the governing bodies of sport are UK-wide and some are
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nationwide, which creates some complications. However, because of the role that UK Sport is now playing, it is seen as the lead body and is bringing others in, such as the English Institute of Sport, the British Olympic Association and the governing bodies. That is why I was pleased with what came out of the performance directors meeting called by the British Olympic Association and attended by UK Sport. I said that we needed to work in that partnership and set up a one-stop shop, rather than one-stop plans. If we can keep that type of honesty of purpose and partnership, I am sure that we can deliver a well invested and well focused structure not just for the Olympics but for the many other international competitions that take place. We must manage the effects of devolution through UK Sport.

I want to make more rapid progress on school sports links. Our 400th partnership will come on stream in September 2005, which will represent the completion of about one partnership for every 100,000 people. We are talking about one sports college, eight secondary schools and 30 primary schools.

We are also talking about 3,000 school sports co-ordinators—which means a teacher having two days a week off, fully backed up by another teacher. There are something like 20,000 primary teachers linking from primary to secondary schools, for which they get 18 days a year off. That scheme is having a major effect, and we will continue to roll it out; the investment is in place. When we started having school sports co-ordinators the process was funded by the lottery, but it is now being provided by mainstream Department for Education and Skills spending, which shows the real commitment the Government have to the sustainability of the structure of sport.

The linking of schools to the club structure is absolutely vital; there is no doubt about that. If we are to address the 70 per cent. fall-out figure, that is where we have to do it. There are other challenges to our governing bodies. It is interesting to talk about extreme sports, team sports and so on, and we have to be much more creative. That is why we are trying to encourage the development of multi-sport centres in the public sector and joining the private sector in with that process wherever we can.

I ask Members to think about football. There are more than 40,000 football teams: it is the biggest game played. There are between 2,500 and 3,000 rugby clubs, and roughly the same number in cricket. I mentioned the film "Bend it like Beckham" earlier, and asked what sport young girls will want to play. They will want to play football, and we can get them to play football—but at the same time we can get them into an environment where someone will put a tennis racket or a hockey stick into their hand, and let them play sports such as basketball. The way to get young people involved is by letting them choose a sport that they want to play, and we must encourage sports to come together to develop multi-sports clubs. We need that process instead of the silo thinking that we have had in sport. It is a legacy of our sport; it does not happen on the continent, and there are multi-sports clubs in Germany, France and Holland.
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We are trying to move to a situation in which people can get their experience from the community, not just the school. That is why the big four sporting bodies are working together, and other governing bodies are now coming on board. That is part of the way forward, as is linking clubs to schools, which is why we are continuing to invest in multi-sports clubs through Sport England and local authorities.

To be honest, I cannot go into dates but the whole thing goes wider, because health issues can be built in. We can build health centres there, and many doctors are considering bringing coaches into their surgeries and multi-skilling them so that they can deal with obesity. People who promote physical activity can resolve the ailments of many people without the need to stuff pills down them, but we need people from the sporting world who are skilled enough to do that. That is why multi-skilling of coaches is important.

Coaching will present a challenge. We have come a long way, with the great support of the governing bodies, which have all now bought in to the coaching certificate through UK Sport. Will coaching now become a profession in the sense that being a teacher or a doctor is a profession? Will we have professional coaches—not just people who are paid, but people who have entered a profession? Those involved in sport have to take that idea on board and consider whether it should happen.

That takes us back to the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Bath, which people were bending my ear about when I was down at the university of Bath the other day: what is higher and further education doing about skilling throughout the whole infrastructure of sport? We now have the first doctorate in sports and exercise medicine; it is crazy that that has happened only in the past few months. It has been argued about for a considerable time, but now we have got it. If we are serious about upskilling the sporting infrastructure, we have to talk about coaching and other professions in the sporting industry.

As for the fifth question that the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) asked, there has been a debate about whether testing should be taken away from UK Sport. All I can tell him is that the PMP report was done, and we were very open about that process. We showed people the terms of reference and they were critical, saying that this was a case of the poacher turning gamekeeper. We told them to go away and look at the report and they came back saying that there was no conflict of interest, and there were proper Chinese walls, even though the elite athletes were both paid and checked for drugs. We put that report straight on to the web, unfettered, to let everyone see it—and told people that the decision that we had made was to keep testing within UK Sport. That is the basis on which we acted. The evidence is there, and that is how we made the decision.

The hon. Member for Bath mentioned tough choices. He is absolutely right, and the structure that we have in place with the governing bodies is now dealing with them. We never have enough public investment and, as the Minister for Sport, it is my job to prosecute the case in Whitehall. I believe I have been reasonably successful with the Treasury, because sport is fit for its purpose. We can invest in sport with confidence that the outputs will have an effect on the Government's agenda on
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health, social inclusion and education. That makes is easier for me to ask for more money to be invested in sport and physical activity. Coaching is also important, but I have already spoken about that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) referred to regional initiatives. This evening, I am going to a meeting with Charles Allen of the nations and regions support group that was set up under London 2012 to consider how we can prosecute initiatives for the regions in a number of ways. In my own area, this has even brought Leeds and Sheffield together. It is unique to get people from Leeds and Sheffield talking in the same room, but it has happened. The same has happened with all the sports facilities in Yorkshire, with the proactive work of Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency, which is starting to approach teams and countries about who they would like to see in Yorkshire in the run-up to 2012.

Mr. Don Foster : I hope that at his meeting tonight, the Minister will congratulate the chairman of the nations and regions support group, who did a fantastic job as a member of the London 2012 team. Is it the intention of the Government or that group to provide, as a matter of urgency, an information pack or some other source of information for the groups that are springing up around the country and wondering how best they can work in their regions and localities to benefit from the successful bid for the Olympics?

Mr. Caborn : Yes. That is exactly what the group is doing while we are having this debate. On the other side of the Thames, it is discussing how to move the agenda forward since gaining the Olympics. Some chairmen of regional development agencies are with Charles this afternoon, as well as others. They are doing that now. We are pressing many buttons. We were ready to move when Jacques Rogge said "London"—it was the nicest way I have ever heard "London" said in my life—and regional initiatives have already started.

I like the school report mentioned by my hon. the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who knows that there are hurdles to overcome. If we are serious about the health of the nation we must bring school reports into focus for parents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Ms Barlow) said that the sea was free, which is true. Extreme sports have access to funding from the talented athlete scholarship scheme—TASS—and they are important too, as are individual sports. There is a big drift away from team sports to individual sports and we must respond to that trend by providing facilities, coaching and so on. Young people on the edge of society sometimes get a thrill from extreme sports, and that can bring them back into mainstream sports and mainstream society.

We provided money to the Lawn Tennis Association, as we did to rugby union and, to a lesser extent, cricket. We required it to look at club structure and club-school links and to invest the money in certain categories. The structure was found wanting, because many clubs were in the leafy suburbs rather than downtown and I asked who would be the next Williams sisters, and who would be the next Tiger Woods. The challenge, which applies to tennis, cricket and other sports, is how to take sport
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to the heart of communities. I am convinced that there are Williams sisters in downtown Sheffield and downtown Manchester. We must give kids the opportunity, which is why we are keen on TASS. The scheme is not just for those who go into further or higher education but for those who leave school early.

Someone said that our footballers are not the sharpest pencils in the box—but by God, they can perform on the park. They probably did not go to university. In fact, some of the best performers in football and other sports have not been academically bright, so the academic attainment system has not fed into sport. We need a structure in which everybody has an opportunity, whether they are a plumber's apprentice or are about to start a PhD at university. That is what we must remember when talking about talent identification.

I know that the LTA is making great strides to ensure that it has a structure that is fit for purpose and that can attract a lot more young people. From time to time it gets embarrassed when people such as my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey reminds it that we do not have many players reaching the finals at Wimbledon. That may change, perhaps as we follow Scotland, which is showing us the way in tennis.

My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) asked about funding. Whenever we can give out more funding, we do. However, he is right to say that we need a mature debate about the single funding stream. The situation is like congestion on the roads—people always think, "It's that bugger in front that's the problem, not me in my car." It is a bit like that when bodies are asked whether to give up some of their sovereignty; the situation becomes a little more difficult.

There is now a maturity in sport, however, and our collective work with the Olympic bid has shown that when we are focused and the team works together, we can make things move considerably. We have a great opportunity to consider the system, and I have said clearly that I want to ensure that the BOA, the EIS and others are constituent parts of UK Sport, through which we would fund them. That is where the bodies would have their arguments about how to dispense the money, and their performance and output will be measured.

As I said, there is now a maturity, and in the past few years there has been a change in the quality of people in governing bodies. I do not mean that in a derogatory way, because some people who have spent their lives in sport have been fantastic—but if we are to compete with the best in the world, we need not just the athletes, coaches and physios but the administration. That has to be professional if we are to take on the rest of the world, and the capacity building that has been done by the governing bodies, aided and abetted to a large extent by UK Sport, is starting to have an effect.

We are at the cutting edge of technology. If we can take the intellectual property from an athlete and transfer it into services, wealth creation and products, that will be a bit like what happens with a Formula 1 car. What is in a Formula 1 car today is in the luxury car market tomorrow and the volume car market the day after. That is technology transfer. Like a Formula 1 car, athletes throw out knowledge and expertise about pushing themselves to the extremes. We can capture and
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transfer that, which will involve wealth creation as well. We have a fantastic opportunity with the Sheffields, the Loughboroughs and the other universities, such as Durham, which have started to think about setting up spin-off companies. There is commercial investment in some of them, and they are considering what the products should be.
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In terms of our challenges on quality of life and health, a lot of the improvement can come through what we are doing with sport and physical activity. The challenges are great; the opportunities are immense. The fact that we are now focused on 2012 will give us an edge, and this debate has reflected the fact that we will all work together to get the maximum out of it.

Question put and agreed to.

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