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I shall refer to one or two of the countries that were alluded to by previous speakers. Denmark has low rates of obesity, not just because of eating patterns, but because in Denmark you have a lot of cycle paths and quite rationally organised cities in which there is encouragement to use public transport and to walk to work. These sorts of things are structurally implicated in the phenomenon of obesity and therefore we have to intervene on this kind of level and have a convergence of policy.
Thirdly, we should consider a more stringent and targeted use of the fiscal system, where it seems to me-strange though it might appear-that there is a kind of analogy with the politics of climate change. In fiscal systems, for obesity or being overweight, we should apply the "polluter pays" principle. For example, in New York State, a 15 per cent tax is being proposed for all sugar-based soft drinks. We should consider such tax-based interventions here, unpopular though they are with the food industry. We should recognise that producing structural change will meet resistance from vested interests in that industry, but it is in the interest of the Government to try to secure as much co-operation from it as possible.
At the moment, the situation is very like climate change, because you have an industry that is deeply implicated in promoting a certain kind of diet, linked to a certain kind of sedentary lifestyle, where that industry does not pick up the social consequences of what it is producing. This is directly analogous to organisations that are producing greenhouse gases. They are not picking up the cost to the environment of those gases. We should apply the "polluter pays" principle to them.
My concluding thought is that we had an interesting report from the Government yesterday on food security. We do have to plan ahead for food and I hope that the programme on food security will be extended to include the issue that has been the subject of this debate.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Pendry for enabling us to have this debate. As my noble friend said, one of the ways of addressing obesity among young people is through the development and expansion of sporting activity. I recently participated in the Parliamentary Sports Fellowship Scheme, which provided me with an opportunity to spend some time with Sport England and see the kind of projects and schemes in different parts of the country that it supports financially, and develops with other organisations and bodies in order to increase involvement and participation in sport.
Among the many benefits which the evidence shows that increased participation in sport and physical activity deliver is a reduction in the specific risk factors that
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According to the Active People Survey results, 635,000 more people of all ages are doing more sport since the Olympic bid was won. As only one example of how this is being achieved, I mention that over 100,000 young people have completed Paddlepower Start, a Canoe England initiative aimed at getting more young people into canoeing.
In autumn 2008, Sport England also launched a £36 million Sport Unlimited programme to give 900,000 young people aged 11 to 19 access to 10-week high-quality courses in an array of sports out of school. The young people concerned are asked what sports they want to do, and the 10-week taster sessions are then laid on in the sports that people are interested in doing. Results to date show that 177,000 young people have completed courses since the launch of the scheme, and the three-year programme aims to get 300,000 of the participants to go on to play regular sport in a club.
One of the big challenges for Sport England is tackling the drop-off in sports participation when people leave school. Links have to be further developed between clubs and schools, as young people who join a sports club are far more likely to continue playing sport when they leave school. In 2008-09 school club links enabled 1.5 million to take part in sport at accredited clubs, which was an increase of 130,000 on the previous year. On average, schools had links with seven different clubs in 2007-08 compared to five in 2003-04, and 32 per cent of pupils participated in club sport in 2007-08 compared to 19 per cent in 2003-04. Nine sports have signed up to reduce the number of children dropping out of sport when they reach 16: badminton, basketball, football, gymnastics, hockey, netball, Rugby League, Rugby Union and tennis.
Sport England also invests in StreetGames, to which my noble friend Lord Pendry referred, a national charity with a proven track record in overcoming barriers to participation in disadvantaged areas by delivering what is called doorstep sport, which uses tailored, neighbourhood-based sporting initiatives delivered at a time, location and in a style that meets the needs of local people. Figures show that StreetGames should have met its target to achieve its 1 millionth attendance by the end of 2009, having only officially launched in 2007.
StreetGames has committed to working with at least six national governing bodies of sport, and will be increasing that to 14 bodies, which will involve
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Sport England also runs leadership and volunteering programmes for young people to promote and organise sport, particularly among their age-group peers, and then works with local clubs, schools and the community to create the broader opportunities that allow such young people to create a formal and valued contribution to sport.
Of course, addressing obesity is not just a question of seeking to increase participation in sport and physical activity. It also involves issues of diet, lifestyle and the activities and objectives of the major food and drink manufacturers and retailers. However, investment in sport can have an impact on obesity as well as having many other benefits. I have never ceased to be impressed by the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the thousands of volunteers who give up so much of their free time and play such a significant role in helping to provide and develop sporting opportunities and facilities for people of all ages, including young people. I also see this through my involvement as an honorary vice-president of the Ryman Isthmian football league, where so many of the 66 constituent clubs also run teams for young people from the age of eight, thanks to the involvement of committed volunteers.
There is now an increasing clamour for swingeing cuts in public expenditure. The resources and support that a body such as Sport England provides enable all those thousands of volunteers, as well as the paid professionals, to provide the opportunities for young people to participate in increasing numbers in more sports and physical activity. That provides a benefit in a variety of ways, including addressing obesity, not only to the young people themselves but to the community as a whole through the financial and social advantages of having a healthier and happier population.
I hope that in the months and years ahead, common sense and sound financial sense will prevail and we will continue to see the necessary resources provided to enable the good work that has already been done on increasing and developing sporting and physical activity, particularly among young people, to continue and thrive.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to this debate by speaking in the gap. I participated in a debate earlier in the week, but it was somewhat curtailed by the weather and I was unable to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry. His contribution to young people and, above all, to sport and recreation, through a long and distinguished political career is, without doubt, outstanding, as was his contribution to the debate this
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I shall confine my brief comments to London. To tackle obesity in London, we must transform the landscape for Londoners by improving access to improved sport and recreational faculties at an affordable cost. As a starting point, what is required is for government to introduce a much needed statutory requirement to ensure adequate provision of facilities for sport and recreation in England and Wales. In Scotland, where such legislation exists, the per capita funding for sport is £46; in England, where local authorities are under no such obligation and are struggling to meet their statutory requirements, it is no surprise that the per capita spend is £19. Working with Kate Hoey and her London Community Sports Board, of which I declare membership, we are seeking to make a small difference by delivering a genuine grass-roots legacy for sport in London. The facts provided by the Government's Active People Survey make disturbing reading for Londoners. Only one-fifth of Londoners regularly take part in sport and while the most recent results, published last month, show a slight increase on the previous year, participation in sport still remains significantly lower than it was on the day that London was awarded the 2012 Games. We have, I believe, only one 50-metre swimming pool in operation. Almost half of London's adult population does no activity at all. Participation rates for disabled people are less than 10 per cent. One in six Londoners is obese. On current trends and without a major increase in facilities, 50 per cent of Londoners are predicted to be obese by 2050.
More seriously, in many respects, one of five London children is obese, and one in three is in the category of obese or overweight, which is significantly higher than in England as a whole. In short, we need action. We need to build a London-wide programme to deliver on the four goals identified by the mayor in his 2008 plan for increasing participation. They are: get more people active; transform the sporting infrastructure; build capacity and skills; and maximise the benefits of sport to our society by recognising its immense value as a tool for tackling crime and promoting community cohesion, as well as improving health and contributing towards tackling obesity. These are key objectives in the challenge to deliver a true Olympic sports legacy for the country.
Lord Addington: My Lords, this is one of those debates when we have a lot of old friends and a lot of themes that occur again which we have to look at. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, displays that great political quality of persistence on this. We have to keep coming back to the subject and monitoring what the Government
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I was cursing the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford at one point during his speech because he got to the joke that I wanted to make about the fact that we seem to have produced a nation that sits on a sofa watching TV, predominantly sport and cookery programmes. We are told consistently by various chefs, whether they are selling books or trying to do a public service, or some combination of the two, that we should understand what we eat and that, if you are going to eat meat, it is probably better that it is healthy meat, both for the taste and for the sake of the animal before it becomes a lump of protein on your plate, and so on. They go on about this, but you are watching it sitting at home with a bag of crisps in front of you, the crust of a take-away pizza with far too much cheap cheese on it and several cans of lager that were sold at a discount in a supermarket.
It is not a very good image, but then again, as somebody pointed out to me, historically did we ever have that great a diet? No, we did not. The British were renowned for the fact that, if we did not boil it, we fried it; to us, vegetables were exotic things that had to be boiled into submission before they could be eaten, just in case they misbehaved in some way.
As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, pointed out, we used to break a sweat when we went out to work; we actually worked and used our bodies much more. Even in getting to work and back we would invariably use muscle power. The whole process is out of whack. We are an animal that has developed a body based on muscle designed to move and do certain types of functions. If you do too much of it you will break the body down eventually, but it is designed to move and be active. We have got to a point where many people in our society are not doing this.
Many people have enjoyed and do enjoy types of physical activity. Sport is a natural expression of this, as are recreational activities. There is a bizarre dividing line between exercise and sport; it does not really exist, but we try to put it in. I would say that going jogging is not sport, because you are not competing with somebody, yet on many government statistics it is. It does not matter. We are talking about certain types of recreational physical activity.
I was one of the few people to be told that they had lost a few pounds over Christmas, because I now have a much fitter dog and I live out in the countryside with hills. That leads to my other point. If you happen to live in a part of the countryside where you can walk, you will take exercise because it is a pleasant activity. If you live somewhere that does not have well marked footpaths or you do not have the opportunity or a pleasant environment to do this, you will not. Of course, many people in extreme green politics would tell us to go back to a world where we live in unheated houses. Being cold and trying to keep yourself warm burns off calories; possibly we will all be a pound or two lighter at the end of the current spell of weather. Unless we can make a society where this type of taking exercise is encouraged as a pleasant leisure activity, it is not going to happen. The temptation to
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We should also remember that eating can be seen as a leisure activity, which we have all delved into. There has to be some reason to encourage us to go out. Saying that it is good for you may make you join a gym or buy a diet plan, but it does not make you use the gym or the plan. That is the fact of the matter. Many people in the fitness industry used to make a great deal of money out of people who joined a gym and did not use it. Of course, they now realise that there was a huge greater potential in putting people on prescription activity, but I welcome their self-interest, which is possibly the nation's self-interest here. Perhaps the Government would like to comment on how much they intend to encourage the use of gyms, predominantly in down periods, for treatment. I would be very interested.
How are we going to encourage people to exercise? The noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Pendry, touched on this. We have done a lot of work for the self-interest of sports to keep people coming through, trying to make sports more enjoyable, especially in the initial phases. I have bored the house silly about Rugby Union's transition from a 15-a-side game, played at the age of 13 when the wingers froze to death and there were three people round the ball hugging on to it all the time and everybody else pretended to tackle and got out of the way, to a game that encourages minis and juniors. I thought that that was the case until I discovered my nephew at a state school announcing that he would rather be a soccer player and being told that he should play for the honour of his school-it was an honour to be there, not something for him. Despite the fact that I think that soccer is probably a second-best option, which should be considered only in a dire emergency-it helps to have your prejudice on the table occasionally-I still felt on that occasion that the school was very wrong, because it should be encouraging people to take part in a sport that they enjoy.
That leads to my other point, which is where clubs are better. Clubs will make sure that you do not drop the activity at the first available opportunity. We have to work on this. How are the Government going to encourage it? What is their ongoing process? The Government have done a lot. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, mentioned some of the projects, but the fact is that they still are not working well enough. A great deal of effort has gone in. In the debate on Tuesday, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred, I asked which of the schemes for initiating people into a sport and encouraging them to keep active works best. I was promised an answer. The Minister who gave me that promise is sitting beside the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. Has the Department of Health made an assessment of the best return in its terms about this? What do we have to do to deliver? Is the best option to go through the junior clubs to get the mass participation levels up? Is it things such as infrastructure? Is it making sure that parks are available and that buses take you to somewhere to go for a walk, with or without a dog? What is being done? How are we encouraging people?
As my noble friend said, growing your own vegetables in allotments is popular. You are taking exercise if you do some gardening. How are the Government taking on and structuring the task of making activity pleasant? They have to do it that way. Unless we forget about 150 years of technology, most of our lives are not going to be ones of heavy manual labour. For many, there will not be even the labour of walking somewhere or riding a horse. We must to try to find a way to show that taking the right amount of exercise to keep us healthy is a pleasant experience. The challenge for this Government and anyone who supports this aim is how to integrate it into society. The structures that are needed to take in the changes and the sticks and carrots that will have to be used on society are complex. There will be more than one answer. There will not be a right answer; there will be better answers. We know that nothing is absolutely for free.
I have raised sports medicine on numerous occasions in this House. Are we investing enough in sports medicine, physiotherapy and educating doctors about when to use sports medicine? I have a permanently misshapen left arm, because only a couple of years ago a consultant did not know that anything could be done about it. Apparently I am lucky that I still have function in the arm, as that might not have been the case. What are we doing about making sure that the medical profession knows about maintaining people in activity and making sure that they are not frightened, for instance, of being curtailed in work activity because of sporting activity? How is all this being integrated?
We have the advantage in this House that when we ask the Government questions we do not ask individual departments. I suggest that when the noble Baroness replies she tells us how to bring these matters together. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, has told us that the Treasury takes overarching control of sport, despite the fact that it has no way of delivering. It has to go through the departments responsible for health and education and through the DCMS, which does not have much of a chance of delivering. How does that come together? Unless we take sport and recreational activity more seriously and give them more thrust, the Government are bound to waste effort. Will the Government give at least some of the answers to this great, multifaceted question?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, deserves our thanks for giving us the opportunity to debate this extremely important public health issue, which we have not done for a considerable time. I thank him in particular for his very powerful opening speech.
Indeed, I am sure that the Minister will agree that we have had some excellent contributions this afternoon from around the House, pointing to a good measure of cross-party consensus on this subject. Although I do not intend to fracture that consensus too much, because there are many things which the Government are now doing right, I think it is worth beginning by putting today's situation into context. We are living at a time when nearly a quarter of all adults in this
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The real wake-up call, if any were needed, came with the Foresight report of two years ago, which predicted that, without corrective action, Britain could be a "mainly obese society" by 2050. Pro rata, the UK now has more obese people than any other OECD country except Mexico, the USA and, perhaps surprisingly, New Zealand. The penalty to be paid for this in the long term will be measured, certainly, in premature mortality; but its effects will chiefly be felt in terms of increased morbidity, which will carry with it a high knock-on cost to the general economy. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, rightly mentioned diabetes.
The seriousness of the threat posed by obesity is nothing new. However, that is why it is all the more reprehensible that, until recently, Ministers have failed to place due emphasis on it. The Minister may not like to be reminded that the last Conservative Government put considerable emphasis on this area of policy. As early as 1992, we set a target of reducing obesity to 6 per cent of men and 8 per cent of women. In 1999, the Government scrapped that target and did not replace it. It took two scathing reports-from the Chief Medical Officer in May 2003 and the Health Committee in May 2004-to prod the Government into setting a new target in July 2004. That target was to halt the year-on-year rise in obesity among children under 11 by 2010. What happened to that? It was abandoned in the 2008 Comprehensive Spending Review, when it became obvious that it was not going to be met. Instead, Ministers published a new target to reduce the proportion of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels by 2020. That is an incredibly ambitious target, bearing in mind that thus far the Government have not even managed to stall, let alone start reversing, obesity levels.
For too long, the Government took their foot off the pedal when it came to the effort and resources devoted to the issue. The story is all of a piece with their general record on public health. In many major problem areas, such as deaths from alcohol and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancy, the trends have been and still are in the wrong direction. By their own admission, the Government are even on course to miss their target for infant mortality and life expectancy at birth. The difference between the life expectancy of the richest and poorest in our country is now greater than at any time since Queen Victoria. That is not the sort of legacy that any Government, let alone a Labour Government, would wish to leave behind.
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