HL Deb 24 April 1991 vol 528 cc317-48

6.17 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick rose to call attention to the role of the Government in promoting sport and active recreation; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I start the debate, I am sure that Members of the House will understand if I refer to the fact that my former city of Manchester was today successful in becoming the nominee for Great Britain in our next bid for hosting the Olympic Games. I know that all noble Lords will want to express—as they have done in the past to whoever received the nomination for this country—their full support for this nomination. I am sure that establishments like your Lordships' House will wish Mr. Bob Scott and his team every success in their attempt to clear the next hurdle.

I begin by briefly referring to the biggest spectator sport which we have in this country at present. I refer, of course, to soccer. It is no secret that there are some serious disagreements between the Football Association, which is the premier controlling body, and the Football League. My only wish is that they will come together and produce a result from their deliberations which will not be damaging to the sport. I say that because I believe that the sport, after having been severely criticised over the past few years as regards violence and so on, has done an excellent job in that it has managed to rid itself of the "violence" tag to the extent that we shall now be allowed back into Europe. I hope that any changes brought forward by foodball's legislators are decided on an agreed basis and that they will not be damaging to the sport which so many of us like to follow.

However, the debate is not only about football and those issues but about sport and physical education in general. One has to say that there has never been a time in history when sport played as important a role in society as it does today. In the United Kingdom, 22 million people—about 40 per cent. of the population—are actively engaged in sport or recreational activities of some kind. Those figures are recorded inHansard. In addition, millions more are avid followers of sport as spectators at live events or as listeners and viewers of broadcast sport. Sport is a major industry. It does not merely employ professional sportsmen and women; 370,000 people are employed in associated activities such as the provision of clothing and footwear, publicity, ground and club maintenance, and so forth. More people are employed than in the motor car industry. We are not just talking about sport, we are talking about the fact that it provides a reasonable standard of living for over 300,000 people.

Sport is a great channel for physical and emotional energy. It breaks down divisions of class and race. It encourages each individual, if desired, to achieve his or her potential. It is the most immediately accessible and measurable form of individual and group expression. It can be enjoyed at the lowest and highest degrees of ability. At one level it can be the simple pleasure that is derived merely from recreation. At another it can be the demanding pursuit of excellence. If any of your Lordships have not done so, I recommend that you read In Search of Adventure, an excellent report by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. It is well worth reading.

What is worrying is that there are areas in sport where instead of advancing, facilities are decreasing. We are having a debate later on a Bill relating to swimming so I shall not say a great deal about that. There will be plenty of time later to talk about swimming. However, the number of swimming pools is decreasing. The number of playing fields is decreasing because they are being sold by schools. Facilities are decreasing at an alarming rate. I asked a Question in January and the Answer showed that the number of deaths of schoolchildren through drowning had doubled in about two years. That cannot be right and cannot be dismissed on the basis that many of the swimmers die because they get into difficulties.

I am happy because I have two grandchildren—one of nine and one of seven—who are both swimmers. That is the best qualification anyone can have to start life. If they cannot swim they may get into some difficulty and be unable to sit for any other educational qualification! Swimming should be part of the national curriculum.

One of the main issues is: what do we do about funding our sport? Compared with our competitors in Europe, we do not come out very well in terms of what the Government return to sport. I have a letter from Mr. Hook of the Central Council of Physical Recreation. He asked the Customs and Excise how—I shall not call them our opponents—our friends in Europe tax sport. The reply states: Belgium—Services supplied by operators of institutions for sports or physical education on a non-profit making basis are exempt. Denmark—Sports activities are exempt with the exception of motor races and arrangements in which professionals participate. France—Entrance fees for sporting events are exempt as are the services supplied by legally constituted non-profit making sporting organisations to their members. Federal Republic of Germany—Sports events conducted by institutions serving charitable purposes, and if revenues are used predominantly to cover expenditure, are exempt. Ireland—The promotion of and admission to sporting events and the provision of sporting facilities by non-profit making organisations to their members are exempt". The letter continues.

We are the only country in Europe where the Government take their full share of tax from non-profit making sporting institutions. One of the saddest factors is the Government's uniform business rate. Now that its full effects are being felt, it may drive out of existence hundreds of sporting clubs, including tennis clubs—not golf clubs because they are different—badminton clubs and many others. They are charitable organisations and keep to a strict budget, but they are finding that last year's local government financial legislation has placed an enormous burden on them. Overnight they have had to find two, three or four times what they paid previously. They are in serious financial difficulty and going out of existence.

The 1985 figures—the last time the figures were collated centrally by the Henley Centre for Forecasting—show that£2.4 billion was collected from sport. VAT amounted to£770 million, the betting levy£540 million, income tax£950 million and corporation tax£160 million. Those were 1985 figures, and one can only assume that considerably more than£2.4 billion is now collected. Yet the Government refuse to heed the appeal that they should put more money back into sport to allow the organisations to continue the work that the people want.

The Government support the development of sport and recreation in the country at large as well as contributing to local government funding of sport. A total of£55 million is contributed to the Sports Councils of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. No one denies that the Government give assistance. If we want to stop the sale of sports fields—they will never return—action must be taken now. Only the Government can take such action.

It is a sad fact that in schools now teachers are not enthusiastic about teaching sporting activities. They were often taught in addition to their normal duties. Teachers would stay behind to look after the soccer team and the cricket team and the girls' netball team. I do not want to politicise the debate, but teachers are disenchanted. They do not want to do anything extra because of the terrible deal that they have had from the Government over the years with their refusal to consult. We are not talking about training children to be Olympic athletes, but if they can have a start in sport with a playing field attached to the school and a gymnasium adequately equipped, teachers might be encouraged to take an increased role once again.

Many schools that wish to provide sporting facilities have to raise the funds themselves. It is a pity that a so-called advanced nation has reached that state. My view, with which I do not believe many people would disagree, is that if a school has the will and desire to give its children—we are talking about the bottom of the pyramid mainly—an opportunity to start out on physical education and sport and wants to give it a high priority, the Government should consider funding that provision as a special need, and not merely lump it in with what we called the rate support grant or what has now taken its place. If schools have to choose between lowering their standard of education, selling equipment or the playing-fields or closing down swimming pools, they will naturally try to prevent all that at the expense of further development. I know the Minister has a review under way and I believe that he is due to report later this year. I hope that he will consider the point very earnestly because it would be well received.

There is another point. In my opening remarks I referred to the bid for the Olympic Games. That is not a public participation sport, it is not for the lads and the girls to achieve that level of excellence. Nevertheless, as a nation I believe we want boys and girls in this country to be able to compete on level terms with the same type of equipment, the same treatment and training facilities as our rivals from abroad. We give full commendation for our successes in the past but in other countries there is a high rate of success because of the money poured into their sports. What do we do over here? We tax the money raised by the fund-raisers for the British Olympics. Money is taken from them which people have given for a specific purpose. To me, that is nonsense, if we are talking about achieving the results we want.

I do not wish to say much about swimming but if£5 million extra were made available it would provide for every child to be trained to swim by the age of 11. Can anyone think of a better investment than that? We read sad reports of children drowning immediately they get out of their depth.

I have managed to find the figures for tax taken from the British Olympic appeal fund. The Government took?¾ million in tax out of the£5 million raised. Is that an incentive to firms or people to contribute to the worthwhile effort which we want to see succeed?

There is much that I wish to cover on the subject but noble Lords will understand that I must sit down, otherwise I shall take up the time allotted to other people. I know that colleagues all round the House have specific points to raise and I believe that this debate is worthwhile. I beg to move for Papers.

6.33 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, when we discuss sport and recreation I find myself launching into a huge subject covering every aspect of modern life. I link it primarily with the problems of the education system that we have inherited. We find increasingly that we must be taught to get the best out of physical activities and sport. In a world where competition or even taking part in most activities depends on technical skills, a certain type of education is required. We are effectively talking about basic coaching and instruction in physical education.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dean, who opened the debate for raising such an important subject. He drew attention to such necessities as playing fields, for without the proper facilities none of these sports can take place. Any form of football—association, league or union—is impossible unless there is a grass surface or something close to it. The same is true of competing in athletics, particularly the running events, with the possible exception of the marathon. Unless there is a proper dirt track—not the old cinder track and certainly not a small amount of lime dragged across the grass—we can no longer perform at a competitive level on such surfaces.

I return to coaching and the initial instruction stage. We find increasingly that pupils in schools are not given the right amount of time for the necessary level o -instruction. An important point which must be stressed is that the people giving instruction are not well qualified. I made this point in a previous debate. Someone who played football for a side in the 1950s is not necessarily qualified to coach today: the boots are different, the ball is different, there have been rule changes in the game. The same is true of all the other major participation sports. There is increasing emphasis on qualified and professional coaches. When we tall: about physical training and activity I believe that the trend towards professionalism is important. As we discover more about the human body, we must spend more time studying and keeping up to date with the changes. The training methods of 20 years ago are just not good enough and in some cases have even proved to be harmful. We must keep ourselves up to date.

People say, "What about those who merely want to take part in a sport at a social level?". The Sports Council has a list of levels of sporting involvement; they are foundation skills which we hope will only be necessary for schoolchildren. I hope that everyone will be taught how to catch a ball, how to balance properly and how to run in a straight line. Then there is participation, which probably covers what many people think of as having a good time with a small team kicking a ball about on a Sunday, or what is called the coarse rugby team in which I played on my way up. I shall probably play rugby again in it on my way down. Then there are the performance people who try to enhance their position in a sport and achieve greater success. At the top of this pyramid of sporting activity there is excellence.

All these levels require a high degree of coaching. They may not necessarily be high in the pyramid on performance—the structure may be there, but teaching is not dependent on that. It is often easier to teach someone who has the foundation skills to participate at a performance level than to give him the foundation skills in the first place. People should be taught how to teach and then people can be taught the skills. This approach is often missed by many people. They think, "Why do we need coaches? Why do they have to be so highly skilled?". We must teach people how to take part before they can consider actually doing so. We must let them appreciate that there is something from which they can benefit.

Modern attitudes make people want to participate. A survey by the University of Aberdeen—it is nice, for once, to be able to mention my old university without referring to the cuts—stated that about 96 per cent. of males and 95 per cent. of females thought that sport was a good reason for keeping oneself healthy. However, that involved sport as opposed to physical education. I assume that the two are strongly connected, but it does not always follow. There is the person who likes to go to aerobics once a week or jogging or to lift a few weights. That fits a person to be part of physical education and people should be trained how to do that as well. The number of injuries from training probably matches the numbers involved in any participation sport.

Then there are activities like keeping mentally fit and alert. There is an attitude, which I am glad to say is declining, that only the "thicko" takes up sport. I have come to the conclusion that there are no very stupid professional sportsmen. If a person takes part in any sport, he must be able to a certain extent to understand what is going on and the structures and flows of the sport. If we work with a partner in a team we must be instructed how to relate. We must accept the instructions of the coach. The same is true of the coach who has to give instructions. A trainer may get away with shouting in a loud voice that everyone must do more work and more press-ups, and they still do that. However, there is usually a coach in the background in any sporting structure of any real use telling people when to stop some activity.

A noble Lord, who unfortunately is not present tonight, told me that racehorses are now trained in short bursts of activity and then allowed to rest. It is interesting to note that most athletes are now trained by that method as opposed to being worked flat out the whole time. As regards sporting methods, we must know what we are doing. Ultimately my comments are leading me towards a plea for more funding. However, the Minister may already have hardened his heart to such a plea. I see a slight smile on his face. That may mean we shall receive some good news, but on the other hand we may not.

We must ensure that better training is given and more funding is made available. That is a must for our schools and colleges as we must ensure that young people who participate in sport and become coaches later receive as good a grounding as possible in their early years. We must also be able to top up skills as knowledge increases. We must make sports medicine and information on dietary matters available. As someone remarked to me, if one buys a Rolls Royce, one has to run it on petrol. Those who participate in sport must obtain the right balance of proteins and vitamins from their diets if they are to take their sporting activities seriously. We must ensure that people can add to their training base. Funding must be made available to enable that to occur.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean, referred to the grave matter of the Government's policy of heavy taxation. Most sporting establishments that I have come into contact with—mainly rugby clubs—have found it difficult in the past few years to maintain their existing premises and meet the demands of banks as a result of the high interest rates that have been charged. I am the vice-president of a small rugby club in Norfolk. That club has experienced great difficulty in paying back the debt that it incurred when it set up its new grounds and facilities. A reduction in its tax bill would have been a great help.

I have slightly overrun my time and therefore I shall finish with one simple comment. If participation in sport is considered beneficial to people's health and mental well-being, the Government would do themselves and the nation a good turn by making more funds available for sport and by ensuring that the right attitudes prevail in schools.

6.42 p.m.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, on introducing this subject. I apologise in advance for the fact that I shall have to leave before the end of the debate. I did not realise the debate would start so late and I have duties to perform tonight that I cannot easily avoid. I wish to echo warmly the good wishes that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, conveyed to Bob Scott and his team in Manchester. I am pleased about the good news concerning Manchester. I thought the team made a magnificent and imaginative stab at the selection process on the previous occasion and I deeply hope that this time Manchester is selected to host the Olympic Games.

I was slightly dismayed to read a leader in The Times a few days ago which suggested that only glamorous capital cities had any real chance of being selected to host the Olympic Games. I do not agree with that suggestion. It is, of course, no part of your Lordships' duties to instruct the International Olympic Committee on how it should make its decisions. I repeat that I do not believe that only glamorous capital cities should be candidates for hosting the Olympic Games. The leader I have referred to suggested that Berlin and Moscow were obvious candidates for the Olympics as they are both centres of reconciliation. Berlin certainly is a centre of reconciliation and I pray most devoutly that Moscow will become such a centre. However, I cannot believe that that should be a factor in choosing where the games should be staged.

Manchester is exactly the kind of exciting and gutsy city which should stage the Olympic Games. A decision to stage the games there would be of enormous value to Manchester as it would acquire all the facilities that accompany the staging of the games. Those facilities would remain long after the games were over. The neighbouring areas involved in the bid for the games would also gain. That is one of the big factors in an Olympic bid. I realise that it is the International Olympic Committee which assumes responsibility for these matters, but I cannot believe that the support of the Government for the bid is not more or less essential to its success. I urge the Government to support the bid to the limit of their capabilities.

It is recognised that an event such as the Olympic Games necessitates large capital sums being invested in facilities that are needed for the games. Investment is required in the infrastructure and in the sporting facilities themselves. It is not only exciting and occasional events such as the Olympic Games which require large capital sums. We have already been told today of various forms of activity which require such sums. The other day I read some interesting statistics on indoor tennis in Europe. The press is forever complaining that British tennis players no longer reach the finals at Wimbledon and that the Australians, the Americans, the Germans and the Swedes are the ones who manage that feat. I suspect that one of the reasons for that is that Britain has poor coaching facilities. If all our courts are situated outdoors, our players will only manage to play for about three weeks of the year due to the British weather.

France, Italy and Spain have thousands of indoor tennis courts. In England the figure is in the hundreds. I believe that I am right in saying that there are only about 250 indoor tennis courts in England. It is perfectly clear that building indoor tennis centres is an expensive game, but those statistics could be echoed for dozens of different sports. Noble Lords may ask where the money will come from to build such facilities. I have no hesitation in riding my perpetual hobby horse when I say that the capital funding for sport, as for the arts, and indeed for all kinds of environmental schemes, could very well come from a national lottery.

I read with great interest the suggestion in the Budget that if the Government and the football pools' authorities co-operated, sums of£40 million,£60 million, or even£80 million could be raised for the benefit of the arts and sport. That suggestion is to be welcomed but a national lottery comes into a different dimension. We need to look at the concept of a national lottery in a different way. All the evidence I have suggests that a national lottery run on a charitable basis for the benefit of the arts, the environment and sport, could eventually raise something in the region of£1 billion a year. That sum of money would enable the funding of major institutions to be undertaken without pain. At the moment there is no capital funding for such activities. There is no central capital funding to which the arts or sporting bodies can look.

I cannot believe that a well established and well run national lottery would not provide the answer to many of the questions that will be asked tonight. As I said, I shall not be able to stay to hear all the remaining speeches, but I am prepared to wager that if one totted up the capital sums that will be asked for, suggested, prayed for, and dreamed of tonight, they would run into many millions of pounds. I believe that my national lottery idea is the solution to this matter.

6.48 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I rise with great pleasure to support the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Dean, and the gist of his powerful speech. The noble Lord has referred to this matter before, but I was nevertheless horrified to hear that there are fewer swimming pools and playing fields now than was the case some years ago. It is almost incredible that that could have happened in our country which like other Western countries is becoming richer and richer and where, as we all know, there is tremendous interest in sport. However, I shall leave the broader aspects of this matter to the noble Lord, Lord Dean. I shall touch on one or two more secondary subjects, although perhaps "secondary" is not the right word to use.

I wish to make a strong plea for encouraging more womer to take up sport. In preparing for this debate I discussed sporting issues with some of the leading sporting figures in the country. There is a very strong desire to see more encouragement given to women. I see that the lights of the Chamber have gone out: I thought that that was a gesture of distaste on someone's part but that has now been corrected. I am sorry to see that my noble friend Lady Phillips who is to follow me has had to leave the Chamber. However, we have my noble friend Lady Hollis to wind up the debate. I hope that in this House in future more than one noble Baroness will take part in these debates.

In my preparations I found that Mr. Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, the famous county cricket captain, argued strongly that women should be allowed to become members of the MCC. It is extraordinary that they cannot. They can become members at the Oval, where the Prime Minister is a very welcome and frequent visitor. I understand that he has now joined the MCC and I hope that more pressure will be exerted. I spoke to Mr. Denis Compton on the subject. My noble friend Lord Dean tells me that he once saw Mr. Denis Compton, who is best known as the most brilliant batsman we have had in this country since the war, take part in a soccer international in which eight goals were scored. Since my noble friend tells me that we must accept it as true, and therefore we can regard Mr. Compton as possibly the best all-round athlete in this country since the war. When I asked him about the admission of women to Lords he said that he agreed provided a bar was reserved for the gentlemen. I am not sure what the motive was for that. Mr. Denis Compton has, like Mr. Ingleby-Mackenzie, been an honoured guest in this House but he has not been admitted to the Bishop's Bar where he would have found that women are the life and soul. Therefore, we must ignore that particular proviso and demand the inclusion of women as members of the MCC.

I want to stress one simple point, but it needs careful thought. I find among sporting leaders a demand that there should be a Minister for Sport in the Cabinet. We have had Ministers for Sport for some time. One of them, Mr. Denis Howell, did great work from outside the Cabinet. Nevertheless, there is a great deal to be said for the idea that there should be a Minister in the Cabinet with specific responsibility for sport. I do not argue that there should be a Minister in the Cabinet with responsibility solely for sport. lie could be made Minister for sport and leisure. On the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord St John of Fawsley, was a successful Minister for the Arts, when he was Leader of the House of Commons and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, was Minister for Science when he was Leader of this House. Therefore, it could be combined with some other role. However, I find a very strong demand in sporting circles that specific responsibility for sport should be placed on a member of the Cabinet.

I should like to mention one other point before I sit down. Mr. Denis Compton urged me to draw the attention of the House to the need to maintain the competitive element in sport. That is a delicate subject which could be discussed at length. I submit, and I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who brought us so thoroughly up to date with sporting matters will agree, that the competitive element in sport can and should go hand in hand with the team spirit. The two are not contradictory but complementary. I have been president of a village cricket team for, it seems to me, a hundred years. In a village team everyone wants to make more runs and in that sense cricket is an individual sport. However, there is also a very keen and passionate desire to beat the neighbouring village. The two elements can and should be combined.

I raised with Mr. Compton the question of those who are not much good at ball games. He agreed that in that case they should be offered facilities for, let us say, mountaineering. I do not wish to insult great mountaineers by suggesting that they are not good at ball games. I am sure that they are excellent at games. We have a world class mountaineer on the staff here, among the doorkeepers. Nevertheless, a great many people are not good at ball games and find cricket a nightmare. At Eton they were allowed to be what we called "wet bobs". That was regarded with great contempt in my house, which was dominated by cricketers and led by the great G.O. Allen who captained England and was visited repeatedly by Pelham Warner from Datchet. At any rate, there were these wet bobs. No one really knew what they did on the river but it was a way of getting exercise. There ought to be alternatives, whether it is rowing, mountaineering or something that does not involve being any good at ball games.

With those few thoughts I should like to support the demand for more funding. I am sure that other speakers will echo the strong plea made by my noble friend Lord Dean and other speakers.

6.55 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, for giving me the opportunity to speak this evening in this most important debate. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Dean, who has been a long-time campaigner for the improvement of sport, recreation and physical education facilities, this is my first innings on this important subject.

As one who was educated in South Africa, where physical education and sport play a major part in the school curriculum, I have been astonished by the recent statistics, many of which have been mentioned today, which show how little time is dedicated to PE and sport in schools in Britain.

In my allotted eight minutes I should like to focus in the main on sport and physical education—which I shall refer to as PE—in state schools, for surely we need to concentrate at grass-root level in our endeavours to promote sport. I welcome the Government's decision ensuring that PE remains a compulsory subject in the national curriculum.

Over the past week I have had the opportunity to interview several members of the PE profession. They made it quite clear that one needs to distinguish between the objectives of sport and PE, stressing that sport is just one aspect of PE. The objectives of physical education training appear to be to provide pupils with a physical, social, mental, emotional and creative training. To that end I warmly support the findings and the recommendations of the interim report of the national curriculum working group on the future of physical education and sport in state schools. Their objective is to draw up a balanced programme of physical education which is relevant to the abilities and needs of all pupils.

One of my main concerns is a point which was made very well by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, relating to the training of PE and sports teachers, including in-service training. I note the concern of the recent report of Her Majesty's inspectorate highlighting the lack of specialist trained teachers in primary schools. The Central Council for Physical Recreation recently reported that there has been a dramatic drop in the training of PE teachers over the past few years. The inspectors found that while three-quarters of primary school games gave sufficient emphasis to PE, they were nevertheless inferior lessons, often reflecting the lack of teacher expertise. In addition there was insufficient time and a failure to monitor pupils' progress. The report also highlighted the need to improve the conditions under which PE is taught.

In that regard I welcome the joint initiative by the national governing bodies of sport, the British Council of Physical Education and the National Coaching Foundation who are currently developing a resource pack—similar to one that I have with me from the LTA entitled Tennis for Teachers—aimed at providing primary school teachers with innovative and up-to-date teaching techniques.

There is, however, a major Achilles' heel to those initiatives in that subsequent to the new education Act, which effectively delegates school budgets to schoolteachers—a point which has already been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dean—in many cases, as a result of the restraint on budgets, teachers have been unable to up-date their knowledge by attending in-service courses. To put that into perspective, I understand that it costs schools in the region of£70 to£90 per day to cover for each member of staff released to attend such courses. Although I note that the Sports Minister has recently granted£1 million to the Sports Council to provide extra curricula coaching for children, have the Government earmarked any additional funds to cater for those much-needed in-service courses?

As I have said, the LTA has produced a tennis handbook for teachers which is a companion to a seven-hour course aimed at updating and refreshing teachers' knowledge of the coaching of tennis. I recall the issue of Hansard which reported the last debate on this subject introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Dean. In that debate the noble Earl, Lord Longford, lamented that we no longer had the likes of Fred Perry. A point also raised by my noble friend Lord Birkett is that gone are the glorious days of the tennis heroes. I understand that in the English team we do not have even one member who is in the top 100. I fully support the idea of a national lottery, but I believe that we need to improve the teaching of the game at grass roots level—that is, school level. I also note that the National Cricket Association is qualifying up to 1,000 new coaches every year. A former England wicket keeper, Keith Andrews, was recently quoted as saying: If you gain a child's interest before 11 years of age, you will keep it". The noble Lord, Lord Dean, touched on the subject of the sale of school playing fields. Again, I note from a recent survey that up to 1,000 acres of playing fields are being sold per month, which is a staggering figure. The Government have commissioned the Sports Council to draw up a playing fields register. Perhaps the Minister could outline what other measures are being taken to halt what some commentators have referred to as "the sale of the century". I am asking not for a blanket ban on the sale of all pitches, but for greater regulation of sales. There are several encouraging cases where school land has been swapped for other land with sufficient additional funds to erect new sporting facilities.

Several debates both in this House and the other place have drawn attention to the need for more access to be gained by local communities to expensive specialist sports facilities which are available to so many of our state schools. We have all read of the protective attitudes of many education establishments to the dual use of schools, often referred to as the "grass in the goalmouth" syndrome. I am aware that the Government encourage dual use of facilities in schools which creates closer ties with parents and the local community, but I would hope that more schools would initiate a business approach to hiring out such facilities, obviously at reasonable rates, to local clubs and community groups.

Clearly, sport is a preventive medicine. As much as I enjoy watching sport on television, I cannot help but feel that the advent of central heating, satellite television, personal computers and stereos are contributing to many people in this country becoming lounge lizards and couch potatoes. I should hope that increasingly head teachers will appreciate the need to increase and not decrease the amount of time spent on PE and sport in school curricular. I commend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science on his initiatives, but I believe we still have a long way to go.

7.5 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Dean, for initiating the debate. I am sure that we are all grateful for the opportunity to give this topical subject a further hearing. Indeed, one of my last speeches in the other place in March 1987 was about the availability and preservation of sports grounds. I am glad to have a further chance to take part. I will not weary the House by parading my meagre qualifications in this field because they are on record in Hansard in both Houses. I do not advise any noble Lord present to look in the index to pursue it.

When the noble Lord, Lord Addington, was speaking about fitness and training I recalled some of the problems I faced in pairing Members after the opening of the gymnasium at the other end of this building, particularly those who had crocked or otherwise incapacitated themselves while allegedly trying to get fit. I hope to take a rather more constructive attitude during the remainder of my remarks. I welcome the move by the Government to shift the Sports Minister from the Department of the Environment to Education. I think it is a good move and it is in the spirit in which the whole subject of sport should be approached. I am happy to say that I know tie present Minister and have played cricket with him. I know that the job is in good hands, and his enthusiasm is extremely welcome. I do not wish to sound too sycophantic, but I am also extremely grateful that we have a Prime Minister who takes cricket so seriously. Early in his prime ministership I particularly welcomed his encouragement of the new movement, Cricket 2000, which is trying to encourage the teaching and playing of cricket in our schools, the need for an improvement in which at national level hardly needs any stressing on my part.

The Prime Minister has also spoken about a classless society. I would like to take up one point taken up by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, about women in sport. In the meagre amount of research that I (lid before the debate it was drawn to my attention that very little publicity and media coverage was given to sports played solely by women. The example given to me was that of netball. While there has been some growth in coverage by Channel 4 of events such as the World Tournament, it is still regarded very much as a minority sport. World championships are to be held in Australia in June of this year and I doubt very much whether the coverage given to them will be anything like the coverage of, say, an ashes cricket series. That is a pity. The sport of netball is played in many Commonwealth countries. Apart from the fact that men are now taking up the game, especially in the antipodes, we ought to try and get away from the substantial bias towards the coverage of sports which are played mainly by men or are men-orientated.

The next question to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention is the provision of sports grounds Although I am no longer a Member of Parliament, I still live in the area which I had the honour to represent. From time to time I am approached by young people who are most anxious to get a borne ground where perhaps their local hockey or football club can play regularly. It is extremely difficult to do it. The area has never been overblessed with facilities, and when I was a Member I was constantly fighting undesirable developments. I give the House one example. The county council has recently received a consultants' report on the provision of gypsy sites. Lo! and behold, it is not suggested that the middle and upper-class areas of Bristol Mould have any sites at all, but in the working-class areas of east and south Bristol several sites are suggested for serious consideration. One site is near my old constituency on ground which at present is used for informal recreation. The other is the resurrection of a site which was rejected after a public inquiry in 1980 to which I gave evidence. It is time we had a change of emphasis. It seems to me that areas which have had the dirty end of the stick over the years are always the first targets for any development such as a gypsy site which, regardless of what the civil liberties lobby will say, most people regard as a highly undesirable development to have anywhere near their residential accommodation.

Most debates hinge on asking the Government for more funding. I shall not do that. I ask the Government to continue to urge local authorities and others to make better use of the resources which are already available. Let us have the maximum participation by the local community in the very large acreages which are locked up in our educational establishments.

I certainly support what the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, said about this matter. A lot more can still be done. We talk about local schools, but there is a very large acreage locked up in the sports grounds of higher and further education establishments. Our universities, polytechnics and colleges have access to grounds, even if they themselves do not possess them. The students enjoy substantial vacations, which we used to be told were absolutely necessary for academic study for their courses but which we are now told are absolutely essential for working in order to supplement the grants that they receive. I do not know which is the answer. The fact remains that there are substantial opportunities for those grounds to be used while the students are not there.

Certainly so far as concerns Bristol there is a very large ground at Coombe Dingle on the north side of the city. I am sure that greater use could be made of it by local people enjoying facilities which are at present used by the privileged few. In fact, if I were to be naughty, I might even suggest that a gypsy site might be tucked away into this very upper and middle class suburb of Bristol without anybody noticing it.

7.13 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Dean for suggesting and opening a debate on this subject. I speak more as a doctor than as a sportsman, although I indulge in a lot of outdoor activities and enjoy them. I should declare an interest in that I am the vice-chairman of the National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Prevention. I shall concentrate on the role of exercise in the prevention of heart disease.

Until the 1940s coronary heart disease in the United Kingdom was comparatively rare and concentrated in better-off people who ate well and did not have to use physical labour in their work. But since the second world war, coronary heart disease has spread down the social scale, reaching a peak in the late 'sixties and early 'seventies and in fact becoming a mass disease—truly an epidemic, from the Greek words epi and demos which mean "upon the people". It is now a major cause of premature death. In the past decade we have seen a slight decline, but those in skilled and semi-skilled occupations and their wives now bear the brunt of heart disease. The position has been reversed. That is especially true in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Noble Lords may ask: what has that to do with exercise and sport? There is a connection. Since the 1930s more and more manual processes involving physical labour have been replaced by electric, petrol or diesel driven motors. People walk less often and less far to work. Their homes are warmer. As a result, they burn up fewer calories. However, their consumption of calories has gone down less rapidly. The result is that for the past 30 years or so there has been a gradual increase in obesity. More people are overweight although I do not think we have yet reached the average waist size of the citizens of the United States.

With increased body weight comes a tendency to higher blood pressure and higher blood cholesterol, which are both risk factors for coronary heart disease. In the days when we needed plenty of calories we could burn up any fat in our diet. In fact fat is a highly efficient energy source. But when it is not burnt up, fat, and particularly saturated fat, causes raised blood cholesterol levels and contributes to coronary heart disease. The problem is that many fatty foods are highly palatable—for example, cheese, cream, butter, pork crackling and bacon—and, as I said, calorie intake has not decreased as rapidly as energy expenditure.

As well as encouraging sensible eating, an important task is to help people burn up more energy through physical activity. There is plenty of good evidence to show that in western (northern) societies, lack of exercise is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. The benefits of exercise for the heart were reviewed last year by a working group convened by the British Heart Foundation, which I attended. The report of that working group has now been published. We heard that more than 40 epidemiological studies have compared the risk of coronary heart disease in physically active and inactive men. The more rigorous the study, the more clearly the risk of inactivity was demonstrated.

Inactivity has been shown to be as important as smoking, raised blood pressure or raised blood cholesterol which are all scientifically established as risk factors for coronary heart disease. I quote from the working group's report: As the number of physically demanding occupations diminished it was recognised that if physical activity was to make any contribution to the prevention of coronary heart disease it would increasingly have to be through exercise in leisure time". An important point is that everybody should be physically more active. The noble Lord, Lord Dean, said that 40 per cent. of the population are engaged in some form of sport or physical activity. But the working group examined the data and found that only 20 per cent. of the population indulged in the kind of exercise that they need in order to benefit their cardiovascular system. Unfortunately, although women now undertake more physical activity than they used to do and the gap is closing, what is not closing is the social class gap. Semi-skilled and unskilled men and women continue to show particularly low rates of participation, which is precisely not what is wanted when one considers the epidemiological data with regard to where most coronary heart disease now occurs.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. Would he agree that that might be due to the fact that the working class (to use an old fashioned word) lead more strenuous physical lives on the whole—both men and women—and therefore do not need sport or feel that they need it quite so much?

Lord Rea

My Lords, I am quite sure that that used to be the case. But many jobs which were carried out manually now make use of electric tools, drills and lifting machines. Much of the labour has gone out of the more physically demanding jobs. To an extent what the noble Earl says is true—I do not want to enter into a long discussion because we are limited for time—but it is less true than it used to be.

I do not believe that spectator sport is the answer. Quite clearly, it is not. I am sure that part of the reason for the spate of football hooliganism over the last decade or so is that crowds become very excited with the adrenalin flowing and want to indulge in physical activity but the only outlet available is to get drunk or beat up the other team's supporters and anyone else who happens to get in the way.

I paraphrase now from the British Heart Foundation report. A wide range of structured activities should be made available to all individuals. Such provision must primarily come from the public domain because the voluntary sector may lack continuity and be socially selective. Commercial provision is also selective by ability to pay—a phrase which we seem to have heard recently in connection with another current political controversy. I might add that the working group was completely apolitical. In fact if anything I should have thought that its outlook was rather conservative.

Multi-purpose sports centres where lots of activities can take place are vital. Walking and cycling are widely acceptable but unfortunately cycling is becoming more dangerous. There is urgent need to improve safety through better provision for cyclists and an increasing awareness by other road users of the legitimacy of cycling.

As other noble Lords have said, schools have a vital role to play. I quote from a report by the Sports Council of three years ago. It states: The present physical education curriculum is narrow, overly skill oriented and for many children constitutes aversion therapy. Exercise needs to be enjoyable if it is to become part of daily living. For many people, simple activities such as walking or cycling will be the most easily attainable. Perhaps as those methods are more used as a means of getting about, those concerned with transport at local and national level will consider more seriously the needs of pedestrians and cyclists when formulating policy.

My own organisation, the National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Prevention, made a submission in February to the Department of Education and Science on sports and active recreation policy. It was warmly received by the department. I hope that it is now being studied in detail. It makes specific recommendations to the DES and to other departments. In order to increase physical recreation for all people in the country, there needs to be joint activity and participation by more than one department, in particular those of health and environment, as well as education and science.

One recommendation of the report echoes the remark of the British Heart Foundation report. It states that there should be monitoring of privatisation of local sport and recreation facilities to ensure that all groups can continue to participate.

In conclusion, to be effective, there must be collaboration between several ministries. I hope that the noble Lord recognises how serious is the situation and will act upon it.

7.25 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Dean on choosing this important subject although it is obviously not a sport that attracts the mass participation of the ranks opposite. I apologise to noble Lords for speaking in both debates today and burdening the House twice. I have an excuse. I can point to a link between the two subjects. The Government's unemployment policies are certainly creating enforced leisure for a large section of the population. Perhaps the least that the Government can do is to encourage the provision of adequate leisure facilities to occupy the time of the unemployed.

I speak not only as a general lover of sport and a life long practitioner of various sports at very low levels—including playing football for the House of Commons and, barring the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, one cannot get much lower than that—but also, with the then Lord Porchester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, as one of the original members of the Sports Council. That was set up by Denis Howell as Minister for Sport in 1965. I was sacked, I believe on political grounds, immediately the Conservatives took office in 1970. Therefore, I am sure that no one will accuse me of introducing politics into sport. I was also a member of the Chester Commission on Association Football.

The history of Government intervention in the nation's sporting life since 1965 has been mixed. However, on balance I believe that the experience has been positive. Government intervention as regards sport his undoubtedly been a good thing. The successes; have been considerable. Information and statistics on sports participation, which used to be very thin, have been collected and analysed. They are necessary for all decision making and for planning regional and local facilities. We need to know the demand and the supply. Interesting information emerged. For example, I had not realised that more people participated in fishing than in playing football. Without numbers one can lose a sense of proportion.

I refer to what my noble friend Lord Rea said. Development of medical research for sport has been greatly encouraged by Government intervention. We learned about sport injuries and health. We should note that sporting fitness is not the same as good health. Coaching at all levels was expanded and improved with Government encouragement and co-ordination. There is still much more to do. The sport of tennis is obviously a major problem.

The regional dimension of sport was encouraged and strengthened by the Regional Sports Council. Perhaps most important was the focusing of local authorities on sport and recreation as a central policy responsibility, not just a side aspect of planning. Many valuable sports facilities were built by local authorities between 1965 and 1985 for use by the community. The Sports Council and relevant Whitehall departments Responsibility— moves periodically from education to environment—gave valuable advice on recommended designs for facilities, efficient construction, optimum dimensions and distribution of facilities across authorities to enable pooling.

Some progress was also made in the related important, but very difficult task, already mentioned, of persuading local education authorities to open up school sports facilities for community use. That battle was being hard fought 25 years ago. It is rather like facing the tide of the sea that is eternally coming in. My impression is that much of the momentum has been lost. Shortage of money has stifled many promising developments. Sport has been an innocent victim in the Government's battle with local authorities to cut back local expenditure because it is easier to close a swimming pool or defer the building of a multi-purpose sports centre than to cut expenditure on staff, and so on.

Instead of schools opening up their facilities to the community—for which we have been battling for a quarter of a century—they are now forced to sell those facilities. That really is selling more family silver. It will never again be possible, especially in the inner cities, to regain those facilities for the school or community.

I was at Brighton racecourse on Monday doing applied research for this debate, as noble Lords will understand! It is municipally owned and offers good scope for leisure development. The younger councillors have good ideas and ambitions, but again they lack the funds. Perhaps joint ventures with private capital is the only solution that remains for municipal racecourses. Racecourses are ideal settings for multipurpose sport and recreation use. More could be done in that respect by the racing authorities, as I know that the Minister appreciates.

However one approaches the issue it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that more resources must be devoted to sport. Above all, we must not lose sight of what I believe should be the ultimate objective and philosophy of Government policy towards sport. As the Sports Council report of 1969 stated, the objective is, to enable everyone to pursue his personal sporting and recreational interest to find a sense of satisfaction and challenge in his own life". That is a community policy. It should not be geared to or judged by success at the top of professional sport—although we shall all remember that under Denis Howell, our first Labour Sports Minister, in 1966 Britain won the World Cup. However, the main aims should be community objectives. The Government should be active and play a positive role in encouraging and enabling sports bodies and local authorities to provide new sports facilities and to open up existing facilities necessary for maximum sporting participation by the whole community. I regret that we saw too little of that in the latter part of the 1980s. It is to be hoped that the government, now and after the election, will do more to meet the challenge.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Dean, for giving the House the opportunity to debate a subject upon which many of us have spent most of our lives. I am delighted to have the opportunity of talking about sport in your Lordships' House. I am often told by my friends and by my wife that I seldom talk about anything else. However, it is difficult to squeeze a lifetime's interest into eight minutes. It is appropriate that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, should introduce the subject on the day on which his city and mine, Manchester, has been chosen to represent Great Britain in its bid to stage the Olympic Games. I join other noble Lords in congratulating Bob Scott, Brian Redhead and others who have worked indefatigably to bring that about. If the Olympic Games take place in Manchester an advantage will be gained not only by what will then occur but by what will be left behind. I refer to the additional facilities and opportunities for the people who live in that great city.

On the other hand, it is regrettable that the debate should be held on a day when before it has finished the second leg of the semi-final of the European Cupwinners Cup will be broadcast on television live from Old Trafford. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, may have left to watch the match. No, he gave a different reason for his absence but that suspicion entered my mind. Those of us who wish to see some of the match have a clear incentive to make short speeches.

The noble Lord's Motion falls into two parts: the Government's role in promoting sport and also active recreation. The noble Lord defined "active recreation" as being open air, informal recreational activity. I wish to deal with the subject in two parts, taking the latter first. Some years ago I had the honour to hold the post of chairman of the Countryside Commission. The commission's job was in part to promote access to the countryside for informal countryside recreations. We carried out a survey which revealed that if they had the opportunity, two-thirds of the population would out of choice spend at least one day per month in the countryside engaged in some form of informal countryside recreation. They referred to short walks, long walks, picnicking, travelling to the coast, visiting a historic house and so forth.

We live in an age of increasing leisure time—not merely the compulsory leisure time due to unemployment but also the leisure time brought about by changing work patterns. It is vital that we should do everything that we can to provide opportunities for the constructive and fulfilling use of leisure in ways that are not consumptive of scarce resources and not destructive of a fragile environment. Countryside land is a resource which is in short supply in Great Britain. The Government have a duty to continue to safeguard national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. They must safeguard the long distance routes such as the Pennine Way, the coast-to-coast path from St. Bees Head to Robin Hood's Bay, Offa's Dyke and other walks together with the Nature Conservancy Council's sites of special scientific interest. Such places are under intense pressure and the Government must do what they can to influence the whole planning mechanism and local and planning authorities. They must make sure that those areas of land which people enjoy so much for informal, open air recreation are preserved and protected from the kind of development that will destroy them. Once lost they are lost for ever.

I take great pride in being involved in the foundation of the Groundwork movement which was set up to tackle urban fringe decay and restore the enjoyable countryside to the urban fringes of our cities. We were providing opportunities for countryside recreation close to the homes of millions of people who now seek it. The Government are giving a great deal of support to the Groundwork movement. I hope that it will continue and will increase so that we shall see more such Groundwork ventures in different parts of the country.

I turn to the other part of the Motion; that is, sport. I do not want to get into the numbers game and give figures, but the Government must assist sport because it needs public money, as do the arts. The arts should have more money, as should sport. I wish to comment on the purposes to which that money should be put. I believe that Government financial support should not be used in the fruitless pursuit of excellence. I am as sorry as anyone that we have such a rotten Test cricket team—and honestly it is a rotten team—but excellence does not matter. What matters is providing opportunities for people to play games, even to play them badly. I should like to see more public money being spent not on promoting excellence but on helping young people to play games badly. By doing so we shall solve the problem of excellence. I do not believe that you create George Bests by setting up coaching schemes; Harold Larwood was not produced by a coaching scheme. He was the finest fast bowler who I ever saw or batted against.

How did Harold Larwood emerge? He emerged because there was somewhere to play cricket at the colliery where he worked near Nottingham. During their time off miners and pit boys used to play cricket. A member for Nottinghamshire county cricket club saw Larwood bowling extremely fast with a beautiful action. He got out of his car and spoke to the boy. Within a fortnight Larwood was on the Notts. groundstaff. By the end of the season he was playing for Notts. The following season he was playing for England. If you provide enough opportunities for enough people to play games of all kinds, excellence will look after itself.

I am sure that we need other facilities. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, mentioned indoor tennis courts. I am sorry to say to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, that I have always regarded tennis as being a game for people who are no good at cricket. However, many indoor net wickets are now available for practice throughout the winter. That is an immense advantage to young people. Perhaps I may examine the countries which are successful at cricket, in particular the West Indies. It has an endless queue of excellent fast bowlers. If two are injured and three are ill there are four or five more in the queue. Why is there always someone available? It is because all strong, young boys in the West Indies play cricket. Not only do they have good weather but they have the opportunity to play on the beaches and on the fields.

When I travel in city areas such as London, Merseyside, Manchester, Leeds or Bradford I see scores of fit young men, some black and some white, many of whom would make wonderful fast bowlers. However, I suspect that many have never set eyes on a cricket ball, let alone tried to bowl one. It is a pity that they do not have an opportunity to play. In our cities all we see are notices stating "Keep off the grass". I should rather see people playing cricket there—that is what it is for. The Government must provide more places for people to have a go. Some will make it, but many will not.

I have been a Member of your Lordships' House and the other place for long enough to have become used to the fact that my advice is not always followed. However, I have never ceased to regret the fact that my advice was not followed on a particular sporting occasion. Many years ago I saw a young fast bowler who was 15 and still at school. At the time I had connections with Old Trafford. I rang up the then coach, Stan Worthington, who played for Derbyshire and later for England and said, "Look, Stan, this fellow is a splendid fast bowler. Let me bring him along". Stan agreed and when I took the boy along he watched him bowl. He bowled at Geoff Edrich, Alan Wharton and others. The coach then took me on one side and said, "I am sorry but he is not strong enough to be a fast bowler". The boy's name was Frank Tyson. Two years later the Australians found that he was more than strong enough to be a fast bowler. I wish that my advice had been followed on that occasion because Lancashire would have had Brian Statham and Frank Tyson opening for it and the team would not have been as low down in the championship as it was during some of those years.

I conclude by saying that there should be more and more help but it should not be used in the fruitless pursuit of excellence. It should be used to provide more and more opportunities for more and more people to play whatever game they want to play. If the Government do that, excellence will look after itself.

7.40 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, this debate has called attention to the Government's role in promoting sport and active recreation. In a significant contribution my noble friend Lord Donoughue recorded governments' interventions over past years.

Government priorities, as stated by themselves, are: first, to improve the nation's health, and on that we heard the important remarks of my noble friend Lord Rea; secondly, to alleviate social deprivation; and, thirdly, to promote excellence, although the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, challenged the foundation of that concept.

It is clear from this very interesting debate that two further themes should have Government priority. The first theme is cash. My noble friend Lord Dean and the noble Lords, Lord Birkett and Lord Addington, referred to issues raised by the increase in VAT, corporation tax carried by sporting organisations, the need for a national lottery and pressures on local government finance. The second theme is access. The noble Lord, Lord St. John, referred to the problems of children and playing fields. I hope the Minister will comment on the startling statistic that 1,000 acres per month of school playing fields are being lost permanently as green and open spaces. Perhaps I may add some figures of my own. Labour Party research has suggested that under pressure from the national curriculum 30 per cent. of all schools have cut their PE provision and another 30 per cent. expect to do so. I hope the Minister will comment on that.

As well as access for children, my noble friends Lord Longford and Lord Cocks referred to access to sport by women and the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, referred to access to the countryside. Your Lordships will forgive me if I also seek to explore the themes of cash and access. As the Sports Council has continually noted, certain groups are consistently under-represented in sport—school leavers, rural communities, the elderly, certain ethnic minorities, the disabled and women. I shall focus on the disabled and women.

As regards the disabled, your Lordships may know that whereas 30 per cent. of Europeans practice sport only 3 per cent. of disabled people do so. Few local authorities have positive policies towards sport for the disabled; though I pay tribute to my own city—Norwich—which has been cited by the Sports Council as a model in that sphere.

The disabled are as much entitled to the pleasures of sport—the sociability, the challenge and physical sense of well being—as are any of us. Almost any sport, including skiing, rock climbing or gliding, can be undertaken by the disabled and in some spheres such as archery, their standards are at least as high as those of the able-bodied. Yet they are handicapped a second time, beyond their disabilities, by low income. For example, a sports wheelchair will cost 10 times that of an ordinary wheelchair. The disabled face additional costs for transport, equipment and facilities. There are also the disadvantages of building design but if a sports facility is built suitable for wheelchairs it will also be suitable for parents with prams. If noise vibration is reduced for the hard of hearing, or lighting improved for lip reading, that is splendid news for spectators. If colour-contrasted surfaces and better signing are provided for the visually impaired, that too benefits all users. In other words, sport, almost more than any other sphere, can permit the integration of the disabled into wider society to the benefit and education of all parties.

The other group which is consistently underrepresented in the world of sport, as other noble Lords have mentioned, is that of women. Baron Pierre de Coubertin—the founder of modern Olympics—fought all his life to exclude women from sport. I understand that Mrs. Pankhurst threatened to disrupt the 1908 London Olympics in the same inimitable and intimidating fashion in which she was interrupting the political meetings of Lloyd George and Churchill in order to get women admitted to the sports of tennis, archery and skating in those Olympics. By 1988 in Seoul one-third of the competitors were women but they are still excluded from the triple jump, judo, the pentathlon and the pole vault; yet women have climbed Mount Everest and regularly beat men in marathon races.

Sport, and especially English sport, remains one of the most distinctively male of all social institutions, as many other of your Lordships have mentioned. It is played more by men, watched more by men and controlled almost entirely by men. Fifty-seven per cent. of men but only 37 per cent. of women participate in sport. I am sorry to say that that gap is much wider in the North than in the South. In the areas of participation, sponsorship, access to facilities, prestige, and media coverage, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Cocks, sport is perceived as a male activity.

However, women perform as well as or better than men in some endurance events such as long-distance sea swimming, cycling or riding. In events where there is a premium on speed and strength, women are narrowing the gap. In swimming, the women gold medal winners of 1979 in freestyle and butterfly would have taken the men's gold medals just 10 years before. In track athletics, too, women are improving at a very fast rate. In 1948 there was about a 30 second difference between the times of men and women in the 800 metres. That is now barely 11 seconds.

What is the reason for that? As Doctor Liz Ferris, herself an Olympic medallist and specialist in sports medicine, has shown, when trained, women's stamina and aerobic capacity can surpass that of untrained men with no harmful physical effect. As the Sports Council regularly reminds us, there is a greater performance difference within the sexes than between them.

Therefore, if women's participation and performance are not really a matter of biology I suggest to your Lordships that it is a matter of sociology. Women rule themselves out of what they perceive as an essentially male activity. They face practical problems; that is, problems of child care, transport, fears of going out after dark and lack of money because for two-thirds of women interviewed the cost of sport was a problem. However, women also face problems of cultural perception. Many women share the view that leisure is a reward for paid work to which only male partners are really entitled. That is a view often taken by women who are not in paid work. They feel guilty about spending money on leisure. It is also a lack of physical self-confidence. The growth in health and fitness to which your Lordships have referred is to be welcomed but that is available privately only for the relatively affluent.

That brings me to the subject of cash. As the Audit Commission noted last year, and as the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said, sports provision is supply-led particularly for children, the disabled and women. All those groups are dependent on the local authority as an enabler and provider of sport because they have few physical or financial resources of their own. They are dependent for facilities, subsidised prices and for activity promoters.

However, sports facilities are financially risky. Their future use is hard to predict. They are also expensive. According to the Audit Commission, indoor facilities recover less than half their costs. Apart from private golf courses, outdoor facilities recover less than 25 per cent. of their costs. They need and receive subsidies. Because of compulsory, competitive tendering local authorities are severely restricted in their ability to provide new facilities or to refurbish old ones such as swimming pools; otherwise they make themselves non-competitive.

One must add to that the local management of schools. Many schools are being encouraged to sell their playing fields. Schools are encouraged to cut back on maintenance and safety equipment or on out-of-grounds activities such as swimming. Schools are also encouraged to introduce charging, which again will limit access for pupils. All that is taking place now. Added to that are capital controls on local authority spending and charge capping. We can predict that local authorities will increasingly withdraw from non-statutory activities such as sport which, so far, is one of their most substantial enterprises.

One further and final indignity is that under the Local Government and Housing Act 1990 it appears that even where there is private investment in dual-use facilities such as school fields, the Government sets it against the local authority capital allocation. I hope that the Minister will comment on that.

If what I have been suggesting to your Lordships is correct, the record of this Government has been not only that of failing properly to fund sport at national level—for example, cutting in real terms the grants to the Sports Council—not only increasingly crippling the ability of local authorities to provide sports' facilities, particularly for the disadvantaged, the disabled, children and women, but it appears also to be undermining the very enabling partnership role that they are urging local authorities to adopt.

If the Government and your Lordships mean sport is for all, I suggest that the Government must allow local authorities to enable sport to be available for all.

7.50 p m.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, first I join other noble Lords in congratulating Manchester on being selected in the bid for the forthcoming Olympics, and add my best wishes. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this constructive debate. I hope that I can do justice in my reply to the widespread wisdom and interest that has been shown.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, for this opportunity to demonstrate how much [his Government have done and are doing to promote sport and active recreation. It will be helpful if I explain what is being achieved through the three main channels of public expenditure in this area—the Sports Council, local authorities and schools.

Direct government financial support for sport is channelled through the Sports Council. The increase in real terms of 30 per cent. in the value of this funding since 1979–80 demonstrates admirably this Government's commitment to increasing participation and performance levels in sport. The council's grant in 1991–92 will be£46.7 million compared to a figure of£15.6 million in 1979–80. During the same period it has increased its income from receipts from£2.7 million to just under£10 million, and that figure is expected to increase to£11.5 million by 1993–94.

In addition, an increasing amount of private sector finance is attracted through the council's incentive funding programme operated in the regions. In 1989-90 about£5.4 million of private sector investment in sport was generated in that way.

The Sports Council has used a significant part of that finance in recent years to concentrate on four main priorities at the national level. First, to assist the wide range of organisations that contribute to British sports to do so as effectively as possible; the Sports Council provides that assistance through, for example, financial support and guidance on improved planning and management skills. Secondly, to increase participation among specific target groups. Thirdly, to provide support services for sport at competitive level and, finally, to improve access to facilities for sports at every level of performance.

Through the Sports Council's regional structure much has also been achieved at that level. The main tools have been the provision of advice and grant assistance and, above all perhaps, through the stimulation of better co-ordination between the agencies involved at the local level and in the drive for increased participation and opportunity through, for example, the grant-aiding of sports development officers.

That activity by the Sports Council together with greater awareness of healthy lifestyles—so much a feature of the debate—has contributed in no small measure to the large increase in participation levels during the eighties. Between 1977 and 1986—the period for which we have most comprehensive statistics—the number of adults regularly taking part in sport rose by over 3 million in England to 17 million and by 1 million to 21 million in Great Britain as a whole. Noble Lords will be interested to hear that participation by women rose by 8 per cent. while participation by men increased by 5.8 per cent. That makes a combined increase of just under 7 per cent. of the adult population regularly taking part in sport and active recreation.

Before turning to the role of local authorities as basic providers and enablers of sport and recreation, I should also mention that one of the pools promoters has recently come forward with a proposal to establish a foundation for sport and the arts. That should increase the total level of resources available for sport. The Government have given their support to the proposal in the announcement in another place by my right honourable friend the Chancellor, that there will be a cut in pool betting duty from 40 per cent. to 37.5 per cent. for a period of four years. That is provided the revenue foregone—some£20 million a year—is given by the pools promoters to the foundation.

The proposal is that the pools promoters would make a sum of£40 million a year available to set up the foundation. Together with the revenue foregone from the reduction in pool betting duty that will amount to an additional£60 million a year for sport and the arts. The only exclusions would be league football and racing which benefit from other schemes. Discussions are in hand to decide how these proposals might best be taken forward.

I turn now to the role of local authorities, since they have traditionally been the major providers of sports facilities open to the general public. They spend around£600 million a year on sport. Authorities can fund such expenditure in a number of ways; from borrowing; from capital receipts; from revenue contributions—subject to the discipline of the community charge—and via contributions from third parties such as the Sports Council and charitable organisations. There is no restriction on the use of third party contributions and they confer 100 per cent. additional spending power.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, perhaps the Minister would give way. Is the Minister aware, when he speaks of the way that local authorities can raise funds, that there is distinct evidence that in some of the more deprived areas swimming pools have had to close? Local authorities have had to increase their charges above what the local mums and dads can afford to pay for their children to learn to swim. That is one of the key areas the Government should review.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I cannot comment too deeply on anecdotal evidence. I respect entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Dean, says. If he will supply me with evidence, I shall be pleased to look into it.

As a result of that expenditure by local authorities—with some grant-aid from the Sports Council—over the past 10 years there has been a significant growth in the number and range of sport and recreation facilities provided. For example, the number of sports halls and leisure centres rose from 770 in 1981 to some 1,130 by 1990; the number of ice rinks doubled from 23 in 1981 to 46 in 1990, and the number of public swimming pools has risen—which may surprise some noble Lords—from just over 1,000 in the early 1980s to nearly 1,200 now. There has also been a major growth in facilities such as artificial pitches and synthetic running tracks which were new innovations in the early 'eighties. Along with all this there has been a continuing programme of replacement and refurbishment of older facilities.

While acknowledging that local authorities perform an invaluable task in sports provision it should also be noted that a recent Audit Commission report said that local authorities have not always been clear about who they were aiming to attract to their facilities or the service that they were hoping to provide. That is one of the reasons the Government introduced competitive tendering for the management of local authority facilities. Competition will encourage managers to think more carefully about what their customers require. They will need to think again about such basic things as their hours of opening and the range and standard of the facilities they provide, which is perhaps what the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, was referring to in part.

It is encouraging that the public sector also is increasingly recognising its role in enabling provision by working in partnership with the private sector to provide modern multi-purpose sports facilities and in some areas the private sector is already going it alone. The private sector already owns and manages more than 500 major facilities such as golf courses and swimming pools and countless smaller facilities in the form of gyms and fitness clubs. As people find that they have more time to devote to recreation, the private sector will respond by providing an ever wider range of facilities. The Government welcome these developments and we shall continue to encourage such partnerships in the future.

I come now to the very important role of schools in sports provision. Sport is schools is without doubt the foundation for continued sporting activity by millions of young people in adult life. It is also the basis of excellence in sporting achievement. The vast majority of those who excel at particular sports have begun to develop their skills and enthusiasms while at school. We cannot underestimate therefore the importance of providing young people with as many sporting opportunities as possible during their time at school. It is the linchpin on which depends the development of healthy lifestyles by the population as a whole, and which determines in large part the success or failure of our international sportsmen and women.

As I said during the debate on physical education and sports in schools on 28th January, the move of the Minister for Sport to the Department of Education and Science demonstrated very clearly the importance the Government attach to sport in schools. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, for acknowledging that. But transfer of responsibilities alone is meaningless without the policies and actions to back this up. I believe that we already have in hand a raft of initiatives and policies designed to encourage and develop sport in general and school sport in particular. Perhaps the most important limb of our policy on school sport is the inclusion of physical education in the national curriculum. PE is now a compulsory subject for all pupils in maintained schools between the ages of 5 and 16. This is the first time that it has been a statutory requirement. The Government have resisted pressures to make the subject optional, particularly at Key Stage 4 of the national curriculum.

It might also be opportune at this moment to remind noble Lords of the distinction to be made between what we mean by physical education in the curriculum, and the overall place of sport in schools. There is no doubt that physical education should include a significant amount of sport, including competitive team games as has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords. I was therefore very glad to see the recognition of this in the interim report of the PE working group which stated that, We regard competitive games, both individual and team, as an essential part of physical education I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, mentioned that matter. I accept that team competition is now very broadly accepted over all political areas. We look forward to receiving the final recommendations of the working group in due course. They are to be submitted to the Secretary of State by the end of June. The interim report has been issued for consultation and has generated comments from a wide range of interests. I am sure that the eventual outcome will be to raise significantly the standard of physical education, including sport, provided in our schools. While provision in some schools is already of a high standard, there is no doubt that the quantity and quality overall is not at the level that we would wish. The introduction of the national curriculum is all about raising standards in all schools to those of the best, and I am sure that this will be achieved for physical education in the same way as for other subjects.

I now turn to a few specific points raised by noble Lords in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, spoke about the sale of playing fields, as did the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso. Local education authorities are under a duty to provide playing fields at maintained schools in accordance with standards laid down in the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1981. Where they find that they have surplus land available, LEAs are free to decide to dispose of it in order to raise capital that can be put to good use in meeting other priority needs. I am not clear about the acreage which has been mentioned. It sounded rather alarming. If the acreage is genuinely surplus to needs, then that is something we encourage. There is no evidence to suggest that there has been an overall net decline in the number of school playing fields as a result of LEAs selling land that is surplus to requirements. However, on 16th October the Government issued a draft planning policy guidance note which asked local authorities to review the long-term educational and community needs for such facilities before deciding on their disposal. The Government are currently considering the responses to that consultation exercise.

A number of noble Lords brought up the subject of tax and exemption for sporting bodies. Ministers consider that many other non-sporting bodies would have a stronger case for exemption. It would not be possible to cover all such bodies. Certain sporting bodies which have charitable status such as the British Sports Association for the Disabled and the British Paralympic Association, are exempt from corporation tax. In his Budget speech my right honourable friend the Chancellor announced changes in the structure of corporation tax which will benefit the BOA and other sporting organisations. These were a reduction in the rate at which tax is levied and an increase in the level of profits liable to taxation. It could result in significant savings to the BOA but the precise figures are not available at the moment.

In principle sports clubs are liable to corporation tax on any profits and capital gains they make in the same way as any other mutual association or company. In practice, even large professional clubs may pay little or no tax. For example, only a handful of league football clubs paid any tax in 1988–89. Many sports clubs are set up as members' clubs. In principle, such clubs are still subject to corporation tax. If a members' club restricts its activities to its membership and does not operate on a commercial basis, it is not regarded as carrying on a trade for corporation tax. Therefore none of its income which arises internally, such as subscriptions and fund-raising among its members, is taxable. The members' clubs may still pay tax on any income from investment and on profits made from non-members.

Lord Addington

My Lords, does the noble Lord realise t lat in effect he is saying that we should restrict membership for all sports to certain groups? Would not that be counter to the general spirit that sports should be open and available to all?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, the Government have pursued a policy of trying to simplify tax. When we make exceptions, we run into difficulties. I am pointing out that there are ways of minimising tax. Some organisations are not always aware of that. Sometimes sports bodies set up separate charitable trusts which have the same special tax privileges as other charities. Most of their income gains are free of tax provided that they are used for charitable purposes. They can receive tax-relieved donations under the various charitable giving schemes such as covenants, pay-roll giving, gift aid and the rest. To achieve charitable status the trusts have to be set up only for purposes which are charitable; for example, to provide physical education for young people or to work with the physically handicapped.

Mention was also made of the uniform business rate. For the first time authorities are able to offset the cost of discretionary rate relief against their payments to a non-domestic pool. The Government considered mandatory rate relief for non-profit making bodies such as sports clubs. They decided that local authorities are best placed to assess the benefit that local communities derive from sports clubs. The department has published guidelines to help authorities in considering that.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, spoke very forcefully' about coaching. I welcome the publication of Coaching Matters. The review group has been asked to consider a wide range of issues in relation to coaching and coaching education. Coaches have an important role to play in the provision of extra-curricular sporting activities for young people. We shall be considering very carefully the report' conclusions. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, is not in his place. I have taken note of his suggestion of a lottery although I believe that the suggestions that I made earlier are of greater interest immediately.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked for a Minister of sport and leisure to be in the Cabinet. I shall pass on that view to my right honourable friend. The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, asked whether the Government had earmarked money for in-service training. The answer is no. It is not for the Government to do that. I point out to the noble Lord that£76 million has been allocated to teacher training in the current year. It is up to the LEAs to decide their priorities. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, that better use should be made of existing facilities. I believe that competitive tendering will lead to greater efficiency and better use of facilities. The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, also asked about other aspects of teacher training. I can tell him that the Government's criteria for the approval for initial training courses provide that all primary courses should prepare students so that with suitable support and guidance from more experienced colleagues they can plan individual lessons within general schemes of work in physical education, teach to the level required by the national curriculum and assess the achievement of pupils in all foundation subjects.

The reduction of PE teachers was mentioned. I can say that the reduction in funded places in 1990 for secondary initial teacher training courses having PE as a main subject for specialism was based on the department's projections of teacher demand and supply. This forecasts a continuing surplus of secondary trained PE teachers well into the 1990s. The department's projections are updated in the light of new data as it becomes available. This is taking into account setting allocations for funded places in future years. The House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for alerting us to the benefits of exercise and to the dangers of not taking it. May I tell him that the Government are keenly aware of this and the issue is being addressed in the current review of sports policy.

I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for acknowledging the Government's attitude to sport. I take note of his criticisms of shortage of cash. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, spoke of access to and preservation of the countryside. I congratulate him on his work with the Groundwork Trust for which I have the most enormous admiration. He made the point that if it is worth doing something it is worth doing it badly! I see that if everyone has the opportunity that excellence will follow of its own accord. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, highlighted a number of categories. She spoke of the wrong attitude towards women in sport. I regret that I do not have any information on that. I suggest it is a question of attitudes. Changing attitudes does not rest with the legislators. I deplore it when women do not get a fair share of influence in any sphere of life. I was not aware of the problem and I shall certainly be interested to follow it up. The noble Baroness was interested in other categories, including sport for people with disabilities. The Sports Council is in the lead on the implementation of building on ability. The Sports Council has given national grants of£75,000 to the British Paralympic Association,£111,000 to the British Sports Association for the Disabled, and£65,000 to the United Kingdom Sports Association for people with mental handicap. Of this new money,£100,000 is on top of the grants being given to sports for the disabled by the Sports Council's regional offices. The Council has also prepared draft guidelines for governing bodies and how they might increase their involvement in this area and is now preparing an overall position statement as a basis for a Sports Council document and action plan.

The noble Baroness also mentioned the unemployed and the ethnic minorities. Publication of the departmental review, Sport and Active Recreation Provision in the Inner Cities, December 1989, on funding for inner city projects, states that the Sports Council expects to have spent about£4.7 million in 1990–1991 on grants by their regions to inner-city projects. In addition, the council's grants to organisations such as governing bodies on sport are directed towards target groups such as the young, the unemployed and ethnic minorities.

On the matter of new initiatives, in addition to the proposed foundation I should like to end by referring to the announcement made by my honourable friend the Minister for Sport last month for an extra?1 million grant-in-aid to the Sports Council. Of this, some£700,000 will be used to provide extra curricular coaching for young people in about 10 sports. The remaining£300,000 is to be spent on assisting in the improvement of extra curricular sporting opportunities for disabled children and the integration in sport for able-bodied and disabled people. We are determined both to reverse the recent decline in extra curricular sport and to widen the opportunity to participate in sport for all young people, including those with disabilities. As my honourable friend made clear these initiatives are only a beginning. The£700,000 for coaching will be used to fund a series of regional pilot schemes which we hope will provide models for good practice for wider applications. What better way in this year of sport to demonstrate the Government's commitment to sport.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, in the short time that is left I must express my gratitude to those who have taken part in this interesting debate for their wide-ranging contributions. I was glad to hear from the Minister that the report he called for will be in his hands by June. Perhaps that will give us an opportunity, through the usual channels, to debate this sport once again when more time will be available.

The Minister spoke about local authorities. Perhaps he will be aware that the AMA has written to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Sport offering to assist in any way it can in expanding sport.

We cannot close without referring to what has happened at the top of the scale. It is pleasing to see at last how golf can now compete on an international scale and how we are beating the Americans at their own game. Golf has become an expanding sport and is reaching out to many people. That is most acceptable. I understand that one of the agricultural colleges—Merrist Wood Agricultural College in Surrey—now runs special courses training youngsters in golf course management. That must be good. Having said those few words I once again thank all those who have taken part and also the Minister for his very detailed answer. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.