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The Lawn Tennis Association’s new work in this area is a particularly good example, and it is interesting that it has come at just about the same time as the RFU’s scheme. It is a condition of funding that tennis clubs have a junior development programme, and there is the Tennis Clubmark condition, in which clubs can apply for loans, grants and programme funding. It is a strategic tool to drive improvement in the sport. There is also the development of community tennis through hot spots, in which, in due course, some 20 specific areas will be funded. There are also beacon sites, which will have dedicated coaches.

The sport governing bodies want to see the Government take various actions. The national alliance of governing bodies, the CCPR, is increasingly clear about the kinds of steps that need to be taken and the benefits of increasing participation in school sports through to community sport. It is committed to extending participation, and there is a remarkable consensus by the CCPR that has, in my view, led to the Sport England change of strategy. It centres around the local club, which, as my noble friend said, is crucial. One of the CCPR’s suggestions is to enhance the community amateur sports clubs scheme by making junior subscriptions eligible for Gift Aid. It has made some fairly careful calculations and reckons that by 2012 this could cost the Government a mere £2 million. The impact of that could be absolutely enormous. In the context of the Olympics, that is very important, but it is not clear what additional funding the Government are making available in order to increase participation in the run-up to the Olympics.

My noble friend Lord Addington and I have a recent, terrific example. It is the inspiring story of a local rugby club where participation by young people has changed people’s lives astronomically. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, whose speech I very much enjoyed, spoke about rugby in Newham. Well, this is a rugby club in Southwark called the Southwark Tigers. As a result of a profile in the Times, my noble friend Lord Addington and I made contact and we are now helping it identify how it can get a club house, and work with the local cricket club and other sports clubs to improve its facilities. It plays in Burgess Park. It was founded by Vernon Neve-Dunn and has done a remarkable job with very few resources. Some 80 children attend Sunday practices and it has quite a number of teams. The benefits of the rugby training and of playing in the teams have been enormous. It is one of very few examples—the noble Lord, Lord Pendry cited another—of home-grown, inner-city rugby. As a rugby fan, I am convinced that it will be of great significance. Now, off the back of a youth team, it is developing a senior side that will in turn give greater support to the junior side.

I must finish at this point. I shall be extremely interested to hear what the Minister has to say. It is not, of course, just a matter of resources but also of enthusiasm. My noble friend has demonstrated enormous enthusiasm for his sport, and other governing bodies do likewise. The RFU’s example is an inspiring story, and if we can replicate it across other sports we are set for a bright future.

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5.32 pm

Lord Howard of Rising: The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, spoke of enthusiasm, and it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for his sport. It was very encouraging. Perhaps if he has some spare time he could come and give me some assistance with the Castle Rising football club, of which I am chairman, which seems to lurch from one request for a cheque to the next.

I declare an interest as chairman of the National Playing Fields Association, so I am sure the Committee will realise how delighted I am with the contribution to sport that the scheme has made. It is very encouraging, and I am delighted that it has worked as well as it has. Everything about it has been said by noble Lords. There was a request to ask the Minister how far he will extend and encourage these sorts of schemes. Will he get as far as tiddlywinks, darts or ping-pong? One never knows where it is going to stop.

5.33 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this interesting debate and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I appreciate his dash from the successful crew to this Room. I congratulate him on that achievement, which cheered us all. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, is no armchair enthusiast and that was proved this afternoon. We know the noble Lord’s commitment to rugby as well as his general interest in sport.

He is right that the Rugby Football Union’s Go Play Rugby campaign was hugely successful. It attracted more than 9,000 players back into the game and identified an issue that exercises us all, which is the drop-out rate in sports. As my noble friend Lord Pendry indicated in his contribution, we are concerned to strengthen the links between school and clubs that ensure that young people come into sport, but tackling the drop-out rate is of great significance, too. We all know how greatly it affects sports. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that the Go Play Rugby campaign was in many ways a potential template for other sports to tackle the phenomenon of people finishing in a sport too early when they would often benefit by returning to it. I agree also with the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, that the health of the nation is aided significantly if we can promote exercise and commitment to sport throughout much longer periods of people’s lives.

The noble Lord, Lord Howard, asked how far we will go. The answer is that we will deal with authorised national governing bodies of significant sports. I counsel him, however, that I have no means of assessing how aggressively the tiddlywinks people present their case—although, since they have been mentioned in today’s debate, I expect representations from them. I advise him, too, to be a little careful with ping-pong. Table tennis is a mightily important sport in this country. I am president of a hugely successful table tennis club in Enfield with which I have a long association. I assure the noble Lord that nothing is more effectively and efficiently run than that club. Nothing brings youngsters into sport and into really vigorous exercise more than

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ping-pong or table tennis. With China hosting the Olympic Games this year, we should be careful to pay due respect to a significant sport which challenges the abilities of young people.

Sport is not just about professionals; it is about reaching out into the community and the grass-roots structure. That is why Go Play Rugby’s success was important. Bringing 6,000 players back into the game exceeded its expectations and was a signal success. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, indicated, it had a national media campaign which coincided with the excitement around the world cup. Although England did not quite reach the heights of 2003, the team certainly sustained interest throughout the competition most brilliantly. In many respects, people warmed as much to its valiant efforts on that occasion as they had to its success in Australia four years earlier.

The campaign was supported by Sport England. More than half a million pounds went through the National Sports Foundation, which is why we are pleased to recognise the campaign’s success. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that one of its important aspects was evaluation: what have we learned from the campaign and what lessons can we derive that are of value to other sports? The RFU undertook substantial research into the effectiveness of the campaign and helped to set up a model for how things can be done in future. Sport England benefits from illustrations of successful endeavour of that kind. I hasten to add that it has similar expertise available to help other sports with media campaigns. I am quite sure that sports are looking at the success of Go Play Rugby, related to a particularly significant year for the sport, and will organise themselves in the same way.

The Active People survey carried out by the RFU has produced a wealth of data around participation levels in sport. Sport England has built on that and broadened it right across sports in England. We now have data on the participation in sport by adults over 16 for every local authority in England. That gives us a base for progress. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, paid due tribute to this. These are our essential tools for working out how resources can be directed most effectively. We all know that resources are never limitless—although I assure noble Lords that we will continue, through the sports governing bodies, to direct resources to these targets. We now have a model on which sport is able to build to get a clear analysis of what needs to be done. We can take encouragement from other sports governing bodies which are responding to the challenge of increasing delivery.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, indicated his reservations about past work by Sport England. It has changed its priorities. We now regard it as being well placed to deliver a new era for sport. It is an opportunity, which of course is reinforced by the significance of the Olympic Games, to promote sport in England and across the United Kingdom.

We should not underestimate the significance of this year. Once the Olympic flag is handed from Beijing to London, attention switches significantly with regard to the whole Olympic movement and world interest in sport. It is an enormous opportunity for this country.

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There are still sceptics—not present, I hasten to add, among noble Lords here today—who wonder whether the world will respond, or whether London and the country can respond to the challenge. We should have every confidence. This country is one of the outstanding participative sporting nations in the world. It is not always the highest achiever in every single sport, but that may be a reflection of the sheer diversity of the participation of Britons in sport. Whenever I am assailed by the question how it is that we promote the most significant tennis tournament in the world and yet it is nearly 75 years since we last had a Wimbledon male champion, I reflect on the fact that of course tennis is only one of the great sports in which people participate. It should be recognised therefore that there are counter-pressures in other sports through their sheer abundance and the opportunities which are provided.

The job of Sport England is, through effective governing bodies, to ensure that we increase opportunities. We want those opportunities to be in terms of encouraging people to play sport for life, which was, after all, the essence of the Rugby Union campaign which is the subject of this debate. It is clear that we have to focus on a shared goal with the governing bodies to maximise English sporting success. We are not going to get high-level success unless we expand the talent pool and improve the quality of what we do at every level. The key—and it is well attested through a range of sports—to success at the highest level is the nurturing of the grass roots and the opportunities provided there.

The strategy that Sport England is presenting is a new partnership, which the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in his contribution recognised, between Sport England and the national governing bodies. It obviously needs more public funding to deliver against the outcomes of grow, sustain and excel. It will recognise that it will be expected to meet targets. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, emphasised this point, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, also reflected on the question of achievement. We intend to ensure that those who have pursued successful strategies are encouraged and rewarded by the resources made available to them. Others who fall off the pace have to buck up their game, frankly. It is important that they are incentivised. To obtain grants, support and financial resources, they must have strategies which meet the overall position. This strategy is central to our objectives of increasing participation in sport from grass roots up and allowing everyone to develop their potential. Of course, we look forward to sport gaining from the Olympic excitement in this country once the transfer of the flag has occurred. I have not the slightest doubt that we shall see a significant leap forward.

However, although the rugby scheme is concerned with retaining people in sport, the Government have been committed to developing sport and physical exercise in schools, ensuring that they have the resources to develop young people’s sporting talents when they are at their most creative. There are tough participation targets across the country, which can only be good for sport.

As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, indicated in his remarks, the relationship with clubs is crucial. In the past, our greatest weakness as a sporting nation

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has been that we have relied upon clubs to operate in an entirely free-market structure within which they sink or rise according to their own strengths and abilities, without any feeling that they encourage participation in the local community. One of the strengths of sport development that we are pursuing is to ensure that clubs get a chance to present themselves effectively to educational institutions and schools, to forge those links that will benefit the clubs. Young people will move on to them once they have left school, but you cannot make progress in sport solely on the basis of a school career. It is important that clubs provide the framework afterwards.

Where we have seen decline in recent years, as clubs have suffered through limited participation and have not sufficiently developed in certain areas because there has not been a close enough link between the sport and the locality, great strides have been made. There is no doubt that the sport has glamour attached to it; it can appeal to young people and do an enormous amount to encourage participation in sport. That has not only societal benefits, it has sporting and associational benefits, as the noble Lord Pendry indicated on health. It may also have the benefit of a better society, in which young people who are active and participate in and value their locality are unlikely to engage in anti-social practices that we all inevitably deplore.

I emphasise that there are hard resources behind this. The Prime Minister last year announced an additional £100 million investment in PE and sport for young people, to ensure that there should be three hours of sport for 16 to 19 year-olds per week.

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These are broad issues. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said that he was not too sure about the funding. We are committed to spending £783 million on sport over the next three years, bringing the total up to £2.2 billion by 2011. These are big sums of money and big commitments. We must withstand the obvious criticism that money spent in one area is unavailable to another. Members of the Committee will recognise the pressures on the DCMS budget, but the Government recognise the value of sport and are prepared to make significant commitments to ensure that we take advantage of the unique opportunity of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games to increase interest in sport.

I assure the noble Lord that today in this debate he has highlighted one strategy that has proved immensely beneficial for Rugby Union. It is an illustration of what can be done through careful thought, planning and imagination. As we have learnt, Sport England is eager to promote these opportunities more widely. I have no doubt that the spin-off from the campaign that the noble Lord has highlighted will go well beyond Rugby Union and help in the pursuit of our overall strategy of encouraging sporting participation among a much greater number of people at a time when the focus on sport will undoubtedly increase in this country.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): That completes our business. Before I adjourn the Committee, I, too, congratulate the Lords rowing team and the noble Lord, Lord Addington.

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