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Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, not only for what he has said, but also for what he does week-in week-out as chairman of the all-party sports group in Westminster. He brings most interesting people to talk
 
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to the sports committee. We benefit very much from getting together in a non-political sense to talk about sport, in which we are all so interested.

I was not going to talk about things that are on people's minds now, such as the Olympic bid, because we cannot do much about that except hope for success on 6 July. But it is right to say that in past years we have made some progress through the sports councils of the four countries, the local authorities and the governing bodies of sport generally. With Olympic successes and our fingers crossed for rugby football and cricket in the next few weeks, we hope that all will go well there too. As regards Wembley, is the noble Lord happy with the way things are going at present? Is the £20 million provided by Sport England still safe in the interests of athletics?

I want to turn, as did the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, to grassroots and talk about leadership—through teachers and volunteers. A good many ills of this country, right down to social deprivation, could be cured if we had much more effective leadership of young people. The problem is being addressed. Sports Leaders UK, which used to be the British Sports Trust, is led extremely effectively by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. The organisation is doing an immense amount to develop leadership through its chief executive officer, Linda Plowright. Courses are held all the time, with qualifications arising from them. Since 1987, some 300,000 youngsters have gained qualifications, and last year 91,000 young people attended its courses. It is important to note that all this is being done at minimum cost, funded largely by charities and sponsorship. The Government might bear that in mind as an example of value for money in terms of funding for sport. Perhaps they might think a little more on giving it additional support.

Full credit is also due to the Central Council for Physical Recreation, although I was sorry to hear that its chief executive officer, Margaret Talbot, is leaving. The CCPR has being doing a lot of very good things lately; for example, by providing papers for this debate, holding conferences and producing brochures. It represents the sports governing bodies of this country, along with the volunteers who do so much to make UK sport work. Indeed, a line from its recent paper states:

We have to start at the bottom if we are to achieve success at the top.

I believe that sport and recreation can play an important part in the development of character, personality, confidence and discipline in young people, boys and girls. That has to be done partly in school time and in part after school, which is a problem for the education authorities. They simply must find time to give boys and girls the opportunity to participate in sport, particularly in team games, which do so much to develop character. I mention also outward-bound activities such as mountaineering and canoeing, in which youngsters should be pushed to the extreme limit without being foolhardy. They then find that they can achieve something far ahead of what they ever thought possible.
 
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What is holding us back in this field? Not only are there continual arguments in education about how many hours children can participate in games each week, but also the nanny society seems to be taking over. Because of legislation and the threat of losing their jobs, teachers and volunteers are afraid of participating in case a child has some form of accident. I read in the newspapers last week about some of the guidelines being issued by Sport England and, no doubt, by the Health and Safety Executive. They overstep the mark. It really is ludicrous to tell a coach that he cannot take a youngster home after practice in case of later implications of paedophilia. That is ludicrous. We must grow up and accept that people in sport can manage their lives very much more effectively than some of those in officialdom seem to think. So let us hope that the Government will encourage the various bodies to consider again their guidance and to make it more practical and relevant to 2005.

I refer not only to health and safety aspects, but also to the fact that the Licensing Act passed by the Government in the last Session makes it almost impossible for a village hall to have a licence. The enormous cost cannot be borne, and that translates to sports clubs as well.

It must be of some concern to the Government that 70 per cent of all children give up sport when they leave school against only 30 per cent in France. Part of the reason may be that in the United Kingdom, total funding for sport per head is £21. It is £30 in Germany, £51 in Australia, £76 in Canada and £112 in France. No wonder the French are so enthusiastic about the Olympics when they put so much into basic sports provision in their country.

I want to mention the lottery. I am desperately disappointed in the Government's attitude to the lottery and in the new National Lottery Bill in another place. We cannot underestimate the immense value of Sir John Major's introduction of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. Without it, the vast sums of money being spent on sports, recreation, the arts and our history would not be available. Yet as soon as the Government came to power in 1997, they started to change the basis on which lottery money could used. It was quite wrong to take money away from the main causes set out in the Act and give it to education, school meals—that I heard only just the other day—environmental purchases in Scotland and medical equipment, all of which should be provided by the Government through the taxpayer under the scheme of additionality. But this Government are reducing the money available to the original causes in the lottery Act in order to save the taxpayer money. It really is quite wrong, and I hope that when the new Bill comes to this House, we give it a mighty rough ride and perhaps get rid of some of the worst proposals the Government have included.

I turn briefly to planning issues and school playing fields. In 2002–03, some 1,297 applications were made to change the use of school playing fields for development of one form or another. No fewer than 807 were approved. Thus some 62 per cent of those applications were approved by this Government at a time when they kept saying that they would avoid
 
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losing playing fields. Of course they will argue that some were being converted into all-weather pitches or that indoor facilities were to be provided, but by and large a huge number of playing fields have disappeared under this Government.

Two committees have been appointed to look into this issue, but neither has reported since April 2003, so we are two years out of date on the figures that in any event the Government usually try to smudge whenever I table Questions on them. What are the Playing Fields Advisory Panel and the Playing Fields Monitoring Group doing? How many playing fields have they saved? I want to know because it is a criminal shame that we are losing so many perfectly good playing fields at this time. It is only through the good work of the National Playing Fields Association, which monitors as much as it can and highlights in the media what is happening, that we get even some degree of attention.

I commend what I have read in the paper today, which is a good move on the part of Glasgow City Council. Although it is quite unusual for Glasgow, it is offering rate relief to sports fields provided that clubs alter their constitutions so that the fields cannot be sold for development. That is good, and I hope that many other councils will do the same thing.

I must quickly conclude, but must ask: can we not do a little more to help women in sport? The Women's Sports Foundation does first-class work. Indeed, leading sportswomen of this country such as Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe, Denise Lewis, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ellen MacArthur are making the headlines, but women do not get equal opportunities on television. The media are letting the girls down in this country. I am lucky enough to visit America quite often, and there one sees any amount of women's sport on television. There is basketball, tennis, golf, athletics and rowing, all of which seem to be taken much more seriously than is the case in this country.

Finally, I say to the Government: for goodness' sake, try to simplify life for people working in sport. They are fed up with the bureaucracy that the various governing bodies provide for them. Let us remove some of the red tape and put lottery money back into sport.

2.19 pm

Lord Carter of Coles: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Pendry for initiating this debate on what is an important issue to me as the chair of Sport England and in view of my involvement in a wide range of sporting activities, not least our bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

Sport is one of the common denominators in our society. It reaches across the barriers of race, class and income. However, despite the fact that participating in sport makes people happier, healthier and builds good communities, we have to face the fact that it is difficult to move people into sport. Therefore, we have to look realistically at the barriers and what needs to be done to effect change. As the noble Lord, Lord Pendry,
 
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observed, we must build a structure that begins with participation and then build the pathways through to the elite. We will not win in 2012 unless we get the basics right here.

A lot has been done already and there is momentum in sport, as the daily coverage in the newspapers—and not just the reporting of football—shows. There is a momentum. Journalists are writing about sport. The effect of 2012 is enormous and is giving us the movement that we need.

Understanding the barriers to participation in community sport is critical if we are to make a difference. Today, 77 per cent of children aged eight to 14 have a television in their room; computer games are prevalent, and children spend hours a day on them; and children are driven to school rather than walk. It is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that the forces of passivity are rampant. Some 80 per cent of children have bikes, but only 2 per cent ride them to school. So there is an issue.

Secondly, the structure of society is changing. It is changing people's ability to find time in their busy lives. People's lives have changed dramatically. In many places, it is incredibly difficult to find 10 other people to make a football team on a Saturday afternoon. That is caused partly by our working practices. In the south-west of England, 36 per cent of the population work at the weekend because they are active in the tourism, leisure and retail industries and in caring. That makes the situation very difficult, but people are finding alternative ways. No longer do we have great workplace factories with playing fields. We are seeing a deconstruction in sport.

These problems are common to most developed countries—Britain is not alone in facing them—but whereas participation levels are a challenge everywhere, we in Britain face a particular problem. We are behind our major international comparators, especially the northern European countries.

The question of how that happened and what should be done to remedy it has been the subject of enormous debate. There have been various initiatives and the problem has been looked at, but the problem has existed over the years. Now, however, for the first time, we are beginning to get a clear understanding of what to do and the need to create diversified and diverse answers to these problems. There is not one central monolithic solution but a series of solutions.

As other noble Lords have observed, we need to start at the beginning and look at the school sports system. As has been said, in the early 1980s and the 1990s, school sport went into a steep decline for a number of reasons. After 1997, however, the Government set about reversing that decline. With enormous effort in the late 1990s and enormous investment now, we have seen that decline reversed. Critically, the first plank in the sports system has been restored. The rotting floorboards have been torn up and we have something firm on which to build.

Having addressed that issue and seen momentum, we now have to turn to what to do next. The noble Lord, Lord Monro, has rightly commented on the
 
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colossal drop-off after formal education. Some 60 to 65 per cent of those aged 11 to 15 participate in sport, but the figure drops to 25 per cent in the 16 to 24 age group. "Cliff effect" perhaps summarises the situation. Participation stays pretty flat thereafter until, like many noble Lords, people get into their sixties and are able to do a little less.

The situation is the same in every country. Young people, especially young women, discover other pressures. People want to do other things. In Britain, however, we have a steeper drop-off rate. Finland, which has been very successful, has maintained participation at 52 per cent. Germany and Canada—and France, as has been observed—are all doing better than us. We are at 21 per cent and we need to do something about that.

The key is to face up to the issue and not to be in denial about it. We have looked at international best practice and seen what works in other countries. We are setting about trying to create a systemic and systematic answer to the problem.

Sport is full of initiatives. There is no end of schemes that act on one issue at a time. However, we are looking to design a system that can address the issue in a big way. The first thing we need to do is deal with the tide of passivity. We need to get proactive messages out there—the message that activity in sport is good. That is being done in Germany and Canada. In the north-east of England, a pilot called "Everyday Sport" is under way. The early indications are that the programme is starting to drive behaviour.

However, it is no good coming up with initiatives that last a year or two after which the funding disappears. We need programmes that last long beyond one spending review settlement. The Germans have a very successful campaign called Sport ist Gut. It has run for 20 years and changed how people behave. In Canada, over 10 years, the Canada on the Move campaign and other campaigns have helped to increase participation in sport at the rate of 1 per cent a year. It is critical that we give people information. Investment in schemes such as Active Places and interactive databases for sports centres mean that young people can now go online, find out where the nearest facility is and go and participate.

After we have that piece right and have the encouragement, we need to build the pathways. The critical pathway is from schools into communities and clubs. That has been referred to. Countries such as Germany have got that right over a longer period. Again, however, the Government recognise the need to do something about the issue. The increasingly successful programme of getting PE into schools and clubs—the PESSCL programme—is building those critical links, making sure that when people go from a very structured society in school into an unstructured world, there is a link for them to carry through.

After we have got that right we have to find somewhere attractive for people to go and practise sport. Expectations have risen. People do not want to send their children to play on dog-fouled, dirty, waterlogged football pitches. They do not want to play
 
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themselves in such places. We expect better. In many parts of the country, that has been solved by investment, and in many parts of the country it has been private investment. Were it not for the nearly 1,800 private health care clubs that have been built in the past 10 years, participation rates in this country would have fallen back quite dramatically. Those private operators need all the encouragement they can get by relaxing planning to enable facilities to be built where they are needed—not where planners would like to put them but nobody would use them. That point requires attention.

Community sport relies on volunteers. As we have heard, 26 per cent of all volunteers are engaged in sport. We need to find ways of encouraging—and the Russell commission is very strong and helpful on this—those who are prepared to volunteer.

I should like to share an experience. Last Saturday, I went to a small football club in Hertfordshire called the Hormead Hares. Four years ago, four people got together in a rather run-down part of a village in a rural community. Between them, they have created 17 teams for children aged five to 16. It is a wonderful achievement. Two hundred children play there. There was no investment whatever; they built the pavilion themselves. But now they need help, and the help is there. They have applied to the Football Foundation and other organisations. The help is there, but we have to ensure that we get the money into the right hands. The point, however, is that it is these people who are changing things at the grassroots level and we need to support them.

What happened in that community can be measured. First, the community came together to solve the problem. Secondly, there is evidence that crime was reduced. Thirdly, and most importantly, young people were given a sporting legacy. We need these clubs. We need the pathway from club to elite sport. Reference has been made to the TASS scheme and other such schemes. The interventions are being put in place to move people up that critical pathway.

I have touched on the issue of infrastructure. In recent times, we have faced the problems of a decaying and crumbling sporting infrastructure. A lot was built in phases—some in the 1960s—and is now very old and needs replacing. At national level, there has been some success. We are building Wembley. There were beneficial effects from the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in terms not only of infrastructure but, above all, in regeneration. It is notable that east Manchester and the city have had a major boost from the effect of sport. And we hold high hopes for 2012 and what it will do not only for sport in this country but for regeneration in the east side of the city.

At community level, a lot has been going on. People understand what is needed. I turn to the issue of playing fields. There is a lot of talk about playing fields. Grass playing fields' utilisation rates are relatively low. On a grass playing field you can play maybe three, four or five times a week, but the grass soon wears out. In urban areas that does not work and therefore we must get all-weather pitches where people
 
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can play for 70 and 80 hours a week. So it is not just the quantity, it is the type of playing field that we get. Sport England and other investors are concentrating on getting the right answers.

However, despite all the investment that has taken place, we have the problem of ageing facilities in local government ownership. It is clear that unless we reignite local authorities as a major force in sport, there are parts of the country where there is market failure, where people go unserved. We must turn our attention to that. Discussions are under way to include the cultural block, of which sport is part, in the comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) mechanism, which guides local authorities' priorities. If it is not in there, it is not measured and local authorities tend not to pay it attention. We have to get this into a "must do" for local government.

I will show you a sign of how far sport has fallen down local government priorities in some places. In a visit to a local authority the other day, they told me they had 154 KPIs—the measurement tools for local performance—and in their priority list sport was 132. We have to turn that round; we have to put sport higher up that list. The Government have set us a target of increasing participation in sport by 1 per cent a year. They have very clear views on elite success. Momentum has started; reforms have been taken through. UK Sport and Sport England have been reformed; governing bodies are reforming quite dramatically; so sport is on the move. The prize to give it that final boost is to win the bid for 2012. It will help us to continue to transform that landscape. We are now, I think, only 19 days away. We have high hopes.

All those things coming together give us the opportunity to move people into happier, healthier, community-aware lives, and it is a challenge I think everybody in sport relishes.

2.32 pm


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