HL Deb 08 May 2002 vol 634 cc1189-229

5.35 p.m.

Baroness Billingham

rose to call attention to the importance of sport in Britain both for the promotion of health and social inclusion; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the little girl who sat next to me in primary school had callipers on her legs. They clanked as she walked and in the winter her boots rubbed her ankles. The prettiest girl in my class had dark curly hair, bright blue eyes and lovely rosy cheeks. They should have been a warning sign, for when she died, we all had patches stuck on our arms to see if we had been infected. The rest of us went through the usual batch of standard childhood diseases.

Today, more than 50 years on, those diseases of polio, TB, measles, mumps and rubella have been all but eradicated. Our children and grandchildren should be healthier and fitter, but they are not. What else was different then from now? Well, the rest of the children in my class were a scrawny bunch—I ask noble Lords to believe that. We were post-war children fed on post-war rations, walking a couple of miles to and from school every day and playing outside each night at games of football, cricket or tig—whatever the season demanded.

But somehow during those 50 years, the old, deadly communicable diseases have been replaced by new, insidious attacks on our health. The ailments are largely self-inflicted, with young and old, male and female, rich and poor succumbing to their debilitation. The facts are stark. Today, most adults are overweight—more than one in five, while around 8 million of us are technically obese. In England, obesity has trebled over the past 20 years. Unless effective action is taken by 2005, 20 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women could be obese. The outcome is horrendous: heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes are all conditions which can and do lead to premature death.

And of course the incidence of obesity in children is growing at an equally alarming rate. The "couch potato" syndrome is rife. Anxious parents no longer let their children walk to school, much less play outside in the evenings. Sadly, the groups facing the highest risks are those from poorer communities and families. The problems associated with being a "couch potato" are higher in girls than in boys, and in the ethnic and minority communities.

Obesity is not only about personal poor health, it carries a huge price tag for society as a whole. In terms of treatments and lost working days, overall in Britain the loss to the economy totals some £2 billion per year.

Crime is not new and nor is social exclusion. But the scale, the type of offending and the age groups involved are new. We have a major problem. The Prime Minister has promised to cut levels of street crime by the autumn, but levels of youth crime continue to rise. Shoplifting, street theft, burglary or offences against the person are all serious offences and are being carried out by ever younger children. Many of those offences can be linked to the drug culture.

It is at this point that the vehicle of sport, both as an antidote to obesity and a way of overcoming crime and encouraging social inclusion, comes into play. The Government are acutely aware both of the problems and of the value of sport, not only for young people, but for everyone. It is salutary to note that only 37 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women meet the current government guidelines for physical activity, which comprises just 30 minutes of moderate exercise on at least five days a week.

What is also obvious is that no single project can overcome these twin problems. In recognising that, the Government have set up a whole network of progressive programmes, some of which are already having an effect, while others are coming on stream in the future. Sport is now at the centre of a network of government departments, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Department of Health, the Department for Education and Skills, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, through to the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and, finally, to the Food Standards Agency. All those departments are working coherently towards the common objectives of developing not only more healthy lifestyles, but also lives which are happier and more dynamic. The earlier we tackle these problems the greater the chance of success. In order to move forward we have to take stock of where we are now in relation to sport and where we need to be in the future.

Here I turn to school sport as perhaps the most obvious opportunity to make a real difference to young lives. We have a huge backlog to clear up. The legacy of the neglect of school sport is quite appalling. I cast my mind back to when my two daughters were at their local comprehensive school in the mid 1980s. It was an amazing time. The school was a sporting dynamo. The girls' tennis team became the first, and probably the only, comprehensive school to win the Aberdare Cup, not once but twice. Alongside this were sporting triumphs and a huge participation in all sports by boys and girls of all abilities.

But that of course was before the "stand-off" between teachers and the government of the day—and prior to the feeding of sport to the mercy of the academic barons in schools under the fig leaf of the national curriculum, in effect sweeping PE away from the school curriculum. So not only was PE all but eradicated from the school day in state schools hut, with the loss of teacher good will, with it went the extra-curricular activities too. By the beginning of the 1990s, that same comprehensive school could barely field one team of any standard in any sport. A whole generation was deprived of its sporting rights in school.

But that has changed. The first underpinning of sport is the Government's intention of guaranteeing a minimum of two hours PE per week, a fairly modest beginning but a welcome one. At last we are to have PE specialists coming into primary schools and decent facilities for them. The new opportunities for PE and the sport programme is the most exciting initiative yet established. It offers key innovation for sport which will integrate and support wider local strategies to improve PE and school sport, linking sport, education and health. The funding alone signifies its priority—£581 million from lottery funding, a huge boost and a step change for sport.

As my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley is among the speakers due to follow me, I have no doubt that she will share her expertise in this area when she speaks later. I look forward to her contribution.

The School Sport Alliance, established in November 2000, has set up the school sports co-ordinators who will deliver high quality PE in schools and link primary and secondary schools and sports clubs in their localities. Five hundred co-ordinators are now in place and many more are planned.

With teachers go facilities. The tide of the sale of playing fields has been stemmed but not yet cured. We await the DTLR's new guidelines with great interest. They must be robust enough to stem the haemorrhaging of playing fields with strict criteria for any sale.

For the first time primary schools are included in new facilities. The Space for Sport and Arts Fund has allocated £150 million for projects to be shared by school and community. Add to this the huge investment by the Government of between £1.5 billion and £2 billion on community sports facilities, many in the form of local authority facility projects, and it is clear that the Government really mean sporting business.

Specialist sports colleges are being established, combining full-time education and training for our talented young people. The next generation of sporting heroes are the role models of the future.

As part of the inter-departmental strategy, the Department of Health is tackling obesity in a variety of ways. Health action zones, the inclusion of fruit into the school diet and a greater emphasis on GP co-operation are crucial innovations in the goal of more healthy communities.

The roles of other key players cannot be overestimated. Sport England and the CCPR are the eyes, ears and hearts of sport in our community. There are 110,000 voluntary clubs which offer a huge range of sporting disciplines, aided by the governing bodies and of course lottery funding from Sport England. No government intervention has been more welcome than the Chancellor's recent announcement of tax and financial assistance to these community amateur sports clubs. We await with enormous interest the take-up of that financial recognition.

Positive Futures, a dynamic partnership between the Home Office, Youth Justice Board, Sport England and NACRO, with the Football Foundation, seeks to divert 10 to 16 year-olds from drugs and anti-social behaviour. As my noble friend Lord Pendry is speaking today, I need say no more, leaving this topic to his immense expertise.

Individual projects are specifically targeted on minorities. Girls in sport need a special approach and my noble friend Lady Massey will doubtless enlighten us in this area, as will my noble friend Lady Howells in regard to youngsters from the ethnic minority communities.

I have outlined, in brief, but some of the Government's initiatives for putting in place an imaginative and robust programme to ensure the future health of our society. More will follow. I hope that the Government will accelerate the audit of sports facilities by local authorities. Perhaps the Minister can reassure us on that.

We also need to ensure a wider coverage of sport in the media. With public sector broadcasting, is a sports channel still a possibility? By "wider coverage", I mean sport for all, for those with disabilities and for women and girls. Dare I mention at this point Title IX? Perhaps not. That is an item for debate on another day.

Whatever the answers to those questions, I am confident that the Government will continue to underpin sport in our communities, bringing with it greater health, happiness and a chance to belong, thus helping to eliminate those twin scourges of obesity and crime. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.46 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, has opened our proceedings with an excellent speech that highlighted the kaleidoscope of interests and initiatives which are involved with the subject under consideration today. I hope that she will find that some of the contributions—present company excepted—from these Benches equally add value to what is sure to be an interesting and informative debate.

I should like to concentrate, first, on one aspect of the Motion—that is, the concept of social inclusion, which is critical to the subject under consideration. I shall concentrate on the role that sport and recreation can play in inner city regeneration policies and the wider context of social inclusion in our country. So perhaps I may say a few words on social inclusion—or, perhaps more appropriately, social exclusion.

Social exclusion and social capital are closely linked. Social exclusion, by definition, results in a paucity of social capital. Increasingly it is being recognised that economic activity and social activity both take place within and with reference to a social context. While social relations can act as impediments, as classical theories assume, they can also be a medium for, and catalyst to, economic activity.

Social capital is broadly described as an asset embedded in relationships—between individuals, communities, networks and societies, and between sports associations, teams and clubs. It is an asset which must be managed correctly if its value is to be realised. Social exclusion does not represent good management of this asset.

Policies to tackle social exclusion are rightly assuming increased priority, and sport and recreational initiatives should play a key role in this process. For example, the European Union states that, the fight against social exclusion is of the utmost importance for the Union". This is by and large owing to a better understanding of the fact that social exclusion carries high costs, or reduced social capital. These costs are borne not only by the individuals who experience social exclusion but by society as a whole. They take the form of reduced social cohesion, higher crime and fear of crime, a less skilled workforce and the cost to the public finances of social failure. It follows that if social exclusion is reduced, then society as a whole will benefit.

If we recognise that analysis of social exclusion, it is incumbent on us to recognise the role that sport and recreation can play in addressing the causes of social exclusion. We need only to look at the significant advances that football clubs have made in communities and in community relations to see the value of targeted measures addressed to the promotion of sport as well as to the promotion of social inclusion in their communities. So, in the short time available, I intend to propose a number of initiatives to the Government which would build on the work that I had the privilege of undertaking when considering this issue as Minister for Sport.

I propose that the Government should give every encouragement to local education authorities and individual schools to devote an increased proportion of curriculum time to physical education. This is critical to the goal of a healthier nation. It is critical to wider participation, from whose roots we nurture and culture the excellence and the champions of tomorrow in a healthier society.

Secondly, the Government should establish more practical links between schools, local sports clubs and local education authorities, enabling children to receive coaching in particular sports and to make use of club and community facilities in school time and outside school hours. We have to do more to build the bridges between school sport and ongoing participation in sport and recreation outside schools and in communities as a whole. We have a long way to go to become competitive with other countries in building that bridge, which is essential to a healthier society.

We have waited far too long to see progress on effective dual use of facilities in inner cities and in the country as a whole. Progress is being made, but a major new initiative to boost dual use is required. More sport and recreation elements are needed at the heart of the inner-city initiatives which the Government have proposed and on which they are working. Perhaps we should ask the Treasury to consider within its fiscal policies the possibility of incentives—including tax incentives—for inner-city sports buildings which offer a full range of services to the local community.

We shall hear of many more initiatives in the course of the debate. Perhaps I may refer to one unusual one. I believe that the Government should work more closely with the British Olympic Association and consider with it what further work the BOA can do in ensuring that the aspirations of youngsters generated by the Olympic Games are encouraged. Something akin to the International Olympic Committee's patronage scheme for events and projects has potential for development. It is by taking these measures, and many more, that we can promote health and tackle the vitally important issue of our time; namely, social exclusion, particularly in inner-city areas.

5.53 p.m.

Lord Newby

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, for initiating the debate. I believe that the role that sport can play in developing individuals and communities has been underestimated by governments over many years—although I accept the noble Baroness's point that this Government are at long last beginning to make some progress.

The case for promoting sporting activities is obvious: sport promotes healthier bodies and a healthier lifestyle. For those who participate in team sports, it promotes the development of team skills and communication skills, which have wider benefits for the participants throughout their lives. Sport promotes self-esteem and a sense of well-being. Any parent with a child who is keen to take part in sport or to join a team knows that this is a matter of huge importance. If children do get into a team and if they perform well, their self-esteem rises and their outlook on life becomes more positive. This spills over into their school work and into their relationships more generally.

The power of sport to motivate and inspire can, however, help individuals and society more generally to achieve broader goals than those that are simply related to sporting prowess. I want to concentrate my remarks on the ability of sport to promote educational and personal development goals, and in so doing to promote social inclusion. I declare an interest as chairman of the Prince's Trust football initiative and as an adviser to a number of sporting bodies and clubs on their corporate responsibility programmes.

Perhaps I may take two examples which demonstrate the scope for sport in this area. The first is the Playing for Success programme, which is part of the Government's national framework for study support. First referred to in the Labour Party's 1997 general election manifesto, this programme now operates across the Premier League football clubs. At Leeds United, for example—I declare an interest as a Leeds United supporter—it operates from within the ground and is targeted at schools in deprived areas in south Leeds.

The results of this work, based on 10-week courses in the ground, are truly spectacular. For key stage two pupils, the improvement in raw attainment scores in just 10 weeks was as follows: for boys, in reading the figure was 30 per cent, in maths 40 per cent, and in IT 90 per cent. For girls of the same age the improvement in reading was 24 per cent, in maths over 60 per cent and in IT skills over 93 per cent. Those are amazing results. They are possible partly because all the learning is based on football modules, and partly because the parents are suddenly energised in a way that they are not when the children are simply working at school, and because the pupils want to learn. Attendance levels rocket up and truancy levels plummet because of the attachment to sport and because of the power, in this case, of the most important sport in this country—football.

The second example is the Prince's Trust football initiative. This consists of a 12-week personal development programme for teams of 16 to 25 year-olds in association with football clubs. Some 85 per cent of participants are unemployed, and the clubs provide a range of support which varies from club to club but includes the use of the name, the involvement of players, the use of facilities, publicity and match programmes and so on. The Premier League makes a very substantial grant, as does the Football Foundation.

This initiative currently operates at 48 professional football clubs in England. In the current year, some 1,700 young people will have been involved. The initiative is particularly successful in recruiting disadvantaged young people and in leading to successful employment outcomes. For example, 20 per cent of the participants are from the ethnic minority communities, compared to 15 per cent of participants in similar Prince's Trust teams not linked to football. No less than 45 per cent of unemployed participants go straight into a job at the end of the programme, a significantly higher figure than for similar schemes not linked to football. Again, the reason for that has to do with the power of sport to motivate young people, to inspire them, to get them out of bed in the morning, and to get them doing positive things for themselves and for the communities in which they live.

The key characteristics of these and other similar sport-related projects are the commitment of clubs and their representative bodies; partnership with local authorities, which, for example, provide teachers; and partnership with government, which has provided funding and a co-ordinating role.

We are still at an early stage of what is possible in this area. There needs to be wider recognition within government of the value of such programmes. We need greater development of such initiatives in the clubs and sports where they already exist. Such schemes need to be extended to other sports which currently do little in terms of community development. I believe also that we can take a lead in developing best practice internationally.

As with so many other issues, it was Nelson Mandela who most eloquently encapsulated the importance of sport to society. He said: Sport has the power to united people in a way that little else can … it breaks down barriers. It laughs in the face of all kinds of discrimination. Sport speaks to people in a language that they can understand". That is true in South Africa, but it is equally true in Britain.

6 p.m.

Lord St John of Bletso

My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, for having introduced this most topical debate. All too often, sport has been set to one side while the major issues of state—health, education, law and order, defence and the economy—take centre stage. But sport does matter, partly because it helps to define the spirit of the nation and partly, as the Motion correctly identifies, because it contributes so greatly to the promotion of health and public inclusion.

It is sad that we no longer have the wisdom of the late Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge in this House. He cared so passionately for sport and was a convincing advocate of the cause.

I join other noble Lords in acknowledging the great value of the National Lottery, which has raised more than £3 billion for sport—funds that have been distributed to more than 3,000 projects across the country, covering more than 60 different sporting codes.

In sport, as in gardening, the best long-term results are gained when effort is put into the roots rather than the more visible, familiar blooms. In that context, I wholeheartedly endorse the line taken by the Minister for Sport in another place that the Government will support a London bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games only if it can be shown that the event will benefit sport at grass roots and community level. That is the correct approach to the sports debate.

It is obvious that sport contributes to much more than just physical health. It can teach young people lessons that will serve them well for the rest of their lives, such as the importance of teamwork, of respect for the rules and of winning and—just as importantly—losing with good grace. I am encouraged to note the increasing trend in thinking away from the old consensus that competitive sport in schools is somehow a bad thing and to be discouraged. It is crucial—I stress that word—that sport is made available to children of all abilities, both strong and weak, but we should not discourage genuine sporting competition among young people in our schools. This country has often tended to celebrate a gallant loser—my memory goes back to Eddie the Eagle—rather than a winner, but I hope we are beginning to realise there is nothing wrong, vulgar or unfair in sporting success.

It is alarming to note the ever-increasing amount of time that young children spend playing on computers rather than taking physical exercise. I say that as the father of four children under the age of six. In that regard, I welcome recent government initiatives mentioned by the noble Baroness that, among other things, support the entitlement to two hours of high-quality PE and sport per week, as well as the development of more facilities and more opportunities for intra-school and inter-school competition. I was schooled in South Africa, where it was compulsory to play at least two hours of sport each day, let alone each week. I also welcome government moves to reduce the number of school playing fields sold to developers. That is an old passion of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn.

The Government are making all the right noises for sport. I warmly welcome the specific commitment of £750 million of National Lottery funding for school sport. I very much hope they deliver. The signs are generally good. There appears to be a new determination within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Sport is much more than healthy minds and bodies. Nothing can so effectively bond the nation. Recent history is full of examples of how sport has sensationally brought a nation together. I was fortunate to attend the FA Cup final at Cardiff last Saturday. I was struck by how the occasion had brought together people from all walks of life. In that stadium, in support of their teams, everyone was equal and everyone felt included.

There have been many innovative projects, such as the launch of football leagues to include and motivate youngsters who might otherwise have been tempted to become involved in crime. To be successful, such schemes have to have long-term funding. These are long-term problems that require long-term solutions.

The quality and quantity of funds for sport is important, but it is also crucial to focus on how those funds are spent. I would be interested to know what innovative proposals the Government are considering to promote sport throughout the country. Britain's approach to sport needs to be fresh and innovative. We need to challenge old methods and accepted ideas to realise our goals. There are always new ideas and the options are endless. Using the Internet to spread modern methods of coaching is just one proposal. Using sporting heroes as positive role models is another. We need to be positive and bold, not only in our words, but also in our actions.

6.6 p.m.

Lord Pendry

My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak in today's debate. Over the years I have contributed to many debates in the other place, often with my old sparring partner, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and more recently in this Chamber. I suspect that today's debate could well be one of the most appropriate for the simple reason that my noble friend Lady Billingham has included in the title the reason why sport should be at the centre of all policy-making thinking: its contribution to health and social inclusion. My noble friend is well qualified to lead in this vital debate. I am not sure how many noble Lords know that she has considerable sporting prowess, having played—and is still playing—tennis, badminton and hockey at county level.

Sport is not just for sport's sake; it has a real end to its means and has an invaluable role to play in the social fabric of our country and the regeneration of our communities. It should become a central pillar in government thinking. I am aware that the Minister for Sport is well versed in the role that sport plays in our communities and the terrific impact that it can have in achieving the Government's aims of reducing crime and promoting health and as a vehicle for education and learning. I thank the Minister for Sport in particular for bringing sport to the top of the political agenda.

Before I start in earnest, I must first declare an interest in today's subject matter, as I have the good fortune to be chairman of the Football Foundation, which was established almost two years ago to invigorate the grass roots of the nation's most popular game, to give everyone in the country regardless of age, race, ability or gender, access to decent facilities and to widen the opportunities that the game has to offer Our partnership of the Premier League, the Football Association, the Government and Sport England is revolutionising the funding process of grass roots football by pooling resources into a huge fund for redistribution throughout the game. We are delivering a multi-million pound investment programme for football's grass roots facilities in schools and parks.

Promoting the importance of sport in shaping our society has been a recurring theme of my political life. That message has never been more important than it is now. I am encouraged that progress is being made, but we need much more of it.

The Chancellor's Budget contained two proposals that are central to today's debate and which I intend to cover briefly. The health service was rightly the centrepiece of the Budget. I welcome the tremendous boost of resources to be put into the National Health Service. I ask the Minister to ensure that some of those resources are spent on prevention rather than cure.

One of the simplest ways to achieve that is to widen access to sport and to exercise. Our nation and, dare I say, the political parties, are only just waking up to the realisation that the "couch potato" generation we have allowed to flourish faces real health risks and to the importance of sport in countering those. Indeed, one of the criteria Derek Wanless mentioned in his report on Britain's health needs was levels of obesity. The message from the report is clear—we ignore the role that physical activity can play at our peril. It is therefore heartening to see that the Fitness Industry Association together with the Department of Health is pioneering the principle of "fitness on prescription" to ensure that where appropriate patients can be prescribed exercise.

There is an issue here on which I must chide the Minister. It has been the intention of the Government for I think at least two years in their sports strategy to appoint a special adviser who would work jointly with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health. That is a good initiative. It is a shame, therefore, that it has been neglected. I should welcome hearing the Minister expand on those proposals.

Our next message to the Minister is that there must be a real and substantial increase for sport in the Comprehensive Spending Review. I hope that the Minister will make that point forcefully to colleagues. There are many reasons why that should occur. I have already covered the health of the nation, social exclusion and the priority of tackling crime and social nuisance in our society. In our communities the provision of sporting facilities for young people has proved remarkably successful in reducing the type of anti-social behaviour that the Government are rightly determined to eradicate. I should like to illustrate that point by referring to a project that the Football Foundation has supported. I refer to the Leyton Orient Football in the Community scheme which has led to a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour of over 70 per cent. There is no point in the foundation or anyone else simply building better pitches and improving changing rooms without encouraging participation from those groups. We have to get our kids off their couches and on to those pitches.

For the first time in history football is coming together to fund the future. That is a pattern that we hope to see developing throughout the sporting world in the near future. I look forward to discussing with the Minister for Sport how the foundation can play a part in that. Never before have we had this opportunity; let us not waste it.

6.12 p.m.

Lord Monro of Langholm

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, who does so much as chairman of the all-party sports group at Westminster in addition to his work for the Football Foundation. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, on introducing this important debate. I shall not add to the misery of the Minister who is to reply to the debate by referring to Wembley after yesterday's announcement except to say that after reading the detailed exchanges that took place in both Houses I am still mystified as to how we shall fit athletics into the new stadium.

No one doubts the value of sport as regards health and social inclusion, as has been highlighted by all noble Lords who have spoken. However, there are many other reasons why sport is so important to this country. I refer not only to our international standing and to our national competitions but also to the position of the average man and woman at club and school level. That must be a key issue in our debate today.

I shall not address the issue of school playing fields as the Government's statistics conflict to such an extent with those of the National Playing Fields Association that one cannot begin to produce an argument. However, one hopes that the Government are serious about preventing the sale of school playing fields.

As regards sport, the top of the pyramid will not thrive without a broad base, nor will it thrive if sport is not seen to be fun, beneficial to health, interesting and if facilities are not readily to hand for those who want to participate and compete. There are too many organisations over and above the governing bodies all competing for money from the Government. I refer to sports councils, local government councils, the CCPR, which produced such an excellent manifesto, the strangely named CASC in connection with amateur sports clubs, the National Playing Fields Association and the National Association of Clubs for Young People. They are all doing their best to impress upon the Government how important their position is. I know that the Government respond whenever possible. It is disappointing that the Government altered the good causes arrangements drawn up in the National Lottery legislation so that sport now receives less funding than hitherto due to the demands of the additional good causes. However, I appreciate that substantial extra money has been allotted to schools. I do not forget that a Conservative government introduced the National Lottery legislation which has done so much for sport since its enactment.

Many sports in our country show good results relative to our population. However, performance fluctuates. We had tremendous success at Sydney compared with our disappointing performance at Atlanta. At the recent Winter Olympics we were a little disappointed to receive only one splendid gold medal on the part of the curling team and two bronze medals, one of which, sadly, had to be returned. I hope that that will not undermine our efforts to ban the use of drugs wherever possible.

It is often said that success breeds success. However, I am not always convinced that that is the case. We have had tremendous success in ice skating with John Curry, Robin Cousins and Torvill and Dean, but it is now on a plateau. What middle distance runners do we have now? I refer to former competitors such as Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram and David Moorcroft. Example is not always crucially important but somehow or other we must bring our athletics back into the limelight. Much more money is now available for facilities which are improving. It is now for competitors to respond to the opportunities that are now available to them to develop their sports.

I shall now focus my remarks on the lower rather than the top level of sport as the top will look after itself. It is up to the Government, and rightly so, to set the climate for the development of sport, particularly in schools and clubs. I welcome the recent announcement on tax breaks. However, as I indicated in the Chamber when the announcement was made, my discussions with sporting organisations reveal that they are still finding it difficult to interpret the system. The alternative route of charitable status is expensive and equally hard to fulfil. I believe that it would be much better for local authorities to give a blanket, 100 per cent mandatory rate relief. Such a system would be straightforward and would save a great deal of effort.

We have already discussed the heavy classroom workload of schools which leaves little time for PE which we all agree is important. I refer also to the absence of free time between the end of the school day and the departure of the school bus. I hope that some compromise can be reached to allow pupils time to participate in sporting activities. We must improve the bridge between schools and clubs. I refer to the move from participating in sport at school to club sport participation. Clubs must seek out those with sporting talent and include them in their membership.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, that it is terribly important to encourage team games. They breed leadership and develop character and a sporting spirit, as was evident in the late Lord Cowdrey. They also give pupils confidence. I hope that we shall continue to encourage outward bound activities which do so much to develop young people's characters. There have been some unfortunate court cases in that regard but we must strike a balance between unacceptable foolhardiness and stretching children to the limit, which is so important to their future development.

Much is going on in this area at the present time and I have great hopes for the future. However, much more needs to be done. To sum up, let us try to simplify procedures on the financial and education sides. If we succeed in that, we can progress much more quickly than we are. There is a great deal of marking time and awaiting the decisions of committees. I hope that we shall try to speed up processes to help sport develop as quickly as possible.

6.20 p.m.

Baroness Howells of St Davids

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lady Billingham for raising this debate. It provides me with an opportunity to discuss the achievements of the Caribbean British in sport and the impact that that has had on the community as a whole. I shall direct my few words to the social inclusion aspect of that.

The overriding ambition of the settlers of the 1950s and 1960s, who came to Britain from the Caribbean islands, was to secure self-development for themselves and to acquire a good education as a vehicle for upward mobility for their children. Sport was not considered a means of upward mobility; rather, it was regarded as a setback to their aims and plans. Sport was considered to be a waste of time and teachers were suspected of keeping children playing sport at the expense of academic subjects. To those people, there could be no semblance of a balance between academic and sporting endeavours. Engaging in academic achievement was seen as the only means of upward mobility and the creation of an economic base. That was regarded as outweighing any other activity.

Parents worried about children wasting energy on non-essentials to the detriment of getting a degree and learning the skills that could maximise their earning potential. Living in a hostile environment, that concentration by parents seemed to be teaching children to walk so steadily that they would be better than those with whom they competed. With hindsight, it could be argued that parents were in danger of hewing paths that were too straight and narrow through difficulties seen through their own eyes, not realising that their children had to carve out their future.

Against that background, clubs were unwilling to embrace the sporting prowess of young British Caribbean people. However, those people first emerged in sport in the field of athletics—in track and field events—where it was evident that individuals' hard work could pay off. The superior performances of Arthur Wint, Tessa Sanderson, Linford Christie, and Denise Lewis slowly emerged. Today's track and field events are made up of 40 per cent black British.

Another relevant area of sport is boxing, although I have a horror of the sport myself. It has been a high earner for many young black men. As a consequence, children have benefited from the financial successes of their fathers. Their success has made them household names in this community. Everyone has heard of Bruno, Chris Eubank and Lennox Lewis. Their new-found wealth has raised their standard of living and that of their families and they have used their wealth to fund opportunities for many in their community. Sadly, some of that money leaves this country because people are sent to America to study, where they feel more welcome.

Those who showed talent in football in the 1960s and 1970s found that professional clubs were unwilling to embrace their talents, and many drifted away disillusioned. Club managers went on record as saying that black players could not perform when football pitches were covered in snow and that black players could play only in positions that depended on speed. Today we know that to be a fallacy. However, it took young men such as Garth Crooks and John Barnes and many others to show the athletic success of black performers. That and the attitudinal change among new club managers in football created new opportunities for black young people. That made them role models to black young people and to the whole community.

The combination of hard work and flair on the part of young black footballers and the greater open-mindedness among football managers led to an increase in the numbers of black footballers in the past 20 years. Today, all clubs in the Premier League have two or more black players in their squad. In the lower divisions, the numbers are greater still. Their earning capacity has been much enhanced. Perhaps their greatest contribution to community relations is the fact that they are role models across the race divide. The Let's Kick Racism Out of Football initiative has been good. I urge the Minister to extend it to all sports.

6.26 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, for instigating this debate. We have had a number of such debates during the years that I have been in the House. Several noble Lords have already referred to the debate on sport about three years ago, when Lord Cowdrey—God bless him—opened the batting and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sheppard, responded from the Labour Benches. That was a poignant moment when the two openers were reunited.

I want to say a quick word on social exclusion. Other noble Lords have dealt with that effectively, including my noble friend Lord Newby, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham. We live in an age that puts great pressure on community life—it seems to force us apart. I sometimes think that that almost leads to voluntary ghettoisation. In that context, community amateur sports clubs are a preeminently powerful tool for organic and natural community involvement across all barriers—age, class, gender, race, occupation and geography. Those clubs are wonderful. They have been underestimated in the counsels of government hitherto. I can think of some reports that scarcely refer to the extraordinary role that sports clubs play.

I am immensely grateful to the Government for taking on board the protestations made in this House, in the other place and outside these walls about the need to at least provide a favourable tax regime within which community amateur sports clubs can function.

Before discussing that, I point out that community amateur sports clubs provide experiential learning that is in diminishing supply in the world these days. There is a brutal egalitarianism about being in a rugby scrum. One buttock is the same as another. Does it function effectively? Does it brace itself and lurch forward at the right moment or does it not? Colour, race, occupation and wealth are immaterial—and how wonderfully immaterial.

I turn to playing fields, which have been briefly mentioned. I urge the Government to do something about the continued disposal of school playing fields. I am told by the National Playing Fields Association that since 1st October 1998 there have been 185 disposals of school playing fields and only six refusals. I am told that in the financial year 2000–2001, compared with the preceding financial year, the number of planning applications for building consent for playing fields has risen by 45 per cent. One problem with tracking that is that planning authorities currently have no obligation to report the outcome of those applications.

During my few remaining moments I shall turn to a matter to which I have devoted myself assiduously these past two-and-a-half to three years; namely, the attempt to obtain tax concessions for community amateur sports clubs. I believe that it is a credit to the Treasury and the DCMS that a twin track has been provided to the world of sports. They can follow either the charity route or the route of registering with the Inland Revenue. In the latter case, they receive a lower level of concessions but very important ones none the less. At the same time, they do not have to comply with all the requirements of charity law.

One issue that continues to perplex the sporting world is why the mandatory 80 per cent rating exemption for CASCs—community amateur sports clubs—which are charitable is not to be made mandatorily available to clubs that do not go the charity route.

I also believe that it is a little counter to common sense to cap the amount of fund-raising which a non-charitable club can undertake in any year to £15,000 of money raised. That figure is gross; it is not net of expenses. I do not see the point of that. Of course, a club that is not registered as a charity will not have the option, as charities do, of setting up a trading company which can then covenant back all the profits into the charity free of tax. I hope that the Government will reconsider that matter. Any change will obviously not happen this year but it may next year.

The same applies to rental income. No limit is placed on the amount of rental income that charities can receive free of tax, but there is a £10,000 limit for CASCs. That provision will not apply to many of them, but some will have some significant rental income which could be the backbone of their club income.

Perhaps I may refer briefly to the guidelines for charitable status which the Charity Commission set out at the end of last year. Let us make no bones about it. The pressure from this place and the threat, if I may express it in that way, of the Inland Revenue route for tax exemptions undoubtedly made the Charity Commission gird its loins and come forth with something with which it had not come forth hitherto—that is, a means of obtaining charitable status for a community amateur sports club.

I believe that there are deficiencies in the guidelines that the commission has produced; for example, it considers that sports such as angling, gliding and snooker may well not be able to come within the charitable definition, although I believe that many in this House may wonder why. That is partly because it does not give physical dexterity, as opposed to physical health and fitness, any degree of importance in that judgment. I also believe that the arrangements that the commission proposes with regard to social membership of charity sports clubs are unrealistic, as are those regarding team selection and the limitation of the exemption itself.

My time is up but, in closing, I hope very much that in the years to come there may be a coming together of the twin tracks to provide one track. Frankly, I believe that they are so close and that the conditions for membership of each are so near that we could avoid much undue complication by working towards that goal.

6.33 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Pendry reminded us a few moments ago, my noble friend Lady Billingham is a distinguished sportswoman in her own right. I, too, congratulate her on the way in which she introduced this debate and on giving us the opportunity to discuss this important topic.

In the few minutes available to me, I want to concentrate on how football—our national sport—can, and should, realise its potential in the community and combat social exclusion. This subject was the third to be tackled by the Government's Football Task Force, on which I had the honour to serve as vice-chairman. That report contained 13 main recommendations, and it is to the credit of the Government and the football authorities that the majority of them have been taken seriously and implemented.

We paid tribute in the report to the extent and sophistication of the community programme in English football—how players at all levels give freely of their time carrying out thousands of community visits every year. Charlton Athletic is just one example of a club with a highly developed football-in-the-community programme. Other clubs have already been mentioned by other speakers. Anyone who studies the Charlton dub website will see that it carries out excellent work, from the Learning Through Football educational initiative to tackling truancy and estates and probation programmes.

The sponsor of the national football-in-the-community project is, perhaps unusually, Railtrack. That company has been much criticised in other contexts but here it is certainly getting something right. It sees the programme as fitting in with its own efforts to reduce the 20,000 or so railway crimes committed each year, involving trespass, vandalism, placing objects on the track, stone throwing and criminal damage. The reason that it is such a good fit is that the main culprits of those crimes are eight to 14 year-old males—the same target age group for much of the football-in-the-community programme.

Much excellent work is also being carried out at other clubs. West Ham United, for example, is making a particular effort to encourage people from the Asian community to participate in football. That includes a programme of coaching beginners in local schools' PE sessions, the provision of Football Association teaching certificate courses, a coaches' development scheme to help young Asian players to learn appropriate skills and to go on to an FA coaching certificate course, and, for the really promising players, the opportunity to be integrated into what one might call the "mainstream" of the West Ham United club.

The Football Task Force's second report on racism drew particular attention to the disproportionately low numbers of Asians taking part in football as both players and supporters. Therefore, we should welcome every initiative that is now being taken to put right that deficiency.

The All-Party Football Group in another place received a presentation on 23rd April from Leeds United—a club referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, a few moments ago. That club's commitment to the "Kick it Out" anti-racism campaign is indisputable and highly commendable. But I suspect that Leeds knows better than any club how an excellent reputation for anti-racism initiatives can be damaged by the throw-away remarks of a so-called "comedian" at a sportsmen's dinner or by inappropriate behaviour on the part of high-profile players.

The responsibility of players to set a good example is enormous. For the players at the highest levels, the scale of the transfer fees and the sums of money that they earn are beyond the comprehension of almost everyone. And now, with the collapse of ITV Digital, the situation has changed—certainly for the clubs below the Premier League. This is not the moment for an inquest into how such a contract could go so drastically wrong. However, many people will want to know whether an offer of £74 million was made by ITV Digital over the weekend of 13th and 14th April, and, if so, why it was rejected now that it is clear that the clubs are likely to receive nothing.

In the crisis caused by the ITV Digital collapse, the Professional Footballers Association—the players' union—appears to be taking a responsible attitude and is willing to negotiate more realistic contracts for many of its players. Nevertheless, according to a survey published in the Guardian yesterday, more than 600 players will be out of work this summer as a direct consequence of that. And, following the collapse, it is unacceptable for the fans alone to be made to pick up the bill through higher admission charges at clubs which over-stretched themselves with budgets and wage costs that they could not afford, spending the television money before they received it.

High admission charges were the principal grievance of the football supporters who gave evidence to the task force, and we welcomed the subsequent establishment of consumer relations departments by the Premier League and the Football League. Those activities are now to he monitored by the Independent Football Commission, recently set up by the Government under the chairmanship of Professor Derek Fraser, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of weeks ago. The members include the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, and my right honourable friend Mrs Ann Taylor, MP. The supporters' expectations are very high, and I hope that Professor Fraser and his colleagues will not allow themselves to be deflected from acting with genuine independence in defence of football's customers.

Many people in the game talk about the "football family"—an all-embracing concept which covers players ranging from Premier League stars, such as David Beckham, down to the Halifax Town goalkeeper. It also covers the competitions in which they play, the governing bodies which regulate their activities and the supporters who follow them. The football family is a fine idea. What good families do in times of trouble is to stick together and rally round to help the relatives in difficulty. I hope that we shall see some evidence of that over the coming weeks.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, in this debate. Not so long ago I spent seven hours in his car travelling back from the League Cup final. We put sport, the world and everything else to rights in that time.

This is the fourth occasion in less than three years that I have taken part in a debate on sport in your Lordships' House. Nevertheless, I am extremely happy that the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, initiated today's debate. Does not that make the point that the Government are not yet getting it right? We are not satisfied that sport is run, managed, funded—or anything else—adequately in this country. We have a long way to go. I do not say that we have not got anywhere; but we still have a long way to go.

I am not talking of sport in the sense of football, football and football, which, in my opinion, is sometimes too much at the centre of everyone's thinking, in particular government's. I am thinking much more of sport for all; of all the recreational types of sport which are often not so glamorous, such as walking, hiking and bicycling. To take up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, sport needs to be at the centre of parliamentary thinking because of the very title of this debate.

In this country we have a serious health problem, a serious youth crime problem and—I do not mean to be too pessimistic—a falling overall standard of achievement in sport broadly, world-wide. We are not quite meeting our expectations. To some extent, sport is not being taken seriously enough for the good things that it can do. If sport is at the centre of government thinking and understood on the broadest basis, it can do much good.

As I mentioned on the last occasion I spoke, we have the highest ever obesity rate in this country. Something like 20 per cent of the country suffer from an obesity problem, particularly young people. Surely, sport should be better organised and better managed, especially in schools, so that there is not less than two hours per week in the curriculum for compulsory physical education. I prefer to call it that rather than sport. It used to be called games, but whatever it is, it is a form of physical recreation.

As I have mentioned, we have community problems. As many noble Lords have said, sport is a wonderful vehicle for bringing together people of all creeds, colours and classes. That has been proved time and again, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. He mentioned South Africa, the wonderful example of what was achieved there and how sport has been used as a vehicle to bring together communities and break down barriers. One of the great things in life which we should try to do—I have certainly done so in my little part of the world—is to break down barriers. One thing the Irish have never fought about is sport; they play together.

Having said that, where are we now in the funding of sport? I have heard people say that the Government have done a lot to date. However, before the debate I checked with Sport England against some figures I used in a speech in December. The facts are that Sport England's share of lottery money in 1995–6 was £300 million. It is estimated that by 2004 it will be down to £185 million. Direct grants and the like are also falling. At the same time grants to the Arts Council have increased from £237 million to £254. Clearly, sports funding is not at the centre of government thinking. My purpose and message today to government, as the noble Lord, Lord Pendry said, is "Put it at the centre of your thinking. Co-ordinate your officials and get the best value for money from sport and recreation". I sincerely believe in sport. I have spent my life in it, in one way or another, as noble Lords will know. I believe it is seriously under-used as a tool for the betterment of society.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I join those noble Lords who have offered their congratulations to my noble friend Lady Billingham. She is to be commended not only for her initiative in securing the debate but for the relevant and interesting speech with which she introduced it. I agree with a large part of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. Most people have referred to football, and I shall too, but there are many sports. We invented most of them in these islands, whether it is curling or badminton, cricket or rugby. It is a pity that we do not do better at the very sports which had their birth in these islands.

My reason for speaking in the debate is as much because of the reference to social inclusion as to health. Over the past three or four years I have watched a gang of boys in their early teens, of the kind of age I would have taught a long time ago, engage in crime, vandalism and hooliganism almost without pause on every fine summer's day. Then, a small group of people set up a football club. There was not enough for those youngsters to do. I wrote to our parish council only last week to say that that initiative has been one of the best things to happen in our community for years. It has achieved enormous success. There are four teams of boys and a team of girls. The boys have something with which to identify and are now part of the community. They turn up for training. They have had to promise not to drink, take drugs or live unhealthy lives. The initiative has certainly helped to transform the community, which is a cause of great relief.

However, at the same time I recognise that we are not about gearing the nation to create professional sportsmen. We want to see a healthy nation, not necessarily a nation with a few people earning vast sums of money while everyone else sits and watches them. My noble friend referred to the priority given to young people's health in the post-war government. To some extent that was a legacy of the enormous anxiety which was generated in this country in the first years of the 1900s when it was found that the vast proportion of people seeking to enter the Armed Forces were not fit enough.

The health of young people in the early part of the last century was bad. However, that was because of poor housing, poor diet and poverty. The bad health with which we are now concerned is not caused by poverty, although it may be caused by a poor diet of junk food. It is perhaps a pity that we did not give continued priority to orange juice, milk and school dinners of a nourishing kind. Too many people buy chips and chip butties and then go home and watch television, cheering on football clubs from their seats.

My reason for speaking is also because of a letter I read a few days ago in one of our local newspapers. It was from a citizen in a parish a few miles from my own and expressed deep regret and sadness that organisations for young people in that parish were about to end because there were no volunteers. However, there are plenty of people who will moan about the crime and irresponsibility that will develop because the kids have nothing else to do.

I look at one organisation with which I am most closely connected. I refer to the Air Training Corps. I am involved with an absolutely superb squadron. It is one of the best in the country. This year we will complete more than 50 Duke of Edinburgh's Awards. The boys and girls in the squadron will play a whole variety of sports and achieve a great deal in them. The kids are good, but we do it because we have a group of extremely good—both uniformed and civilian—instructors. They set high standards. The kids are given great challenges and stimulus and they achieve a great deal. But without the leaders they would probably not achieve very much.

I think back to a visit I made to East Germany in the early 1970s when the East Germans were doing well in a whole range of Olympic activities. It was an austere society. It was an uncomfortable and uncomforted society in many ways. If one went into the stores there was little to buy, except sporting goods of high quality, high standard and relatively low price. The East Germans achieved a great deal because the whole of society was geared—as a political distraction perhaps—to achieving success on the sporting field.

Those who are calling for a higher priority to promote health and social inclusion and to generate greater national pride are to be commended. For that reason, I trust that the Government will listen carefully to the comments made by my noble friend and by a number of other noble Lords—and not merely about football. Perhaps I may also suggest that those of us who are older and were once engaged in active sport might have an opportunity to watch test cricket. Young people might see good skills and entertainment but it would bring comfort and consolation to those of us who would regret that omission.

6.51 p.m.

Baroness Pitkeathley

My Lords, sport is not a topic on which I have ever addressed your Lordships' House before. Aside from the odd game of tennis and an awareness of the problems created by having both Arsenal and Manchester United supporters in my family—and more of that tonight no doubt—it has never been at the top of my interest list.

All that changed when the New Opportunities Fund (NOF), the largest of the lottery distributors, of which am chairman, was given a £750 million programme to deliver. The figure quoted earlier by my noble friend was the figure for England only. So our physical education and sport in schools programme is £750 million in total. That is by far the largest of our round 3 programmes and by far the biggest single investment in school and community sport ever made.

Through this programme we intend to bring about a step change in the use of PE and sports facilities for young people and for the community in general throughout the United Kingdom. But—and this is the reason I am so delighted to focus on my noble friend's debate today—this step change is intended not just to offer sporting opportunities but to have long-term impacts on key issues facing local communities, such as health, education, crime and drug use—all the things, in short, which contribute to social exclusion.

Our programme will modernise existing and build new indoor and outdoor sports facilities for school and community use. Up to 20 per cent of the funding will be available for revenue to support the development and promotion of the new facilities for use by the wider community. It will modernise existing or build new outdoor adventure facilities.

The primary beneficiaries will be children and young people but wider community use will also be essential for most projects. Like all NOF's programmes, the money will be targeted at the most disadvantaged areas.

Funding will be allocated to local authorities on the basis of their level of deprivation and existing disadvantage in terms of facilities. Local education authorities will act as the lead organisations, but they will only receive funding if they involve a range of other partners, such as sport development and leisure departments, sports governing bodies, the NHS, both primary healthcare trusts and NHS trusts and key voluntary sector organisations.

There is, unsurprisingly, with that amount of money available, tremendous interest in the project. I am grateful for the positive response and co-operation which we have received from sports organisations and all local partners. We hope that some fast-tracked projects will be launched this summer.

In our previous debate today in your Lordships' House, in which I also took part, we focussed on health. Much attention was given to public health issues and to prevention, as again has been given attention in our debate. The major benefits to health which increased physical activity brings are well known, but we should remember that they are not only physical but mental. There is twice the risk of coronary heart disease and threefold risk of a stroke if one does not take physical exercise. But research repeatedly shows that physical activity has an impact too on one's emotional state, lessening stress and increasing self-esteem.

We need to learn the habit of, and benefits of, physical activity at an early stage of life. Once learned they are likely to stay with us.

We must also fully understand that the advantages of team games may be hard to see for some young people, compared with the delights of the play station, which is why we need to be innovative in our approach. We need to include dance, walking, climbing, skateboarding and so on in our plans. It is not the level of performance which matters but the participation. We must ensure that facilities provided for exercise of all kinds are fit for the purpose and accessible and available at all times that they are wanted. It is most important to encourage community participation so that families may use them together.

We know that this programme will provide special opportunities for schools to build good relationships with other agencies and groups in their communities. For example, working in partnerships with the National Health Service, schools can develop exercise and leisure opportunities which benefit the whole community and so cut the risks from heart disease and some forms of cancer. They can also provide opportunities for adults to become engaged in some form of leisure or recreational activity, not only as members of the pupil's family but also as teachers, coaches, officials or administrators.

The promotion of social inclusion is a key outcome which our programme seeks. Funding for the programme has been allocated so that more is available in the more deprived areas. We expect that the programme will play a major part in funding facilities and activities which can improve the quality of life for the whole community.

Several reports, and several of your Lordships, have already highlighted the positive effect which sporting activity can have on social exclusion factors, such as involvement in crime and in reducing drug and substance misuse. Young people can also use the experience of physical education to assist in their work in other subject areas, to enable them to gain increased benefits from their education, alerting them, we hope, to the benefits of life-long learning. In addition, it can help young people develop self-esteem, pride in their achievements and a consciousness of their responsibilities as citizens.

Your Lordships may feel that these are ambitious claims for a physical education programme. But I am confident they can be achieved through the excellent partnerships which have been established and the commitment of the agencies involved in delivering this important initiative.

6.57 p.m.

Lord Warner

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate presented to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham. I want to talk about the role sport can play in helping to foster social inclusion. I shall do so from the perspective of chairing the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales. I declare that interest at the outset.

I should make it clear that this is my début speech from the Cross-Benches. I find myself in a rather curious position as a result of being embroiled in a number of tangled events, which we need not go into here. I hasten to add that this is not as a result of, as some newspapers have said, a bad falling out between the Government and I.

Many of those young people who offend live on the most rundown estates in our society. They often have problems at home, live in households with one parent or no or a single wage earner, and are regularly not in school. When one asks these young people why they started offending one often gets the simple answer "Boredom". It was much easier to go out with their mates on the streets, involve themselves in offending and antisocial behaviour, simply because there was nothing terribly interesting to do in the area in which they live. For these young people social exclusion and offending go together.

That is why for the past two years the Youth Justice Board has funded about 70 youth inclusion programmes for the 50 to 60 youngsters most at risk of offending in some of our highest crime estates. We also fund about 100 school holiday schemes called Splash which provide activities for at least 100 13 to 17 year-olds, many of whom run a high risk of offending. A common feature of all these projects is a significant amount of sport involvement—football, cricket, climbing, canoeing, swimming and even rugby. There is also a considerable emphasis on outdoor activity, recreation and keep fit activities.

The results of the year 2000 projects are extraordinarily encouraging in terms of crime reduction. For example, they range from a reduction in crime of about 32 per cent in Doncaster to 14 per cent in places like Wrexham and Gateshead. A youth inclusion programme in Sunderland, for example, has produced a 15 per cent reduction in juvenile crime, a 55 per cent reduction in the number of arrests of 13 to 16 year-olds and a 75 per cent reduction in permanent exclusions from school.

The evaluation of the 2001 Splash schemes will soon be published and will show an even more encouraging view than those for the year 2000 projects. We are now working closely with DCMS and DfES Ministers and the New Opportunities Fund to roll out many more of these summer activity programmes this year in the police force areas where there are high levels of street crime. The Premier League and the Football League have been involved in this work.

I wish to pay tribute to the Premier League for the help and support that we are receiving in these programmes and for its willingness to open up its community programmes to many young offenders being dealt with by youth offending teams.

I believe that we have gone through a rather bad period over the past two decades when many of our young people in deprived areas have had diminishing access to sport and outdoor activities. The number of organised games in schools has been reduced, the number of open spaces has shrunk or become unsafe and the number of adults organising and supervising games in many of these deprived areas has diminished. Many of our young people who are socially excluded have drifted into crime as a result of this movement away from access to sport and recreation in their areas.

I believe that we are now coming out of this dark period with great encouragement from the Government and bodies such as the New Opportunities Fund. We all tip our forelocks to the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, in the hope that some of the funding will move in the direction of some of these projects.

However, what we need to understand with the socially excluded youngsters I have been speaking about is that we have to go to them: they are often unable to come to us. That is a big change which we need to address in the way in which we provide opportunities and programmes for many of these youngsters. I welcome the fact that the Government have linked the social exclusion agenda with sport and have called on our sporting bodies and many of our sporting icons to play a fuller role in tackling social exclusion and the offending agendas. We need to go further and faster along the path we are now following, with more sports and recreation opportunities in our most deprived areas and with sustainable funding over the long haul.

7.3 p.m.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for moving this Motion because it gives me the chance to speak about a sport which I have enjoyed for over 50 years; a sport learned at an early age, as my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley advised.

Noble Lords have spoken of health. Yes, my sport is healthy. It is outdoor, regular and fairly gentle without the sudden shocks and knocks which can do so much damage. It is good for the heart and lungs and it is also good for the waistline, a need powerfully expressed by my noble friend Lady Billingham. I read recently that 51 per cent of adults in the UK are now fatter than is good for them, the "couch potatoes" referred to by my noble friend Lord Pendry. My sport provides the gentle exercise which prolongs life expectancy and improves health by dealing with this.

My noble friend's Motion speaks of social inclusion. I have engaged in my sport with young and old, men and women, rich and poor. Indeed, it crosses all the social barriers mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. My sport is the ultimate in social inclusion. One can engage in it with one's spouse. But my sport is a lot more than this: it is also an important means of transport. I speak, of course, of cycling.

Unfortunately, when cycling is discussed in your Lordships' House it is usually in terms of transport. Noble Lords complain of cyclists riding on the pavement or being aggressive and a danger to pedestrians. Of course, I have never done any of those things, but my attitude is that where there is traffic congestion of any kind the role of all—pedestrians, cyclists and motorists—is to practise tolerance, consideration and good manners, and that describes cyclists.

Sadly, that does not seem to be the attitude of all road users. Cyclists are sometimes forced on to the pavement by cars travelling or parking in the cycle lanes. Cyclists can be forced off the road by cars whizzing past very close by. The answer, of course, is to have proper cycle lanes separated from the traffic by a kerb or by a barrier, instead of just a line painted on the road; or indeed there could be special cycle paths. Fortunately, some local authorities are now providing special cycle paths to enable children to ride safely to school or for commuters to ride safely to the station while at the same time taking the physical exercise which noble Lords consider to be so essential.

These paths are for cyclists and pedestrians only and go some way towards reducing traffic congestion. Indeed, I congratulate the DTLR on organising a cycling projects fund to encourage more people to cycle. As John Spellar, the Minister for Transport said recently, Cycling is excellent exercise and people who choose to cycle rather than use their car play an important role in reducing pollution". I am glad that he mentioned exercise because, as well as being a means of transport, it is also a sport. One can race or one can tour. Racing has all the thrills, excitement and pressures of competitive sport. Touring is different. There is something very liberating about touring by bicycle. One is nearer the landscape, and freer to roam. Indeed, it is a sport of free spirits. It is also healthy exercise. Cycling does all the things that the Department of Health is trying to get us to do and which, as my noble friend Lady Billingham told us, we ought to do. The Department of Health tells us that riding a bike is more likely, by a factor of five, to prolong one's life rather than shorten it. So much for the dangers of cycling.

That is why cycling is so popular. There are several million bicycles in Britain. Many people in your Lordships' House cycle, such as Law Lords, chairmen of Select Committees, Back-Benchers of all parties; senior and junior staff and officials, even political advisers and spin doctors. Surely that is inclusive.

But very few Ministers cycle. After all, we need them to be fit. So perhaps I can persuade my noble friend and her ministerial colleagues to take up cycling. Not only would they enjoy better health and fitness, but just think what it might do for their ministerial careers. After all, the absence of emissions and the sustainability of cycling will make Ministers very popular with the Prime Minister because he is personally leading Britain's delegation to Rio + 10 this summer to discuss this very matter.

Cycling Ministers would be actively demonstrating joined-up government not over two but over three departments. It would be helping the DTLR and the Department of Health, as well as DEFRA, to achieve their objectives. So not only would they be pleasing the Prime Minister, but also the Deputy Prime Minister. They would also be pleasing the Chancellor, not simply by reducing the cost of the government car pool, but just think what it would do for Minister's productivity. Cycling is invariably faster in central London. And, of course, cycling is very new Labour: both are socially inclusive, both have been established for some time and both have recently reinvented themselves with great success.

So there is the magic of cycling. Not only is it healthy, good sport and efficient transport, it is also an activity which supports and incorporates so many facets of government policy that cycling and supporting cycling must do wonders for anybody's political career. I rest my case.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether it would surprise him to know that the Minister who is to reply to the debate is a familiar figure striding the hills of the Stour Valley.

7.10 p.m.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I look forward to hearing more about that. However, I should like to begin my remarks by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, for instituting this debate. Not only has it brought out a panoply of stars; indeed, although I was already aware that the noble Baroness was a great tennis player, the debate has also made me aware of how much she has organised for her family, and of how much more she has achieved.

A debate like this in your Lordships' House brings out not, perhaps, a glittering array of stars, but gold medallists—one of whom, my noble friend Lord Moynihan, has temporarily fled the coop. Perhaps he realised that I was about to speak; I do not know. My noble friend Lord Glentoran's record goes back to 1964. I remember him 50 years ago at school, when he was known as "Mr Dixon". I enjoyed hearing the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, on the question of which buttock, but certainly in Eton field games, size mattered. As I left school at the age of seventeen-and-a-half weighing just nine stone, noble Lords can imagine that I was not exactly one of the most successful young sportsmen. Never mind, we have tennis players; and, I understand, a cricketer to follow. We also have a notable skier among us, the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, and an archer, namely, my noble friend Lord Monro of Langholm, who is a member of the Royal Company of Archers, Queen's Body Guard for Scotland.

Before my noble friend sees fit to take the mickey out of me, he may recall that in 1975 both he and I, as well as a group of other parliamentarians, visited the Sobell Sports Centre in Islington where we found the most marvellous state-of-the-art sports centre run by Mr David Hemery. Many noble Lords may remember him in the 400-metres hurdles in, I believe, Mexico in 1968. The centre is a marvellous place for young people to practise sport. However, I understand that the main problem there—as, indeed, is the case with many other centres—is the human element; that is, people to run such centres of excellence. As the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, pointed out, in many cases human effort is needed to ensure that young people can use the facilities in safety, and, at the same time, be encouraged to participate.

We have also heard that teachers must be much more professional these days. They have very little spare time; indeed, much more of their time is spent attempting to ensure, for example, that the four children of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, actually manage to achieve the qualifications that many of your Lordships struggled so hard to attain. I was particularly taken by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, who referred to the ITV Digital problem, and the possibility of many professional footballers in England and Wales either losing their jobs or having their status in life changed.

I noticed mention in some of yesterday's broadsheets of the idea that some of these footballers might be trained as PE instructors. Quite rightly. It is not that cold water was poured on the idea, but there would certainly be a need for them to gain qualifications in order to become fully fledged PE instructors. I wonder whether there is some merit in that idea. Perhaps those footballers, and other young people, might be encouraged to become what one might call "assistants". They already have some knowledge of what is required, but they could study to gain the qualifications by way of a form of sandwich course.

I was delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, included "the promotion of health" in the title to her Motion. I look around the Chamber and wonder about the description "obese". Perhaps the noble Baroness would care to accompany those of us who belong to the Lords and Commons Ski Club in the first week of January to see who is obese, and who is reasonably healthy. My noble friend Lord Glentoran sustained a particularly severe injury, but I do not believe that it was as a result of his sport of bob-sleighing. I understand that it happened while he was water-skiing. Nevertheless, he has certainly retained his fitness.

For myself, I broke both a leg and an ankle in Switzerland, but that was not while I was in the company of the parliamentarians. I have dislocated a shoulder, broken a hand, and have now damaged the other shoulder. All those injuries were sustained while practising one sport in one location. When the noble Baroness said that sport promotes health, I do not necessarily think that she was pointing in my direction.

The noble Baroness talked extensively about "social inclusion", as, indeed, did many noble Lords. For my part, I must declare one interest. I hope that my noble friend Lord Monro will not hammer me, but I am honorary president of Forfar Athletic. We lost three/nil to his team—Queen of the South. I do not know what the average gate is for his club in Dumfries, but they brought 300 spectators to Forfar. However, when the team members were presented with the prize, perhaps my noble friend can tell me why they had a total of 6,200 spectators. I do not know whether my noble friend was among them; indeed, I am not too sure whether he paid to go in. I am also a patron of the Kirriemuir Boys' Club. But, in my tiny little town in Scotland, I am afraid that that is the one sport that they do not practise. There are five or six gentlemen in Kirriemuir who put day and night into that club, and I pay tribute to them tonight.

I realise that sport is a devolved matter, so my remarks may be a trifle distant from the subject. However, I am very glad that the noble Baroness gave us the chance to ask the Government what is going on in this area. Before I sit down, I respectfully ask my noble friend Lady Anelay and the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, not to crow too much: they should just wait until 10 minutes to five on Saturday to see whether or not their beloved club does, indeed, win the title.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Massey of Darwen

My Lords, speaking as the "cricketer to follow", I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Billingham for securing tonight's debate and for introducing it with such knowledge and passion. Like me, my noble friend is a sports fanatic. In the privacy of the women Peers' room, we have often sorted out the fortunes of England teams in a variety of sports. I shall avoid our discussions on rugby scrums.

I define "sport" as any physical activity that leads to improved fitness. Team games and competitive sport are important and inspire many qualities, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, observed, they are not the whole story. Some young people are put off physical activity—often for life—by being forced into team games for which they have little aptitude or interest. Attention to fitness, rather than winning or losing, seems to me to carry wider benefits for health and for social inclusion.

Today, coming in at the tail end of the debate after some prolific and stimulating batting, what else is there to do? The answer, I hope, is plenty, because my contribution will be about girls and women in sport. I shall look at the benefits to women of participation in sport, reasons why they may not participate, and how we might encourage them to do so. It is a fact that many girls feel excluded from physical activity, yet such activity would benefit their health, their confidence, and their positive inclusion in communities. I am grateful for help with my contribution to Sport England, the CCPR, especially its director Margaret Talbot, the Women's Sports Foundation, and the Youth Sports Trust.

What are the benefits of physical activity for women? First, for their health. Women are now at increased risk of stoke, heart attacks, and chronic bronchitis. Older women may be at risk from osteoporosis. Exercise decreases that risk. Younger women who take part in sports are less likely to smoke, take drugs, or become pregnant while in their teens. They are also, as are boys, more likely to achieve academically. This may be connected to the fact that taking part in sport increases self-esteem and involves women in community activity with peer support. Research shows that a physically active mother is a good indicator that the children will take part in sport.

Women surely have the human right to take part in sport, and achieve in sport; too often, they are put off sport or denied access to it. Participation in sport by women has increased over the past 15 years, but it is still less than men's participation. Women tend to drop out of sport on leaving school; working-class women participate less than middle-class women; and culture and religion also have an impact. It is estimated that only 19 per cent of Bangladeshi women take part in sport, compared to a national rate of 34 per cent. Girls and women are more likely to care for other members of the family, and, generally, have less personal time. Moreover, girls and women may have less money to pay for membership of gyms, or for other sports facilities.

There are too few positive role models for women in sport. The sports press is overwhelming male orientated. After the excellent FA Women's Cup Final, on Monday I saw a newspaper headline that read "Not Bad - for girls". Need I say more? Senior positions in sport are almost exclusively filled by males. If we could make change in those areas, perhaps it would influence women into feeling more included in sport.

So how can we encourage girls and women to participate more in sports? Matters are improving, with fast-growing enthusiasm for playing football and cricket among women and attending gyms and fitness classes. The Nike-Youth Trust "Girls in Sport" project researched initiatives that may further encourage girls' participation. One conclusion was that traditional forms of delivery of physical education and sport to young people were in need of urgent reform if girls were to participate more. For example, a mix of competitive and recreational activities, such as dance and aerobics, could be provided—an issue touched on by my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley.

Girls in school are more enthusiastic if they are involved in deciding how the physical activity programme is designed. Displays in school of girls of all shapes and sizes involved in and enjoying physical activity are motivational. In one school I know, a fitness club before school encourages girls to take part willingly in activities.

Government departments such as the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should develop policies focused on women in sport. Schools could try to raise the profile of sport for girls by supporting a wide variety of opportunities for girls to take part in PE—perhaps by collaborating with local sports facilities such as gyms. Local provision, such as in youth clubs, could encourage a greater width of sports facilities for young women. School and youth provision could be tied in with health education programmes. National bodies, local authorities and coaching agencies could consider why women are poorly represented at senior management level. The media could be encouraged to report more on women's sport and increase coverage of good female role models. I should like to hear from the Minister whether any current or likely government initiatives focus specifically on women's sport.

Women's health is important. The social inclusion of women is important. Sport and physical activity can enhance both.

7.22 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, this is one of those debates that I have looked forward to with trepidation. A great deal of thought and expertise has been pumped into this debate. When one is trying to wind-up such a debate, one always finds that much of what one wanted to say has already been said—and probably said better. But to return to the basic premise of the debate—that social inclusion and health are benefits of sport—yes, they are. We have always known them to be. I congratulate the Government on starting to deal with the problems. This is one of the few areas in Parliament where party politics does not have that great a bite. There is a far higher degree of coherence across the parties because we are dealing with a real set of problems.

I think back to the great debate about whether competitive sport was bad. When I first heard that, I turned round and said, "Sport without competition is exercise". The reason why people do not universally exercise—we all know that it is good for us—is because it is fairly boring. That is the fact of the matter. Merely exercising is boring. If we ask any sportsman whether he actually enjoys doing the same exercise X number of times to keep himself fit, he will say no, he does not. It is dull. It is painful. It is boring. There is always something better on the TV. But he does it to get involved, because he gets a buzz out of sport. I do not know whether it is competition or co-operation—I cannot properly define it—but there is a certain buzz that people get out of sport that they do not get just from exercise.

The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, mentioned cycling. I pull him up slightly on that point. Cycling may be an efficient, environmentally friendly and beneficial form of exercise, but it is not sport as I would define it. I accept that there is competitive cycling, but I think that he was talking about something else. Sport is a series of invented obstacles that we get a buzz from overcoming. That obstacle is often one's opponent. That is about as close to a definition as I can get.

Let us consider what the Government have done. They have started to tackle one of the major problems: the low level of school participation. That was an unforeseen knock-on effect of the Education Act 1988. It is as simple as that. It was not planned; it was just overlooked. Education establishments tend to concentrate on their primary business, which is education. Thus, it was not surprising that an education-driven Act unintentionally squeezed something else out. Once that happened, the knock-on effect throughout the entire sporting structure was radical. That initial contact was removed because teachers were counting their hours and not going out for X hours at lunchtime and after school.

There has never been a sufficient number of PE teachers to provide a broad spectrum of sport education. At best—and we should move much further towards this—they can provide a sampling board from which to push off in other directions. It is fair to say that the Government's school sports co-ordinators have started promisingly, but the jury is still out on whether they are sustainable or are driving people away from the qualified PE teacher base—whether they are doing more than taking steps in the right direction. I do not know whether they will be able to address the problem, but I suggest that we should seriously consider cutting away some unnecessary red tape by allowing teachers to qualify as PE coaches. Under the old system, someone who played for someone's third team in any given sport 20 years ago might well find himself in charge of a team of youngsters.

Almost all sports in this country have developed ways of teaching youngsters how to play the game—Rugby Union, cricket. Everyone has given it a great deal of thought. If we can encourage teachers to get properly qualified to teach young people, they should be rewarded in some way—preferably financially. I hope that the Minister will take that idea on board, because even with the best will in the world, school sports co-ordinators and PE staff cannot do the job because there are not enough of them. That is a simple matter of fact.

Of course, the great change that has come across the sporting world is the National Lottery. That goes to show that what government get wrong somewhere they get right somewhere else. We are now benefiting from the great achievements of the lottery, but it may already be entering a long dotage. The number of people taking part and the amount of money raised is dropping dramatically. The initial buzz is gone. Whether those who are running it can re-invigorate it we do not know, but it would seem that the best that they can do is to check the rate of decline.

Much work has been done to improve facilities. We will soon reach the point where we have the facilities that we can reasonably expect. That will always be an ongoing process—projects will fail, there will be replacements and new needs will arise—but we will soon have nearly all the infrastructure going.

A declining amount of money is available. Can the Minister give us a commitment that no more good causes will cut in to that decreasing cake—that the number of slices will remain as it is and that sport can be guaranteed to receive its current proportion of the income? That is important to allow sport to build. Will the National Lottery be allowed to start to take on the on-costs of sporting projects? That would mean that it would not have to come in with huge dollops of money for reimbursement and to try to ensure that it has new projects that meet new needs. In future, we shall need to consider refurbishment and general maintenance projects, even to the point of paying for staff. It is important. We have enjoyed success with—if you like—the sexy projects, and we are now heading towards smaller projects. We must consider providing grants for the maintenance of such projects, especially in areas that are least capable of providing facilities themselves. If we do not, if government—national or local—is not prepared to step in and support them, they run a high risk of collapse.

I must also raise the health issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, mentioned the connection between our earlier debate on health and this debate. In the area of sports medicine, we must look to the department to do its usual job of chasing others around to get more funding. At the moment, people are often frightened of playing sport because of injury or work commitments. Also, people do not know what to do if something goes wrong. Will the Government ensure that, if they are putting money into sporting projects, they tie in with that the development of sports medicine for recreational sportsmen?

The élite has been taken care of and has access to such medicine, but recreational sportsmen need to know that there will be sufficient numbers of physiotherapists attached to doctors' surgeries, that they will not have to wait for ever for an appointment and that the staff will he there to support them. There should also be greater emphasis on training GPs to deal with sports injuries.

Every sportsman of my age will have a story about going to the doctor and saying, "I've got such-and-such wrong with me. What should I do?", only for the doctor to say, without thinking, "Rest for two weeks". When the sportsman says, "Surely, that will just weaken muscles and shorten tendons", a look of panic crosses the doctor's face, and he says, "Rest for four weeks". If we can encourage spending on sports medicine in the National Health Service, we will help the sports bodies to do their job.

7.32 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, was right to direct us to this subject today. Sport matters, and we must all work to ensure that no one is excluded from enjoying it on the grounds of disability, race, gender or background. As the Central Council for Physical Recreation pointed out in its briefing to your Lordships, we should also recognise that sport is not just a means of delivering wider government objectives, it is valuable in its own right. The contributions made by noble Lords made it clear that they hold true to that in their personal life.

I commend campaigns such as Sporting Equals for the work that they do throughout England to promote racial equality in sport and for the way in which they do it. Sport England funds the project and works through the CRE with the governing bodies of various sports and key national umbrella organisations. I wish them every success and invite the Minister to do the same tonight.

Sport is vitally important to the physical health of the nation. At its best, it is exciting, passionate and hugely enjoyable. It can help to improve our quality of life. As my noble friend Lord Lyell said, volunteers make a massive and invaluable contribution to the organisation of sport in the community. My noble friend Lord Monro of Langholm and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, said that, although the Government made changes to the tax regime in the Budget this year, they failed to deliver on their commitment to give community amateur sports clubs, which are not charities, the 80 per cent mandatory business rate relief for which most of them have asked. I hope that we will hear from the Minister that there will be a second-stage move towards such a regime.

Community spirit and national identity are fostered by sport. When the UK performs well, it boosts morale; we all want to "Bend It Like Beckham". To the individual, sport can offer a sense of personal accomplishment, as well as health benefits. It teaches people how to win and—certainly for me—how to lose, without, it is to be hoped, losing one's temper. It can improve cognitive skills such as literacy and numeracy. For society as a whole, sport can help to reduce the level of crime. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, is involved in valuable work in that regard. It can help to channel aggression and play an important role in diminishing social and ethnic barriers. Sport can also provide delinquent youngsters with a welcome diversion and can act as a deterrent to the use of illegal drugs, something that Sport England's Positive Futures scheme aims to address.

Sport also plays a part in encouraging the economic regeneration of local communities. We should pay tribute to local authorities, which play a major role in providing and delivering sport. They make available to their communities about 1,200 swimming centres and 1,500 sports centres and maintain about 5,000 parks, playing fields, open spaces and pitches for sports-related activities. Those facilities provide communities with a healthy social focal point.

My noble friend Lord Moynihan made a series of proposals to the Minister on how the Government could tackle social exclusion at local government level. I listened carefully to his list, and I thought that it was an innovative and practical list. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to those proposals.

Most of us first experience sport at school.It is vital that children are introduced to sport and PE at an early age. Teaching children to play sport is essential to a rounded education. I listened with care to what the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, said about the value of competitive sport. I agree entirely with him. Is the Minister aware of the valuable work done by the British Schools Tennis Association in fostering, competitive sport? It runs a business-sponsored, nationwide programme of school competitions, involving about 33,000 children between the ages of nine and 15 in team events each year. That is a valuable contribution. The undermining of competitive sports in schools has had a detrimental effect on the standard of school sport. Such sports teach students values such as teamwork, leadership, loyalty, courage, respect and patience. We neglect them at our peril.

Just as sport teaches children life skills, it helps to keep them healthy. Noble Lords have given persuasive evidence of the problems that ensue when children are introduced to obesity, rather than sport. Research by the Leeds Community and Mental Health Trust showed that the number of obese children had reached record levels and that, by the age of 11, one third of our children are overweight and one fifth of boys are obese. As noble Lords have said, that should he little surprise, given that one third of primary schools have reduced the time for sport in the past year and children spend twice as much time watching television or playing computer games as they do exercising or playing sport. Indeed, the annual sales turnover for computer games exceeds that the film industry in this country.

Research conducted by the University of Exeter has shown that most 11 to 16 year-olds get fewer than 20 minutes of meaningful physical activity a week. The number of PE specialists in training has dropped by about one third in the past three years. Primary school teachers may receive as little as 10 hours of initial PE training in four years at teaching training college. We must address those problems.

The issue of girls in sport was raised capably, as always—that sounds condescending, but it is not meant to be—by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen. The noble Baroness knows all about the subject; I know only a little. Research has suggested that participation levels in women's and girls' sport are disproportionately low. It is true that they participate in greater numbers than before, but still they do not do so as often as men. The Conservative Party recognises the existence of gender inequality in sport. I note that the next world conference on women in sport will be held in Canada next week, from 16th to 19th May. Can the Minister tell us which Ministers will attend the conference? What are their precise objectives? How will they report directly to this House on progress in Canada?

The Conservative Party endorses the national action plan for women's and girls' sport and physical activity, launched by the Women's Sports Foundation in conjunction with Sport England. Can the Minister tell the House what the Government have done to encourage sporting bodies to sign up to the National Action Plan and make a determined effort to put them into practice?

My noble friend Lord Glentoran pointed out how important it is for the Government to recognise the immense and positive contribution which sport brings to communities across the country, ensuring that the requirements of sport are properly taken into account across the whole spectrum of policy and funding decisions.

The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, reminded us that the Government have not yet acted on the recommendation of the Health Select Committee of another place in ensuring that there is a joint special adviser shared between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health. When do the Government intend to take up that recommendation—without increasing the overall number of special advisers since this Government have increased those numbers vastly over the past six years already?

The same report highlighted evidence to show that only 11 per cent of general practitioners recognise government guidelines on the amount of physical activity to be undertaken by adults. What measures are being taken by the Government to make the health case for physical activity, including sport, to GPs and health professionals?

Finally, Peers have made it clear today that there is much that the Government can do to ensure that sport plays its full part in promoting health and social inclusion. So far the Government have talked a good game, but they have not delivered a result. No doubt we shall return to the subject to press the Government for a progress report. I must say that, unlike Wembley, I shall not accept the lack of a final date on this. There has to be a result.

Perhaps we shall even press the Minister for a personal progress report if she takes up the challenge of her noble friend Lord Haskel to take up cycling. Coming from the family that used to manufacture Anelay cycles into the middle of the last century, I look forward to hearing a positive conclusion that she has taken it up.

7.41 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, from all that we have heard today, it is clear that there are a great many in your Lordships' House, and beyond, who feel truly passionately about sport—including cycling. Although I am in favour of cycling, whenever I take to a bike the chain comes off. Therefore, I am going to stick to valley walks and the tennis court and—dare I say on such an auspicious day—supporting the Arsenal football club.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Billingham for raising an issue which has generated such an interesting debate. We have had many expert speakers, including two former Ministers of Sport. I am also grateful for all the ideas that have been put forward.

As my noble friend said, there is increasing concern about our "couch potato" culture and the rising level of obesity in our population. The statistics are indeed shocking. We know that physical activity levels, as well as dietary factors, are significant determinants of body mass. We know that levels of activity have a significant impact on health. Figures from the United States show that lifetime healthcare costs are 30 per cent lower for the physically active than for sedentary people. That is a statistic we should all take seriously in how we run our own lives.

I agree with my noble friends Lady Billingham and Lord Pendry and the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that there is a very clear role for sport in encouraging people to be more active. In this country, compared with others in the European Union, there is certainly a great deal of scope for this. The average percentage of adults who regularly participate in sport in the UK is only 46 per cent, as against between 60 and 70 per cent in Scandinavian countries. We also need to target our efforts. Non-participation rates are higher among ethnic minorities and women where the prevalence of obesity and associated morbidities is growing fastest.

The Government are heeding those indicators. My department is working closely with the departments of health and education and skills to use sport to encourage participation in active recreation. For children and young people we are building a national network of 1,000 school sport co-ordinators to encourage sport in schools, out of school hours and beyond schools through links with sports clubs. They are 'lasing; with healthy schools co-ordinators to ensure that the message about the impact of active lifestyles on long-term health is part of a broader preventive healthcare strategy.

Adults are harder to reach. For those at risk from sedentary lifestyles we need to develop new approaches. In partnership with the Department of Health and Sport England, DCMS will pilot a Leisure Credit initiative to offer exercise on prescription for targeted adults in some of our most disadvantaged areas. I hope that the proposed scheme will empower the user rather than just subsidising the provider, as in the past. We will provide more details of that scheme soon.

My noble friends Lady Billingham and Lord Hardy of Wath raised a second area of concern—that of the rising tide of street crime committed by young people. The Prime Minister has pledged to bring street crime under control in the 10 police areas responsible for 80 per cent of such offences. That will require action not only within the criminal justice system but also by departments, including my own.

As the noble Lord, Lord Warner, said, we are working with the Department for Education and Skills and the Youth Justice Board to establish a coordinated preventive programme of summer and longer-term activities in the target areas. The Government accept what has been said in the debate. Sport can help engage disaffected young people and help them find their way into a more constructive use of their leisure time.

Evidence from the Summer Splash schemes, which were described by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, is encouraging. For example, in areas where schemes were run in the year 2000, the total crime rate fell by 6 per cent, compared with a national rise of just under 4 per cent. Criminal damage fell by 14 per cent, against a national rise of 8 per cent. Domestic burglary fell by 26.6 per cent. The national fall was only 8 per cent. The criticism commonly levelled at such schemes is that they are merely diversionary. They channel energies which might otherwise go into criminal activity but fail to address the underlying attitudes which lead to bad behaviour. Can sport do both? Evidence to show that it can is beginning to emerge. Where sustained sport-based programmes are and have clear goals, they can achieve remarkable results. For example, there has been a 75 per cent reduction in arrests and offences of young people involved through the Youth Inclusion programme in the Plymouth Positive Futures project. The Government will continue investing in long-term schemes like that and will use sport to engage hard to reach young offenders. We shall learn lessons from longer-term evaluations.

Those health and community safety issues are formidable problems which require a comprehensive, sustained and intelligent approach. While it is right to explore the potential of sport to bring about change for the good, it is important to be realistic. While sport can be part of the answer to individual and social malaise, sport in itself is no Holy Grail. I am sure that Members of your Lordships' House will agree with that.

Sport can provide role models. It can inspire; it can provide healthy and enjoyable exercise and social contacts. It can teach young people about team working and the importance of rules. Involvement in sport, in the right environment, can indeed be a powerful tool for the transformation of individual lives and of communities.

Sport will need help to achieve all that potential. I want to refute what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran; that funding for sport is not part of our agenda. The Government are investing in sport at a level never previously seen in this country. Perhaps I should set that out for him and for the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who also asked about it.

Exchequer funding for sport in the current year is £83.7 million rising to £135 million next year. That represents an increase of £80 million over the figure for 1996—97. Many speakers mentioned the lottery. Since 1997, almost £1.5 billion has been awarded in lottery grants for community sports facilities and acute athletes under the world class programme. In addition, £31.5 million from the New Opportunities Fund Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities programme is enhancing playing fields and play areas. During the current spending round, £73 million is being invested in specialist sports colleges by the DfES. And investment in school sports facilities through the New Opportunities Fund and Space for Sport and Arts amounts to £855 million. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley for all her work in the chair of the New Opportunities Fund. That amounts to a package of more than £2 billion for sport.

Last month, the Government recognised that amateur sports clubs, rooted in local communities, need more support. That help is now forthcoming and I am grateful for support for that move from the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

In April, the Minister for Sport announced that the majority of amateur clubs will now be able to apply for charitable status. The potential benefits run into tens of millions of pounds. Through that new status, clubs will gain the mandatory 80 per cent relief from business rates; tax exemption for fundraising income; and payroll giving, Giftaid and other tax reliefs.

As the noble Lord, Lord Monro of Langholm, claimed, of course clubs will need help in understanding the changes. A regional Sport England helpline will be available to help them make the most of the new tax benefits very shortly. I know that the Charity Commission is aware of the need to be helpful in that respect.

In addition, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, pointed out, the Chancellor announced a package of tax benefits in the Budget for clubs which are unable to benefit from charitable status. We will keep the effectiveness of those arrangements under review, including the specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

An extra boost for clubs was also announced by the Chancellor in the form of £20 million from the Capital Modernisation Fund for sport. Clubs will also benefit from the Government's plans for coaching and volunteering. Coaches play a key role in motivating competitors and improving their skills. That applies to the school playground and the local playing field as well as to major international events.

We need to develop and support coaches more. We also need to encourage more people to enter the profession and to ensure that good coaching is available at every level from the grass roots to the top. At the grassroots level, action is already underway. The Come into Coaching campaign is a national recruitment drive in partnership with the BBC to encourage parents and others to enter coaching in local schools and clubs. Some of those people will be paid as sessional coaches. Others will be volunteers.

My noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath mentioned volunteers. It is estimated that our 110,000 amateur sports clubs are sustained by an army of more than 1.5 million volunteers. Those dedicated people range from skilled coaches to the mothers who wash bags full of muddy kit for junior teams. All of them give their services week after week and we must acknowledge the work that they do.

One of the most inspiring elements of preparations for the Commonwealth Games is the Millennium Volunteers programme. My department will continue to lead in advocating the value of volunteering in sport. And the benefits will spread beyond our schools. Many will progress to higher awards and will be placed in community sports clubs. Alongside them, adults will also have the opportunity to gain awards and recognition for the volunteering they already do.

To underpin that work, Sport England will develop a comprehensive volunteering database to match local placement opportunities to the experience and qualifications of volunteers.

A key issue for clubs and for the public is access to sports facilities and in particular playing fields. The noble Lords, Lord Monro of Langholm, Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Lord St John of Bletso, mentioned the concern felt about the loss of school playing fields. While there is no room for complacency, the picture is nowhere near as black as is sometimes painted. The Government have dramatically reduced the overall number of sales of school playing fields by introducing legislative changes and checks to the planning system. Controls set up to stem the flow are now beginning to bite.

In response to particular questions raised about that issue, Sport England has followed up all the planning applications affecting playing fields to which it has objected as a statutory consultee. We expect soon to be able to publish an authoritative set of figures agreed with the National Playing Fields Association to put an end to the confusion over data to which the noble Lord, Lord Monro, alluded. There is more that I could say about that issue, but I fear that I shall run out of time. I want to move on to the issue of trying to improve what we do for school sports.

First, £201 million Sport England lottery funding has been awarded to school sports facilities as well as funding from the Department for Education and Skills and funding through Space for Sport and Arts. All facilities which are funded through those programmes must also open their doors to local people out of school hours to benefit community health and promote social inclusion. We know that professional white males are four times as likely to participate in regular activity than working-class women of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin. That discrepancy is being addressed. Forty-three of the 45 county-based sports partnerships have worked out equity policies with clear targets for engaging women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in sport.

In order to extend the benefits of participation beyond the traditional social boundaries, we are channelling sports development funding into areas of multiple deprivation. Sport England's community capital programme is supporting projects which encourage participation by groups less likely to be regularly involved in sport and active recreation.

School is where most children are introduced to sport. At school, pupils either develop a lifelong love of sport or an equally lifelong aversion to it. As my noble friend Lady Billingham pointed out, school sport declined throughout the 1980s and 1990s. However, the message we are now trying to get across is that time spent on PE and sport does not detract from academic achievement. Indeed, the opposite is true. My noble friend also mentioned the specialist sports colleges where GCSE results have improved, as they have in other specialist schools. Longitudinal studies currently being undertaken further support the improvements being brought about in the achievements of their pupils.

For a whole variety of reasons, including the improvements that I have just mentioned, the Prime Minister is committed to embedding sport at the heart of school life. In response to the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Addington, to ensure that that is brought about, both the DCMS and the DIES have agreed a detailed project delivery plan which aims to improve the quality of PE and sport in schools. The project aims to ensure that all pupils can benefit from a minimum of two hours per week of high-quality PE and school sport; to encourage schools to foster links with sports clubs; to provide a wider range of opportunities and to encourage school leavers to remain involved in sport. Ultimately, the project seeks to increase the number of children enjoying playing and participating in sports and related recreational activities.

To achieve that transformation of school sport, we are planning an expansion of the existing infrastructure of sport co-ordinator partnerships and primary link schools centred on specialist sports colleges. Once the delivery contract targets have been agreed, they will be made public. However, I can assure noble Lords that they will be ambitious. We believe that our plans for school sports provision will have a long-term impact on sporting and educational achievement, the health of the nation and on the social fabric of our communities.

A number of specific questions were raised during the course of the debate to which I shall not have time to respond in detail now. I shall write to noble Lords with answers to those questions. Perhaps I may conclude by saying that many of us count participation in or spectating sport as one of the great pleasures of life. I certainly do so. I hope that I have been able to demonstrate that sport can help to achieve much wider goals for society and for individuals. Sport has a magnetism that is capable of drawing out the best in some of our most disaffected and disadvantaged people. The Government are determined to focus that power sensitively and effectively.

8.2 p.m.

Baroness Billingham

My Lords, this is the first debate that l have initiated since becoming a Member of your Lordships' House. It has been a most stimulating experience. Your Lordships' House is packed with so much expertise—a galaxy of stars if ever I saw one. Today's debate has been positive, creative and dynamic with every contributor giving remarkable insights. I hope that the debate will he widely read and acknowledged and that many of the aspirations of noble Lords will become reality. I believe that we have witnessed genuine consensus on the value of sport to our society. Let us retain that united front and encourage the Government to place sport even higher on their agenda so that it can play its key role in ensuring a healthier and more inclusive society.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.