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Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing this debate. He has been a friend of sport for many years. He and I met through our lives in sport. At the time, he was in politics and I was still in sports administration, many more years ago than he would care for me to tell your Lordships, but it was at least 30.

Sport is an area in which I have had a lifelong interest. In line with what other noble Lords have said, it has certainly played a significant role in shaping my life from the age of about 13 until this very day, when I find myself still involved, and enjoying the involvement, in sport and in sport administration.

We are all aware that the Olympic Games are very topical at the moment, as we wait to hear the result of the 2012 bids on 5 July. In the last debate on sport in your Lordships' House, I and many other noble Lords supported the Government strongly in their efforts and chided them maybe for not getting in behind the bid strongly enough. However, I believe their performance has improved and we hope that we are successful.

I am a little disappointed that, heading into the final straight, we are in only the silver medal spot at the moment. I put that down to the Government's somewhat indolent attitude when they first started to get the ball moving, as one or two noble Lords have indicated. However, having seen the time that it took HMG to get under way on this major project, I do not have a great deal of confidence in their commitment to promoting, supporting and funding sport at local level.
 
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I turn to the broader issue of sport in communities, which I have always felt is, or should be, cross-departmental and, therefore, in need of a clear, firm strategy. That has been reflected by other noble Lords. I suggest that sport, its effects and consequences, have repercussions for three main departments: first, the Department for Education and Skills, with its remit for the physical education and recreation of those in schools and colleges; secondly, the Home Office, which has to tackle a growing number of youths receiving ASBOs for causing trouble on the streets and similar problems; and, lastly, but certainly not least important, the Department of Health, which is fighting a losing battle against the problems caused by obesity in children, with the ramifications that that has for our society as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, made some very interesting points both for the young and for older people.

One would have thought that with such a large organisational task, Her Majesty's Government would be practising the joined-up government approach which I have spoken about on at least two occasions in your Lordships' House in debates on sport and about which we hear so much, and yet there does not seem to be any clear strategy at all—in fact, quite the opposite.

It cannot be stated too strongly that advances made in promoting and facilitating sport at a local level will have a knock-on effect and will save money across all departments. If our young people were given the promised extra two hours of sport a week—two years ago I was promised that in a debate—they would be less likely to be obese, they would have less time on their hands to cause trouble in the streets, and I suggest they would have more energy in the classroom, with perhaps less energy to get into mischief afterwards. Can the Minister give us some indication of whether HMG have a coherent policy or action plan working across departments? From where I am standing, that does not seem to be so.

Furthermore, if one examines the Government's efforts over the past eight years, one is struck by a complete failure to make even the smallest impact on the problem nationally. There has been initiative after initiative. This afternoon, we have heard of a number of individual initiatives, but where are the positive national results? As the title of this debate makes very clear, only by focusing on the development and support of sport at a local level can we hope to achieve the kind of sporting excellence to which we should aspire.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, gave us a very clear resumé of where we should be going. I hope that the Government take note of the chairman of Sport England.

I have one positive thing to say about the Government's programme. I have been reading with interest about the so-called "Kelly hours" that will enable young people to be dropped off at school earlier and picked up later in the day. That will enable parents
 
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to work longer hours and allow young people to enjoy such activities as free sports coaching, which is a great idea. However, as I read the articles in the newspapers I had a strange sense of déjà vu. On re-reading the Conservative Party election manifesto, I came across this passage:

That begs the question: what is Ruth Kelly's bedtime reading?

I shall say something else positive about the Government's approach to sport. They are not shy of throwing money at the problem. I say "throwing money", but I should probably say "promising money". In his keynote speech to the Labour Party conference in 2000, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said:

I have to admit that that sounded promising. Further, on 1 March 2002, Richard Caborn, the Minister for Sport, said of the £750 million New Opportunities Fund money:

Clearly, we were being led to believe that the money is there and the Government are keen to spend it. However, by 8 January 2004—not very long ago—just £8.5 million of the £750 million had been spent. Noble Lords will find that in Lords Hansard, 8 January 2004. Can the Minister tell us why not? It cannot be because the Government think that the money is not needed and that there is not a problem in this area. If that were the case, why promise the money at all? As my noble friend Lord Moynihan, the then shadow Minister for Sport, put it in a statement on 14 December 2004, only seven months ago:

I do not believe that anything has changed very much.

The Government need to address this policy now. They need action, where before we had only words and initiatives. We need answers from them as to why they are holding back from committing these promised funds. If, as I have just argued, only a fraction of the £750 million lottery funds have been invested, can we imagine that a similar proportion of the promised total £1 billion has been distributed? Of the money that has been invested, what transparency has there been to show that the money is filtering down to sport at local and grassroots levels? I fear that it may simply fuel the new sports bureaucracy rather than making any real difference to our young people and communities.

Under this Government and their predecessors, bureaucracy has burgeoned in sport. We now have nine regional sports bodies, nine regional sports councils
 
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and nine regional institutes for sport. One body, UK Sport, funds our elite athletes and another, Sport England, funds the sports development programmes. Tessa Jowell herself has admitted that it is a nightmare. We need an overhaul, as my noble friend from the Liberal Democrat Benches said, of these bodies, which suck dry our sports funding and greater accountability.

The funding of sport in this country is a total mess. The Government have had eight years in which to sort out the national administration of sport to their liking. In my view, they have achieved remarkably little. The negative aspects are more bureaucracy, fewer playing fields—mostly sold off by Labour-controlled local authorities, as they were in our day—less money at the coal face in real terms and, finally, a stealth tax on community sports clubs through payment of rates and licensing fees.

The biggest disaster of all, which has already been mentioned, is that there is less National Lottery money available for sport, thanks to the Government's continuous smash-and-grab raids on the lottery proposed in the Bill currently in the other place, where it has had its Second Reading.

3.51 pm


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