|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for raising this subject. I have always felt that sports funding is rather a Cinderella subjectat least, it has been in the pastbecause it is the thorn around the rose. It is the thing you do not want to grasp, or the thing that will always come back and bite you. As the noble Lord pointed out in his opening speech, the lottery has covered up what was, shall we say, the refusal by Governments to take this subject seriously for many years. There was a culture of not taking sport seriously. When the lottery was set up, however, I remember the discussion was that it was supposed to be for three good causes. So, whoever took the knife to cut the lottery cake first, it is undoubtedly true that the present Government have taken many more little slices here and there.
Those slices may be for very good causes, and we would not want to be in the middle of a coffin-waving contest over whether we should have research into somebody dying of cancer rather than a playing field, because everyone now admits that we can ultimately come back to this fact: many cancers are stopped or made less frequent by good sporting activity. We have a counter-productive argument there, one that is circular but which we often refuse to acknowledge as being so. If we take only part of that arc, how do we go from here?
Whatever the problem with the Olympicsand I appreciate that there is one about resources being transferredthey have given a seriousness to the discussion of sport that was not there before. That is undeniable to anyone who has followed the subject, and non-Olympic sports are feeling that they should up their game to try to get in on the edges. I will plead again that rugby sevens should have been included, as it is a wonderful day at a sporting event. I base that on the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which were probably why we have got the Olympics, for after a series of disasterslet us remember Picketts Lock, if we are trying to be as fair as possiblewe proved that we could do it. Where do we go from here?
If we accept that private sector funding will be much more difficult to obtain in the foreseeable future, and that the lottery cannot cover everything, we must try to tie in what is going on. To give the Government some praiseof course, it will only be half-hearted, but that is why the Minister is therethe new policy
30 Oct 2008 : Column 1735
I have spoken about this subject before, but are we telling the Department of Health that sports medicine should be pushed further up the pile to ensure better access so that injured people, if they have had some form of accident but have neither a great deal of money available nor access to the top echelons of a sporting body, can get their bodies repaired so that they can carry on playing sport? One contributing factor in sport being played more by the middle classes than by those from traditional working-class backgrounds is that if you take part in work that uses your body, you will be less keen to risk damaging it. Why? Because many people with whom I played rugby gave it up after the third time of not being able to put weight on their knee for two weeks. It threatened their mortgage payments. That does not occur to many people who have not been there, but there it is.
How do we tie this all together? After scanning through websites to find out exactly what this new initiative means, I am not sure. There is talk of healthy weight, then talk of the body mass index. I will refer back to a nice, 10-minute rant that I had about that being a medical thing that appears in every doctors charts but does not take into account that muscle is heavier than fat. You can thus be an extremely fit athlete and have stopped yourself from being a less fit person, yet have gained considerable weight. Are they taking it seriously? Are they tuned in enough to do that? I suggest that people need to address that slightly more closely. What will they actually take on, and what are they going to do? I should greatly appreciate it if the Minister could give us the first hint today about how that thinking is going on and what is being encouraged.
There is also an incredible number of departments involved. We all know that it is one thing for Ministers to say, There shall be co-operation in Whitehall; it is quite another to get people actually to co-operate. Everyone has their own primary objectives within their own department, which we seelet us be honestin the bids for which gets a Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is not here, but I am sure that while his experience in fighting for territory, which inspired Yes Minister, may have changed a little, it will probably not have done so by much. We have to try to see how those departments are brought together to address this issue.
On some more specific points, I was going to talk about amateur sports clubs, but the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, has done us a service by taking that on and asking: if there is a level of taxation, how do we fit in? We do not know. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, spoke about Gift Aid, but the thing about that is that it has covered up many cracks in our sporting culture. The
30 Oct 2008 : Column 1736
Generally, this Government can stand up and say, We have done more in this field than anybody before us. The answer is, So you should have, because you are there now with the knowledge. The same responsibility will fall on any future Government, who should carry on being able to make that boast. What are we to do about that, and can we refer across again? I understand that the Learning and Skills Council no longer funds coaching courses to get people out there. If ever there was something counter-intuitive to much of the Governments approach of bringing government together, that is it. You are not giving as much funding towards your coaching courses, which allow your people to take part in a positive and safe way. It also makes sure that you have control over what goes on in the sport, to encourage greater participation in and enjoyment of it. Moreover, you have removed funding because it did not fit another government target about getting people skills for employment, and for the young. That was a laudable aim, but how do you bring the two together until there are employment opportunitiesnot as many as for skills levels in coaching, perhapswhen you have contradicted yourselves?
I could go on like this for some considerable timebut only, I see, for another minute-and-a-halfyet the fact of the matter is that the Government are making moves and noises that sound about right. What guarantees will they give that they will make real efforts to ensure that all parts of government talk to each other about sport funding, that there are to be no more cuts into the lottery cake in the foreseeable future, and that we can start to say that spending to support activity, for instance, in the Department of Health, will support sport? We will thus make sure that sports funding is guaranteed and increased, to help that department, rather than saying Well, if the Department of Health is doing it, we will cut sport because we are already doing it twice, for double-minus counting is still double counting.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this brief debate, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for introducing it. I thank my noble friend Lord Pendry, who is under enormous pressure because of his obligations to sport elsewhere in the country, for his contribution. I am sorry that he is taking the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, off his Christmas list and hope that relationships will be re-established by then. I am not taking the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, off my Christmas list but, like my noble friend Lord Pendry, I was shocked by the nature of the challenge put forward by the noble Lord. He suggested that all was doom and gloom in government policy in relation to sport and that we had a fairly blasted landscape in the area of sporting achievement. That is not correct, so let us be absolutely clear about the facts.
If we look at what the situation was in 1996, we certainly see a different position today. I remind the House that at the Atlanta Olympics we won only nine gold medals. If the noble Lord is saying that the extraordinary achievement of our athletes to win 19 gold medals and finish fourth in the medals table in the recent Olympics is down to their efforts and their coaches primarily, I agree with him wholeheartedly. If he is saying that government funding has a part to play, I agree with him on that too. If therefore we have four times the achievement in the Olympic Games in 2008 compared with 1996, which was at the end of a two decade period of Conservative rule, I can say only that our record compares very favourably with that.
On school sport, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, berated me because the Government have not yet hit their target of five hours of sport and exercise for children. However, that target relates to 2010 and, like all government targets, it is an ambitious one.
Lord Davies of Oldham: Two hours. But in the past decade we have seen a substantial increase in the number of hours available to children for exercise. The noble Lord identified the minority of children who are not getting two hours, sport and exercise a week; but 90 per cent of our children are. When his party was last in power it was 20 per cent.
The sale of school playing fields was rife under the previous Administration. We have put a stop to that. On the few occasions when playing fields are sold because of development possibilities or because they are substandard, it is on the strict condition that sporting facilities must be enhanced as a result of the sale. As we all know, through the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a massive reduction in the availability of facilities and playing fields for our schoolchildren.
On swimming, it is now the case that 61 per cent of the countrys total swimming stock and 52 per cent of public sector swimming pools have been built or refurbished since 1996 and the Government are now able to talk in terms of guaranteeing the over-60s free access to swimming pools. What a contrast with the perspective that we had when we came to power. So the charges of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, against the Governments record on sport are ill founded.
I have listened carefully during the debate for suggestions on where we might get extra resources for sport. Having some responsibility as a government spokesman in this area, I am always eager to see how we can enhance opportunities for our people. I share with the whole House and everyone who has participated in the debate the sense of importance that sport represents in terms of opportunities for our people and for the health of our people. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, will recognise that health is not to be the lead department. In fact, the co-ordinating role for the onslaught on obesity is held by the Treasury as the funder; we have made clear that the Treasury has to have a role in this. But health has the statistics which measure the levels of obesity in the country, particularly among children, and it must play its part if we are going to make a
30 Oct 2008 : Column 1738
I listened for ideas on how to obtain extra resources and two sources were suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said that we should look for a way in which we could exempt sports clubs from VAT. That is not an easy issue to advance and at the same time to suggest that it would not be a demand on public resources. Although it does not represent public expenditure, the withdrawal of such VAT would represent a significant reduction in government receipts, which is the other side of the ledger. We have been more concerned to promote schemes, particularly relationships with sports clubs, which yield grass-roots success.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, said that sports clubs have filled the gap which society has otherwise left. That is not how I look upon sports clubs. Sport will always be a voluntary activity; the majority of organisations providing local and community sport will be voluntary ones. Would we want anything else? The only alternative would look dreadfully like state centralism and I shudder at the very concept. Of course sport at a local level is going to be voluntary; the question is how we can, through public resources, encourage the successful development of that voluntary activity and aid sports clubs which play such a significant role in this.
Before the Summer Recess we debated in the Moses Room aspects of rugby union with regard to this factor. We have had debates in which we have discussed giving sportsmen chances to shine and a mix of government matching private resources to give opportunities to young cricketers. An intelligent way is to advance government resources to encourage partnerships between schools and private clubs. This is an absolutely crucial link to forge and one which a decade or so ago reflected a marked discontinuity which we have sought to bridge. We are concerned to give help to clubs, support in terms of resources for professional coaching and links between clubs and schools in order to overcome exactly the issue to which the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, drew attention.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, berated the Government for their failure to produce the necessary resources, but we have provided four times the resources for Sport England than obtained in 1996-97. So when he berates the limited resources at the present time, let us put that into the context of the resources that were available in the past.
I listened for suggestions on the crucial issue of where the resources should come from, and what did I get from the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran? Having berated the Government for having raided the lottery, he suggested better organised use of lottery funds. What else did I get? That we should cut red tape and the administrative costs of the lottery. By heavens, the last refuge of the Conservative politician is to talk
30 Oct 2008 : Column 1739
I recognise that the Olympic Games are an important cost in the sporting arena and that inevitably there will be pressures on community sport as a result of our determination to make the Olympic Games a huge success, but let us be clear about a number of things. In terms of sporting recognition for the nation, hosting the great and successful Olympic Games of 2012 will do more to boost interest and participation in sport than pretty well anything else that we can conceive of. We are right to concentrate our efforts on making sure that the Games are successful, and on making sure that British athletes are equal to the challenge which, inevitably, competition at Olympic level requires.
I make absolutely no apology for concentrating resources on elite athletes. I take pride, as, I am sure the whole House does, in the achievements of our Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallists, and indeed other competitors who acquitted themselves extraordinarily well at the Olympic and Paralympic Games this last year, giving a great lift to the nation. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that we must have due regard to community sport. I recognise that we need to make sure that Sport England is equipped to play its full role in that respect. We guarantee that Sport England will have a greater budget over this forthcoming three-year period than it has enjoyed in the past. We recognise the limitations of that body, which has expansive plans and opportunities, and wants to fulfil its role in those terms. It has behind it a Government with a decade of significant achievement in sport. At the end of the day, this is not the responsibility of government, but the responsibility of sportsmen and women up and down the land, to whom we ought to pay tribute.
(a) of a local education authority, in the exercise of any of their schools functions, and
(b) of the governing body of a maintained school, in the exercise of any function relating to the conduct of the school,
The purpose of the amendment is to create a statutory right for children to participate in decisions that affect them in their education by introducing a new duty on local authorities and governing bodies of maintained schools to have due regard to the views of children. As your Lordships will know, the Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. That gives all children the right to express their views and have them taken into account and given due weight, according to their age and maturity, in all matters affecting them. However, when in October 2008 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed the implementation of the convention in the UK, it concluded that,
In September 2007, a review commissioned by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on school councils called for all secondary schools to have a school council. The review found that the majority of teachers agreed that school councils should be a statutory requirement in England.
Concerns were expressed in Committee that we should not be unduly prescriptive on schools as to how they listen to children. That is, of course, a very important qualification. In light of these concerns, the amendment has been redrafted. It does not specify the methods that schools and LEAs should employ to pay due regard to the views of children. However, it ensuresand surely it is right, in todays world, to do sothat every child has the opportunity to give their views on their education and for these to be taken seriously.
Many of your Lordships will have participated in similar debates in 2002, when Section 176 of the Education Act 2002 was introduced. It obliges schools to have due regard to guidance on participation. But, sadly, this is not having the desired impact. In 2006, a freedom of information survey by the Childrens Rights Alliance for England found that less than 45 per cent of local education authorities had taken any action to inform school staff of the guidance. The action taken, unsurprisingly, was minimal. Less than 20 per cent had run any training and only 10 per cent had informed children of the guidance.
A 2007 Ofsted national survey of childrens views found that nearly four in every 10 children38 per centreported that childrens views are listened to not much or not at all in the running of their school. A further 11 per cent of children said that they did not know whether childrens views were listened to or not. That is nearly half of all children surveyed. A clear gap has opened up. I beg to move.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, my name is added to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, in supporting the amendment. The noble Baroness mentioned Article 12 of the UN convention. In addition, Article 4 requires the Government to undertake all appropriate legislative measures for the implementation of the conventions provisions. This is a call for legislation, not just to spread best practice.
As the noble Baroness said, there was some criticism that our previous amendment was a little too prescriptive, and we have tried to respond to that. There are many ways in which schoolsat least, those which demonstrate best practicevery effectively listen to the voices of children and give their views due weight. I would like to give one example of the way in which that is done. In doing so, I declare an interest as a trustee of UNICEF UK.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|