HL Deb 18 January 1995 vol 560 cc694-724

6.16 p.m.

Lord Howell

rose to call attention to the state of sport in the United Kingdom and facilities for sport in the regions; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the good health of British sport is a matter of considerable importance, which is why I believe the debate is timely and relevant. It is a privilege to propose the Motion today. The recent cries of anguish, such as those arising in football and cricket, may be understandable when we lose test matches or fail to qualify for the World Cup but they are devoid of a fundamental purpose. Until we understand and address that purpose we shall not escape from the malaise.

The fundamental purpose of sport is to enable every citizen to find pleasure and challenge in their personal lives through voluntary participation in sport and recreation. A secondary purpose—the social purpose of sport—is to enable sport to make its enormous contribution to the good health and personal relationships that are so necessary in our community life.

Governments and the governing bodies of sport must be judged against those criteria. There is much cause for concern. Success at top club level, or at national and international level, is important and morale boosting but it is not fundamental. Unless we secure the foundations of sport in schools and in the communities through clubs and local authorities we undermine our performance in international sport.

Today, far too many people who should know better are looking for panaceas to solve the problems in sport. The Prime Minister has encouraged us all by his desire to get sport back into the school curriculum. However, he has yet to address the question—publicly, anyway—of how we are to achieve that. Why are there so few qualified PE teachers and almost none coming out of the colleges?

Nor do the Government understand that their attack on local authorities and their desire to starve them of funds involves them in an attack upon the grassroots of sport. Local authorities are the great providers of community and educational sports facilities. We have the Minister for Sport putting his faith in cricket academies—such as in Australia—or in centres of excellence. That is a commendable objective which can be helpful, although a cricket academy should be seen for what it is: a finishing school.

However, academies and centres of excellence are stifled at birth unless the broad base of sport is wide enough to supply a sufficient amount of talent to be taken up and developed. Most lamentably, lain Sproat, the Minister, told the Sports Council that it, should withdraw from the promotion of mass participation in informal recreation because these laudable aims are secondary to the pursuit of high standards of sporting achievements". That is inexcusable heresy. Mass participation in sport and recreation should be the essence of what the Minister and the Government are about. They should concentrate upon the foundation of a sport programme and a first priority should be creating a healthy and involved citizenship.

Sir John Hall of Newcastle United believes that professionalism solves all and that his club should be divorced from any responsibility for amateurs. Ninety-nine per cent. of all footballers are amateurs. It is from their ranks that professionals emerge. No governing body of sport anywhere in the world can allow its authority to be so divided and destroyed.

The truth is that, as elsewhere in life, there are no panaceas to solve the fundamental problems which must be addressed and on which I wish to comment. However, before I do so, I should like to make one further general observation. The greatest problem for sport in this country is that no one accepts responsibility for its ethos. The spirit of sport, indeed I would suggest its very soul, is being sacrificed on the altar of commercialism. Sponsorship and television income dominate every consideration for the major sports. The minor sports are sidelined as though they have no place in the sun.

Some years ago an inquiry which I chaired produced a wide-ranging report on sports sponsorship. On page after page of that report we repeated a first principle: governing bodies of sport must govern. They must take a more fundamental view of the interests of their sport than the purely financial. Greed must not be allowed to dominate sport as it is doing because, as sport will find out, if it does not control those excesses they will be destructive.

I have consulted widely about the state of sport in our schools. The advice I have received is unanimous. All the organisations welcome, as I do, the personal interest of the Prime Minister and the involvement of Sir Ron Dearing. But they all ask the same question: where is the initiative to come from to make it all work and to provide the resources to bring it about? Is the Department for Education working to the same agenda as the Department of National Heritage? Where is the input from the organisations involved in sports —the Central Council for Physical Education, the Physical Education Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the English Schools Sports Association, the Sports Council and so on? We need to have that spelt out. I hope that the Minister can do so.

The Prime Minister must lay down his policy guidelines and appoint a senior Minister with the power to transcend departmental prejudices. He must also ensure the provision of adequate funding. There are matters which need addressing urgently. PE teachers, especially in primary schools, are almost non-existent. Specialist advisers, who have disappeared from our schools, must be reintroduced. In-service training is essential. The two-hour allocation for sport in the national curriculum is hopelessly inadequate. Children in inner city schools cannot even get to their playing fields and back to the school within the two hours allocated. Playing field maintenance is a must. So many pitches, particularly for cricket but also for football, are being prepared by the gang mower, which is a hazardous and dangerous procedure for schoolchildren. The voluntary involvement of school teachers must be reinforced; in many areas, it has largely been reduced. That should be done by paying expenses and by making tax concessions for travel, uniform and so on. The English Schools Sports Association must be encouraged to continue to monitor who is doing what in schools in terms of PE and sport. Partnerships must be created involving local authorities, clubs and regional sports councils.

The second foundation stone for sport is the local authorities. They provide the front-line services. Every region in the country reports massive cutbacks both in capital works and revenue expenditure. The consequence is that services are reduced. People are being priced out of sports centres, swimming baths, sports grounds and the like; and the costs of vandalism and delinquency in our society are increased. That is not a very intelligent economic prognosis.

National lottery funding will help on the capital side but already the regions are looking desperately for partners who can provide the matching funds to unlock the lottery money. Thirty five per cent. as a minimum, is a lot of money to find. Facilities have to be managed, maintained and revenue funded. Why, oh why, have the Government rejected every single piece of advice they have received in refusing to allow lottery funds to be used for suitable revenue purposes? We welcome the small concessions made in that respect for new projects but I would urge the Minister to carry out a review to discover where sport desperately needs revenue money to make sense of its facilities.

That leads me to consider the role of the regional councils of sport, so seriously misjudged by the Minister for Sport. I am sorry to say that he insulted them when he declared that, there should be clear sky between regional officers of the Sports Council and the local authorities who may—as a group—contain members who may themselves be applicants for lottery funds". That is resented throughout local government. Local authority members of every political hue are among the most dedicated of public servants. They are men and women of integrity. They are just as much to be trusted with regard to making decisions about lottery funds as are the two Secretaries of State who will decide the Millennium Fund applications. It is resented by local authority members of all political persuasions that they are not to be trusted while the Secretaries of State take such a prime role in making decisions as to the allocation of the £150 million for the Millennium Fund.

The regional councils for sport have been the most successful of all the initiatives taken in sport since I first became the Minister in 1964. All the progress we have made in developing regional strategies, in creating partnerships between the local authorities, sport and government has come through them. Now the Minister says they are not necessary and he will not even fund their secretariat if they wish to continue as a voluntary forum. That is civil service or ministerial thinking gone mad, probably both.

The Minister consulted widely on these plans. The noble Viscount who is replying to the debate has no personal responsibility in this affair, which is a relief to us as well as to him. However, I challenge the Government to produce a single outside authority which supports the proposal to abolish the regional councils. Every voice is against them—the regional chairmen, the local authorities and all of sport. It is a special sort of arrogance for the Minister and his civil servants who have no experience of regional sport to decide that they know better than every single body which was consulted.

It is good to know that the new chairman of the Sports Council, Mr. Rodney Walker, who does know the value of regional sports councils and has served upon them, has many misgivings about this policy. I hope that he will be listened to. Many of us believe that the appointment of Mr. Walker is good news for sport. We wish him well and congratulate the Government upon his appointment. However, it has to be said in the strongest possible terms that Ministers have to get off his back and allow him to operate as someone who knows sport and who needs as much independence as possible.

In that respect the letter sent to him by Stephen Dowell, the Secretary of State, giving him his marching orders could not be more misconceived. It gives Mr. Walker instructions to investigate at least 12 specific areas of work upon which he has to report by the end of the year. If the Sports Council undertakes that programme, it will have no time at all to direct the course of British sport.

It is eight years and four Ministers ago since Colin Moynihan announced his intention to reorganise British sport in 1987. We still do not have a permanent director of the English Sports Council nor a chairman or director for the UK Sports Council. If British sport matched the dynamism of the Department of National Heritage we should lose every contest in sight. That is the case for telling Rodney Walker to get on with it, and to keep out of his way while he does so.

What concerns me about the proposed UK Sports Council is that we also have four national sports councils. There will be an added layer of bureaucracy. Will the policy of the UK Sports Council transcend the national councils where Great Britain and United Kingdom issues are concerned? Will the UK Sports Council be adequately funded or have powers to subvent from the national councils? World sport today is conducted upon the basis of British involvement. One has only to look at the work of the Olympic movement and the role of the British Olympic movement to see that. That is a reality of life. The Government have to ensure that nationalistic considerations do not frustrate British involvement in sport.

The Sports Council has to work closely with governing bodies of sport who must be seen to be the essential voluntary government of sport, and must be encouraged in their role. For example, as I indicated, in my own sport of football it is totally misdirected to believe that its professional interests can be divorced from its overall responsibilities. The Premier League clubs can very properly manage their own affairs but they have to work in partnership with the Football Association over a whole range of interests such as the development of grounds, the development of coaching, the development of talent, work with the Professional Footballers Association, and so on.

There is one other consideration that every governing body should regard as paramount, and that is to maintain the integrity of their sport and its ethos against all invasions of commercial interest and of sports agents and against the massive funds available through incentives such as European and television opportunities. These have to be seen as serving the interests of sport, not as being masters of sport as is so often the case today.

Another anxiety is the effect of the National Lottery upon the football pools and therefore upon their massive investment in improving every ground in the country through the Football Trust which I had the privilege to help inaugurate. The trust has now allocated more than £120 million in new grounds and stands. All this is in danger, and even more so is the Foundation for Sport and the Arts which also does excellent work for both sport and the arts. The Chancellor did not listen to us at the time of his previous Budget. He must do so now. I know that the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Brabazon, hope to expand upon this matter in their speeches and they will certainly have my full support if they do so.

Sport and recreation and the arts, the leisure pursuits of millions of our citizens, should be a proper concern of government. The average citizen does not ask for too much from life—a job in order to maintain his family, a decent home, education for his children, and health care and social care throughout life. But every citizen also needs the opportunity to enjoy life to the full; and for millions of them that means through sport. That is why I believe this debate to be timely. I hope it can be repeated at regular intervals. I beg to move for Papers.

6.33 p.m.

Lord Aberdare

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for introducing this debate and I hope that my voice stands out as clearly as his did. I wish him iechyd da! However, I shall confine myself—as the noble Lord rather suggested—to the affairs of the Football Trust. I start by declaring an interest. I have been chairman of the Football Trust since its inception in 1979 and I am paid a salary for that position. The trust was started by the pools companies—Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters—and we are indebted to them for providing the resources which have enabled us to make what I believe is a valuable contribution to the health and welfare of football at all levels. I am particularly proud to be chairman of an organisation that has excellent and most efficient staff and where the cost of administration is only 2 per cent. of our income.

Our traditional source of income (from what is now Littlewoods' Spot-the-Ball competition) has been running at about £14 million a year and is mainly devoted to the vital matter of ground safety. Obviously, nothing is more important at sporting events than ensuring that spectators can enjoy themselves in safety and comfort.

I believe that it was largely our generous grants for the installation of closed-circuit television that have resulted in an almost complete absence of hooliganism now inside the football grounds of this country. Our income from Spot-the-Ball is also used to help the grassroots of football, providing anything from kit for junior teams of boys and girls up to improved facilities at our senior non-league clubs. I must say I often find that giving £150 to a small local YMCA or boys' club in a depressed area gives a great deal more pleasure than giving £1 million to a Premier League club.

Since 1990, following the Hillsborough disaster and the report of Lord Justice Taylor, we have also been in receipt of government money. This, I believe, is a good example of co-operation between the public and private sectors. The Government reduced the pool betting duty by 2.5 per cent., provided that the pools passed on that saving to the Football Trust. The Football Trust undertook to allocate the resulting income to implement the recommendations of the Taylor Report and also agreed to make available three-quarters of our income from Spot-the-Ball for ground safety. So far, as the noble Lord mentioned, we have allocated some £120 million to projects all round the country totalling almost £400 million. Progress at our top clubs has been very impressive and we now have the kind of first-class football stadia which allow us to look forward with confidence to hosting the European championships in 1996. I hope that when we come to look back in the year 2000 we will be able to say that Taylor truly transformed the game and that we have a wealth of excellent grounds, the envy of Europe.

However, we are only halfway through the implementation of the Taylor timetable. An enormous amount remains to be done at the clubs in the lower divisions. This is now where the needs are greatest, but where the local resources are lowest. It is essential that all this work—help for the grassroots, safety of spectators and rebuilding the grounds in line with Taylor—is allowed to continue. We must not neglect vital safety requirements through lack of resources.

However, as I hope noble Lords will realise from what I have said, our income is totally dependent on the pools, either directly from Littlewoods' Spot-the-Ball, or indirectly via the reduction in pool betting duty. Unfortunately, since the start of the National Lottery our income from Littlewoods' Spot-the-Ball has declined dramatically and our income from the reduction in pool betting duty has fallen significantly week by week. If this trend continues, the future of the trust is at risk. The pools companies will naturally wish to protect the interests of their core business and their staff and they may be forced to review their commitment to the Football Trust, and indeed, as I am sure my noble friend Lord Brabazon will say later, to the Foundation for Sports and the Arts.

I have always understood the pressure on Ministers to ensure the success of the lottery. I fully appreciated the reasoning behind their decision to give the lottery an initial advantage with the exclusive right to advertise on television and radio. However, things are different now. The lottery is a runaway success. As the National Heritage Secretary said, No one can dispute that the National Lottery has been a huge success". Camelot has plans to install an average of 1,000 new terminals a month. Surely it is time now to allow fair competition and to permit the pools to advertise on television and radio.

Perhaps I may suggest to the Minister that he might find support for the proposal from the Treasury. It receives only 8 per cent. in tax from the lottery, while it stands to lose 37.5 per cent. in tax from a reduction in pools betting. That might tempt the Treasury to help in this matter. In the past, in my experience Ministers at the Department of National Heritage have been kind enough to praise the efforts of the Football Trust. We have greatly appreciated their support. Surely now it is in everyone's interest to allow the pools to compete on equal terms with the lottery and to allow the Football Trust to continue to serve football.

6.41 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, in the context of this timely debate, initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I wondered whether it might be useful and of some interest, as a past president of the MCC and one time chairman of the International Cricket Conference, if I were to say something about what the authorities of our national game of cricket were doing about seeking to improve what have been rather mediocre performances by our national side.

First, I wish to say this. Although there has been, I know, much disappointment at having selected about as good a touring side as we could from those available, we have not been able to regain the Ashes and indeed have experienced one or two rather humiliating defeats by what should have been inferior sides. However, despite that, I am not as despondent about our performance potential and the state of cricket generally as might be supposed.

These things have a habit of going in cycles and although the sceptic could say that the dip in this cycle seems to be lasting rather a long time, our performance in the Third Test at Sydney against Australia in the World Series showed that we could play good cricket; and given an element of good fortune, which has so far manifestly eluded us, we are not that far behind others in what is increasingly a very competitive and high performance field. In fact, over a number of Test series our national sides have taken part in some memorable, highly interesting and high class Test matches and provided their share of magnificent and entertaining cricket for the spectators. That must certainly not be forgotten.

Nor must it be forgotten that even in what might now be thought to have been a golden age in our fortunes, we have not infrequently lost matches. Indeed, historically our record against Australia has not been all that good. So the idea that we always won in the past and seldom do now would be a considerable travesty of the facts.

Having said that, we are clearly at the moment not good enough to shine and stand out in the intense competition which exists in international cricket in all the continents of the world. Our self-esteem and national pride, in a country from which, after all, the game of cricket emanated, demand that there should be no complacency whatsoever and we should do all we can to improve the situation.

To do so, the authorities have to look at the higher organisation and structure of the game throughout the country, the bringing on of young players of real talent, and the general attitude and application of those players who are prepared to make the considerable sacrifice and commitment that the modern game now demands and for which our rather comfortable and indulgent society may not be the best breeding ground. It is those factors in cricket, rather than the resources and facilities, which are the key. Resources, of course, are invaluable for capital projects. But it is the question of attitude and the bringing on of young players which are the key. It will be hard work but I believe that it can be done; and the cricket authorities have a definite plan for doing so.

Organisation itself, of course, can only do so much. But a useful study and report by my noble friend Lord Griffiths, on behalf of the MCC, has pointed the way as to how the higher organisation of the game might be streamlined and approved which would bring the professional and amateur game into closer partnership. It seems likely that the report will be accepted and implemented by the board in the near future.

Then it is the intention of the board to set up centres of excellence run by first class counties to bring on young players through talent scouts, coaching, ground staffs and youth cricket; and in that the MCC clearly has a useful supporting role with its own comprehensive coaching courses and their outmatches against a wide variety and range of schools.

Somehow we have to bring on more young home talent like Darren Gough and John Crawley. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, the Australians have their cricket academy, their finishing school, at which the attitudes and approach so formed will undoubtedly be very competitive indeed—perhaps excessively so. Our cricket authorities believe that similar excellence can be obtained in the more relaxed and local atmosphere of the county grounds with every encouragement from the board and from the MCC, which to some extent represents the soul of the game and which still has a role to play. I hope that we are right.

Of course, it would be helpful if more cricket, as well as other team games, could be played in state schools—as we all know that aspect has fallen off alarmingly—so that children can gain the feel and flavour of team work and competition under pressure. I do not decry the greater range of more individual sporting activities now available to children which helps overcome the misery suffered by some in the past who were forced to take part in organised games for which they had absolutely no aptitude. Nor do I ignore the fact that some of the sporting functions previously carried out by schools have now been taken over by local clubs with higher standards of coaching.

However, I can remember from my old school days (far distant though they are) how much preparation for life and the challenges ahead I gained from the sports field and various sporting encounters—in my case quite as much as I ever did from my academic studies. And it is at school, perhaps particularly at primary school level, that real talent can first be spotted and allowed to flourish, and earlier enthusiasm for a particular team sport developed. It was through a large spectrum of schools that cricketers such as Denis Compton, Bill Edrich, Peter May, Colin Cowdrey and, more recently, Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting and Mike Atherton have come to the fore. Therefore, I hope that we can see more of that kind of activity without too many spurious excuses that we would somehow be encouraging elitism. However, in those schools we shall need more qualified teachers to supervise and coach.

Finally, the board has already introduced the four-day county game designed to wean players away from the bad habits of the shorter, limited-over games and to prepare them for the greater application and determination required to construct a long innings and actively to take wickets, as they would need to do in Test cricket. I share the board's confidence that that approach will soon begin to pay dividends, which will be seen in our Test performance.

There is no easy solution. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was quite right to say that there are no panaceas. Certainly there are no general panaceas. Everyone—players, counties, schools and authorities—will have to think and work hard. No one wants to take the fun out of cricket which heroes like Denis Compton, Keith Miller, Gary Sobers and many others have given to the game. Indeed, coming right up to date, young Darren Gough has shown how refreshing it is when effective cricket can be played with joie de vivre and enjoyment.

But let us be under no illusions. International sport is a hard school and those who are spotted and brought on early will need a lot of dedication and commitment if they are to prove good enough in that company. They will also need the encouragement of us all, not least the press who so frequently take delight in putting the boot in at any lapse of form or absence of success and who can do so much to destroy morale when it is most needed. We are having our successes in the fields of golf, motor racing, athletics and rugby football, among others, so the picture overall is not all that gloomy. But cricket is our national game. It would certainly be nice if the large amount of cricket which is played, I am glad to say, at village, club, league and county level could be reflected in our international success. I assure the House that the cricket authorities will take every possible step to see that it is, without, I hope, ever forgetting that at the end of the day this is a game to be enjoyed by as many people as possible and watched with enjoyment by as many people as possible.

6.51 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for giving us the opportunity today to have this important debate on sport. I have two interests in the matter: I am a keen participant myself, my own sports being sailing, golf and tobogganing. But more to the point for today's debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, invited me to do, I should like to say a little about the work of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and about the problems which face it at present. I should, of course, declare an interest. I am deputy chairman of the foundation, and that is a paid interest. I hope that I have done everything I should in this House about declaring that interest.

It is a pride and a pleasure to be associated with the foundation which, as many noble Lords may know, has over the past three-and-a-half years assisted innumerable sports and arts facilities, clubs and individuals to the tune of some £218 million. That is a not an inconsiderable amount of money. I should like to congratulate the pools companies—Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters—on their wisdom and collective foresight in establishing the foundation. I congratulate the Government on what they did to allow that to happen.

The foundation is, of course, entirely financed by donations from the stake money of pools clients. It was facilitated by an agreement between the Government, under which they reduced the rate of pool betting duty by 2.5 per cent., on condition that, for every penny so released, the pools companies added a further 2p, the resulting sums being used to establish the fund which the Foundation for Sport and the Arts enjoys. So those noble Lords who do the football pools —and I hope some are present today—will be pleased to know that for every £1.05 that they stake, 7½ goes to the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. All those 7½ps have historically added up to something more than £63 million a year, of which two-thirds goes to sport. Noble Lords should also be pleased to know that the vast majority of that reaches applicants and is not used on administration.

Despite dealing currently with some 400 applications per week—at one stage it was 700 a week—and always ensuring that qualified people verify that the work being funded has been carried out before issuing the cheque, the foundation's administrative budget is held at 2.2 per cent. of turnover. I know a certain number of organisations connected with sport which would be very envious of that ratio.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the secretary to the trustees, Grattan Endicott—some noble Lords may have met him—and his very efficient and effective team in Liverpool on running such a tight and efficient ship. I must also pay tribute to the work, dedication and commitment of my fellow trustees who take the decisions on the applications which the foundation receives. Sir Tim Rice is our resourceful and energetic captain, as much in the committee room as he is on the cricket field. Other household names such as Christopher Chataway, Clive Lloyd and Rebecca Stephens on the sports side also give freely of their time, love and knowledge of sport and the arts.

I have visited a number of schemes which the foundation has supported. Two things have become apparent to me from this. The first is that there is a tremendous wealth of talent, enthusiasm and commitment for sport—and, of course, the arts—in our communities up and down the land. From a new pavilion for a village cricket team in Yorkshire, through the refurbishment of a yacht on the south coast used by young people at risk, to a boys' boxing club in the centre of London, the common factor is that the foundation supported the work of others. I am pleased to be able to tell the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, that a substantial part of our funds goes towards cricket and I hope that that will continue. It may possibly be something to do with the chairman of our trustees.

My colleagues and I have met the most amazing people who dedicate their lives to helping others. We have seen local clubs whose members work ceaselessly to raise money to improve their facilities. They do the work they can themselves, often to make way for new teams of young people taking part in sport. We have met people who have played their sport until they are too old to continue to do so and now commit themselves to helping others gain the enjoyment from the sport that they did.

Let me tell the House that, as ever was the case, the Jeremiahs who say that things are not what they were, that our children do not have the commitment of our parents, are wrong. They might need a little help every now and then and the foundation has been pleased to give that help. But the spirit is there, just as it always was.

That brings me to the second conclusion that I have drawn. The way in which the foundation operates as a discretionary trust is at the core of its success. My fellow trustees and I do not need to set policies or objectives for those whom we support. We respond to need. We take advice from bodies such as the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the governing bodies of sport and the Sports Council, particularly the regional sports councils. I am disturbed to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, had to say about them just now. We are grateful for their help which is invaluable to us. But, at the end of the day, the trustees —who are beholden to no one—take their own decisions, based on the advice that they receive; but, more importantly, on their own judgment of what is deserving and not on the basis of what fits some theoretical strategy drawn up by someone far removed from the activity itself. I do not mean to imply criticism of others when I say that. I accept that other funding organisations are more than just that and have broader responsibilities. My point is that, because the foundation has no broader responsibilities, it funds organisations for which other funding mechanisms do not exist, or which would be inappropriate. We do not recoil from fringe or unusual activities. We do not need to be wary of precedent.

If schemes are worthy, if the people involved with them show their own commitment and effort, we will help if we can. If we believe it is right to be radical, we can be radical. This means that the foundation's money is not just new money and additional money but also money which is irreplaceable for a number of our beneficiaries.

That brings me to a matter of crucial importance to which my noble friend Lord Aberdare has already referred in terms of the Football Trust. It is the risk of the impact of the National Lottery on the turnover of the pools companies. Because the foundation's income is wholly dependent on the football pools' turnover, any reduction in that turnover results in us having less money to distribute to sport.

I can confirm what my noble friend said, that since the National Lottery began the pools' turnover has dropped steadily week after week. There has not been the sudden large drop in income that one might have expected, but there has been a steady decline which potentially is of greater concern. If this decline continues, the pools companies will be forced to reduce their costs. They will not want to reduce their jackpots, and they will wish to protect their workforce. They will be forced therefore to consider their contribution to good causes—principally the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and the Football Trust, to which my noble friend Lord Aberdare has already referred.

There are a number of steps that the Government could take to help with this problem. The pools companies clearly need to compete with the National Lottery. During the passage of the legislation to set up the lottery the Government made a number of concessions in order to allow competition, and to allow fair competition. Many noble Lords and many Members of another place argued strongly for that. But there are a number of areas where the dice are still loaded against the pools. The first of these, as has been referred to, is the prohibition on advertising on television and radio. The lottery company has spent a fortune on television and radio up to now—and not only that; it gets the benefit of some pretty good advertising from the BBC in terms of promoting the weekly draw.

I am encouraged to see an article in today's Times which states: TV ban on pools firms may be lifted". Apparently, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary has won backing from Kenneth Clarke, Michael Heseltine, Michael Portillo and other Ministers for a proposal to end the prohibition, which, the pools firms say, gives an unfair promotion advantage to the lottery. I am, however, most disappointed that it appears from the article—of course I do not expect my noble friend who will answer the debate to comment on this—that it is Stephen Dorrell, the National Heritage Secretary, who is, after all, responsible for sport, who is battling on behalf of the lottery to keep the ban in force. I hope that we can have an early lifting of the ban.

My time is coming to an end. There are a number of other areas where the Government could help the pools companies. One advantage is that there is very little need for any primary legislation to achieve these aims. I hope that the Government can see their way clear to acting sooner rather than later. I believe that all of us who have taken part in the debate today recognise the importance of sport and of funding for sport. If the funding of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts is to continue, it would be of great advantage to sport in this country.

7.2 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Howell for initiating this particular debate. It is almost a re-run of a debate last year which I was lucky enough to initiate on a document that had been presented by the Central Council for Physical Recreation, titled A Charter for School Sport. There is no need to go over old ground. In his opening remarks, my noble friend Lord Howell hit on the main point in that particular report and of what was said in that debate as regards some of the things that need to be done.

I also compliment the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, not only on his contribution but on the role that he has played as chairman of the Football Trust. Owing to his action and that of the members in the offices concerned, the face of football in this country has been restored to what it should be. It has again become a family game—although a very expensive one if the clubs are in the premier divisions. At least people can watch professional football matches in a greater degree of comfort.

I thought that someone might have mentioned the astronomical transfer fees that are paid in football. This debate is not particularly about that, and fees may well be the private business of the clubs involved, but in the final outcome I wonder if it is for the good of the game. I heard a former distinguished international player who is now the director of a club say that because Manchester United had paid £7 million for a young centre forward, that was the value of the player. But that is to stand the argument on its head. If you put a price on your house when you come to sell it, that is not necessarily the value of the house. The value is what somebody is prepared to pay. In some respects, some of the clubs may be contributing to a false valuation at the top of the scale in football. I do not believe that in the long run that will be for the good of the game.

I was interested to hear the detailed speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I was, however, saddened that he mentioned only one famous batsman from the north but a galaxy of talent from the south. He mentioned the captain of Lancashire, Michael Atherton. I was weaned during the war on people such as Eddie Paynter of Lancashire, Maurice Leyland, and Len Hutton. They were the people who took on the Australians and beat them.

Also, I am not so pessimistic as the noble and gallant Lord about what has happened in Australia. Without being accused of whingeing, if one or two care to look at the re-runs of some of the decisions—Atherton was given out twice, as was Gooch—it can be seen that three or four batsmen certainly got the worst end of some very poor umpiring decisions. The whole innings collapsed as a result. What did me more good than anything was to see that in the Third Test the Australians were the ones who were struggling. So the picture is not all that gloomy.

While I am still talking about cricket, the noble and gallant Lord mentioned Michael Atherton and the other Lancashire player. I have here a report that was printed in the Daily Telegraph on 3rd January by the headmaster of Manchester Grammar School under the headline, Atherton and Crawley prove the value of cricket in schools". The article begins: Manchester Grammar School headmaster Martin Stephen says there is no need for a specialist academy to make Test players". Such players are made early on. There is a case for having a sense of excellence at the end of the process to deal with the absolutely top players. But I have no doubt that Manchester Grammar School will produce more. I hope it will, and I certainly believe that it can. That distinguished school has the facilities: it uses them well; and it obviously has someone there who is very interested in training such boys.

Let us look at what the headmaster says. He states that there are, a number of other schools which do exactly the same thing". He goes on to say that all schools ought to be training that type of youngster. Such training needs to start when they are young. The money has to be put in, the facilities have to be provided, and teachers must be found who are interested enough. To repeat what I said in the debate last year, we must begin—dare I say it?—to look at whether we are prepared to pay the teachers something extra to put an effort into sport. The days are gone when people can afford to give their own time for no particular reward.

My noble friend Lord Howell used the word "ethos". One of the most debilitating aspects of sport now is that it is awash—it is absolutely saturated—with money. Professional football is an example. The tennis players at Wimbledon gain a fortune if they win a title. Snooker players now become millionaires before they are 25. It is even spilling over to affect darts players. There is plenty of money available.

I am not particularly interested in players at that stage. They have made the grade; they are all right. I am interested in the future of youngsters in the United Kingdom. Wherever they live, they should have the facilities to develop their talents. In that way I believe that we can return to the standards that we had before. Money is not necessarily the answer. Professional football in this country is richer than it has ever been. But in terms of being an international team, Britain is now in the second division. We are no threat to teams such as Germany in international competition. We struggle just to keep our head above water. So money at the top end is not necessarily the answer.

I was a little saddened when I realised that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was saying that the future of the Football Trust may be in jeopardy—that point was echoed to some degree by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon—by the onset of the National Lottery. Some people warned that that might happen. It would be a retrograde step when people have given so much of their time. As two noble Lords have already said, the jobs are paid in a way, but I know that people have given a tremendous amount of time to this issue. After all the good work that they have done, the football scene has been transformed. As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, there has been a move down to the lower divisions and people can go to these matches in good surroundings. I believe that to put that process in jeopardy because of the lottery must be looked at as a matter of urgency. I believe that in this case the well-known expression "a level playing field" should be particularly applied.

Earlier I read a quotation in regard to the question whether in this country youngsters could perform. I was a Member of Parliament for an area where rugby league was the prime sport. It was no secret that the kids in one of the 11 to 13-year schools near where I lived year after year won the rugby league championship of West Yorkshire for that age group. They did it because right next to that school, which was in a reasonable area, was a rugby pitch. The teachers started them on rugby league early on. I recall a case in Manchester during the period during the two world wars. A small school in a very bad slum area had the good fortune to be built next to the local swimming baths. Year after year that school won the schoolboys' swimming championship of Great Britain.

We have the kids but we need the coaches. The Central Council for Physical Recreation and everybody else say that we need to train coaches. We have to pay teachers who are prepared to do part-time coaching. I think that if we do that we shall start to move up again. But we are not giving our children the best of facilities to develop their talents as they ought to be able to do. I hope that the debate that has been triggered off by my noble friend Lord Howell will help in that way. Huge sums of money are involved. I hope that in view of all of the money that is available to be distributed in a purposeful or charitable way, the bottom of the pyramid of sport will attract the lion's share and not the top which at present is very well catered for.

7.12 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, I have very great pleasure in rising to support the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I believe that he was the first Minister, and indeed the first person, in the other place to focus people's attention on the broader aspects of sport to which he himself added the expression "recreation". In a form of reverse nepotism, I should also like to thank him because he, together with his right honourable friend Peter Shore, was responsible for appointing me chairman of the Greater London and South-East Council for Sport and Recreation in 1978. His successors and my right honourable friend Michael Heseltine appointed me for a further three years. I had the privilege of seeing perhaps at sixth or seventh hand the policies and attitudes of governments.

I have come to the conclusion that governments are really irrelevant, or they should be, in terms of sport. They are relevant only when things are not working properly. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, "What a good idea it is to create regional recreational strategies. You will, in effect, be responsible for the central planning of all sport and recreation in Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, so help you God." I had an executive committee of 153 and a full committee of 252 composed of the Army, Navy, the Air Force, and every planning officer and interested person throughout the land. If they were too young we had to have some old people as well. We had the most monumental bureaucracy that had ever been seen. The meetings would begin by somebody getting up and saying, "My Lord Chairman (or Mr. Chairman), on a point of order", and somebody else would get up and say, "My Lord Chairman (or Chair)". The arguments were like many that we were familiar with at local authority level.

There were two schools of thought. First, there was what might be termed the socialist thought, that the state should pay for everything. Secondly, there was the Conservative thought, that the state should pay for nothing. I hasten to add that I was not paid and I did not claim any expenses but had the privilege of going to see all kinds of sporting events that I would otherwise not have been able to see had I tried to buy my way in. It was a very interesting time. I had two mentors: Clive Jenkins and his friend Mr. Sherman. They wrote two books entitled The Collapse of Work and The Leisure Shock. They were good socialists who pointed out that there would be shorter working hours and people would have more spare time. Then a group of people said, "Look, whatever we are, we are in charge of whatever people do when they are not working or sleeping." Then people in the north east said, "We are responsible for a third of people's time." Gradually, one said that it was not a thing to be done from the centre; one had to create a new attitude. One needed co-financing and the role of government and local authorities, often in terms of such simple things as planning permission—things that did not cost anything. What does one have as a strategy? Should people go out and be forced to play games? Should they have to play games at school?

We found ourselves returning to one simple thought: everything worked well if there was a good chap doing it. I believe that we have more active sports than almost the rest of the world put together. At my last count we had about 85 with various governing bodies. We all accepted that it was a good idea to encourage people to get out and take physical exercise. However, one could not plan it.

I will give a number of examples of what caused us concern. I say "us" because there were hundreds involved in it. Why were we not any good at tennis? We went to see the people at Wimbledon. They wore their ties and were very polite to us. They said, "My dear chap, it is the weather. You see, the Australians and the Americans are good at it because they have good weather and can play out of doors all the time." We asked, "But what about the Swedes?" They replied, "They have indoor facilities. It is very dark over there and they have to play indoors." Then we asked, "Why do we not have indoor facilities?" They replied, "They would not work; they would not be economic."

A few things were set up. Some indoor tennis courts were partially funded in London and went bust. Then David Lloyd started his activities and they began to work. We also wanted to know why we were not any good at cricket. We were told that nobody wanted to play cricket any more because there were too many other sports, or there was no training. Then the MCC, a cricket school and £50,000 got something going and a lot of people, who would otherwise probably not have been any good at cricket at all, had great fun.

We wanted to know why we were no good at golf. We were told that there were not enough golf courses. Somebody produced a report saying that we needed hundreds of golf courses and that most golf courses built in recent times had practically gone under. Finally, we said that perhaps there was no need to have sport and recreation. We did a few studies about the impact that success had upon an event. I had an extremely good bunch of officials from the Sports Council who were very dedicated people. They were not necessarily politically motivated. They recognised that there were limited resources because with reduced disposable income it was difficult for government and local authorities to allocate more. But when people began to close things and get rid of the playing fields of ILEA and others one started to ask why. Many property developments, which themselves went bust, took place on land which could easily have been used for recreational purposes.

Some amusing events took place. We opened the South Down Way and the Archbishop of Canterbury walked along it. But to try to persuade the ramblers to allow one to put together two footpaths and to give up something else was a major bureaucratic problem. All in all, it always came down to the individual or to the parent with a small child who was handicapped but was a jolly good swimmer. He would change his job to get up early in the morning to drive the child to a place where proper training could be given. For example, it was said that skating was finished, but then people suddenly won Olympic medals. Then Mecca and others were forced to rethink the closure of skating rinks. When we are good at something people want to do it. It is not a question of the weather. We have almost the best water skiers in the world and yet we have awful weather.

We are not bad at all sorts of activities to do with motor cars. About 80 per cent. of all racing cars today are designed or built here. When the Ryder Cup became international everybody suddenly wanted to play golf and it became economic. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that I believe a certain form of elitism is the best way to encourage people to participate. I also believe that the morale-boosting effect in terms of productivity, as was shown when we won the World Cup, is very considerable.

These things are more far reaching than one realises. I treasure a few international moments when I had forgotten that we created almost every sport in the world. If it meant a pain like skiing, we made it into a pleasure. I remember sitting quietly in Jamaica when I was economic adviser to the government—I had better not say which one it was—when Mr. Bush arrived to "soften them up" because of Grenada. He wanted to talk about boycotting Cuba. The prime minister turned to me and said, "Malcolm, is it true that Boycott is going to play cricket in South Africa?"

I was trying to do something with the Indians in Calcutta. I was taken out to a cricket club for lunch. It was said to me, "England, you know, has never been the same since they got in a muddle over Gentlemen and Players. We would never have had this problem with umpires if Gentlemen were still captains. After all, when the cup was here—" (I had to think for a moment which cup he was talking about) "—you know, it was over there". I had forgotten that I was in the home of the Calcutta Cup. Outside were a cricket pitch and a rugby pitch side by side.

When I meet people in the Middle East, as I did recently in a country which should not be mentioned, they are far more concerned to know of the welfare of Manchester United and Manchester City, because that is where they were trained as engineers. People say that South Africa is back applying to be a member of the Commonwealth because of the Gleneagles Agreement.

Those are issues about which one forgets. But, all in all, the six years that I was overseas were tremendously amusing. I came back with certain conclusions: people are going to live longer and retire earlier. There is going to be a gap. You have to teach people how to look after themselves in their leisure time. That was something I had not thought about. Because I went to a private school, where we were taught to play games, I forgot that many people are too nervous to start a sport because there is no training. So we concentrated upon training. We looked at the problems of women—those who have given up a job and middle-aged women who needed activities. The work that went into all that was good and sound. But at the end of the day one cannot beat the individual enthusiast, whether he is within a local authority, the secretary of a club, a retired sportsman, or someone, like Duncan Goodhew, who used to say, "If I had another second in my best year, I would have won every championship". When you get up to the elite, you are down to microseconds.

There were people who said that facilities are required. My good friend Rod Pickering used to say, "Where there are no pole-vault pits, there will be no pole-vaulters." The Amateur Athletic Association said, "We must have indoor running facilities. We only have the old RAF hangar. We almost run out at the back and run in again at Nottingham." But, without those facilities we still held every middle distance running record for about two years. That is a strange situation. Basically, we are people who respond to success and wish to emulate it. All children have their sports heroes. We need a few more local heroes.

7.23 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, with other noble Lords, I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Howell. His enthusiasm is infectious and his knowledge is of great value in this House. He certainly took me back many light-years when I was able-bodied. I did not play football but I played almost every other game, including cricket of course. I have listened tonight to people who know more than I do about all those games. They have taken me back a long way.

Those who are interested in sports for youth are frequently told that there is no money, no leaders, no premises and very little enthusiasm. But from my inquiries I have found that all those obstacles—those "ninepins"—are incorrect. Money is available. There is a government grant of £50 million to the Sports Council and there are many other methods of raising funds. Now, also, we have the lottery.

The second of those ninepins is leadership. We are indeed fortunate to have Mr. Rodney Walker as the new chairman of the Sports Council. I am sure that he can call on a great number of leaders who will help him with their expertise. We wish him well.

Premises is the third ninepin. Premises have always been a problem, especially in inner London and inner city schools. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to that point. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister realises some of the present problems and referred to them at last year's Conservative Party Conference. On 14th October he said While we are about it, I do not want councils selling off school playing fields they may need. I want those playing fields kept and I want them used". I wish that more adult clubs would extend the hand of friendship and invite young people to share their facilities. Unfortunately, it seems that some local authorities charge very high fees for juniors who want to take part in sport. That must be discouraged.

The fourth ninepin is enthusiasm, which is growing and taking hold at the grass roots with enormous speed (thank goodness) and enthusiasm throughout the country. The new Youth Sports Trust is full of ideas which will be put into practice in the near future. As your Lordships will know, Mr. John Beckwith is chairman of the trustees. The trust will work with the appropriate national, regional and local organisations, including the national Sports Council and the National Coaching Foundation which the trust hopes to help. We wish them all well.

The night for me is late. If, through sports of all sorts we can encourage future generations to enjoy competition, to mix as friends, to be good losers and to be potential leaders, then all the work that so many people are undertaking on their behalf will not be in vain.

7.27 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, first I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for giving us this opportunity to discuss the state of sport in the United Kingdom. I listened to noble Lords who have spoken and find myself in agreement with much of what has been said. But over and above what has been said, it is clear that everyone in this Chamber appreciates that sport is beneficial for all who take part in it. It also was clear that people take part in sport for a great variety of reasons.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, talked about cricket and about choice and opportunity in cricket. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, spoke about the success achieved by those taking part in sports. There are many ways to enjoy sport. It fulfils a basic desire in many people to compete and to test their strength and skill in various ways, while at certain levels enjoying themselves. It is a matter not only of choice and opportunity, or a matter of fashion. It is a matter of personal taste and intention. If someone has a taste for a particular sport, ultimately he will be good at it.

The noble Lord spoke about people wanting to try certain sports. That is true but, ultimately, if they do not have the right temperament for a certain sport they will not succeed at it, no matter how fashionable it may be. I know that because when I was at primary school the only sport played was soccer. I would be the world's worst soccer player, no matter who coached me. It was not until I discovered that there was a game which allowed larger and slower people to participate—namely, rugby—that I found my own sport. The sport must be one that you find congenial. The physical ability to participate must also be considered as well as the desire to take part. Certain people are culturally geared into taking up sport. We must provide a range of opportunities for people.

That brings me to the one structure that will allow sport to flourish in this country; namely, a wide enough range of choice and opportunity which allows people to find out what they are geared toward. Only when that happens can we guarantee that we will get the best out of our sporting activities. Once that happens leisure time is used creatively and positively. It cuts down on other social problems. For instance, it is a fact that young people who become involved in sport are less likely to commit certain types of juvenile crime. There are many other benefits. A sense of community is created and certain communities relate to certain sporting activities more than others. It is not a panacea for all problems but it will help. And most importantly, provided people are correctly coached, there will be great health benefits.

When we heard the announcement of the reorganisation of the Sports Council, many people were a little worried. The "Sport for All" programme, developed with the idea of involving everybody in a sport, is vital if we are to offer choice. It may well have been, as the Sports Council informed me, that that was a declining part of their activities; but it is still important. Local authorities are supposed to pick up that particular baton and run with it. But as we heard in the last debate, local authorities are under considerable pressure from other areas. I should not like to be the one who says "We will keep our sports development programme but cut down on home visits for the elderly". That is probably a very genuine case of shroud waving.

We must ensure that the Government are prepared to take on and give assistance in the field of sport. Individual sports organisations are not that well placed to do it; they cannot give overall general assistance because of their interest in their own sport. It may be said that they should invest in long-term facilities. But they must deal with what is in front of them. It is no use saying to a hockey club, a football club or a rugby club, "Invest in all these activities and you will eventually benefit the players". We are talking of a 10, 20 or 30-year programme. For instance, many people who want to run a third side on a Saturday will invest their facilities in that rather than in something for which the benefits take so long to come through that their club may not even exist when they do. The Government must think more about assisting this area and provide some funds centrally.

That brings me on to a subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell; that is, providing funds from, for example, the National Lottery, and similar sources for running sports projects as opposed to merely providing capital investment. By itself capital investment is not the answer, for the simple reason that when one creates a building one rapidly finds that maintenance costs occur. It does not matter how well it is built, repairs will be needed. Anybody who has ever visited a gymnasium will have seen on at least one exercise machine a sticker which says, "Out of Use". When one thinks of the amount of equipment and so forth, one can imagine the running costs.

One aspect that comes into this area and upon which the Government are to be congratulated is the introduction of national vocational qualifications for coaching sports. They are a good idea, at least in principle. The NVQs have not had a particularly smooth passage. They have come under fire from various angles; but the idea is sound. One thing that will add to initial choice, which will provide a pool of players which can feed off into various sports, will be the availability of correct coaching. People will develop good habits and good training techniques. Many people will transfer from sport to sport. For instance, it is quite common for people to try a junior sport and transfer to another when they acquire experience.

If we can persuade the Government to more firmly back that type of activity we shall be able to continue the process of educating our population to play more sport. Also, there is no reason why people who participate in sport on a recreational basis should not receive adequate training in several types of sport. When looking at the top levels of sport we forget that many people do not concentrate on one sport. For instance, it was traditional—before winter sports expanded into the summer months and training programmes expanded into the time left over when teams were not playing preparation games—to play a summer and a winter sport. That is the price we pay for living in a temperate climate. We can play football 12 months of the year, as was said earlier, whereas Sweden cannot. Possibly the rest does the players some good but perhaps I am digressing.

I conclude by making a few comments on the equality of opportunity. We have made considerable strides recently to achieve equality and indeed certain things, such as fashion, have helped. For instance, women have been allowed to partake of exercise because it has been fashionable over the past decade-and-a-half. It is a comparatively new idea. It was rare only 20 years ago. The odd keep fit class does not compare to the incredibly tough step aerobics classes that are advertised on every corner. We have increased the levels of female participation in sport. Women are trying new sports and making tremendous achievements. I am afraid that they will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to levels of performance for the simple reason that most sports were designed by men for men and most women are smaller and slower than most men.

Sport is surely about competition. Women should be given the opportunity to compete at the highest level. Records are irrelevant; it is the level of competition between two bodies which is important. Sport is about competing on a level playing field. If the Government want to look at an area where they can enhance the level of sport choice, sport for women is one important area.

Unfortunately, I have not left myself sufficient time to go into my next area, which concerns sport for the disabled. I am the vice-president of the UK Sports Association, which deals with sport for people with what used to be called mental handicaps but are now called learning disabilities. Everything that we hear about sport helping the able-bodied person is true to a much greater extent for somebody with a disability. They have often been cut off from much human experience by accident. They now have a chance to compete and feel fulfilled. They can compete on even terms with their peers, which means that they can achieve. That type of activity should be enhanced and I hope that the Government will give us a firm assurance that they will be prepared to support the British Paralympics Association and also help the teams who will be entering the Atlanta paralympics.

7.37 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, this excellent debate inspired some looking back and some nostalgia, especially the excellent speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, and the recollections of my noble friend Lord Dean of the great days when the England cricket team was prepared to look north of Surrey and Essex for its great players.

I did some looking back when listening to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, especially in what he said about disability. I agree with him. I must say that he also caused me to look back on my rugby union days without nostalgia, as I looked at his shape and realised that it was the specific kind of shape I remember with pain that I have run into on the rugby field. I offer my condolences to all those that he plays against.

I should seriously thank my noble friend Lord Howell for providing the opportunity for this debate and, I may add, for offering this House a most powerful speech based on his unequalled knowledge and experience of sport and also his passionate concern for sport's best interests.

There are many depressing headlines in British sport today. There are all the failures in cricket at Test level, although I notice that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, was most enlightening, and my noble friend Lord Dean was almost encouraging, on the future. I hope they are right. In football, there is less encouragement—nationally in the World Cup and at club level in the European Cup. There is financial misbehaviour in soccer and rugger and personal misbehaviour, especially in relation to drugs. There is the whole seedy commercialisation, which was referred to so strongly by my noble friends Lord Howell and Lord Dean. However, I agree with my noble friend Lord Howell that those are not the aspects of our sport which should most concern us today. If we get the heart of sport right, those aspects can be remedied.

As my noble friend Lord Howell said, our national sporting life is not fundamentally measured in Olympic medals and European cups, even allowing for the interesting points made by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, about success, with many of which I agree. Our national sporting life is determined at the grass roots of Britain, in local school sports, in local club sports, in the local authorities which provide facilities for those schools and clubs and in the governing bodies which organise those sports. So I should like to begin firmly, like my noble friend, with the philosophical base to our sporting policy.

There has evolved in recent years a clear division between the Government and ourselves. The Government are now preaching a very elitist approach. The Minister in another place has told the Sports Council that it should not be concerned with what he called mass participation but should concentrate on what is thought to be some three dozen core elite sports. That is a direct and explicit reversal of decades, including the six years during which I sat on the Sports Council, when the philosophy was basically sport for all and an expansion of the facilities, the access and the participation to the maximum number of people in the maximum number of sporting activities. I still stand by that philosophy; but that is now rejected. We now have a philosophy of the elite few sports for a few successful participants.

The Sports Council itself, following the Minister's lead, has stated that, apart from lottery distribution, it has only two priorities: young people in sport and excellence in those few core sports. We certainly do not oppose the focus on youth sports or the pursuit of excellence. But what a narrow vision; and how much is omitted from that vision! The Minister's apparent attempt at mass participation is simply not acceptable. The mass is not some low class mob. It is the body of British citizens who pay the taxes for sports facilities and constitute the whole community, including the whole sporting community. I reject the narrow spirit of current government sports policy and believe that the Sports Council, in its new form when that is finally shown to us, should reject it as well.

I wish to ask a few questions in relation to the specific points raised in the debate. On school sports, which my noble friend rightly stressed, we welcome the Prime Minister's interest but we must ask what in the end will actually happen. I support entirely the six-point agenda of my noble friend Lord Howell to improve sport in schools. I ask the Minister to treat that seriously and I look forward to his response. He might also tell us when the Government's promised statement on sport in schools will emerge.

On local authorities, does the Minister recognise, as has been pointed out, that the squeeze on local authority expenditure is probably the single greatest blow currently being suffered by British sport and that it is probably bigger than the lottery distribution can hope to compensate for? Is he aware that the Sports Council recently estimated that it costs more than £100 million simply to maintain existing sports facilities at their present, not always adequate, standards? Where is the money coming from for the revenue needs of existing sports facilities and the new lottery-inspired sports facilities?

On the Sports Council itself, we have suffered at least three years of dithering and endless revision. We now welcome the prospect that we may be at the end of that long period of uncertainty. We also welcome the appointment that has been referred to and we do not oppose the broad lines on which the Government's thinking appears to be taking shape. We welcome the UK Sports Council, which is an idea we have supported for many years. I ask the Minister to tell us on what basis the elite three dozen core sports will be chosen. Does he not recognise that some of the most valuable sporting developments—"sporting" in the broadest sense but a genuine description—are outside that narrow core of conventional organised games? I have in mind the less formal sports and physical pursuits—gymnastics, dance, and areas such as that.

I must also refer to the recent report of the Public Accounts Committee on the financial management, or perhaps mismanagement, of the Sports Council. It is the most devastating denunciation I have ever read of a public body. It accuses the Sports Council of improprieties and financial misdeeds which put at risk millions of pounds of taxpayers' money. I should like to have the Minister's comments on that report.

On the crucial regional dimension, is the Minister aware of the massive outcry against the attack of his ministerial colleague in another place on the regional councils for sport and recreation? Have the Government had any second—better—thoughts on that? There have been rumblings that the Government will revise their approach to the regional councils. Will the Minister tell us whether he proposes ways to re-establish and redefine the relationship—we agree with the Government that there was some wooliness and confusion in the relationship—and to re-establish the links between the regional sports councils and the regional councils for sport and recreation? The present Sports Council is asking for that.

On the lottery—I refer to it in passing—why have not the Government been more flexible in relation to the revenue needs of sport? What on earth is the point of the lottery providing a new swimming pool if there is no revenue to heat it or to provide the staff to open it?

On sports facilities more generally, I was very impressed and disturbed by what the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Brabazon, said about the damage inflicted by the lottery on the Football Trust and on the Foundation for Sport and Arts. With my wider remit, I am concerned for the arts as well and know what excellent work the foundation has done in the whole area of sports and the arts. I shall listen with great interest to the Minister's comments on that.

As my noble friend Lord Howell said in his opening speech, sport is important not only and not mainly because it provides the excitement of the peaks of professional competition. Sport matters because it provides a more healthy society and can enhance the individual citizen's quality of life, increasing his pleasure in exercise and helping his personal character development through learning to succeed and how to handle success and failure, and improving his capacity to relate to fellow citizens, even in the ways which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, might relate to members of the opposition, and to integrate with society. That is why we care about sport. That is why the debate has been important. That is why we hope that the Minister has some positive answers to our many questions today.

7.50 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor)

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for the opportunity he has given us today to consider sport in this country. We can all declare an interest in sport. When I went to school my idea of sport was trying to spend half an hour in the local bookmakers. However, I found other sports which I enjoyed, and I still enjoy them, whether I am playing or watching.

Some noble Lords have focused on cricket. Therefore, I must remember when replying that it is often dangerous to swipe at the rising ball on the off stump, some of which may have been bowled at me this evening.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, paid more attention to football and to the transfer fees paid by clubs. Clubs need to be competitive. Otherwise good players will migrate and play for European clubs instead. I know that the leader of his party is pro-European but the logic of what the noble Lord said would mean that European clubs had a better chance of beating us game after game.

I must emphasise the absolute commitment on the part of the Government to the importance of sport. Sport can contribute significantly to the well-being of the nation and its citizens. The success of sportsmen and women at the national or local level can do much to generate national or local pride. We all remember the notable successes. Who can forget the performance of Sally Gunnell, Linford Christie and Colin Jackson on the track, Damon Hill's heroic attempts on the grand prix circuit, or Chris Boardman's Olympic achievement in Barcelona and his triumphant wearing of the yellow jersey during last year's Tour de France?

We also remember the many long faces when England failed to qualify for last year's World Cup. The news from Australia in recent weeks has not been encouraging, although it has not stopped many of us staying up into the small hours to watch the live transmissions. That goes to show that sport has a binding and cohesive effect which it is hard to better.

What are the Government doing to ensure that sport retains a vigorous presence in our midst? First, there are our reforms of the Sports Council. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was concerned about the regional aspects of our proposals for the reform of the Sports Council in terms of overall planning for sporting provision and in particular the distribution of the proceeds from the National Lottery. Perhaps I may therefore explain briefly why we have decided to reform the regional arrangements. Before doing so I shall briefly explain the present arrangements, which are sometimes misunderstood.

The Sports Council is a national body wholly funded by my department. It has 10 regional offices in England whose task is to deliver council policy at a regional level. There are also 10 coterminous regional councils for sport and recreation. Those bodies, set up administratively in 1976, bring together regional sport and recreation interests. Local authorities are in a guaranteed majority, but the membership includes a wide range of other interests, for example, regional governing bodies of sport. The broad task of those regional councils is to draw up strategies for regional sporting provision. The Sports Council's regional offices provide the secretariat for the regional councils. The regional councils effectively determine how the Sports Council's regional funds should be spent.

As my honourable friend the Minister for Sport explained in another place on 8th July last year, the present structural relationship between the Sports Council's regional offices and the regional councils for sport and recreation gives rise to confusion as to roles and responsibilities and to concern on grounds of financial accountability, bureaucracy and duplication. The Government have therefore announced that they intend to end the present formal linkage. There are two main reasons for doing so. The first is to clarify the respective roles of players at regional level and to ensure that the Sport Council's regional offices understand that their primary responsibility is the regional delivery of national policy.

The second reason flows from the introduction of the National Lottery. The regional offices of the Sports Council will have an important role to play in advising the Sports Council on lottery applications from the regions. Many of those applications will come forward from current partners on the regional councils for sport and recreation, including local authorities, very much in accordance with the regional strategies to which the Sports Council is currently a party.

In order to ensure that such applications are eligible for funding there needs to be a clear gap between the Sports Council in the regions and the regional constituency from which lottery applications will come. The Sports Council cannot be directly associated with bringing forward an application and then proceed to sit in judgment upon it. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that it is not a question of trust or lack of trust, as he suggested. The need for close working links between the Sports Council and its regional partners is not at issue, simply their manifestation. The Sports Council will continue to work closely with local authorities and other regional partners in developing its own future policies. Equally, the Sports Council will want to keep abreast of developments by the local authority sector in pursuit of its own aims and priorities.

It would not, of course, be appropriate for the Government to dictate to local authorities what arrangements might succeed the present regional councils for sport and recreation. However, I am aware of the excellent and positive lead taken by local authorities in the West Midlands in developing future arrangements. There is no reason why the reform of the regional arrangements should have any adverse impact on the quality and quantity of projects which may come forward for support from the National Lottery.

I have referred to the importance of sport as a source of national pride. The performance of our national teams is important, but we must also be well represented on the international scene. That is one of the reasons why we propose to establish a United Kingdom Sports Council alongside the English Sports Council. Both bodies will start work during the course of the next financial year.

The UK Sports Council will have among its members the chairmen of the four home country sports councils and the chairman of the British Olympic Association, together with representatives of those who must count most, the sportsmen themselves. For the first time professional sport will be represented on both the UK and the English sports councils. That reflects the crucial role which professional sportsmen have to play in representing the nation and acting as our sporting ambassadors.

The UK body will represent us on the international scene. It will seek to increase the influence of the UK in international sport and it will co-ordinate policy to bring international events to the United Kingdom. The UK council will also oversee work carried out by the home country sports councils which is of UK-wide significance. We have in mind particularly doping control, sports science, sports medicine and coaching. It will be an early task of the council to identify other possible areas of sports policy which may have application across the UK as a whole as well as areas of possible duplication and overlap which could be dealt with more effectively.

We look forward very much to making an early announcement about membership of the UK Sports Council.

The newly refocused Sports Council for England will have as one of its key roles a concern for young people and sport. For the future, Sports Council grants to governing bodies will require them to prepare clear plans with specific targets for the development of their sports, from grassroots to the highest competitive levels, and including programmes for strong and effective links with schools and youth organisations. We need to make the most of the talent of our young people.

But we are doing far more to ensure that school sport is put back where it belongs, at the heart of school life. School sport, and particularly team games, are essential for many reasons. They can teach young people, as can no other activity which they experience while at school, the value of discipline, team work and team spirit. Where else do young people learn to operate within a framework of rules, to understand the concepts of sportsmanship, fair play and the lessons that can be learnt from losing as well as winning? Sport has a potential for character-building which will stand young people in good stead for the rest of their lives.

I do not wish to suggest that sport should be given to young people because, like vitamin C or castor oil, it is good for them. It is also highly enjoyable, at least for most children, and provides a source of healthy enjoyment as well as a channel for youthful high spirits, energy and aggression which can have huge benefits. It is a fact that young people today are very much less fit than their predecessors. Our culture has become increasingly sedentary, and there are many more temptations to lure young people away from the sports field or the gym.

A vital step in the process of reinvigorating the place of sport in school has already been taken. The Government have recently announced their final proposals for changing the national curriculum in physical education. In future, all 14 to 16 year-olds will play a competitive game. Team games will also be a specific requirement for younger pupils and there will be a much clearer emphasis on the importance of mini-games—that is, short versions of traditional games aimed specifically at children below the age of 11. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has also made clear that he wishes to see schools offering at least two hours of curriculum PE every week. His hope is that many schools will offer more. But even if this can be achieved, much work remains to be done.

Crucially, we want to reach the position where it is a second nature for young people to participate in some form of extra-curricular sport. The school curriculum, as we know, is heavily loaded and we cannot expect schools and our teachers to provide all the benefits we seek for our young people. I pay credit here to the thousands of teachers who give their time to ensure that pupils have these opportunities. I should like to think that we can reach a point where all teachers will do so.

However, as I said, that is not a position we can reach overnight. That is why we are asking the Sports Council to look very carefully at ways in which governing bodies can link sport in schools with wider sporting activities outside. Governing bodies, and clubs, and individuals who are already well apprised of the value of sport should look to ways to encourage young people to participate. It is in their own best interests since young people must form the seedcorn for the future and it is with young people that loyalties to particular sports or teams or clubs are forged. No governing body or club with an eye to its future revenues can afford to ignore the benefits of a junior section, proper coaching and a genuinely welcoming atmosphere for younger members.

Young people grow up and leave school and it is no less important that we should continue to encourage and stimulate opportunities for participation at the grassroots end of sport. That is why this Government introduced in November 1992 the Sportsmatch sponsorship scheme which was set up to attract new commercial sponsorship and match it pound for pound. In England, Sportsmatch has approved a total of 752 applications to a value of over £6.5 million. Together with commercial sponsorship, this means that Sportsmatch has generated over £13 million of new money for grassroots sport since its inception in November 1992.

The Foundation for Sport and the Arts provides £48 million each year for sport, partly financed from a reduction in pool betting duty. The Government are very appreciative of the contribution that the pools companies have made to sport —and the arts, of course—through their support of the foundation. We have recognised the valuable addition that the foundation's work provides by agreeing to extend the reduction in pool betting duty for a further five years from this April. We hope very much that the pools companies will continue to support this important partnership venture which has done so much.

I commend the contribution of the pools companies to what is probably seen by most as our national sport, football, through their sponsorship of the Football Trust, which is chaired by my noble friend Lord Aberdare. The trust provides £35 million grant per annum for safety improvements at football clubs, with, again, a significant proportion of the funds coming from a reduction in pool betting duty. It is no small thanks to the work of the trust in disbursing grants that clubs in the Premier League and First Division of the Football League met the requirement to go all-seated by the 1994 August deadline. We look forward to continuing work in helping clubs in the lower divisions of the Football League to go all-seated or to improve the safety of their terracing by 1999.

There have been a number of references to the National Lottery which, we should remember, has now been in operation for some nine weeks. Over £129 million has been raised for good causes during that time with charities, the arts, sports, the heritage and the Millennium Fund each benefiting by £25.8 million as a result. Organisations are only now starting to submit their proposals for schemes to be funded by the lottery.

The Government are well aware of the concerns expressed by the pools companies and echoed today by my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara that their business will be adversely affected by the impact of the National Lottery and that this will have inevitable consequences for their existing generous level of support both for the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and for the Football Trust. The Government believe that spending on the National Lottery will on the whole be diverted from general expenditure, rather than from other forms of gambling. There is no evidence to show that the National Lottery has so far had a significant impact on participation in the football pools. However, the Home Office is monitoring the pools industry and other parts of the gaming industry, but it is too early to tell what effect, if any, the lottery will have on other parts of the gaming market.

Another issue raised has been that of advertising for the National Lottery compared with the pools. As with all forms of commercial gambling, pools companies are not allowed to advertise on television and radio. The National Lottery, in line with existing regulations on broadcast advertising for lotteries, is able to advertise using these media because its primary purpose is to raise money for good causes. Pools companies are able to sponsor television programmes, and they derive great benefit from the results service on the main television and radio channels. That whole service is formatted for pools players. However, I recognise the strength of feeling of my noble friends and I shall ensure that the Secretary of State understands the concerns they have raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, asked about the PAC report on the Sports Council. It relates to activities in the commercial subsidiaries of the Sports Council trust company. Steps have been taken by the council and the department to address the weaknesses that have been identified. We shall be responding fully to the PAC's report in the normal way. We welcome the report.

The Government are not complacent about the state of sport in our country. In the manner of all good school reports, we feel that it "could do better". But we do not feel that this is necessarily a time for lamentation and wringing of hands. There is much to be proud of in our sporting heritage and many fine examples of young sportsmen who are doing their country credit today. We intend to build on this solid base by reintroducing sport to the lives of all our young people; by providing a better focus, through a restructured Sports Council, for sports administration; by providing, via the National Lottery, for the facilities that will see us and the rising generation of sportsmen and women well into the next century; and, finally, by ensuring that this country becomes again a magnet for international sporting events with facilities, sportsmanship and sporting heroes to rival the best in the world.

8.10 p.m.

Lord Howell

My Lords, perhaps I may thank everyone who has taken part in what has been an excellent debate, which has been well received by the House and long overdue. The general attitude of noble Lords has been nostalgic as well as practical. I congratulate especially the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, on her contribution, not least because she was the only noble Baroness to speak. That was the one disappointment to me. Since more than half the nation is made up of that sex, they should be well represented in debates of this kind, so we are especially grateful to her.

The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, properly reminded us of the importance of heroes. There is nothing wrong with people worshipping heroes so long as they are the right kind of heroes. He and other noble Lords, especially the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, drew our attention to some of our heroes of yester-year. I wonder whether it is in order —I am sure I carry the whole House with me—if I mention the name of Mr. Peter May, a friend of mine, who welded his great skills over the years to a basic integrity, an example we should do well to further in all our sports at the present time. He provided pleasure and is an inspiration for all of us.

The Minister talked about the National Lottery. I am glad that the matter is to be monitored by the Home Office. There is no room for complacency. There is evidence. The Treasury must know how much tax is coming into its coffers each week from the pools, and that this is a matter of great concern to many of us. We hope that the Minister will be able to persuade his colleagues to take early action, otherwise we shall have to return to the matter.

The debate has been well balanced. It has matched philosophy with practicality: school sport and club sport on the one hand against the importance of international sport on the other. As I say, I am most appreciative of the spirit in which the debate has taken place, and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.