HL Deb 31 March 2003 vol 646 cc1039-40

2.36 p.m.

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ensure that primary care trusts, health authorities and National Health Service trusts promote and safeguard facilities for physical activity and sport.

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, primary care trusts have an important role in the delivery of local and effective policies to increase physical activity. They are supported in that by the wider NHS and work with other organisations through local strategic partnerships to ensure the best possible local infrastructure for physical activity and sport.

Lord Addington

My Lords, is it not slightly strange that there is no statutory right of consultation for the NHS in any of its facilities to advise on recreational physical activity, especially when we consider that it often prescribes physical activity as a treatment? Does that not display a considerable lack of joined-up government and imply increased costs in future?

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that there is no statutory responsibility, but the NHS is proactively involved in many different ways. For example, 93 per cent of local strategic partnerships, which are responsible for developing local infrastructure, now have the chief executive of the local PCT on the board.

Another example relates to the sale of school playing fields, which has significantly reduced as a result of the Government's regulations in 1998. We have there seen that the third criterion, which means that community interests must be served, invites the PCT to have a view. Its role may not be statutory, but the PCT can certainly play a role by saying that such open spaces are important for a community for health reasons.

Baroness Billingham

My Lords, can the Minister update us on the impact of the New Opportunities Fund programme—especially its positive effect on promoting sport across all age groups and in all communities? It has been especially successful in that area.

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, sport has been a major priority for the Government and the NOF programme has taken a significant lead. For example, £581 million has been provided for infrastructure and development—school playing fields, sports halls, and so forth—and £300 million has been provided for healthy learning centres, which are a splendid innovation driven by the community. They invite people in to discuss how their health needs can best be met through diet, activity, and so on. My favourite is the out-of-school learning programme, whereby major expansion of after-school and out-of-school activities for young people has been taking place, especially in sport.