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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate which has covered every conceivable dimension of sport and almost all sports. Our gratitude is due to my noble friend Lord Pendry for introducing this debate on the basis of his very long experience of promoting policies in this area.

This is a very challenging time for sport. The enhanced expectations of our nation are that expenditure on sport produces more effective performance. I take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and will seek to answer some of them. But would this Government be criticised more if they were not spending two-and-a-half times the amount on sport which the previous Government spent in 1997?

I hear what the noble Lord says about the problems of structure. We all recognise that there is complexity and I shall be identifying the way in which we are cutting through some it and guaranteeing that resources hit the target. However, I will not accept from the Opposition that somehow this commitment to extra expenditure on sport is misplaced. I do not see how, in any other walk of life, we can expect improved performance without increased resources, and I do not see that it is true of sport.

So I make no apology for the fact that we are increasing our expenditure on sport. Nor do I worry unduly about criticisms of certain aspects of the policy on school playing fields. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Monro, said. It was during his administration and, to a degree, on his watch as Minister for Sport—although I know that the Minister for Sport is not directly responsible for school playing fields—that the problem with selling off school playing fields reached crisis point. In 1997, we as a Government committed ourselves to introducing legislation which tightened up
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the procedures considerably and ensured that school playing fields would not be sold except in the most exceptional circumstances.

Such exceptional circumstances mean that all-weather pitches or interior facilities are superior to the retention of outdoor playing fields, with all the weaknesses they sometimes demonstrate of "unplayability" at certain times. Where facilities are enhanced by the provision of improved indoor facilities, there can be a case for the sale of the playing fields. However, that process which went on for two decades under the previous administration has largely been brought to a halt by this Administration. That is our commitment.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord says; indeed, there is some justice in it. But is any structure envisaged whereby if a school does not need its playing fields and other people do, they can try and defend keeping them? I have asked this question time and time again, because we do not seem to be talking to each other. I have not heard an answer about it from anybody.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord says. He is absolutely right that we cannot afford to under-use educational facilities because the wider community can benefit from them. But the advantage of the commitment to extend the school day is the greater use of such facilities. It enhances the possibility of increasing young people's participation in sport and brings a community dimension to educational facilities of the greatest significance.

Of course I am cognisant of the noble Lord's point. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Giddens referred to Cambridge where the educational sector can be enormously resource-rich, while the wider community surrounding it is relatively resource-poor. We need to address those issues and the facilities available. There is no doubt that it is necessary to have a strategy for encouraging commitment, interest and the value of sport. That is why we make no bones about putting a great deal of emphasis on sport for young people. Sport can indeed transform the lives of young people by developing their self-discipline, motivation, team-working skills and self-confidence.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred to team sports and of course we recognise their value. We are introducing schemes for team management and in particular for sports competitions to encourage schools to compete in team games. We recognise the benefits that derive from them for those who wish to participate.

I accept entirely the point of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. He gave a graphic illustration of an exceptional and outstanding case; the transformation of Geoff Thompson's life by the development of a skill in sport. Everybody in this House can testify to the fact that they know the transformational qualities of sport. We must provide such opportunities for people, not least because they tackle a range of other problems.
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We can improve social inclusiveness. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and my noble friend Lord Giddens said that our health policy, concerned with reducing levels of obesity, needs to draw upon sporting participation. There is a clear link between encouraging young people at school to participate in sport and reducing the levels of obesity present in that group—they are certainly present in our adult population. We need to inculcate good habits early in life. That is a key challenge to which we are committed.

We intend that by 2010 all children will be offered at least four hours of sport every week. This will consist of two hours of high-quality PE and sport at school and, in addition, the opportunity for at least a further two to three hours beyond the school day, delivered by a range of school, community and club providers.

I accept that we need to recognise the beneficial effects which sport has on being able to call upon a high level of voluntary support and commitment. It is one of the areas of our national life in which we should delight; we all know of many members of our community who devote a great deal of their spare time to the work of their sports clubs, perhaps long after their own sporting careers might have ended. In some cases, they may not have had a sporting career but are drawn to and interested in developing a sport for others. That voluntary commitment is a resource that we ought to treasure, and we ought to recognise that it brings enormous benefits to the nation. That is why we are concerned to develop club links.

My noble friend Lady Billingham emphasised the issue with regard to tennis. In tennis and a range of other sports, we need to build up links between schools and clubs and encourage progression from school to club. We must make sure that clubs are interested in what is provided in schools and enhance the facilities and opportunities that exist in the schools. In that context, I mention the Football Foundation, of which my noble friend Lord Pendry is president and which my noble friend Lord Giddens has, he said today, just joined. The Football Foundation is an important model for the way in which clubs can be encouraged to relate to the community and develop interest, support and commitment. We all recognise that football clubs, above all, have the added glamour of a sport that, in television terms, has the most outstanding appeal.

Football has played its part, but our other major team sports, such as cricket, tennis and rugby, need to follow. We are prepared to back that with resources. We are putting an extra £35 million into the Football Foundation so that it can continue the good work, and we want other sports to recognise the enormous advantages of following that model. It means that we can ensure that young people receive improved coaching support, beyond that which they are likely to be able to obtain in the school itself, and it forges a crucial link between school and club, helping to tackle an issue of which we are all fearful and which we all acknowledge to be one of our worst problems. Participation in school sport may be lower than we want it to be, but we can adopt a strategy to improve
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that position in schools. However, it is the drop-out rate that is such a worrying factor. Often, the moment that young people leave educational institutions, they are lost to the world of sport and therefore do not develop their own health or create for wider society the benefits that sport brings.

I do not think that anyone expressed doubt in any of the many powerful contributions that have been to the debate about the transformational potential of sport and the way in which it can enhance people's lives. That means that we must get past the barriers that exist, including the much lower rate of participation in sport among girls and women. We must recognise that that section of the community will need the question of the sporting provision that is made for it to be addressed more significantly.

My noble friend Lord Pendry was kind enough to refer to the programme in Oldham that gives deprived youngsters access to football coaching and other footballing opportunities. The issue in Oldham is not just deprivation measured in economic terms; it is deprivation in ethnic terms, too. British football has enhanced opportunities for young people and has brought out some significant stars from the Afro-Caribbean community; one can scarcely think of a major side in Britain that does not have a black player. However, given the large Asian community that we have, one must ask, "Where are the Asian players?". Where has there been the stimulus to bring Asian groups into the sport?

That feature is even more noticeable in other sports. Cricket is a great love of mine, and we all know the talent of the Asian countries in that sport. However, we have been relatively slow in this country to tap into the rich resource that we have of young people who could be great exponents of the game but have been deprived of resources or have been frustrated by the fact that the clubs do not relate closely enough to the schools, so that young people cannot avail themselves of club facilities. That is an important dimension of the targets that sport has to meet.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that we must attack the issue of participation by girls and women in sport, but I want to ally it to the question of deprivation in the ethnic communities with regard to sport and the extent to which our whole community would be greatly enriched if we made progress in that area, too.

Reference has been made to limited participation. When we came to power, we had few robust statistics on participation in sport. I do not take any great pride in the fact that it took us several years to make progress on collecting the essential building blocks of policy: effective and accurate data on the problem. It was not until the health survey in England in 2002–03 that we were able to establish that only 32 per cent of adults in England undertook at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on five or more days of the week; that only 21 per cent of adults participated in sport at least three times a week; and that only 43 per cent of adults participated in active sport at least 12 times a year. That is a poor base for a healthy, committed and
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participative society. That is why we are concerned to spend the money that, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, fears, we may be spending too slowly. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, may have heard my noble friend Lord Puttnam, as he was closing the previous debate, say that one of the glories about expenditure on the arts from the lottery fund in this country is the range of projects that have not a breath of scandal because of the effective allocation of money and guaranteed security in the use of resources.

My department takes pride in that and we intend to operate the same degree of rigour with regard to both lottery funds and public expenditure from the taxpayer for sport. It is important that, when such initiatives are established, we have clear scrutiny to ensure that they are effective. That is why I make no bones about the fact that in crucial areas we are still involved in learning from the experience of developments in sport that we have initiated since 1997, but now have a blueprint for progress in both national and community sport throughout the country in succeeding years.

I also emphasise that we recognise the issue of the disabled. There is no doubt that the great breakthrough for the disabled in sport has been the development of the Paralympic Games. Britain came second in the medals table in the Sydney Olympics. We achieved the same level in Athens and I assure the House that we intend to ensure that resources are available and encouragement given to our disabled athletes to ensure that in the next Olympics we will reach the same level of performance. That area is a matter for collective pride. Our society has made considerable progress, although I always recognise the enormous need to guard against complacency.

In talking about the Paralympic Games, I also recognise the important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran; namely, that, in the four short weeks until the decision on 6 July, a great deal of national sport will be related to the Olympic bid. We hope for success. I recognise the chiding from the Opposition about the slow start, but we are more interested in the results that have been achieved at the crucial time. I think it will be recognised that the final bid as presented puts us in a very healthy position. None of us knows what will be the eventual outcome, but we know that among all the extolling of the virtues of sport, certainly by politicians but even by leading figures in our society outside the world of politics, nothing stimulates interest in sport more than the glamour of dramatic success. That is why Kelly Holmes became not just a household name but an enormous stimulus to us all.

I want us to build on the achievements of the past, recognising that sport can provide role models. I am all too conscious of the fact that there can also be unfortunate role models in sport when young people at high levels do not conduct themselves in the way that we would all wish, but we recognise that the vast majority of our leading sportsmen and women set very high standards. We need those models in society to encourage others. That is why I was enormously pleased by the approach of my noble friend Lord Carter in his crucial
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role through the body that he chairs. He recognises that there is cause for optimism in the strategies being pursued to achieve higher levels than we have previously been able to achieve not just in participation but in achievement.

The attitude that has united us on all sides in this debate—I recognise that justified criticism has been made in certain areas—is that we recognise what capacity sport has to inspire people and bring out the very best in them in every way, not just in sporting excellence but to tackle the crucial problem of the level of the nation's health; and to give young people confidence, because they are engaged in worthwhile pursuits rather than anti-social ones, into which some will fall unless suitably inspired by other models.

The Government are making considerable progress. There is no room for complacency, but we may be holding this debate in advance of a very significant summer for British sport. The important thing is that we must enhance our performance in the future in any case.

4.14 pm

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