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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is a bit of an exaggeration to say that, because we have a limited number of museums which now have free entry, that causes disaster to the many hundreds—even thousands—of other museums in this country. We have recognised that regional museums in this country have been underfunded.

We have piloted the Renaissance in the Regions programme, which, in the two hub areas where it started, has been enormously successful. There have been increases of some 28 per cent in the number of children visiting museums there, and of 52 per cent in the number of children using the outreach facilities. Because it is so successful, we have decided to make the programme nationwide. So there is no neglect of museums outside the national museums in this country. There are always indefinite demands for funds which cannot be met, but we have been tackling the problem very seriously.

Lord Sheldon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, until recently, canals were not regarded as an important part of our history? When I was first elected in 1964, if somebody asked me what was the worst part of the constituency, I should have taken them to the Ashton Canal, a quarter of a mile from the centre, where there were rats, sewage and dereliction. If, today, someone were to ask me what was the best part of the area, I would take them to exactly the same place. The council has spent some money on it, which has produced enormously successful results. Will my noble friend see what can be done to encourage other councils to do the same?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree with all of that. It is certainly true that the revival of canals for recreational purposes, both for boating and because they are attractive both as landscapes and for development, is a wonderful thing that has happened
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in recent years. A great deal of money, from the Government, donors and collections from local people, has gone into that scheme. But it is a slightly different question from the question of the three waterways museums.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I declare a hereditary interest in that my 18th century Anglo-Irish forebear, Henry Brooke, wrote an important pamphlet on the Irish canal system in 1759. Can the Minister say whether the decline in numbers, which the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, reported in the context of the waterways museums, has been paralleled over the same period in similar small, regional museums?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is far too difficult a question to generalise about. Some have been going up and some have been going down.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman designate of the Railway Heritage Committee. As the canals occupy a central part in our nation's transport history, would not my noble friend agree that one of the answers to the funding of the canal museums is for them to come under the responsibility of the National Museum for Science and Industry? It does such an excellent job in looking after the National Railway Museum at York and, indeed, the new Railway Museum at Shildon, opened by the Prime Minister last Friday.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is an interesting suggestion. I shall ask the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council to take it into account. The implication of some of these questions is that there is no government funding for the waterways museums. That is not the case. The British Waterways Board gives the museums £750,000 a year, which comes from its Defra funding. Unlike many museums, they get national money.

Sport and Physical Activity: Playing Fields

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is estimated that approximately 27,000 sites contain playing pitches in England, and the Government have put in place a number of effective measures to protect them. However, there is no one-to-one relationship between the number of playing fields and open spaces and the Government's targets on physical facilities and sport. Playing fields are only one of many ways in which the Government are working to increase participation in physical activity. In addition to suitable outdoor provision, we need better
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indoor provision such as multi-sport facilities. We need to make better use of our stock of existing sports facilities.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Does he accept that, if we want to use sport as one of the main driving forces towards greater physical activity, especially in the long term, we need to address seriously such anomalies as 94 per cent of changing rooms for football being unsuitable for women, according to the Football Foundation? What exactly are the overall targets for greater physical activity?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course I do not disagree with what the noble Lord says about there being, in the classic phrase, much more to do. However, a huge amount is being done in this area. The new opportunities for PE and school sports programmes involve £630 million in England and Wales. The NOF green spaces programme has £22 million for playing fields, and the Football Foundation is funding 550 projects at a cost of £62 million.

Baroness Billingham: My Lords, the question is inextricably linked with the sale of school playing fields, which has caused great anger and anxiety in all parts of the House. Can the Minister give us a definitive statement of the Government's policy on the issue? Can we once and for all lay aside the allegation that we are asset-stripping that vital and priceless facility?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there has been a great deal of anxiety about planning applications for playing fields, which I quite understand. In most cases, such applications are needed for the changing-room facilities and so on, so very few mean losing playing-field space. Of the approved planning applications, 90 per cent benefit sport or do not in any way damage it. The Department for Education and Skills and the National Playing Fields Association have now agreed a formula whereby, if there is any financial benefit from the disposal of playing fields, it will go on outdoor sporting recreational facilities.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, will the Minister accept that governing bodies such as the National Playing Fields Association and the CCPR believe that there are nothing like sufficient playing facilities in schools if children are to translate and transfer to sports clubs later on? Will he also agree that the safeguards that he has told us have been put in place to stop the sale of school playing fields have not worked satisfactorily, and that such sales are still going on?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree with the first question but not the second. As I made clear, there is a huge backlog of investment and maintenance, particularly in school playing fields. The figures that I gave show how determined we are to make up that backlog, but I do not claim that it can be done in a year or two. I have already answered the
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second question. The number of applications for changes to school playing fields that involve the loss of playing-field facilities is completely minimal now. I made the advantages gained by facilities from the planning changes clear in my answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the important measures to protect sports buildings, such as pavilions, from demolition that were announced by the Government on 24 July 2000. Why has nothing happened in the subsequent four and a half years? Why do they continue to postpone the legislation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, some such matters require legislation and some do not. One of the most important issues has been strengthening protection through public planning guidance 17 in July, which has gone a long way to answering the noble Lord's questions without the need for legislation.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that one reason why sport flourishes so much in Australia is that Australian sport clubs are able to gain substantial revenues from gambling? If we are to have in this country an extension of slot machines with high payouts and an extension of the amount that people gamble, would that not be better done for the benefit of sport clubs, in an environment that is at least some form of community rather than in the anonymous and vast American-style casinos proposed in the current Bill?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord will have plenty of opportunity to display his prejudices on those matters. There is no plan for a vast extension of what Australians call "pokies" in this country. Certainly, there is no plan to have, as in Australia, either provincial or national government dependent on gambling revenues for things such as sport.

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