Community Sports: Impact on Young People - Motion to Take Note

– in the House of Lords am 3:16 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Lord Wood of Anfield:

Moved by Lord Wood of Anfield

That this House takes note of the contribution of all sports to society and the economy, and in particular of the impact of community sport on young people’s health and well-being.

Photo of Lord Wood of Anfield Lord Wood of Anfield Llafur

My Lords, I am delighted that we are having this debate on the social and economic contribution of sport in our country. I want to start with something I have always wanted to include in a Lords debate: a quote from my hero, Jürgen Klopp, the manager of our beloved Liverpool Football Club, who sadly will be managing his last game for Liverpool this Sunday. Jürgen, if you are watching, thank you, and my best wishes for the future—you’ll never walk alone. Klopp famously said of football, during the suspension of sport in Britain during the pandemic—though it could be said on behalf of fans of all sports—that although it is not that important, it seems

“the most important of the least important things”.

The 58% of Brits who follow at least one sport know how true this is.

Sport teaches resilience, patience, discipline, the importance of combining practice with flair and combining individual excellence with teamwork, dealing with disappointment, and resolving to recover. For fans like me, sport provides a crucial dimension of the narrative arc of our lives. But research shows that the playing of, love of, and social capital generated by sport has immense power to improve lives beyond those of just the fans. Playing sport is obviously key to personal physical fitness. It improves the quality of sleep—in turn a gateway to all sorts of higher well-being indicators. It generates higher levels of happiness, satisfaction, quality of relationships, confidence and self-esteem. It reduces anxiety, depression and isolation, sometimes more effectively than medication. These positive effects are more pronounced for girls and young women. NIH research shows that watching sport—my favourite quote of the speech—leads to

“increased brain activity and the structural volume in … brain regions related to well-being”.

On Monday, the excellent Youth Sport Trust released data showing that participation in physical activity in school is worth between £4.5 billion and £9 billion in well-being benefits, and that those benefits are most valuable to poorer and disabled pupils.

When it comes to social policy, sport is far more than the most important of the least important things. In our communities, especially in relation to more marginalised groups, sport and physical activities often have Heineken properties, reaching the parts that other policies find hard to reach. Sports initiatives across the piece report positive effects in improving employability and reducing anti-social behaviour, for example. There is the Premier League Kicks programme, which targets some of the most deprived communities, with free football sessions for children, combined with workshops on social inclusion, the dangers of crime and other social problems. The programme, launched in 2006, is now so popular in reaching at-risk young people that 36 different police forces have partnered with the Premier League to deliver Kicks.

In cricket, the Chance to Shine programme reaches half a million children in state schools and communities across Britain, many of whom are from minority backgrounds. The Golf Foundation will soon launch its Unleash Your Drive programme, using teaching and the playing of golf to instil essential life skills. Across the country, charities such as the excellent StreetGames, whose Doorstep Sport programmes offer cheap, accessible ways into sport for children in the most deprived areas, are transforming the lives of many of those in the most need, from reducing holiday hunger to supporting personal development and inculcating leadership skills.

A basic measure of the strength of sports in our country is rates of participation. Here, the record of the past decade, since the 2012 Olympics, has been, I think it is fair to say, a bit disappointing. Some 22% of British adults play at least one sport, which is about middle ranking internationally, but when it comes to our children under half of under-18s meet the CMO’s guideline of doing an hour or more of sport or physical activity each day. Sadly, since the London Olympics, the number of hours that children spend doing school sports has gone down by 12%, and those who do not participate are significantly more likely to be on free school meals. There is also continuing evidence of what is referred to as a gender play gap among school-aged girls, two-thirds of whom say they would like to engage in more sport than they are being provided with.

Among less active groups, there has been mixed progress over the past decade—reasonably good for some, such as disabled people and the over-75s, but with far less progress for others, such as black, Asian and minority groups. Worryingly, the income and class divide in participation statistics is persistent, perhaps even strengthening since Covid.

Returns on public investment in sports participation are sizeable. Sport England has shown that, for every £1 spent, nearly £4 of social and economic value is created. While I welcome the Government’s ambition in their 2023 Get Active paper for 2.5 million more adults and 1 million more children to be active by 2030, I worry that those who lead this drive, for all their excellent work, do not have the mechanisms, means or metrics to deliver those step changes. I worry too that we have not made enough headway among groups that face particular barriers to access and participation.

Take the example of women’s sport and physical activity. The last few years have seen huge steps forward in the prominence, success and coverage of professional women’s sports, in particular following the phenomenal achievements of England’s Lionesses, but also in cricket, rugby and many other sports. Football’s Women’s Super League in England saw an extraordinary 40% increase in attendance during the first half of this season alone. Average crowds are now well over 7,000, which makes it Europe’s most attended league. Yet sporting participation rates for women have been static for nearly a decade. Of course, the main metric for elite sports is not simply the extent to which it triggers a participation revolution at grass-roots level, but I wonder whether we have as a country placed a bit too much faith in the catalytic effect of breakthrough moments and achievement in unleashing a participation revolution, especially among groups that have historically engaged less in sport.

Key to delivering on this revolution is money and funding. There can be no doubt about the economic value of the UK sports industry. Sport’s total contribution to the UK economy in 2022 was £18 billion, about 0.8% of total GDP. The industry supports over half a million jobs in our country, and the sector has grown 50% faster than the rest of the economy since 2010. The benefits of sport at all levels are felt across different parts of British society and, of course, make huge contributions in areas such as healthcare, crime reduction and education. It does not rob us of the right to have strong views about reforms to football governance to celebrate at the same time the extraordinary economic success of the Premier League, the biggest audiovisual exporter in the UK, with an audience of 1.8 billion people in 190 countries.

Sport is both a constant companion for the majority of people in our country and a powerhouse of our economy. But when it comes to public funding for sport, we still lack consistent commitment across the sporting landscape, especially at grass-roots level. These challenges pre-date the obstacles that came in the wake of the pandemic. Spending on grass-roots sports and recreation facilities fell by 47% between 2010 and 2020, when Covid hit us. In the same decade, the number of PE teachers in schools fell by 2,500. On top of this, we have seen the cost of living crisis impact on poorer families’ ability to engage in sports, so now over two-thirds of parents say that worries about affordability have limited their kids’ participation in sport.

Facilities, in particular, have borne the brunt of many years of austerity. Cutbacks to council budgets have had a dramatic impact on a range of local sports infrastructure, and a recent survey indicated that 70% of councils are considering further cutbacks as their finances tighten further. Many community clubs, in poor states of repair before Covid, have stayed shut or closed permanently in the years since. Sport England has taken steps to protect hundreds of community facilities, which I am sure we all welcome, but the challenge is absolutely immense, with 45% of our country’s public park tennis courts in poor, very poor or unplayable condition. The FA reports that only one in three grass pitches is of adequate quality; 150,000 matches a year get called off because of unfit pitches. We have very low numbers of artificial sports pitches compared with many of our European neighbours and, as Sport England’s chair, Chris Boardman, outlined just this morning:

“Extreme weather is increasingly making it difficult for us to live healthy, active lives”.

It is a problem that will only get worse. In the next half century, for example, wetness is predicted to increase by 30% in British winters. Just imagine the effect that will have on people’s ability to engage in community sports.

Again, I do not want to underappreciate areas where the Government provide strong financial support—in particular to Sport England, which receives £250 million a year from government and Lottery sources—and long-standing support for initiatives such as the Football Foundation, which has supported over £1.5 billion in investment in community facilities. I hope the Government, whoever they are, commit to continue this important funding in the years ahead. The predominant picture at grass-roots level is one of multiple long-term challenges: underfunding, climate change, cost of living pressures, councils forced to deprioritise sport, and inequalities of access. These urgently need not just more financial support, of course, but more certain and longer-term financial support.

The funding challenge is actually more complicated than simply more money for sports, although of course that is crucial. Protecting local facilities and community sports requires a step change from the last 14 years in protecting councils’ budgets and their autonomy to spend with more freedom, because only with a broader securing of local authority finances can sports and leisure services be protected from their all-too-frequent fate of being the first items to get cut when pressures increase. At central government level, the paradox of sport is that it benefits the outcomes of many other departments—education, health, home affairs—but those departments do not see sport as a central priority for their own funding programmes. This kind of paradox led, for example, to the very ill-advised decision in 2010 to end government support for school sport partnerships. Part of the policy challenge is aligning the funding streams for sports with the areas in which sport has such positive impacts on people’s lives. That is a difficult task, but I am hopeful that my own party’s commitment to radical new devolution may allow more discretion on spending allocations for combined authorities, for example, to make that alignment happen a bit better at local level.

There is also a range of issues in the way elite sports operate in our country that need to be addressed and debated. The infrastructure of our most popular national sports is increasingly dependent on trickle-down support from a narrow top tier of successful leagues and competitions. Financial precariousness and dependence have become a constitutional condition of lower-league sports teams all the way down in our country. Alongside this, we have understandable and widespread concerns about the way in which the quest for broadcasting revenues, corporate backing and sponsorship, catering to the demands of foreign audiences and the interests of shareholders in large sporting clubs and organisations are all impacting on the character and integrity of the sports we love. These are concerns we will debate in relation to football governance, for example, but they also encompass the LIV tour controversy in golf, global cricket’s dependence on India for its survival, and issues to do with ensuring that sporting events are available free-to-air not only in their live form, as now, but on digital catch-up.

Lastly, there is a host of issues around the culture within elite sports, from combating doping and corruption to eliminating abuse and exploitation. These remain serious challenges on which my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, has done so much work, including her recommendation from seven years ago to introduce a duty of care to elite sportsmen and sportswomen, supported by a sports ombudsman.

We need to think more forensically about the methods by which increases in participation can be delivered, be successful and be sustainable, and how disabled people, young girls, minority children, lower-income families and rural residents can be engaged in sporting activity more regularly. We need to map the funding structures for sport in ways that mirror more accurately the areas of society in which sport has such a huge impact. We need to ensure that governance, culture and finances in sport continue to embody the values that give sport its popularity and integrity.

We need to celebrate the remarkable power of sport in our country, and I look forward to hearing examples from noble colleagues showcasing that. I also look forward to hearing the maiden speeches of two new colleagues in your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Hannett of Everton—yes, I did bring myself to say “Everton”, even though I am a Liverpool fan—and the noble Lord, Lord Shamash, whose beloved Manchester United, I am glad to say, have avoided relegation this year. I hope to hear ideas from noble Lords about how our approach to increasing the value of sport’s contribution to our country and widening the net of those who enjoy full access to sport can be improved. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Sater Baroness Sater Ceidwadwyr 3:31, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood, for securing this important and broad-ranging debate. I congratulate him on covering so much of the sporting sector in 15 minutes. I draw noble Lords’ attention to my interests in sport and health as laid out on the register.

The Sport England Active Lives survey 2023 paints an encouraging picture of participation in community sport but, sadly, also shows continued disparities. Children and young people of black, Asian and other ethnicities, as well as those from less affluent families, are still less likely to play sport or engage in physical education or activity. Girls are less likely than boys to be active, with the Women in Sport charity recently reporting that the gender activity gap is wider today than it has been since reporting began. Women and girls aged 16 to 24 are three times more likely to be affected by mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Sport England estimates that only 47% of children meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of at least 60 minutes of sport and physical activity per day. The Association for Physical Education is adamant that every child should receive, weekly, two hours of physical education and two hours of physical activity in school, and a chance of two hours of physical activity in the community. This will help develop the positive attitudes associated with continuing healthy, active lives in the community when they leave school. To make our children healthier and fitter for life, we must also put physical development at the heart of early years education and prioritise every child’s play with 60 minutes of physical activity daily.

How can we do more? The excellent physical education and sport premium must become a permanent feature of our future education budgets, with improved monitoring and greater accountability to enable teachers to plan their physical education and sport provision properly. It has more than proved its value since 2013.

The rise in obesity rates in children and young people is often spoken of in both your Lordships’ House and other places, but few practical solutions have been suggested. The roles of physical education, sport and physical activity are, by themselves, not a silver bullet, but they are practical tools to help reduce this trend. They merit more specific, in-depth consideration and collaboration across government departments.

These activities help address further societal problems, including helping at-risk children entering the criminal justice system and those already in it, for whom I am a keen advocate. These children face significant mental and physical health challenges and endure marked health inequalities. Their needs are multiple, persistent and severe, often shaped by their family and social environments.

The taskforce on physical activity and sport in the criminal justice system, which I chair, funded by NHS England and driven by the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice, launched the Get Well, Stay Well agreement in 2022, which helps improve, through sport, the well-being of those in and more likely to enter the justice and welfare system. We know that community sport and physical activities are positive interventions that help rehabilitate children and young people—from early intervention and diversion to sustained participation—and Get Well, Stay Well is now working with nine government departments to remove barriers to physical activity and increase health promotion.

The College of Policing research on sports programmes designed to prevent crime and reduce reoffending confirms that these programmes do just that, as well as discouraging criminal behaviour and related attitudes, and improving psychological outcomes such as self-esteem and emotional well-being. To deliver these important programmes, we need a vibrant and sustainable community sporting sector.

However, enabling sport and physical activity to solve this range of societal challenges—from obesity to criminal justice—in financially constrained times requires increasing delivery within existing community contexts and infrastructure in a cost-neutral manner. Crucial to this effort are facilities, including sports and leisure centres, swimming pools, playing fields and parks, and the opening of more school facilities to their local communities, not to mention the thousands of sports clubs all over the country.

I had the privilege of chairing StreetGames, which the noble Lord, Lord Wood, mentioned earlier, which delivers the doorstep sports programme, bypassing many traditional barriers to activity. It is a robust example of the community delivery we need so badly, reaching those young people who Sport England’s Active Lives report tells us we have been missing.

In conclusion, I would like my noble friend the Minister to comment on the fact that we must keep investing more in all our community sports and leisure centres, swimming pools, sports clubs and playing fields, and open up more school facilities to enable greater community access to both free and low-cost participation. We must ensure that schools provide more physical education activities every week, enabled by a permanent physical education and sport premium. Finally, we must ensure that we genuinely promote the value of sport and physical activity, as Sport England’s 10-year vision, Uniting the Movement, recommends, and support initiatives like the Mental Health Foundation’s Moving more is good for our mental health, published this Mental Health Awareness Week.

Physical education, community sport and physical activity benefit individuals’ emotional well-being, physical health and life skills, but their value to UK society is even greater. A happier, more active society is more successful, more equal and more economically productive—I am sure that my noble friend the Minister and everyone here today can agree on that.

Photo of Lord Hannett of Everton Lord Hannett of Everton Llafur 3:37, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, and thank him for securing this important debate. It would be inappropriate for me to refer to the last derby game, when Everton beat Liverpool, so I will not mention it.

Sport is well proven to be good for both physical and mental health. It makes a major contribution to the economy, employing thousands of workers. Given our respective allegiances, I also look forward to further discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Wood, beyond this Chamber, on the fortunes of our respective clubs.

I place on record my thanks to my noble friends Lady Smith of Basildon and Lord Kennedy of Southwark. I have known them both for some time, and in recent months they have guided me on how this place works. I also thank Black Rod and her staff for their support and patience as I navigate my way around this building, getting lost numerous times. The welcome I have received from Members on all sides of this House has been wonderful.

I was also perhaps fortunate to join at a time of intense debate on the Rwanda Bill. I was impressed by the quality of the contributions, from all sides; it was an invaluable lesson in the processes of the House.

It is with great pride that I make this speech. Born into a working-class family in Liverpool, one of six children, I learnt from an early age that getting on in life involves hard work. But it also involves the support of those closest to you, and for that, I offer loving thanks to my wife Linda, who is in the Chamber, and, of course, to my family.

I also owe a great debt to those I have worked with through both the Labour Party and the TUC—but especially my own union, USDAW, which has played a significant role in my development. Elected general secretary in 2004, I held that post for 14 years, during which I was determined for us to modernise as a union and face the many challenges of the workplace going forward. We introduced a bespoke model based on union values and then put in place the strategy and resources to represent our members effectively. We grew our membership by over 100,000, up 25%, just when unions were in apparent decline—and even more so in the private sector, where we negotiated.

USDAW also organised successful campaigns. As well as the Christmas Day training campaign, which included discussions in this House, there have been campaigns to delay cuts to working tax credits, to deliver an extension and improvements to maternity leave, and to amend the law to introduce a distinct criminal offence for assaulting shop workers. The latter has been running for 20 years and has been adopted by many unions in many other countries.

Another body that I served on with great pleasure, for 11 years, was the Low Pay Commission. It celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and is an important example of different stakeholders reaching a consensus. Commission recommendations have been accepted by all Governments, raising the living standards of some of the poorest paid.

I was also on the Women and Work Commission, tackling the gender pay gap, and the Future of Work Commission, addressing the policy challenges of new technologies. As a keen champion of disability rights, I was more than pleased to see British Sign Language introduced as a GCSE option. All of that illustrates, I hope, how my interest in representing working people includes not just concerns about workplace rights, important though they are; I also very much believe in improving people’s broader quality of life. That means anticipating the inevitable impact of change, and requires partnerships between unions, government and business.

I alluded to my support for my club—the clue is in my title, because I am a true, life-long supporter. One positive aspect of how Everton FC is run is the work of its charitable arm, Everton in the Community. It does so much to support people across the Merseyside area. It is particularly adept at working with those communities often thought of as hard to reach or hard to help. Notable successes include: the “Starting Well” programme, which supports new and expectant parents; a wide range of mental health initiatives, including one focused on suicide prevention and another that specifically targets girls and young women; ongoing efforts to tackle the scourge of social isolation; and the “Pass on the Memories” dementia support programme. It supports much more than just the football itself. Working with a wide network of experts while engaging current and former players, Everton in the Community is a best practice example of a sporting club trying to connect positively with all aspects of people’s lives and make a real difference.

I end by thanking again those who have made me feel so welcome in this House. I also make it clear that, just as my club ensures that the vehicle of sport helps change lives, I intend to play my part in the House to show how politics itself can do much more.

Photo of Lord Monks Lord Monks Llafur 3:43, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Hannett of Everton on his excellent maiden speech. It demonstrated to everyone in the House that we have acquired a new Member with a deep knowledge of the rough ends of the world of work in the UK, combined with a strong record of working constructively with employers who seek to do the right things.

My noble friend will bring Liverpool wit and, because his office was in Manchester for many years, Manchester wisdom to the business of the House. I look forward to his future contributions and to those of my noble friend Lord Shamash, who will contribute shortly. I also thank my noble friend Lord Wood of Anfield for his initiative in securing this debate and for the excellent and comprehensive way in which he outlined the issues involved. We have had Anfield in the past and now we have Everton; I can tell your Lordships that the banter will be unbearable.

Civilisations have long been aware of the power and importance of sport. It was often linked to military prowess, and the UK was no exception. There was always a recreational side to sport here and, as the British Empire expanded, sport went with it—and beyond it, in the case of football to the whole world. To this day, our heritage remains strong. Juventus plays in the colours of Notts County, which donated its original set of shirts, and in Bilbao, Sunderland shipyard workers influenced the establishment of Athletic Bilbao, which still plays in colours like those of Sunderland.

However, politics was never far away. The poor physical state of many men from the industrial towns and cities worried the British Army in the Boer War and was an influence in developing support for the welfare state, which started shortly afterwards. English public schools evangelised, especially among boys, the role of team sports. They codified rules and spread an ethos of sporting excellence, manners and sportsmanship—which is not always the most fashionable thing to pay tribute to, but it is important. It spread quickly, and the vibrant institutions of working-class Britain—chapels, churches, local factories, the Scouts, the Guides, the Boys’ Brigade and, above all, the schools and local authorities—formed teams and leagues, especially in football, although rugby prevailed in some areas and a range of other sports came up as well. In retrospect, it was a huge effort by the community. We should remember that when talking about the social history of this country. It was commonplace to see 40 or 50 teams playing on a Saturday afternoon on a patch of grass such as Wormwood Scrubs and its equivalent in other towns and cities.

I think everybody in this debate appreciates that the role of sport is crucial in so many ways. I want to pick on three areas. It is a key weapon against the burgeoning growth of obesity, which is a national crisis. I know that the Government have applied their mind to this on more than one occasion, but we have so much to do that the profile of this campaign needs to be right at the very top. I was in the Netherlands just last weekend. If you go down a street there, you see the different physiques of the people compared to those of many in our own country, particularly in the poorer parts. Obviously, cycling has a lot to do with that, but participation in sports is also high and developing, and is publicly encouraged to a considerable extent. We need new ways of making sport and exercise generally attractive across all the population—able, disabled, regardless of gender and so on. It cannot just be for the elite and the enthusiastic.

The second problem—my noble friend Lord Wood touched on some of this—is the fact that, since pay-for-view came in, some sports have edged away from promoting mass participation and interest. In my view, cricket has suffered by not having test matches on general view. Sports need to rethink whether they have the balance right between paywalls on TV rights and the population in general having access to their sport. Even the existing listed events, which are free to air when transmitted live, are not protected in the digital on-demand coverage of sporting events, which is growing considerably as viewing of live events declines. We will lose free access in a few years’ time if we do not do something to regulate the digital world in this area, so I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Are the Government considering this issue in relation to the Media Bill, which is before the House? Do they have plans to extend the existing list of 10 free-to-air sports in relation to individual sports and, importantly, to the fast-developing digital world?

Finally, I will touch on medicine and medical research into sports and the many injuries that can come from sports. The current worries about dementia, particularly in rugby, must be a huge turn-off for parents who would like their children to play the game but want to know that it is safe to do so. I know that the football and rugby—both union and league—authorities are trying to improve research and tighten the rules. However, for contact sports—not just rugby—rapid improvements are necessary in the knowledge and treatment of potential risks.

For some of us, exercise and sport are a crucial part of our lives. In some form or other, they should be a crucial part of everybody’s lives. Can we, in our time, develop a surge in interest like the late Victorians did across the whole of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench 3:51, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I draw noble Lords’ attention to my entry in the register of interests. I am chair of Sport Wales and of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and president of the LGA, among other things listed in my entry.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for raising my work on duty of care. It took about 18 months of my life and was not without lots of challenges, as some people in sport really did not want the debate to happen. There is no doubt that a number of governing bodies have been through challenging times in the drive to win medals. People who did not want to address the issue pushed back hard—they were very worried about lifting the lid—but many people in sport were extremely supportive. It is about getting the right balance in the system, which includes coaches, athletes and volunteers.

In my role with Sport Wales, I also sit on the board of UK Sport, which in recent years has gone through a transition from “medals and more” to “winning and winning well”. That is really important to me because, as a young athlete, my mum always used to ask me whether I had won and my dad asked me whether I had competed well. They are two really important things when we are looking at elite sport.

Some positives have come out of my work. A coaching register is being worked on and the positions of trust legislation has got across the line. Sadly, the ombudsman has not quite happened, but a lot of work is ongoing on integrity in sport—in the governance, culture and process—which is incredibly important because it has a big influence on community sport. I am delighted that many in your Lordships’ Chamber are interested in debating listed events. I have tabled some amendments to the Media Bill for the second day in Committee on Monday. All are welcome to contribute to that.

There are many different ways to measure the impact of sport: the social return on investment, the psychological impact and the medal table—which, of course, is a hard outcome. Major games are important, but we have to be careful not to overemphasise the impact of watching sporting events. It certainly brings people in, but we have to find smarter ways to keep them involved. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Wood, quoted Jürgen Klopp—I am a huge fan of his. I will raise it up a level and quote Nelson Mandela, who said:

“Sport has the power to change the world”.

I absolutely believe that.

A lot of really good work is going on at the moment. In February 2023, the Sports Council for Wales, known as Sport Wales, commissioned Sheffield Hallam University, in partnership with Loughborough University, to carry out a social return on investment study of sport in Wales. The research builds on previous studies of sport in Wales in 2016 and 2017. It is centred in the policy context of Wales, taking into account the Vision for Sport in Wales and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Sport Wales is one of 44 public sector organisations which are subject to the Act, which requires public bodies to put sustainable thinking and partnership working at the heart of their role and to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being in Wales.

The Act requires public bodies, including Sport Wales, to work towards seven well-being goals: a prosperous, resilient, healthier and more equal Wales; a Wales of cohesive communities; a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language; and a globally responsible Wales. There were many benefits highlighted: ill-health prevention, a sense of belonging, leadership skills and increased educational attainment. The report revealed that £3.43 billion of social value was generated from £1.19 billion of input, giving a social return on investment value of £2.88 billion. This means that for every £1 invested in sport in Wales, financial and non-financial, £2.88 billion-worth of social impact was created for individuals and society in 2016-17. The largest amount of social value, 61%, was generated through subjective well-being, equivalent to £2.08 billion. Considerable social value, £651 million or 19%, was also created by social capital, £295 million or 8.6% by health, and £312 million or 9% by volunteer labour.

There is always a need for more money. This is not an appeal to the Minister—after all, sport is devolved, so as much as I would like to ask for more money it is not within his gift. However, we have to think about what we do differently. We have to think about physical activity as well as sport. Some research from ukactive, Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University shows that every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates £4 for the English economy. Physical activity is essential in preventing over 20 chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, musculoskeletal issues, depression, anxiety and dementia, and generates more than £5.2 billion in healthcare savings per year. Physical activity plays an important role in preventing a number of serious conditions, with research showing that it provides £9.5 billion in value to the economy. We should also look at physical inactivity, which costs £3.5 billion annually, of which £2.9 billion is borne by the public health system.

There is definitely a benefit in sport but I would like to look forward and think about what more we could do if we could join up the different organisations that are involved. We know that disabled people struggle to get involved in sport. Disability Sport Wales and Activity Alliance are doing great work in this area. Professor Rosie Meek is working in the criminal justice system. For women in sport, there are three organisations that are doing incredible work. The Women’s Sport Trust has just produced figures to show record-breaking TV viewership. The Women’s Sport Collective is bringing women in sport together. When I first got involved in working in sport, I did not need two hands to count the number of women working in sport. There is now a huge WhatsApp group, which is incredibly exciting. Also, Women in Sport is about to celebrate 40 years of challenging media portrayal and imagery. I say well done to Tess Howard, a GB hockey player who changed the rules of hockey to allow women to wear shorts, which brings more people in.

We now have role models—Olivia Breen, Hannah Jones, Jess Fishlock and Lauren Price—who do incredible things in sport. They cannot do it alone. We need to be supporting some incredible athletes out there and using their power—and the power we have—to change how people view sport and physical activity and really live up to Nelson Mandela’s words that sport can change the world.

Photo of The Earl of Effingham The Earl of Effingham Ceidwadwyr 3:59, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for introducing this important debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hannett of Everton, on his excellent maiden speech. I am also looking forward to hearing the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Shamash. My only concern is that I understand that the noble Lord is chairman of the Manchester United Supporters Trust, whereas my wife’s business partner won the award for Manchester City’s supporter of the year. This makes me a blue, but I hope to avoid noble Lords drawing pistols at dawn in the Prince’s Chamber over our respective teams.

One has only to look at the newspaper headlines over the last couple of weeks to see that the health of the nation is in crisis:

“UK sicknote culture is fuelled by obesity crisis”,

“Almost half of cancer cases linked to obesity”.

However, this is all totally solvable with both food education and physical education.

I flag that you cannot out-train a bad diet, so sport by itself is not the full solution. But, by combining regular sport with a healthy diet, you absolutely can eat and exercise your way to material good health and benefit both society and the economy. I will draw on a few personal experiences to show why I am passionate about this topic and why I know that it is incredibly important.

I worked for 23 years in a large City dealing room, which involved my alarm going off at 5.45 am to be at my desk for 7.15 am, followed by frequently 12-hour days of often intense mental activity. The only reason I was able to operate at optimum performance consistently, for so many years, was that I would take 45 minutes of exercise on a bike every day, without fail, and eat healthily.

I look at my son: he took up rowing at school and it had a huge positive impact on his life. He learned how to be a team player: they trained together and carried each other through difficult times. It kept them physically and mentally fit. The nine of them had to work as one or fail. Sport is a fantastic leveller, and you can see this at the regular 10 am Saturday football for children: everyone is welcome, bar none.

I had the privilege of visiting Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney recently. Perhaps one of the reasons for its 15% Oxbridge acceptance and 65% Russell Group acceptance is its commitment to sport. It successfully beat some of the UK’s top rowing schools at the Schools’ Head of the River Race a few years ago. The head coach was the first in his family to row; it changed his life and he simply wants the same things for Mossbourne children—to open the doors that it did for him growing up. Sport is and should be for all.

Sport, combined with a healthy diet, is the perfect catalyst for a circular economy. People exercise; they feel good; they gain self-confidence; they are mentally healthier and sharper; they want to succeed in their jobs; they earn money; retail sales rise; consumer confidence increases; and gross domestic product flourishes.

Through sport we also achieve lower levels of obesity, fewer instances of cancer, reduced NHS waiting lists, increased energy, better sleep, self-esteem, confidence, crime reduction and tens of billions of pounds saved in Treasury expenditure. However, as we all know, actions speak louder than words and everything is in the execution.

If we were able to facilitate just a small change in behaviour, it would have a huge multiplier effect. Currently, 46% of primary schools have signed up to the Daily Mile initiative. I ask my noble friend the Minister why the Department for Education cannot make the Daily Mile the Daily Four Miles, and make it compulsory for every school in the country as part of the curriculum. That would ensure that all schoolchildren meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guideline of 60 minutes of exercise per day. Would it not be possible to introduce this with relative ease?

Cycling to school is another easy win, as children need to travel there and back, so why not use a bike, which can also be used at the weekend for family and community activity? Cycling is fun. It is good exercise and it reduces pollution. Will the Government consider a cycle-to-work scheme for schoolchildren, funded from their parents’ pre-tax pay, where the societal and economic benefits significantly outweigh the tax cost to the Exchequer? Will the Government ensure that Bikeability has enough funding to reach all schools in the UK? How will they encourage more schoolchildren and parents to cycle to school?

These are a number of manageable solutions which would make a material difference to society and the economy. I truly hope that the Government will focus on sport and physical exercise to stem the current mental health and obesity crisis that we face. I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister.

Photo of Lord Shamash Lord Shamash Llafur 4:05, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, it is an enormous privilege to follow on from the noble Earl, Lord Effingham, and even more so to follow on from the national treasure, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. I never thought I would find myself in a situation like this. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Hannett of Everton on his maiden speech, and my noble friend Lord Wood on introducing the debate—I will not rise to the barbs of those two clubs down the other end of the East Lancs Road. I very much look forward to welcoming my noble and dear friend Lady Hazarika, who has only recently joined us, and listening to her maiden speech.

I pay heartfelt thanks to all House officials, who in the last few weeks since the announcement of my ennoblement and my introduction could not have been more helpful. All my new colleagues on this side of the House, as well as a lot of noble friends opposite, were very generous in welcoming me with their support and advice. I also thank my two sponsors, my noble friends Lady Smith of Basildon and Lady Hayter of Kentish Town—who I am privileged to see in her place—for all their encouragement. I also thank my wife Naomi and my family, who are here, for their love and support over the years.

My father was born in 1882—I repeat, 1882—in Baghdad, which was then in the Ottoman Empire and the oldest Jewish community, and he arrived in Manchester in 1895 to further develop the family business in the cotton trade. Some 65 years later, I popped up. My father has a brother, and his son was my noble kinsman, the late Robert “Bob” Sheldon, Lord Sheldon of Ashton under Lyne, who served for 37 years in the other place before he entered your Lordships’ House and served for 14 years here. I suspect that many noble Lords will recall Bob Sheldon. I hope that I can at least try to equal his contribution. It is, in a way, a tribute to the multicultural nature of our nation that both I and my late noble kinsman became Members of your Lordships’ House.

I am a solicitor who is still practising. My firm covers the whole range of community legal work, supporting those who seek access to justice, primarily through the legal aid scheme. This scheme provides a sorely needed service to respond to critical issues such as homelessness, domestic abuse, Court of Protection matters and special educational needs, but it is under huge financial pressure. It struggles to survive, despite the battles with successive Governments for funding, while at the same time providing a crucially needed service—an issue I hope I will return to during my membership of this House.

Through my long membership of the Labour Party, I have been fortunate to find myself over some four decades advising the party on a whole range of legal issues of all types, including some high-profile cases involving Members of both Houses. However, my main area of advice to the Labour Party is that of electoral law. My engagement in this specialised area has enabled me to see that there is much that can constructively be achieved by way of substantive reform. I hope to play a part in seeing that achieved through the long-overdue consolidation of our electoral law, as well as by ensuring that our electoral registers are accurate and reflect the true number of electors entitled to vote. The Electoral Commission in 2023 estimated that there were up to 8 million people missing from the register. That is a huge number, and we must address that.

I also very much look forward to the Football Governance Bill coming to this House. The Bill, currently in Committee in the other place, sets out the creation of an independent regulator, a licensing structure, and protection of the football pyramid. I declare an interest in that I am the immediate past chairman and a current board member of the Manchester United Supporters Trust, MUST, the country’s largest football supporters trust, and I am pleased to say that I have now increased the number of Manchester United fans in this House by one.

That leads me to the substance of today’s debate, in the name of my noble friend Lord Wood of Anfield. A quarter of the adult population are inactive and so, somewhat alarmingly, are one-third of children. An article in the Times earlier this week highlighted the problems of obesity and its link to “record sickness levels” in the workforce. As we have heard in the debate today, sport of all types is a positive route to begin dealing with this problem.

The loss of leisure facilities, through cuts and increasing pressure for new housing development, has meant the loss of playing fields up and down the country. However, there are signs that harnessing the sporting world could be used for the benefit of all. For example, Manchester United has a charitable foundation that has thus far contributed £48 million in social value. This is repeated, though not at all levels, across other foundations in the football pyramid, and in all probability across all our major sports. The aim is to work mainly with those aged five to 25 to ensure that they become healthier, happier and more socially connected, and ultimately more employable.

Central to this is working within communities in which clubs—not just football clubs—are based. Work within schools by clubs can be a springboard for engaging children who may be disaffected in some way. A classic way to engage children, which I learned from my elder son when he was working at the Arsenal in the Community scheme, was by teaching maths. For example, he would ask the pupils to think of their favourite two players—say Tony Adams and Thierry Henry of Arsenal, who had shirt numbers 6 and 14. The question to the children would be, “If you subtracted Tony Adams from Thierry Henry, what number would you get?”—a very simple but effective way of progressing. The answer was Ian Wright.

This community-based contribution by sports experts as positive role models encompasses and provides leadership skills and understanding of teamwork, and assists in the development of positive social skills, which are invaluable in today’s society. It cannot be overestimated or overstated.

This debate is one that I am privileged to take part in. I again thank my noble friend Lord Wood for moving the Motion and I very much look forward to being able to participate fully in the times ahead in your Lordships’ House.

Photo of Baroness Nye Baroness Nye Llafur 4:12, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow that excellent maiden speech from my noble friend Lord Shamash. My noble friend has been a devoted public servant, and I and many colleagues across both Houses have had the benefit of his wise counsel over many years. I know his family are hugely proud of him. Among the many accolades that followed his appointment to this House, he has been described as a “legend” in electoral law. While we on this side of the House want an election sooner rather than later, I rather hope that we do not call upon that particular expertise too often. I also thank my noble friend Lord Wood for securing this debate and for his tour-de-force opening remarks.

I declare an interest as set out in the register and also speak as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, but—more importantly to me at least—I speak as the mother of two professional golfers, which means I have some experience of the highs and lows of that sport.

It is clear that everyone speaking in this debate will start from the consensus view that sport has a vital role to play in its power to be a force for good that brings communities together, as well as improving the health of the nation. But the Minister will know that, sadly, less than half of children currently meet the daily guidelines for sport and physical activity, and the majority of children would like more. The long-awaited government strategy for the sports sector is long on task forces but short on granular delivery. Will the Minister give some more detail this afternoon about how those plans are to be funded?

If the Government are serious about transforming activity levels, they must start in schools. That is why the Government should commit to giving PE the focus and time in the curriculum that it needs, with properly trained and resourced staff, so that sport and physical activity continue as lifelong habits, with the consequent benefits for health and mental well-being. Traditional PE and competitive sport work for some children but not all. Being active has also to be fun.

One example of the power of non-traditional school sport is the initiative recently launched here in Westminster by Nick Dougherty in his role as president of the Golf Foundation. This is a charity which introduces golf to children from all backgrounds and works in schools and youth clubs as well as golf clubs. Through its work, the foundation became increasingly aware of the decline in young people’s mental health since the Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. To help combat this, the foundation launched an initiative called Unleash Your Drive, which seeks to promote mental well-being in schools with mental toughness tools embedded across six weeks of fun golf games. The programme can be taught by any teacher and in any school hall or playground and has already been rolled out in 500 schools. Children can achieve success straightaway, and the games can be adapted to all abilities. There is also a potential link up with the local golf club and community.

The programme works because golf is an ideal sport to set personal best scores, develop persistence and discover strategies for how to improve and track progress, which are all crucial transferable skills that can be used inside the classroom but also outside the school environment. The programme will cost an estimated £15 million to roll out across all 32,000 primary and secondary schools. I know that the Schools Minister has agreed to meet the Golf Foundation to discuss the scheme, and I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will also support the calls for government funding.

The R&A supports the work of the Golf Foundation, but it also runs programmes of its own to promote the health benefits of playing golf. Eighteen holes is the equivalent of walking four to five miles—significantly more than the 10,000 daily steps recommended—and if that is not enough, research from the Swedish Golf Federation has shown that golfers live five years longer than non-golfers.

The benefits to the economy can also be calculated. Research by Sheffield Hallam University, supported by the R&A, in 2023 showed that the gross value added of the golf industry was £2.6 billion and that it brought £338 million to the UK economy in inward golf tourism, with consumer spending on golf being nearly £5 billion, and the industry employs nearly 64,000 people.

It would be remiss not to say that more should be done to make golf more diverse, and that is recognised by the R&A. As part of its drive for change, the R&A has launched the Women in Golf Charter, to attract more women, girls and families into the sport, and its #FOREeveryone campaign to develop a more inclusive culture within the golf industry. In order for women’s golf to continue growing, there needs to be greater airtime for women’s professional golf. Every sport needs visible role models—we only have to look at what has happened with women’s football following the success of the Lionesses. There are some signs of success. In 2020 in the UK, 25% more women tried golf for the first time during the pandemic, but in England the regular participation rate for men is still five times greater than that for women, and people from ethnically diverse backgrounds and deprived areas are also underrepresented.

Golf should be accessible for all. It is a game that can be enjoyed by people of all abilities and all ages because of its unique handicap system. It teaches decision-making skills and persistence, but above all it relies on honesty and integrity. I, too, would like to share a quote with the House that is used quite often when my professional daughter and son return from a round of golf. The late Bobby Jones said:

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots—but you have to play the ball where it lies”.

Photo of Lord Polak Lord Polak Ceidwadwyr 4:18, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Nye. I was weaned on golf. My late mother was the lady captain of the Lee Park Golf Club in Liverpool. I agree with everything the noble Baroness said.

I thank my noble friend Lord Wood, as I shall call him on this occasion, for initiating this debate. It is very important. He made a comprehensive introduction and has already done the bits I was going to talk about. We do not meet only here; we are often on the terraces together watching our beloved Liverpool.

I congratulate the two newbies, the noble Lords, Lord Shamash and Lord Hannett, on their excellent speeches. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shamash, will not mind if I call him a north Londoner rather than a Mancunian. He will understand, being a Scouser. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Hannett, a fellow proper Scouser, to the House.

Today is a bit like a local derby, with the noble Lords, Lord Wood of Anfield and Lord Hannett of Everton, here. This reminds me of the Scouse sense of humour. Noble Lords who know Liverpool will know there is a shopping area there called Liverpool ONE. Everton has a shop in Liverpool ONE and the shop is called Everton Two, so anyone who writes a letter to it has to put the address, “Everton Two, Liverpool ONE”. However, they beat us 2-0 this time.

People who know me assume, because of my involvement in politics, that I did PPE at university. I did not; I did PE. Sport is my great love. In preparing for this debate, I looked up Edge Hill University—again, up in the north-west—and noticed that it has an MSc in sport, physical activity and mental health, in association with Everton in the Community. The course examines how mental health can be improved with sport, physical activity and exercise, and I was really impressed. I ask the Minister how widespread these courses are around the country—once again, the north-west seems to be in the lead.

I promise not to stay too much on the topic of Merseyside, but my great interest, beside all sports, are cricket and football. The noble Lord, Lord Wood, mentioned the Chance to Shine cricket programme. It is an amazing programme that exemplifies the transformative power of cricket, fostering inclusivity, community engagement, personal development and access to sport, providing central life skills and helping to shape a positive future for disadvantaged and disabled young people. We cannot do better than that.

On the subject of football, my noble friend the Minister knows full well my interest in the health and well-being of the Premier League, so that the league is able to continue leading its funding and supporting programmes in over 100 club community organisations across the country. I hope the Government will do nothing that could impact the continued growth of the Premier League. That growth allows funding to increase, and that funding impacts positively on so many lives and communities throughout the country, whether through the Premier League Primary Stars programme, Premier League Inspires or, as the noble Lord, Lord Wood, talked about, Premier League Kicks. The importance of the Premier League to the economy is well known. I was thinking about the tourism that it brings into this country. Over 1.5 million tourists come from abroad into our country for game days.

I cannot resist coming back to the topic of my hometown. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannett, talked about, Everton in the Community has over 120 full-time staff offering more than 50 programmes covering a range of social issues—health, employability, anti-social behaviour, crime, education and so on. I refer noble Lords to its brilliant and excellent website.

Liverpool’s LFC Foundation is not that shabby either. As its website says, its mission is:

“To harness the power of the LFC Family to create life changing opportunities for the most underserved communities home and away”.

Last season, the LFC Foundation supported 123,000 young families across Merseyside and beyond.

I shall finish by focusing on individuals. Not just the sports themselves—we have all talked about that—but individuals can make a difference. I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Shamash, has just left the Chamber for a minute because I am going to ignore Marcus Rashford and what he did and talk about Jamie Carragher, the great icon who used to play for Liverpool. I do so because what he did and got involved in, the particular issue that I will raise, can change people’s lives.

During lockdown, I was watching the TV when I saw a guy talking about his son, who had passed away at a swimming baths in Liverpool at the age of 12. Oliver King sadly died of a heart attack, and there was no defibrillator at the school. I realised that the swimming pool he was talking about was that of my old school, where I learned to swim. I contacted the Jamie Carragher foundation and said, “Is there anything I can do to help?” It came back very quickly, and I subsequently worked a little with Jamie and with Mark King, who was in the year below me—the father who lost his son.

Thanks to Nadhim Zahawi, when he was Secretary of State for Education, and thanks to the brilliant work of someone such as Jamie Carragher, there are now—or will be—defibrillators in every single school where they were not before. That will change lives because it will save the lives of so many people, and that is what individuals have the ability to do in sport. I just hope that there will be many more Jamie Carraghers and, dare I say it, Marcus Rashfords.

I will also finish with a quote, because everybody seems to be doing it. I am going a little further back than the noble Lord, Lord Wood—to the late, great Bill Shankly, who I also talked about in my maiden speech. He said this:

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.

Photo of Lord Hampton Lord Hampton Crossbench 4:25, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, it is always a joy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Polak, and I join in the chorus of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for tabling this important debate. We have had references to Jurgen Klopp, Nelson Mandela and Bill Shankly: I am going to describe the noble Lord’s inspirational opening speech as Churchillian, and raise that one more. I also congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Hannett of Everton and Lord Shamash, on their excellent maiden speeches and look forward to hearing from them for many years to come. Can I beg the indulgence of the House? I am going to declare my interests rather as I go; I think they will become obvious.

I also thank all the organisations that sent me briefing materials on this subject. I have ignored them all, except for Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Groce’s statistics on rugby league, which I read and then ignored, because we all know how important this is. That is why we are here. We all know the billions of pounds that we could save if our children were healthier, felt better and were more motivated. That just goes without saying, so like the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, I urge the Government to keep looking at sports education in schools, because it is just not good enough. It is like arts education; we expect this multi-billion pound economy to spread from nowhere.

The need for community sport is becoming more and more important. My daughter is an extremely able right-back with Hackney girls’ under-14 football team, which is a wonderful community club funded by Hackney. But I am afraid I am not going to be talking about her—not because it is not relevant but because my son’s experience is more relevant.

My own active engagement in sport dwindled and it was not until my son was six years old that I had that opportunity, as one does, to relive your life through your children, so I took my child along to Stoke Newington Cricket Club. Stoke Newington is not what it sounds; it is not some lovely Cotswold village. The dreaming spires of Stoke Newington are in Hackney, east London. Stoke Newington Cricket Club is a case study that we need to look at and replicate. It is community sport at its best.

The club trains Saturdays and midweek throughout the year: indoors in local schools during the winter and outdoors on Hackney Marshes in summer, in the home of football. Thanks to funding from the ECB, Sport England and Hackney Council, a cricket hub was opened on Hackney Marshes in 2018 with three full-size grass cricket pitches, seven astroturf pitches and all-weather nets that can be used by anybody, any time. They are now used every day, particularly Christmas Day. With a little note to Chris Hoy on this one, Hackney Marshes nowadays are not marshes. They are on six feet of bomb rubble, so they drain really quickly.

The club’s mission is to give as many adults and young people as possible the chance to enjoy and play cricket to the highest standard they can achieve. Every week in the summer it puts out 10 men’s teams, three women’s teams and 16 junior teams. All equipment is provided, not doing so often being a barrier to sports. I started watching my son playing but, like all good cults, the club reeled me in—a fielded ball here, a bit of shouted advice there and suddenly, there was a friendly voice behind me saying “Join us. They don’t understand you; come with us”.

Before I knew it, I was coaching on a Saturday; I was taking nets on a Tuesday; I was organising the under-11 Gubby Allen team. I was ringing people up saying, “Why aren’t you here?” I even ended up as a member of the committee and coached the Hackney team for the London Youth Games for several years. The club paid for me to do my level 1 and level 2 ECB coaching badges. At the same time, I started coaching for Chance to Shine, which the noble Lords, Lord Wood of Anfield and Lord Polak, have already mentioned. It is a wonderful charity that provides free cricket equipment in schools, mainly in really deprived areas.

During this time, I really saw the value of community sport. I would regularly pick up players for practice and games from tower blocks, from squats and from multi-million pound houses. Once you got them together, it did not matter what culture they were from. It did not matter what home they came from, or who they were. They learned discipline, and self-discipline. All my sides were very good fielding sides. You just learn that—that is hard work. On good teamwork, one of the best skills you can learn in life is how to console somebody who has just messed up and possibly cost you the game. That is really important. Life is not always fair, but you accept the umpire’s decision.

Years later, my son Charlie still has really good friends from that team. Like several of my fellow coaches, I found the experience of working with this community team so rewarding that I changed careers and became a secondary school teacher, which I am now.

Photo of Lord Hayward Lord Hayward Ceidwadwyr 4:31, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, this afternoon I am wearing my rugby club tie: Kings Cross Steelers Rugby Club. Given the presence of both the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannett of Everton, I probably should have worn my referee’s tie—although it would have been a different sport, and we would have required more courtesy.

While referring to previous speakers, I also take this opportunity to say that it is an odd thing about this House that there seems to be more experts on electoral law here than at the other end of this building. I have had the good fortune to know the noble Lord, Lord Shamash, for some 20 years. It has been a pleasure and will continue to be so.

I would like to concentrate on the benefits of team sports, which the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, has just referred to. They contribute substantially to the community, in whatever form. Team sports take children, teenagers and young adults away from the family home and should, and often do, provide another form of support network. The younger ones who misbehave should be supported and guided by the older ones. However, on rugby tours I have, on occasion, been amazed and sometimes embarrassed at the behaviour of the older members of the tour, rather than the younger ones. There is no doubt in my mind that, overall, team sports contribute substantially to society at large.

My opening comments related to my own club. I will confine my comments specifically to rugby, but I think they apply elsewhere. I acknowledge wheelchair rugby, women’s rugby and the like. In a week’s time, I will be in Rome celebrating the Bingham Cup. It is the world’s largest gay rugby tournament, and it will be attended by 3,500 people from all over the world. It is named after Mark Bingham, who played for the San Francisco Fog and was one of the people who tried to fight off the terrorists on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11.

There are many teams coming from the United States—from Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia and New York. It is a truly worldwide competition. But I am pleased to say that we play at different levels. The Kings Cross Steelers firsts and seconds will be defending the relevant trophies which they won two years ago in Ottawa.

When we founded the club, the intention was just to find a convenient home for people who happened to be gay to play rugby. It has gone on to become much more than that, as have all the other clubs for other minority communities, such as people with disabilities and women. I remember first standing on a touchline and being told by a supporter of our club that he thought that, had we not existed, his boyfriend would be dead.

Team sports so often provide support that goes way beyond physical activity. It is about mental health. We have a player, a young guy called Ethan Phillips, who felt alienated from his whole community—and had been in a psychiatric ward aged 17—until he discovered the Kings Cross Steelers. A few years ago, Eammon Ashton-Atkinson, an Australian journalist who came to this country and had been bullied at school, made a film called “Steelers”, which featured three particular players: Nic Evans, our coach, who was female and had played for Wales and been subjected to misogyny in a bad way; Drew McDowell, a black player from the United States who knew all about life’s difficulties because his father was brought up in the deep south; and Simon Jones, a top-flight lawyer for Google who admits that, until he discovered rugby and a gay rugby team, he would curl up on the floor, go into fits of tears and cry for a prolonged period. Team sports can provide an enormous amount of support in such a different way to so many people. As far as I am concerned, sport and physical activity improves all sorts of health, not just physical health.

I will conclude on somewhat happier matters, and revert to the Liverpool/Everton saga that we have heard so much about today. I used to negotiate as management in a bottling plant in Fazakerley for Coca-Cola. This was in the 1970s and I remember there was a match where one of the two Liverpool teams was due to play at Wembley. The shop steward turned the ticket over with pride and said, “Look, we haven’t got a map on our tickets to get to Wembley. The other club needs a map to get there”. I will leave it to the two noble Lords to work out which club he was referring to.

Photo of Lord Drayson Lord Drayson Llafur 4:38, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I add my congratulations to my two noble friends on their excellent maiden speeches and thank my noble friend Lord Wood for securing this debate and giving me the opportunity to speak about the sport that I have been passionate about throughout my life, both as a competitor and a spectator. I am speaking about motorsport. In doing so, I declare my interest as a racer, an entrepreneur and a former adviser to the FIA and Formula E championship and former president of the Motorsport Industry Association.

Motorsport contributes very significantly to the UK economy, turning over more than £9 billion annually, a figure which has more than doubled in the last 20 years. The industry consists of around 4,500 companies, employing over 40,000 people, with 25,000 of them highly skilled engineers. It has a strong pipeline of driver development, apprenticeships and graduate programmes to bring young people with the drive and talent to make their contribution to the sport, such as Formula Student, where university teams compete internationally to design, build and race a single-seater racing car under the guidance of experienced race engineers and race marshals. I pay particular tribute to the thousands of race marshals who volunteer their time every weekend to ensure the safety of what is an inherently dangerous sport. I can vouch for their efficiency and good humour when called on to resolve the consequences of over-exuberant racing.

Motorsport is a major contributor to UK exports, with over 90% of companies exporting and benefiting from the huge growth of the sport in recent years, particularly in the United States and the Middle East. Motorsport companies typically invest more than 25% of their turnover in R&D, because they understand that winning depends on innovation—and we are very good at winning. Britain has produced more Formula 1 world champions than any other nation, 10 in total. Germany is second, with three. More British drivers have won the 24 hours of Le Mans than those representing any other nation—including a former Member of this House, Earl Howe, who won Le Mans in 1931. British-based constructors have won no fewer than 33 Formula 1 constructors’ championships, well ahead of Italian teams, which come second with 16. Today, six of the 10 current Formula 1 teams are based here in the United Kingdom.

Those statistics back up what I am saying about the quality of our talent and engineering and the impact on our economy. But now, as the world shifts towards net zero, these strengths remain very relevant today and are in tune with what the modern consumer wants and what our planet needs: performance with energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. In 2009, Formula 1 introduced hybrid engines, speeding the development of very efficient electric motors and lightweight high-power batteries. The software and control systems that were developed to harvest the energy of the car under braking and recharge the battery are now used in all modern electric vehicles to help blend the recovery of energy with the driver’s feel of the car when braking. Virtually all those systems were developed in the UK. Now Formula 1 is pioneering the use of sustainable fuels and will use 100% sustainable fuel from 2026.

In 2013, the UK team set the new world land-speed record for electric vehicles, which still stands today. In 2014, the new Formula E all-electric championship was launched and led the development of fully electric powertrains, as it was the first time that a high-performance battery was used solely to power the racing car. The 24 hours of Le Mans—my favourite motor race—has, with its famous Garage 56 for experimental prototypes, pioneered biofuels and hybrids and is now developing regulations for a new hydrogen class in future.

Motorsport is a racing laboratory that enables engineers to innovate under the intense pressure of competition. Hydrogen fuel cells, hybrids, EVs, active aero, battery technologies and rapid charging systems have all been tested and proven and had their development accelerated through motorsport competition. As well as accelerating innovation, motorsport also helps to shape the public’s confidence and acceptance of new automotive technologies.

The industry also helps to strengthen our defence. In 2007, the Motorsport Industry Association “motorsport to defence” initiative was launched to help motorsport companies work with the defence industry to speed up the design and development of protected patrol vehicles. It was a great success, enabling the Mastiff vehicle to be delivered in record time, 23 weeks from order to deployment and operations. This initiative continues today, with McLaren working with the MoD on the electrification of military vehicles, building on the technologies used in the Extreme E championship for electric rally cars—another offshoot from Formula E.

The past 20 years have shown that motorsport is a highly skilled, world-leading R&D resource for the United Kingdom and a major creator of wealth for the UK economy. It is an exhilarating celebration of what can be achieved in the crucible of sports competition. As Steve McQueen said:

“Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting”.

Photo of Lord Londesborough Lord Londesborough Crossbench 4:44, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Hannett and Lord Shamash, on making their maiden speeches—or, to use sporting parlance, on getting off the mark in such spectacular style. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for securing this critical debate. I note that, as a Liverpudlian, he took the opportunity to salute Jürgen Klopp before his final match so, declaring my interest as a West Ham supporter, I feel it is only right to tip my hat to David Moyes, our outgoing manager, just days before his final match—if, indeed, David is watching this debate alongside Jürgen.

This debate comes a year after some of us here debated the Select Committee’s report A National Plan for Sport, Health and Wellbeing. As I did then, I will focus today on the rather grim subject of inactivity, because this is a huge and troubling issue, not just for our mental and physical health but for society and the economy, including the health and well-being of our workforce. This is a topic of great significance to the Economic Affairs Committee, on which I now sit.

The UK has suffered a disturbing increase in the number of economically inactive people since 2019. This threatens to become the single biggest drag on our economy, in terms of both productivity and growth. In just five years, some 900,000 people of working age have been signed off as long-term sick, taking the total up to 2.8 million. On top of that, short-term sickness is also growing fast, while thousands of 50 to 64 year-olds have opted to retire early and become economically inactive. As we know, inactivity in all its forms drives up obesity, particularly among the young, which is now reported to be costing the UK more than £100 billion a year, so it is all the more concerning that levels of physical activity have fallen in recent years, replaced in part by increasing sedentary behaviour fuelled by smartphones, social media, video gaming, online shopping, multichannel TVs and general screen addiction. Working from home is another unhelpful trend.

I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned the Government’s policy paper, Get Active: A Strategy for the Future of Sport and Physical Activity. It was published last year, after several delays, and has some very good intentions. It was described by our Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport as “unapologetically ambitious”. I point out that this is our eighth Secretary of State in the last six years. The key objectives are to see 2.5 million more adults and 1 million more children in England being classed as “active” by 2030. But let us put that in perspective, because the Government report that 12 million adults are “inactive”, doing less than 30 minutes’ activity a week—in other words, less than five minutes a day. On top of that, we have another 5 million adults deemed by our CMO to be “fairly active”, meaning they do between 30 and 150 minutes a week, a bizarrely broad bracket with a misleading label. So we have 17 million adults in the UK, 37% of our population, who are either inactive or what I would call underactive, which is a shockingly high number.

As we have heard, when it comes to children it is no better: 53% are doing less than the recommended 60 minutes of activity a day. History shows that the vast majority of these underactive children will become low-activity adults, storing up further trouble down the road.

This drop in activity has happened in spite of the legacy of such events as the London Olympics in 2012, or indeed the billions spent since then by Sport England. As we have heard many times today, Sport England estimates that for every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity, a return on investment of £3.91 has been created for individuals and society. That is a really important claim. Can the Minister explain how that figure is calculated? I am not sure we are seeing the sum of the parts.

In my former life, I was an information and data entrepreneur, brought up on concepts such as statistical significance and returns on investment. They are all highly relevant here, not just for sport and recreation but for the Treasury, health, social security, and work and pensions. We are struggling with a multiplicity of players and stakeholders, both national and local, while the health and well-being remit runs across all these departments, to which we have now added levelling up.

I conclude by calling for much greater cross-departmental collaboration and, possibly, the creation of a new ministerial role to tackle our growing inactivity crisis. If there is room for a Minister of common sense, surely there is room for a Minister of activity.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 4:51, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, the first and very pleasant task for anybody who is winding up today is to welcome the “new boys”. It is good to see them on the Benches and taking part. I slightly challenge the emphasis on football. It is not my favourite sport, but it is the biggest one. I welcome them and look forward to hearing from them on this and other subjects. I hope that we will become allies in the great cross-sectional activity of this House. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, who is a friend of mine, leads the drive on sporting matters. We are missing the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, who has a wonderful expression: “a friend in sport”. There should be more of us driving this agenda.

When we talk about the importance of sport and the economy—I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood, for bringing it forward—football has a key place as the big money-spinner. It is also the sport that has managed to annoy its own fan base by changing structures. There is a limit to what people will accept in changes to their leisure activities. I have always felt that people will fight much harder to defend a hobby than a job, bizarrely. That seems to be what is going on here. Let us face it, the Government did not want to bring forward legislation. They gave football every chance to avoid legislation, but it has it.

I do not know what is going to happen but, when the Bill comes forward, I would like to see us doing a little more about social responsibility. When people told me about how great various charitable activities were, I said, “Yes, but what would you say you are going to give back to us if we make it so that, for instance, the Premier League is going to guarantee a better chance of survival for those below it and, let’s face it, an exit strategy if things go wrong? That is something we are building in”. They did not seem to quite grasp that. I hope that, when we get the Bill, we will have a little caveat that anybody who is instructed in any of those football clubs has some duty to support local voluntary groups.

My starter for 10 on that would be training people to be secretaries, treasurers and chairmen of voluntary groups and charities. That would be good because you would have a way of building into the local voluntary structure—not only sports clubs, all of which need it—something that says, “You have a commitment to those communities”.

At the heart of this process is, what are we doing to encourage grass-roots sport? First, we need to encourage people to play it. Schools sports partnerships were probably the first attempt to make a formalised link, brought about because of the break of the link between school sport and local community groups. It had to come in, we tried it, but it got cut. It was one of the things that I was very annoyed about in the coalition. I should have rebelled on it, but I waited.

We have to try to get something else that encourages the link from school to club, and to keep that going. If you only take your sporting activity in educational circumstances, in the majority of cases you stop when you leave those educational institutions. The link between ages 16, 18, and 21—when people drop out of sport—is incredibly well-established. We have to make sure that people carry on. If we get a reply here saying that school sport is wonderful and we are doing far more of it, it makes absolutely no difference if you stop when you leave school; you might as well have not bothered.

There is also the fact that we know it ups grades. It is weird that we do not actually think about this and push it forward; possibly because the Department for Education and at least one former Secretary of State for Education really did not get the idea at all. We have to establish this and make sure that it goes across and carries on.

The noble Lords, Lord Hayward and Lord Hampton, gave very focused examples of the fact that, once you get into a small club, you build a community—hopefully a community for life. Noble Lords would never guess that I am an old rugby player, still turning out for the parliamentary team. The description is “a life in rugby when you are close to death”—but, let us face it, physiotherapists have to eat as well. I go back to the small club I started with, which was then the Lakenham Hewett Old Boys, from the Hewett School in Norwich. It was a community club that has had to merge again, which tells another story, and is now Lakenham Union. There, I have a group of friends who will be with me for life. The same is true of other clubs I have played for, but that is the one I started with and where I had my last game in a league structure. If you can create that, you have something which you can go back to, and somewhere where you can use those skills and encourage people coming up to believe that they have a future.

All sports have a similar structure to this. Rugby is one of the property-owning sports, where buying your own clubhouse, or at least running, it is encouraged. Cricket follows on. If you encourage this and work hard at it, you have an asset which can go out to the rest of the community. Will the Minister please give us an idea of what the Government are doing to encourage this? Local government has a lot of this responsibility, but it is skint at the moment. How are we encouraging people to take on this great social asset and push it forward? It is something through which you can interact with your community. We have to encourage this link and encourage clubs’ survival by pushing new players through. Veterans’ teams are all very good, but they are not the future.

How are we going to encourage this? How are we going to make sure that we have that asset—that point at which we can interact? There are many examples of what sports clubs can do and of good sporting practice, but one which builds on what the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, did is the wonderful rugby union project, Tackle London. It gets youngsters to interact with that sport. The odd thing about rugby is that it seems to be growing in popularity in the female community at a phenomenal rate. More than half the participants in this project are female.

In the coaching department, it is very good at providing a stable base for people who have problems. The acronym is ACEs: adverse childhood experiences. Other sports have their strengths and weaknesses, but rugby’s strength is that it is very structured, with a central figure who is reliable and who is there—often a volunteer who is turning up because they like it. They will be very reliable. They are building into their club and its structure. When you get that kind of person, the response is that people keep coming back: they are a stable centre. You can start to build the kind of community that we have all been talking about, and you can get something that builds up with it.

If we are to encourage these voluntary groups—yes, these are voluntary groups—to come in and make sure that they are supporting groups outside, such as schools or other educational establishments, we need to have the support and structure from government to allow it to happen. It should be local government, but if it cannot afford to take on things such as making sure that your new clubhouse is built on a bus route, central government will have to do so.

Think about it: we have built and developed a wonderful new clubhouse, but we have put it three miles down the road. Can you think of a better way to get rid of your junior teams? Mum and dad have to drive them—but what if mum and dad do not have a second car, or even one car? You have to make sure there is access. So central government will have to push, local government will have to listen and somebody will have to make sure that the money is there for either the continuing bus route or the new bus route that gets you back from training as well as to it—and remember, this is voluntary activity, so it has to be after work.

Can the Government tell us exactly what their attitude will be to encourage amateur sports clubs—the social bedrock of many communities—to function properly and deliver these benefits to society? If we do not do that, we will miss something that, when all is said and done, is rather more important than who you cheer for on the odd Saturday or Wednesday afternoon.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 5:01, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I first congratulate my noble friend Lord Wood on initiating this debate and my noble friends Lords Shamash and Lord Hannett on choosing to make their maiden speeches in this important debate.

My dear and noble friend Lord Shamash has demonstrated what a great addition he will be to our debates in your Lordships’ House, particularly with his experience of working with the most deprived people in our communities and with his expertise on electoral law.

I say to my noble friend Lord Hannett that I am a former member of USDAW, because I worked for Co-op for 12 years; it was a great trade union to be a member of. I am particularly pleased to welcome him to our House, because he has a great record of championing women and issues around low pay, and he will be a great addition to our debates. I note that Everton have not been relegated this season, despite the odd problem I am told they have had.

I am grateful to the many organisations and the Library for their briefings, which I have read and of which I have taken some notice, occasionally.

This has been a stimulating debate. Was it too football orientated? Football looms large in our nation, with clubs contributing billions to the economy, generating substantial social value, which many noble Lords mentioned, and otherwise capturing the national imagination. I join with my right honourable friend Thangam Debbonaire MP, who said at Second Reading of the Football Governance Bill in the Commons:

“The prize could be greater financial sustainability across the whole football pyramid, and, crucially, fans having a greater say in how their clubs are run. It could be those things, but it is up to us to make sure that it is. That is what fans deserve, and what Labour has called for in our last three election manifestos”.—[Official Report, Commons, 23/4/24; col. 837.]

In line with everybody confessing their football teams, I probably need to note that my husband is a passionate Leeds United supporter, so in our household I fear there is some tension, with the playoffs looming.

We are all united in our recognition of the importance and love of sport in the life of our nation, and this debate recognises that in abundance. It has not actually been dominated by football; we have heard about many other sports. My noble friend Lady Nye talked about golf, the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, about cricket, the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, about rugby and my noble friend Lord Drayson about motorsports. However, I join my noble friend Lord Wood in saying that it is worrying that there was a report today that three in five adults in England say that extreme weather events are impacting their ability to be physically active. Can the Minister say whether the government schemes recognise the particular challenges raised by climate change, including new and increased pressures on our health service?

I will talk a little about social enterprises, co-operatives and charities and their role in sport and in sports centres. I declare an interest as the founding chair and patron of Social Enterprise UK and an associate of Social Business International. As a Labour and Co-op Party member, I am committed to and interested in the role that democracy, ownership and community-based organisations can play in bringing access and inclusivity at a local level. The Labour and Co-operative parties have a long history of supporting fans on this issue. In fact, it was under the last Labour Government, in 2007, that we founded the fan ownership organisation Supporters Direct and campaigns for further funding and resources to support increased fan ownership.

In this capacity as a passionate advocate for charities, social enterprises and co-operatives, I have been a supporter of GLL since it was founded in 1993 as the first social enterprise operating leisure centres in Greenwich, taking over its leisure services, which were about to be sold off or closed down. As many will know, GLL operates under the name Better. It is an independent charitable social enterprise. Across the country it operates 230 leisure centres and swimming pools, 50 libraries, and world-class sporting venues such as Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, the London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It runs numerous children’s centres, recreation grounds, spas, ice rinks and other spaces, making it the UK’s largest leisure provider. The point is that it is community based and community owned, does not serve shareholders and is not going anywhere. During the pandemic it turned itself around on a shilling to support its local communities, and we should value that.

Better is not alone: there are hundreds of other social enterprise leisure services in the UK. Therefore, I ask the Minister: given the pressures on and under-resourcing of local government when budgets are so stressed, how can we ensure that these important community facilities continue to be the sort of places people want to go to?

It is important in these debates to pay tribute to those who make such a huge contribution to our sporting life in this country, particularly the volunteers. As one of the staff in the office said to me in preparation for this debate:

“One of my cousins’ husbands is a football coach and he gives up most of his Saturdays because he loves working with the kids and has thick enough skin to tolerate comments from parents. There’s no pay and very little thanks, but him and others keep kids fit, healthy and happy, rather than getting up to no good”.

There are hundreds of thousands of volunteers like this, and we owe them our thanks. They often make the difference, in that a young person has a trusted adult who introduces them to the joy of sporting activity. That also raises the question of coaching in the community being even more important, in the context of PE being cut back in our schools. Have HMG been assessing the impact of the reduction in timetabled PE hours?

I turn to the challenges of equality and access, because as well as being the DCMS spokesperson I am the women and equalities spokesperson in your Lordships’ House. As a Yorkshirewoman, I am deeply ashamed about the racism exposed in the Yorkshire cricket club in recent times. However, I was not surprised. I grew up in Manningham, in Bradford, in the 1960s and 1970s, where there were boys playing cricket in the streets and parks. They knew, and my schoolmates knew, that they would never play for Yorkshire, however good they became, because they were from Caribbean, Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi families, who had come to Yorkshire to work in our mills and hospitals and drive our buses. Even those who were born in Yorkshire would not be chosen. It took until 1992 for the first non-white player to play for Yorkshire.

What subsequently happened to non-white players is a shaming and well-known story, which came out when Azeem Rafiq described the racist abuse and bullying he faced during his two tenures at the club. What is also profoundly depressing is that racism still lurks in the Yorkshire cricket club, despite everything. Yorkshire was docked points and fined last year by an independent commission appointed by the England and Wales Cricket Board after admitting to failing on four charges, including a failure to address and take adequate action against racist and discriminatory language. It is time for this to stop. Race, colour and religion should be irrelevant for our cricket team in Yorkshire, which should be a beacon reflecting the best players in our diverse and rich communities.

The excellent Kick It Out campaign was set up to fight racism in football in 1993, and in 1997 it expanded to tackle all forms of discrimination. It does an excellent job. It says,

“right now we’re here to put an end to every form of discrimination. We won’t stop until it stops”.

As we know, there is still work to be done on the terraces and in the clubs.

I thank Women in Sport for its excellent brief for this debate, with its description of the challenges and proposals for change. The headline message is that sport has an overwhelmingly positive impact on the health—including mental health—and well-being of everyone who takes part, but too many girls and women are being excluded from that positive impact. No one should be excluded from the joy, fulfilment and lifelong benefits of sport. It is deeply unfair on women and girls, and a huge missed opportunity for society.

The role of the Lionesses is huge, and I feel tearful with joy and admiration at their journey and the impact that they have. It is a matter of personal celebration that my 10 year-old granddaughter plays football at school. She is in the squad and competes rather well in Camden—in fact, better than the boys’ team. But 1.3 million girls drop out of sport between primary and secondary school.

I wish the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, all the best in the Bingham Cup in Rome next week. His record of championing and founding the Kings Cross Steelers is of huge benefit for everybody in rugby and for gay rights. I am proud to know him as a friend.

Today, the leader of my party, the right honourable Keir Starmer MP, announced the first steps we will take, if we form the next Government, to begin a decade of national renewal. Given the importance of sport in our national life and our well-being, and given that the last Labour Government won the Olympic Games for our nation, who knows how the next generation of young people will benefit and what we can achieve? Watch this space.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) 5:12, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for securing this excellent debate and the brilliant way in which he kicked it off.

I congratulate and welcome the two noble Lords who made their maiden speeches; we were delighted to hear from them both. The noble Lord, Lord Hannett of Everton, already has the measure of the less partisan debates that we have in your Lordships’ House, with his carefully judged and diplomatic comments on the fraught politics of Liverpool derbies. He spoke proudly and powerfully about the community work undertaken by Everton Football Club. The noble Lord, Lord Shamash, gave us some red-blue clashes, but only in connection with the football clubs of Manchester. He also gave us a rare example of a maiden speech from a life Peer that was able to refer to his noble kinsmen and to some 19th-century lineage. We enjoyed both speeches and look forward to hearing from both noble Lords in the future.

Millions of people across the country play, watch and enjoy sport every day. As noble Lords mentioned, it is central to our national identity and to the identities of communities across the country. The benefits of participating in sport and physical activity are well known: an active life is a happier, healthier and more prosperous life. Being active promotes individual well-being and improves both our physical and mental health. It was good to hear both mentioned in the contributions today.

Being active reduces loneliness, fosters social cohesion and strengthens our communities. A more physically active nation can help to ease the pressure on front-line services such as our National Health Service, and research commissioned by Sport England shows that, for every £1 invested in community sport and physical activity, there is a return of almost £4 in wider social and economic value. I was glad that the Motion that the noble Lord brought before us focused on both the social and economic contribution that sport makes to society.

That is why His Majesty’s Government are committed to ensuring that everyone, no matter their age, background or ability, is able to play sport and be active. A robust and high-performing sport sector is also immensely valuable to our economy, contributing almost £49 billion a year in gross value added and providing over half a million jobs.

The government sport strategy Get Active, published last summer, sets out our ambition to build a more active nation and our vision to ensure that the sector can thrive in the years ahead. It commits us to helping 2.5 million more adults and 1 million more children meet the Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines by 2030. In addition to this national ambition, we have also committed to specific goals aimed at groups of people identified as among the least active. Get Active also sets out our desire to ensure that our country has a sport and physical activity sector which is efficient, resilient, financially robust and environmentally sustainable and which effectively protects and supports everyone who wants to play sport.

While my department holds the remit for sport, it is the responsibility of many departments and organisations across government and beyond to support that shared ambition to shift the dial on physical activity. That is why we have set up the National Physical Activity Taskforce, to bring together government departments, the sport sector and independent experts, to deliver co-ordinated and innovative policies that will encourage people to be more active. Regular physical activity can help prevent and manage over 20 chronic conditions and diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression, vitally easing the pressure on our health services. Physical inactivity is associated with one in six deaths in the UK and is estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually, including about £1 billion to the NHS alone. Increasing physical activity can therefore deliver cost savings for the health and care system as well as the obvious benefits to the lives of individual people.

In England, one in three children leaving primary school is overweight or obese, with one in five living with obesity. In total, obesity costs the National Health Service around £6.5 billion a year. With a direct link between a lack of physical activity and obesity, there is a clear benefit to encouraging physical activity in our children, particularly, as noble Lords mentioned, if these habits are maintained into adulthood. Research suggests that active adolescents who maintain this good habit into adulthood have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and better mental health.

We provide the majority of support for grass-roots sport through our arm’s-length body, Sport England, which receives £323 million in funding from the Exchequer and the National Lottery each year. Sport England’s work is focused on tackling disparities in participation and increasing opportunities for those in greatest need. One of Sport England’s partners is the Active Partnerships network, which exists to create a healthier nation by funding and enabling levelling-up opportunities for participation in sport across the country.

At least 75% of Sport England investment is being committed to areas of the country with the lowest levels of physical activity and social outcomes. It funds work spanning established sports such as football and netball, as well as newer sports and activities such as padel, dance and BMX, which extend their reach to wider audiences. We will continue to monitor how money is spent, to gather data to show its impact at a local level and to work with Sport England to include specific key performance indicators to decrease inactivity, particularly among underrepresented groups.

We heard from noble Lords about a range of sports. The noble Baroness, Lady Nye, gave a powerful case study of golf. I am pleased to say that one of the special advisers with whom I had the pleasure of working at DCMS, Mr Robert Oxley, now works for the R&A doing great work to champion many of the benefits that the noble Baroness extolled in her contribution. My noble friend Lord Hayward spoke very powerfully about the value of sports teams—to everybody, including marginalised groups. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, I wish all those taking part in the Bingham Cup in Rome next weekend all the best.

I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, mentioned motorsports, including Formula 1, which is the sport that I follow most keenly. Fans across the UK were delighted to see Lando Norris secure his first win, in Miami. We hope that it is the first of many. I was glad that the noble Lord also mentioned Earl Howe, winner of Le Mans and inaugural president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, which still owns and operates Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix. I hasten to add that this was the fifth Earl, not my noble friend the current Deputy Leader of the House, whose own achievements are manifold.

The Government are particularly focused on how we can support our children and young people to be more active. Participation in school sport has significant well-being benefits, improving young people’s mood and confidence, as noble Lords noted, as well as having a positive impact on their work and behaviour in school. The Government want all school pupils to have access to high-quality PE, school sport and physical activities. Quite simply, experiences in school have a significant impact on young people and can inspire a lifelong habit of being physically active.

PE is a compulsory subject in the national curriculum from key stage 1 to key stage 4. It may be the only exposure that some young people get to organised physical activity. As my noble friend Lady Sater mentioned, the Government continue to fund primary PE through the sport premium. Last year, we confirmed over £600 million of investment in the PE and sport premium for this academic year and next, helping primary schools to deliver high-quality PE and sport provision for their pupils.

Alongside community sports facilities, facilities on school sites represent an important resource for pupils and their families. Last year, the Government confirmed that up to £57 million was being made available to support schools to open their sporting facilities beyond the core day, at weekends and in school holidays. As of last month, over 1,400 schools across England are taking part in the programme, and funding has been targeted where it will have the most positive impact.

The Government also support sport and physical activity outside the school term through the Department for Education’s £200 million investment in the holiday activities and food programme. Last summer, that programme reached over 680,000 children and young people across each of the 153 local authorities in England.

The Government are acting to deliver the right facilities that communities everywhere need across the UK. Our direct investment is delivered mainly through three major programmes. The £327 million multisport grassroots facilities programme provides funding to create and upgrade up to 8,000 football and multisport facilities across the UK. It is not just football focused; 40% of our projects will deliver facilities that can support multiple sports. The noble Lord, Lord Wood, referred to tennis courts in his opening speech; our £21.9 million park tennis court renovation programme aims to renovate over 3,000 public park tennis courts to a playable standard, across Scotland, England and Wales. Our £60.8 million swimming pool support fund supports public swimming pool providers in England with immediate cost pressures to make their facilities sustainable in the longer term.

The Government recently announced an investment of £35 million to extend the England and Wales Cricket Board’s primary and secondary schools programme and to deliver the construction of 16 new cricket domes in places connected with the hosting of the women’s and men’s T20 World Cup. This investment builds on existing investment from Sport England to support children from lower socioeconomic groups to get active. Further details on the location of the new domes and the targeting of funding will be announced in due course.

The Government proudly have a manifesto commitment to maintain the UK’s world-leading reputation for hosting major sporting events, which we know deliver a range of benefits across the whole country. For example, we have just published the final evaluation report into the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, which concludes that around £1.2 billion of GVA was added to the UK economy as a result of those Games. There was a 6% increase in visitor numbers to Birmingham that year and a 27% increase in foreign direct investment projects in the West Midlands. I commend the leadership of the outgoing Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, for that and in many other regards.

The Lionesses’ fantastic performance at the European Women’s Championship two years ago truly inspired the nation, with a record-breaking crowd of over 87,000 people attending the final and more than 23 million people across the UK tuning into the BBC’s coverage. It is essential that we take the opportunity to build on the success and legacy of the team to secure a long-lasting and sustainable future for the women’s game.

A UK Sport report found that sporting events staged here in 2022, excluding the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, had a direct economic impact of £132 million, supported 1,600 jobs and had a 6:1 return on investment. The same UK Sport report also found that 83% of Britons are proud that the UK hosts major sporting events, with 70% saying that watching or attending major sporting events has a positive impact on their happiness. This year sees the return of the UEFA Champions League final to Wembley, as well as the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow, which took place in March, and next year sees the Women’s Rugby World Cup coming to our shores.

The noble Lord, Lord Monks, asked about the listed events regime, which exists to ensure that as wide an audience as possible can access and enjoy sport. That, of course, has to be balanced against the ability of rights holders to reinvest in their sport at every level to encourage more people to play it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, advertised, she has amendments to the Media Bill on this topic, which we will debate on Monday afternoon.

This is also an Olympic year, of course. UK Sport has invested £382 million of funding from the Exchequer and the National Lottery in the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games. The investment of public money in Olympic and Paralympic sport allows UK athletes who have the potential to achieve at the highest level on the world stage to train full time and focus fully on achieving their sporting potential. We support UK Sport’s ambition for our teams to remain in the top five of the medal tables of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris this summer.

As well as making us all so proud, Olympic and Paralympic sport drives economic growth. In 2017, the GVA of Olympic and Paralympic sports in the UK was almost £25 billion. This means that Olympic and Paralympic sport generates 1.3% of GVA, making it a larger contributor to the UK economy than, for instance, agriculture, forestry and fishing. Two-thirds of the British public say they have been inspired by the success of our Olympic and Paralympic teams, and 40% of these people say that, as a result of being inspired, they have been motivated to do more physical activity themselves. Success in Olympic and Paralympic sport is a superb advert for the UK on the world stage, and our athletes’ success showcases the UK at its very best.

Of course, getting moving is not confined to playing sport. As my noble friend Lord Effingham set out, people can get fitter and healthier through increased walking and cycling in their daily lives. This year, Active Travel England announced £101 million of government funding for high-quality walking and cycling routes. This will unlock sustainable transport options for millions more people across England and give people the choice to travel safely on foot or by bicycle. The importance of active travel in increasing physical activity in children is highlighted in the school sport and activity action plan, which was updated in March. For example, the Bikeability programme has already helped over 4 million children in schools and community settings to learn how to cycle safely. Through our national physical activity taskforce, we are committed to supporting the Department for Education, the Department for Transport and Active Travel England to deliver initiatives to increase active and safe travel to school, such as the Daily Mile, which my noble friend mentioned.

I echo the words the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, gave in tribute to the volunteers who facilitate so much sporting and physical activity across the nation—my noble friend Lord Hayward mentioned his referee’s tie. All achievements in sport are facilitated by the coaches and trainers, and the mums, dads and guardians who provide the lifts, wash the kits and cheer from the sidelines. It is right that their contribution should be remembered today.

In expressing my gratitude to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, I note that I was struck by the unanimity of spirit: I think we all agreed that sport and physical activity forms an essential part of our society and is vital to improving the health and well-being of the nation. I hope that my response this afternoon has demonstrated that His Majesty’s Government remain committed to helping make physical activity an essential part of everyone’s daily life. The more active we are, the stronger and healthier our communities and economy, and the more prosperous our society. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wood, for reminding us and others of that today.

Photo of Lord Wood of Anfield Lord Wood of Anfield Llafur 5:29, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I will not detain us much longer. I thank all noble Lords for a really stimulating debate, and thank the Minister for a comprehensive reply. I also thank my two new noble friends Lord Hannett and Lord Shamash. My noble friend Lord Hannett talked a lot about Everton in the Community, which does fantastic work, as he pointed out. It is good to hear more about Everton—as Bill Shankly said, the third-best team in Liverpool, behind Liverpool and Liverpool reserves.

I have learned a lot from various noble colleagues’ contributions today. We were all quite moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hayward; I did not know anything about the Bingham Cup, so I thank him very much for that. We learned from my noble friend Lady Nye that we should all take up golf if we want to live five years longer. The noble Lord, Lord Drayson, also reminded us that sport can be a catalyst for innovation in all sorts of ways, but particularly in motorsport, as he so eloquently set out.

The Minister said at the end that we are a sporting country. We know we are a sporting country, and we know about the passion that volunteers bring to sport, which my noble friend Lady Thornton talked about. We know, if we are parents, how much sport matters to our children. We know how much the sports that we follow matter to us all. Without being partisan about it, however, we do know that, particularly in the last 14 years, the passion we have as a country for sport has become more and more distant from the adequacy of the facilities that deliver community sports. Community sports facilities and sports clubs, and school sport, have borne more of the brunt of incremental cuts than a lot of areas of our public service landscape. I hope we can work across parties to change that in the years ahead.

We have a summer of sport coming up; we always have summers of sport, but we have a particularly amazing summer of sport coming up, with the Olympics and Paralympics, the Euros—of course, we wish England and Scotland great success in that—the men’s T20 World Cup and lots of other things. Let us resolve, across parties, to try to use this extraordinary summer of sport to make good on a lot of the issues and policy priorities we have talked about today, in delivering after the summer.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 5.31 pm.