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Two things come across that show why we should pay attention to sport and physical recreation. One is that it is good for us. As numerous noble Lords have said, having fit and healthy people will save us quite a lot of money in terms of the National Health Service. The other is that it is fun. If you bring those two facts together, you ask, “Why don’t we put more into it?”. I do not know the answer, but I have a theory that the people who run political parties, the backroom boys, do not really appreciate sport. Indeed, when the Conservative Government introduced some well meant educational changes, they demolished the school sports structure unintentionally, because, when teachers counted their hours, the old structure broke down of, “Oh, you play for the fourth team in whatever sport it is; you’re on the school’s second team”, although often without proper training. It was, let’s face it, not brilliantly organised and probably failed many present-day health and safety standards. It should have gone away, but not with the crash and bang with which it went.

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The disappearance of school playing fields is probably another part of the same process. The Government can take credit for stopping the sale of school playing fields. I would be rather more impressed if they had brought the process to a grinding halt as opposed to slowing it down over several years and only just having stopped it. If they are boasting about it, I would listen more intently if there had been a grinding halt and then a rapid reversal. However, we are where we are.

Sporting structures are now having attention paid to them, possibly because of the fact that there was a small crisis in that area. Particularly in school-age sport, we have made great strides forward. The real question about the dozens of schemes that the Government brought out—I probably will not get an answer today—is which ones did not work best and which ones worked well. It would be interesting to get that answer. They cannot all have been great successes, although they are easy to market. You get a bunch of children and you say, “Right, run around in front of a camera with the politician or the sports star and look terribly enthusiastic, and we’ll get a lovely launch”. Then you have increased participation figures. But how many carry on? Where does it go? What happens?

As has been mentioned, it is quite easy, if you shout at enough people in schools, especially the more pliant or enthusiastic ones, to produce a fitter, healthier bunch of, say, 14 year-olds. The problem is around the age of 19 or 20 and with adults from there on in. That is the group that we are failing. It is about the interface between the organisation of school and adult life.

Perhaps we should not feel too bad about that. My own sport of Rugby Union, for example, is probably the worst in terms of a school’s prestige among prestige schools. You would have a rugger team. You took a small bunch of people and drilled them like automatons to be good at a sport. After they achieved a degree of success, you paraded them around like trophies, more or less put them in the cabinet on the wall and said, “Aren’t we good?”. I have met at least half a dozen Rugby Union schoolboy internationals who refused to play the game again after leaving school as a result of that attitude. It is a real danger. Why? If it is not made fun, it is not taken on.

Modern training structures have been developed and, for most games, there are now shorter, easier, less technical versions—Rugby Union started to develop them before most, but tennis and cricket have followed. They aim to get people involved earlier and build up their participation levels so that they enjoy the sport, the process of being involved and the competition, and find out what they want to do. That is a vital part of building the success of the strategy. If the Government can tell us which schemes are working on that level of success, they will have taken a major step forward.

A few years ago, I produced my party’s sport policy development paper. It came just after that of the Government and just before that of the Conservative Party. The pages of those three documents were not interchangeable, but they were not far off. We all spoke to the same people and came up with the same findings: that the school model had some capacity,

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albeit that it was concentrated on those of school age, that we should get clubs involved so that people continued afterwards and that we should make sure that the coaching capacity existed. How that is delivered is the big question.

Let us not forget that sport can be used to divert people from other activities. Late-night soccer centres in places such as Cardiff have taken young men off street corners and allowed them to play sport at non-traditional times under floodlights. It has cut down street violence and crime. Sport can be used to that end. However, one wants people playing sport primarily because they are enjoying it, getting a buzz and forming teams.

What are we doing about sport for disabled people and how does it fit into the structure of what is going on? The Olympics have provided a huge impetus to sport by pushing it right up the agenda and making it a more serious matter. It receives more attention. Perhaps it is just my imagination, but I think that more money, attention and political kudos now surround sport in this country. How are we cashing in on that?

A huge part of the Olympics—indeed, half of it—is the Paralympic Games. I have received a briefing from Action for Blind People, which asks, first, how we are making sure that people with sight impairment can take part in sport and, secondly, whether we have looked at how we can integrate them more successfully into certain types of sport. For example, brighter-coloured balls could be used for those who are partially sighted. Certain levels of integration can be achieved. What is being done? What model are we using to bring those people together? What is the emphasis? Do the Government have an overall strategy, or is it just growing piecemeal in various sports and to various unofficial lengths?

Having been rather rude about my own sport of rugby, I draw the Government’s attention to a good scheme that the Rugby Football Union has brought forward called Go Play Rugby. It was marketed to 16 to 24 year-olds. I was not aware of it. It started at around the time of the World Cup and was probably helped by England’s surprising progress to the semi-finals—I usually cheer more loudly for Scotland, but there we are. The scheme aimed to get 6,000 people playing rugby again—people who had received training before but had dropped out. It managed to get over 9,000 people, of whom I think 840 were women. There was another scheme called, I think, Carry on Playing—it cannot be that, but I cannot remember its exact name—to monitor retention of players. The scheme marketed to an exact group, and then there were people at the clubs to receive people and look after them when they turned up asking to play. Everybody who has played a sport knows what it is like going into a new sporting club. If you happen to meet the right person, you feel welcomed; if you do not, you feel like a social leper, with the idea that you will never get out of that fifth team no matter what you do. Let’s face it, it happens.

If Rugby Union can run such a scheme and have a series of pathfinder groups and support for coaches and others to get people into the game, why cannot

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other sports do it? They should look at and learn from that scheme. Have the Government been briefed about the project? I did not get a chance to speak to the Minister before the debate. Are they aware of the scheme and have they looked to see whether it can be used as a model to reach that group with which we traditionally have the worst links and to say to it, “Yes, it’s okay to come out and play sport”? Part of the marketing was to say, “Find rugby, find some dates”. It is a social network that could relate to any sporting activity, or certainly to team games. You have to be able to relate socially at a certain level to be able to do a sport; you have a group of people whom you have met already and you go out with them. That social network has been part of most people’s participation in sport in the past.

Also, the more people you get playing those sports, the wealthier the sports become, because they draw their income at grass-roots level from their participants. It is that simple. If you get people involved, you get more money. Ultimately, the Government might even have to spend slightly less money if they pump-prime these projects. I hope that the Minister can give us a positive answer. If he is not aware of the scheme, he might like to go with me to talk to the RFU about it. Other members of the Government are, of course, aware of it. Perhaps we could take on this model and go further with it. We could see how relevant it is and how it should be developed in future. A great deal of effort has gone into various schemes, but we do not always report back on those that do not work. Here is one that seems to have started well and whose progress is being monitored. Can we find out what it is doing? If it is a successful model for that difficult-to-hit group—the one with the biggest wastage—it should be developed, and developed for other sports.

The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, is always entertaining, but his description of the sports bureaucracy is one with which I am afraid nobody can disagree. Indeed, I think that he slightly underplayed it, to be honest. But this scheme seems to be comparatively simple and is organised within one sport. I hope that all those groups involved, such as CCPR and Sport England, will be able to come behind it and develop it. Will the Minister give a positive response to this suggestion and encourage his colleagues in government to look at it and at the models around it? Unless we establish finally what does and does not work, we can carry on with our scattergun approach—okay, a lot of effort has been made—but we will not maximise our return unless we really concentrate.

3.48 pm

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, like others I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for initiating yet another debate on sport, this time with a slightly different angle. It is a chance to review the Government’s strategy for sport and physical education—and it is about time. We have had some very interesting comments on widely spaced subjects.

I make one comment, before I start formally, on the Paralympic situation. Your Lordships may not be aware that once a year we put on an event called the

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Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, which I believe is the largest annual international Paralympic event in the world. It is sponsored now almost entirely by the Government, UK Sport, Manchester City Council and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. It has had a big impact on the Manchester area. It brings in 42 different countries and something like 400 athletes, and it is something that we can be proud of. We are ahead of the world in high-level Paralympics event management. That has come from the people who put it on, whom I had better not mention, and the funding is from government sources.

However, Her Majesty's Government’s long-term ambition through their new strategy started with a thing called PESSCL—PE, school sport and club links. The strategy stands at the heart of the Government’s current bid to improve the infrastructure for school sports. In April 2008 it was renamed the PE and sports strategy for young people. Its long-term ambition by 2010 is to offer all children five hours of sport a week. According to 2006-07 figures, 86 per cent of children are now getting only two hours of high-quality sport per week in school. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, I and others in your Lordships’ House have been pushing at the Government’s door in previous debates to reach the 100 per cent target of two hours a week. We think that they have just about got there, and I am delighted that they have raised the bar to push on for five hours, which surely is a more realistic target for our young people.

The scheme is based around networks of secondary, primary and special schools, with a specialist sports college acting as a co-ordinating hub. The strategy has seen an increase in the amount of PE in schools. For the 2006-07 school year, 86 per cent of children in partnership schools received two hours of PE per week. So many children, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, are still not getting any notable PE per week.

The figure of 86 per cent is an increase of 34 per cent since 2003-04. It is a significant increase, although it has taken a long time. It exceeds PSA1 target. The Prime Minister has committed £100 million to try to offer five hours of sport both inside and outside the curriculum. This money will primarily fund competition managers and the new national school sport week. In February 2008, Mr Brown announced a further £30 million for facilities and sports colleges. That has to be good news.

We have called for an increase in competitive sports in schools on a number of occasions. PESSCL’s main achievement is in creating a structure of school sport that works and can be developed. All schools are now covered by one of the 450 school sport partnerships. The club links programme run by Sport England, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, told us, shows that 27 per cent of pupils accessed one or more sports clubs linked to their school or school sport partnership in 2006-07, an increase of 22 per cent on 2004-05. This level of increase must continue. The Government must have a strategy to maintain progress in the field, obviously linked to Sport England.

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An increase in competitive sport is justified—and this is somewhat dubious—by the statistic that 98 per cent of schools now have a sports day. That goes into the statistics that produce the 98 per cent. Some 35 per cent now take part in inter school sport and 58 per cent in intra school competition. Those healthy figures need to be maintained.

Is two hours of sport in schools enough? It is clearly not enough to curb the child obesity problem, which is getting worse. Fourteen per cent of children—more than a million—are not getting two hours’ high-quality sport, but what constitutes high quality? I suspect that we all have a different view on that.

The figures in the Government’s own PE PSA target are ambiguous. The 86 per cent figure comes from the 2007 school sport survey that examined data from 21,742 schools operating within a school sports partnership. Therefore, it did not cover all schools. There are 25,018 schools in England, so 13 per cent of schools are not included in this figure. In addition, the survey stated that,

These statistics are bullish and indicate progress. I am not knocking the Government but there is a long way still to go. There are weaknesses with the PESSCL strategy. For example, its focus falls on secondary schools and does not necessarily provide enough support for primary schools or further education.

On 13 July 2007 Gordon Brown announced yet another target for children’s participation in sport. This stated a goal to,

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, this was originally included in Labour’s 2005 manifesto—we are now in 2008—which stated on page 95:

The PSA announcement is simply a rehash of old policy. We do not want rehashes of old policy, we want new policies, forward-looking changes and to be able to move on. The delivery mechanism of the strategy has been questioned, especially given the lack of trained teachers to supply the sport. Sixty per cent of primary school PE teachers have fewer than six hours’ PE training within their course. This is reflected in the poor physical literacy of a number of our youngsters. The Government have reduced their recruitment targets for PE teachers from 1,450 in 2006-07 to 1,180 in 2007-08. There is a massive turnover of PE teachers due to frustration, career progression issues and a shortage of trained people. The strategy has been criticised as being too target-driven. Programmes such as these should be based on children, not on targets.

Grass-roots sport stands in transition as Sport England reviews its strategy to create a world-class

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community system. James Purnell announced in November 2007 that he wanted to focus the attention of Sport England on,

I agree with that, as we all do. That is the role of Sport England. However, he advised the Department of Health to take responsibility for promoting fitness and physical activity. This is, of course, linked to the Government’s concern about the obesity epidemic outlined in the Foresight report. The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and my noble friend Lord Taylor mentioned health issues, as have other noble Lords on many occasions. Cross-governmental operating has also been mentioned; that is, joined-up government between health, sport and education.

I had a joyous morning yesterday at the other end. Richard Caborn, wearing his hat as president of the Amateur Boxing Association, had both Ed Balls and Gerry Sutcliffe beside him at the same table, with key players on the Amateur Boxing Association board and a number of youngsters. They were telling us how the association had worked with schools to get boxing going for both boys and girls, and not only had it done that but it had linked to clubs across the country. I do not have the numbers, but for me it was an exciting start. That should form a significant part, if it has not done so already, of government strategy for community sport, which is what we are about. If boxing can do it, and if boxing can get girls in, and can get into clubs and schools, why cannot everyone else? The passion from the guys running and helping it was tremendous to see.

There are also some problems on the financial side, as I think has already been mentioned. More than £10 million was invested by Sport England in 3,000 community coaches, which was an excellent decision, and 2,000 multiskill clubs for younger children have been implemented, with the dance links programme. That is good news. There is a lot of both good news and bad news. My point is that there is a long way to go when it comes to recognising excellence.

As a direct result of Gordon Brown’s raid on lottery cash, the amount of lottery funding going into grass-roots sport has fallen by nearly 50 per cent, and governing bodies think that it is likely to stay at that sort of level until well after 2012. It has dropped from £397 million in 1997 to £209 million in 2006. That is a significant amount, and you can see it among governing bodies. I am president of a governing body, and I meet others; everyone is seriously feeling the pinch for cash. About £70 million has been diverted from grass-roots sport, on top of that, to help pay for the 2012 Olympics.

Only 13.5 per cent of the UK population are members of sports clubs, whereas for Sweden it is 39 per cent and France 26 per cent. That is a big area of work to go on with. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about the active people survey and the figures that came out of that. He mentioned the Finns as well. Clubs are already struggling under current funding levels. Research carried out by the CCPR suggests that the number of voluntary clubs is falling, which is another worrying statistic, with 14 out of 21 sports reporting a worsening of the financial status of their

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clubs. That comes from the CCPR sports club survey of 2007. That means that there is insufficient funding to provide the sports facilities, space or personnel needed to accommodate growing demand.

Finally, obesity is getting worse. We have not got anywhere near to tackling obesity in boys, girls or adults. In my home province of Northern Ireland, seeing such people walk around the street is terrible.

In summary, Her Majesty’s Government have made some progress in recent years, but considerably more effort is needed. More money and less bureaucracy are needed. In particular, where it comes to increasing the hours of sport that can be given to young people in schools, a serious look at health and safety in relation to sport and recreation is needed from the Government. That has been accepted as something that needs to be done by both the former and the current Ministers for Sport, and it is time that the Government took it seriously. It inhibits children and young people from getting a chance to go out into the mountains and hills and on to the water doing some of the more exciting sports, because teachers, leaders and instructors are frightened of the claims culture and what is behind it. On that note, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for giving us the opportunity to debate this.

4.04 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Pendry for this opportunity to discuss sport and to outline some of the Government’s achievements since June 2007, when he last raised a significant debate in this House on sport in the community. I pay tribute to his work over a substantial period in bringing sport to the attention of Parliament and government, reflecting the fact that there is no doubt that sport has a much higher profile than it had a decade or so ago in terms of the perspective of the nation and the desirability that government should address some of the deficiencies in our sporting provision, which this debate has helped to identify. My noble friend also called attention to the substantial progress that the Government have made in improving sporting opportunities for our people, particularly young people.

I was very glad that my noble friend brought within this framework the role of sport in promoting other significant government objectives on the wider social agenda. The investment in sport and physical activity, which we will continue to produce, will help to combat rising levels of obesity, which we all recognise are of concern to the nation. There is no doubt that people who take exercise give themselves a decent chance of avoiding levels of obesity that are often the product of an exceedingly sedentary existence. Sport has a role in terms of promoting good health, additional to those relating to obesity. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for emphasising mental health issues. There is no doubt that people often need an opportunity to develop self-respect in their lives and sport can play its part in that. The noble Lord constructively identified ways in which we could look at these issues more carefully in relation to that dimension of ill health and he said

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that a part of the Olympic legacy should direct itself to future sport opportunities.

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