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This physical exercise has its penalties. As your Lordships may see from time to time in this House, there are people wandering around who have certain difficulties. A little while ago, I was one of them. Both my knees went, and I could not admit that anything was wrong. I happened to be abroad at the time, and I saw a very nice French doctor called Dr Villemin, who said after looking at me, Monsieur, you are obviously not academic. I thought he said that I was stupid. He said, No, you see, the thing about academics is that they do not take much exercise so their bones and bodies do not wear out. I am sure you will find that in your Lordships House when you return.
Perhaps it was my hyperactivity that led one day to a civil servant ringing me up and saying that my name had been put forward to be chairman of a new body that was being established by Peter Shore, with the support of Denis Howell, called the Greater London and South-East Regional Sports and Recreation Council, the mandate of which was to develop sport and recreation throughout Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Kentso help me Godlooking after one-third of the population for one-third of the time when they were not working or sleeping. I do not know why; I think I was appointed only because the Labour Party in those days would choose for unpaid jobs young, hereditary, chinless-wonder, Conservative merchant-banking Peers. I am not saying who got the well paid jobs at the time.
I was then introduced to my secretary, Colonel Boris Garside, a remarkable man who immediately said, You may call me Garside or Colonel, but I would prefer not Boris. I will call you my Lord. For me, who was only a junior officer in the Navy, this was almost an insult, but it was a great promotion. For six years under Peter Shore and another six years under Michael Heseltine, I had enormous fun dealing with the greatest bureaucracy the world has ever created. On our council was every governing body of sport: the Royal Parks Agency, the Army, the Navy, the
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At the beginning of the meetings, someone would say, Mr Chairman, someone else would say, On a point of order; it should be My Lord Chairman, and someone else would then say, It should be chair. One of the great leaders of the trade union movement here said, When you have your meetings, why do you not hold them on a Friday before a bank holiday, preferably an August bank holiday, send out the letters by second-class post because they are deemed to have arrived on the date of the postmark, and hold the meeting somewhere strange. So we held our first big annual general meeting at Alexandra Palace on an August bank holiday. The idea was that the chairman would call the meeting to order and there would be the argument about chair, Lord Chairman or whatever. Then a roll call was proposed, and it was proposed that those who were present should be noted by a show of hands. Those who were not present and who had apologised for their absence would also be noted. Those who were not present but who had not apologised for their absence would also be noted; they had shown discourtesy to the meeting, and the chairman would have the right to their votes. At the time, therefore, I had the majority vote.
We had no money. We did, however, have the sports council, and we were allocated the right to something like £27 million a year. When we started to have our fun, we thought, Would it not be a good idea if we could be good at cricket again? What about the villages?. We partly started the village cricket scheme. I went to see the MCC, which wanted a new sports centre. It wanted funding for it, as all those people did, but it did not want it to be available to anyone other than the children of MCC members. After a lot of argument, we agreed that every MCC member who had a child would agree to sign the form for others. We then watched different schools coming to the centre, because cricket was a great leveller. It was then deemed to be a good idea to run and to jog.
Robin Marler was a great friend of mine and a cricket correspondent at the Times. Suddenly the Sunday Times decided that it would have a fun run. People would get up early and run around Hyde Park. They got a shock; 3,000 people got up in the morning and ran around Hyde Park, which led to the Sunday Times saying, Thats not long enough. Lets run a bit further. With Chris Brasher, the London Marathon started. I was asked to deal with the inner city and Docklands. We were asked if we could build a big arena there called the London Arena, but of course no one had any money. We managed to get the marathon to run through Docklands on the Isle of Dogs. In those days, the LDDC had a picture of a crow with the caption, Why be in the middle of nowhere when you can fly to the centre of ... ?whatever it was. I got a lot of friends to dress up in crow clothes, which the LDDC provided. They went around on roller skates with buckets, and we
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With the Bradford fire came an, Uh oh. The arena building was built on the site of an old banana shed. It was a difficult building, but it was allocated and it was big enough to have many tennis courts inside. We were going to have the Amateur Athletic Association, with an up-and-down running track and 12,000 seats that would come out. It was brilliant, but we were not allowed to use it because technically it did not exist; it belonged to the Port of London Authority. For it to exist, it had to come under new planning rules and be deemed to exist. It was therefore not suitable for anyone to be inside it, even though we could put fire engines with pumps outside. We had enormous fun in the end. We held pop concerts there.
In the midst of this, I had the difficulty of being a hereditary Conservative merchant-banking Peer down in the East End. What they did not know was that my father went into motor racing after leaving school. He died very young, but he had boxed and wrestled for charity on the Isle of Dogs under the name of The White Eagle. As soon as that was known, one day when I was down there a little old bird gave me a nudge and said, Hello, how are you?. I said, Hello, who are you?. Oh, she said, Hows your da?. I said, He died in 1963. She said, I thought I hadnt seen him around. You know, you shouldnt be a Conservative. From that day on I wanted to be an unknown Peer. I became the well known Labour Peer, which opened up everything to me in that part of the world and we got on with whatever we could think of.
Then we needed to deal with the inner cities. The East End was fantastic. You have to deal with the street. Your Lordships may remember the Scarman inquiry in Brixton. Lord Scarman was a great chap, so I went there and we decided that we would appoint ethnic minority group leaders. That was the first time I heard the phrase ethnic minority groups. We wanted to give them £10,000 a year and I suggested that we give some of them cash. That was probably against all the rules, but I managed to get the cash from outside the government system. I had a great ethnic minority leader from JamaicaI was conceived on the beach out therecalled Mr Rasta. He called me Mr Lord.
Mr Rasta taught me the street business. Up in the streets, you give a bunch of people a ball and two basket nets, which we did in Brixton, and you watch a child bounce a ball off a kerb and send it back over his shoulder to his friends. If he was tall, under the rules he would often be allowed to put a small child on his shoulder so that he could score. That little activity led to tremendous fun. Over that period, we ended up producing the government regional recreational strategy. I shall dig out a copy and send it to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, because many of the things in it have been discussed today and are still around. The playing fields were being closed. ILEA was selling its land. People were thinking only of money and not of the spirit that you can bring out with a bunch of individuals. I could go on about every sport.
My final punishment concerns my fear of heights. I do not know why I have that fear. I should really be sitting on a lower Bench, but I have always thought that. One day, it was decided that I should lead a major abseiling attempt for charity. I had never abseiled. Suddenly into my office in the City came a Royal Marine sergeant and a corporal. They had a rope and said, If youre ready, you can jump out of the window, and they showed me what to do. Two days later I found myself in the wind, 400 and something feet up, on top of the Prudential building doing a jump for charity. But they did not tell me that if you are that high up, and standing on the edge with your gloves on, the weight of the rope is so great that you have to pull yourself down. I dropped off a plank for about 20 feet and was stuck. Everyone was shouting at me and I have never been so frightened in my life.
But there are always benefits, and before I close I shall return to cricket and to my noble friend. I used to be chairman of the Middle East trade committee and take missions out to difficult places like Saudi Arabia. We were trying to take over all the redevelopment of Riyadh when the Saudi Government were going to move there and I was taking out a team. One of the greatest teams in the MidlandsI will not mention the name of the companymade lovely cast-iron street furniture, including lamps and so on. It produced wonderful designs using the Saudi palm leaf. However, the owner of the company fell ill at the last moment and said that he would send a substitute.
At the airport, we suddenly found that his substitute, who was in long skirts rather like Madam Thatcher, was his wife. At that time, it was quite difficult for a woman to go on a mission to Saudi Arabia. However, she was there to sell street furniture. The engineers who were with me and others had a sense of humour. She was the vice-captain of the English cricket team, so you can imagine some of the remarks that a tough bunch of men were going to say to her. One of my favourites is a bit near the bone, but noble Lords will not mind. They said, How do you protect yourselves. We men wear boxes. She said, We use manhole covers, which was her main product. That week she sold 300 manhole covers with the coat of arms design to Saudi Arabia.
When I came back, a little note in the press, instead of referring to me as a trade man, said, Lord of cricket arrives. Weeks later, I returned to find a letter addressed to His Excellency Sir Lord Malcolm Selsdon Esquire, House of Lords, MCC, London. The letter said, Dear Lord, how big are your balls? Our childrens balls are four and three-quarters, but we think they should be five and a half. Could you give a ruling?. This was a letter from a Pakistan cricket coach wanting to know what size balls should be used for children. In those six years, I had tremendous fun. We did something, but it was the individual people who brought it alive from the grassroots upward and not from the top down. I believe that that is where we should go today.
Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Pendry on initiating this long overdue debate. I am exceedingly
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This week, many tennis fans will be following the French Open on the red clay courts in Paris, but not so many will be aware that this week also marks the official start of the grass court tennis season, with the first tournament taking place in the somewhat surprising setting of Surbiton. Very sensibly, the Lawn Tennis Association moves these events around centres across the whole of the country. The game is presently dominated by players from the eastern bloc because their youngsters seem to be more hungry for success than our players. In the run-up to Wimbledon there will be the inevitable chorus of voices bemoaning the lack of British champions on the tennis scene, and I confess that I have joined my wife in similar criticisms in the past. But apart from Andy Murray and his brother Jamie, there is promise of improvement.
In the womens game in particular, progress is now being made. Britain now has five female players in the top 200, up from two only 12 months ago. Two weeks ago, Anne Keothavong became the first female in nine years to break into the top 100 players. This follows the Lawn Tennis Associations decision to put womens tennis on an equal footing with the mens game, increasing the support it provides to women players. It is strange to be saying that in 2008 and makes you wonder why it was not done 100 years ago.
Among the juniors, Laura Robson at only 14 is flying high in the ITF junior world rankings, and youngster George Morgan ended last year on a high, winning the prestigious 14 years and under Orange Bowl against the top international performers in his age group. He is already performing well at 18-and-under events, and there are currently nine boys in the top 100 of the ITF rankings. The challenge is to convert these results into success in the mens game. In wheelchair tennis too, we enjoy continued success as a nation and are serious contenders for Paralympic medal success in Beijing. Peter Norfolk is the reigning US Open champion, Lucy Shuker is No 10 in the world rankings, and Gordon Reid and Jordanne Whiley are making rapid progress up the senior rankings.
In the past year, the Lawn Tennis Association, the national governing body for tennis, has put in place a systematic approach across the country to discover, develop and nurture our best players. This includes increasing the support it provides to its high performance clubs around the country as well as establishing a network of talent scouts. The scouts visit clubs and competitions to spot talented youngsters, and run a
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Of course, facilities alone do not create champions, but they are important. We need the right talent development structures in place and we need our youngsters to work hard to make the most of the opportunities which are there for their taking. We also need to do more to create quality opportunities to play and compete in tennis and other sports available to all, as has already been said by noble Lords. An estimated 10 million people will watch Wimbledon on television this year, and many more will follow the results. But for too many, that is their involvement in the sport for the year.
Tennis is a sport that takes place all year round and can be played by men and women, boys and girls, aged from four to 84. Indeed, tennis is already one of the highest participation sports in the country, with around 900,000 adults playing once a month or more. Working alongside its charitable arm, the Tennis Foundation, the LTA is committed to further growing the game as well as helping people to stay involved in sport throughout their lives, alongside the work I have already described: identifying and developing future British talent.
The Governments strategy for sport has already contributed to improvements in this area. For example, thanks to the renewed emphasis on active sport in schools, tennis is again extending its reach. According to last years School Sport Survey, tennis is now offered in 79 out of every 100 schools across the country, an increase of 9 per cent since 2003-04. The links between schools and tennis clubs are a key strand of the Governments PE and School Sport and Club Links Strategya name to conjure with. They are now in place in 39 per cent of schools, which represents a substantial increase of 12 per cent on five years ago, when only 27 per cent of schools had such links in place.
Over the past five years, the Governments community club development programme has contributed some £14 million towards the LTAs investment in tennis facilities across Great Britain. This has been put towards the development of 109 new indoor tennis courts, floodlighting for 488 courts, 469 new outdoor courts and 54 kid zones.
There are approximately 13,800 courts across Great Britain, 7,000 of which do not have floodlights. I still bear the marks across my back from getting involved in a campaign in my former constituency of Birmingham Erdington where an active and growing tennis club wanted to put in floodlighting. Unfortunately there was a housing development on its boundary which did everything it could to stop it. Indeed, it succeeded in doing so, but it was worth the shot. Some 5,300
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As ever, of course, more should and can be done. We expect the Government to announce in the next few days their plans for the future of community sport. I hope they will say how they plan to maximise the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the decade of sport ahead of us. A renewed focus on growing sport, on sustaining participation and on helping talented youngsters to excel is critical to success in this drive and I look forward to seeing how sports such as tennis can maximise their impact going forward. However, I echo the point made by my noble friend Lord Rosser that it is not all about winning medals and competitions but taking part. Millions of peopleit should be many millions morefind enjoyment in sport at levels much lower than championship level.
As I have said, tennis is one of the highest participation sports in the country and is a major spectator sport. Spectators have an important supporting role to play for our champions taking part in tournaments. It is good to have a crowd behind you. That is certainly the case at parliamentary elections, so why should it be any different on tennis courts, cricket fields and so on.
The Sport England Active People Survey 2005-06 found that 874,000 people aged 16-plus play tennis at least once a month. This makes tennis the ninth most popular participation activity among adults, higher if you exclude walking, going to the gym and recreational cycling. About 3,000 schools are members of the British Schools Tennis Association affiliated to the Lawn Tennis Association. The schools association offers a range of training courses for teachers involved in delivering tennis in our schools.
I am glad of the recognition that has been given, in the past five years in particular, to the importance of training and of the trainers and coaches who give their services on a voluntary basis. This is especially true in athletics. There will be literally dozens of unpaid volunteers at the athletics competition to which I am going on Sunday helping to make it possible. They give their time and take the training. It is absolutely magnificent to see the support that comes to such events in that way.
A great deal of money, effort and commitment is being spent to bring more young people onto the tennis courts, with expert scouts and coaching to nurture our future champions. I hope that in not too many years we can see its benefits on the tennis courts of the world.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord can answer a question that I asked when I first went to Wimbledon when it wanted money. We asked, Why do we not win? Why do we organise the best ever championships historically and we do not win?.
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Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: As I tried to explain, my Lords, the Lawn Tennis Association is trying to discover, develop and nurture young talent. There are more young players now playing tennis; 79 per cent of schools have tennis facilities. Like any other sport, this has to be built from the bottom up, provided that there is investment there and that there are people to encourage and coach those wanting to take part in those activities. It is my experience that playing a mentoring, handholding, nurturing role to young people taking part in athleticsquite young, in some casespays the most enormous dividends, because they have someone with them as well as their parents who can help and watch them grow and keep refreshing their interest.
I do not doubt that we will find there is renewed interest every time there is an Olympic Games. It is one of the great ambitions of the London Olympics in 2012. We have to use that opportunity to stimulate not just interest in sport but interest in participation in active sport.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing this subject again. Indeed, one feels that without him doing this no one else would, so we owe him an extra vote of thanks. On that little exchange at the end, I liked what the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, said about nurturing people and bringing them on. There is always a great danger with certain sports that you rely on the lucky and the brilliant. There will always be a few of those and they can cover up enormous faults in any sporting structure, so we must look at the overall number of people. I would be rather more impressed by tennis if it got five people into the top 100 than if it produced one person who won a Grand Slam. That is just an aside.
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