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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 3:59 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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.