§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Lord Addington
rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to support amateur sports clubs in their work for the social development and health of the community.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like first to thank all those noble Lords who put their names down to speak in the debate at the end of an already full and taxing day. I hope that we shall be able to shed a little light on the workings of a part of our community that is very important to many of us throughout our lives, draw from the Government their attitude to future assistance for the development of small amateur sports clubs and give them some suggestions on how they might be able to enhance that assistance.
I must make a declaration of interest at the start. I am captain of the parliamentary rugby team, known as the Commons and Lords rugby team, to which I shall not refer again. Also for 21 years now I have been a 790 member of a small rugby club in Norwich, both as a player and as a vice-president, and occasionally, as in last season, both. It is called the Lakenham-Hewitt Rugby Football Club. I was told that if not my person at least my dignity would be in grave danger if I did not give our results for this season, which were: second in Eastern Counties III North; runners up in the county cup final; played 30, won 22, lost eight; points for 701; points against 269. It is one of our best seasons ever, and we were still only second in two-bit competitions—but never mind.
The club provided the background for my starting the debate. I have been a member since I was 15. My reason for joining was that a friend was playing for the club. I think he was 16, and I was 15. His uncle was also a player in the team, and I decided that it was a good idea to join because I would know somebody there and I could get to the ground easily on the bus from where I lived. The club was then housed in a hut, made of breeze blocks, at the end of a steep slope—steep, at least, by Norfolk standards; steep enough, indeed, to have a dry ski run on it.
I discovered in my first game that the pitch was on a reclaimed rubbish dump, and we were level with a river. I remember standing on the pitch and sinking so far into it that I could not see the tops of my boots. I was not the only person who had to be pulled out after a certain scrum.
We developed the ground and facilities for several years, until the ground became just about playable, when we had to move elsewhere in Norwich because a road was being built. The result is that this wonderful establishment is now on a decent pitch slightly further away, which means that we have to drive to it. It also means that we are linked to a number of football clubs, and a cricket team also operates there.
I am speaking of a social unit which has people from virtually every walk of life and every age taking part. There is mini-rugby going on, for under-7s to under-14s. We then have junior sides under 16 and occasionally under 18. The recruitment of players is very fluid. We also have people of every social environment and mix. I was once part of a front row which went from left to right: worker in a meat processing plant; welder; Member of the House of Lords. It is now: foreman in a meat processing plant; runner of a small engineering company; Member of the House of Lords. It is nice to know that I am the only one who is not upwardly socially mobile.
The mix is also exemplified by the fact that accountants, doctors and dentists have played in the side, together with people who work as labourers, casual workers of every description, people who are unemployed for periods. They can mix, as can people of various ages. That statement may elicit a resounding "So what?", until it is realised that people have: an opportunity to talk on even terms with people they would not normally talk to. Young people have a chance to meet on even terms people who are regarded as economically and possibly socially their superiors, with a subject in common that enables them to interact. There is a mix going on throughout the process that breaks down social barriers.
791 In addition, people come together in a common cause. Both the club houses required a funding effort and co-operation over everything from building the place to marking the pitches and coaching the younger sides. That sort of thing stops those on the outside feeling isolated and helps bring people together. Therefore, it is very important that it be given support.
This is probably the real meat of the debate: what do these organisations need in order to continue doing what they are doing, and doing well? The first thing we need, of course, is the continuation of players and interest. The Government's sports document talks very grandly about guaranteeing two hours' sports activity per week for children at school. I think that is a slight decline, if it is activity and not merely travelling to and from sports grounds. It may well be an improvement for some schools, but not for others.
The document then makes great play of making sure that new sports schools will be set up—I think 101 nation-wide. There is then mention of sports activity areas for people in deprived areas, suggesting that the activity of sport is a good thing because of the amount of self-discipline involved, and that it is good to get people to do something because they want to and not because they are forced. They have to be shown that there is something out there that they can do. The idea of having grammar schools for sport does not sit well with me. As an aside, I would add that selecting somebody to be a sportsman at the age of 14 is not very advisable in many sports for the average male.
How are we to support those who provide this important social service of giving the first taste of certain sports outside school? Rugby union is a good example and certainly cricket is another. The proper facilities are needed for both. I have no doubt that we shall hear much about that later. If we support clubs by making sure that schools provide a "sampling service" and then tell those concerned to go on to the clubs, we shall be doing ourselves a favour.
The document also talks about co-ordinators. I think that the figure is about 600, though I am not sure that that is nation-wide. At least some thinking is going on. There may not be enough money. I do not know how many times the sports budget could be swallowed up by the Millennium Dome costs.
We must try to make sure that clubs such as those I have described are given assistance, first by making people interested in them, and, secondly, by making sure that we do not take money out of them. I do not propose to go into this in any depth, but at present we are taxing many of our sporting institutions as if they were businesses. We are not giving them beneficial rates. My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury will have something to say about that. Incidentally, Sudbury was at one point a fixture for my little club. It used to beat us handsomely, and then dropped us. My noble friend will speak about getting something akin to charitable status for sports clubs. I look forward to hearing about that in detail.
792 We must ensure that we allow people to work properly and that National Lottery funding is accessible to the clubs at the junior end. Steps have been taken already, but we must provide support and help by making the process simpler. We must also provide funds to sustain the clubs, not merely the buildings. If we are not to lose this great asset—the places where people learn about sports, support each other and are sometimes recruited to jobs—we must not extract too much from them. We must help them to set themselves up and run and we must not take from them.
Finally, how are we expecting to continue the educational and social developmental work unless we allow the clubs a free hand?
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge
My Lords, I want to thank our most distinguished captain of the parliamentary rugby football team, who was very modest about his achievements. He has raised a most important subject tonight. It goes to the heart of sport in the UK.
Let us remind ourselves that for more than 100 years sport in this country has owed its development to the amateur clubs, the amateur administrator and the host of volunteers, former professionals at every level, schoolmasters, parents and grandparents like myself. We look to all of them to lend a hand. A host of sportsmen and women who love their game like nothing more than to give endless time and energy to serve their sport in an honorary capacity.
That amateur contribution has been fundamental to the speedy but sensible growth of each sport in this country. I am sure that as we travel around the country we are encouraged by the great army of volunteers— greater than ever before. There are as many ladies as there are men, and it is thrilling to see them all.
Last year, I travelled through Devon and Cornwall on holiday. I had to keep stopping at the small grounds with few facilities but many people. They had a buzz about them and they were surrounded by youngsters whose eyes they were opening. It was very exciting.
As one would expect, the contribution of professional coaches at the highest level has increased. In some respects, we have a great deal to do to catch up with other countries and their contribution is vital. Where would we be without the PE teachers? The increasing parlous state of sport in schools has somehow brought them on. The curriculum allows little time for sport, but the professionalism of the teachers I have seen has brought a ray of light into our sports starved schools. They take a great deal of pressure off the responsibility of headteachers and I take my hat off to them. The more PE teachers we can have the better.
Today, I want to make a plea on behalf of all the volunteers around school sport. I salute them for their dedication and enthusiasm. They are prepared to devote so much time in all weathers. We need to rally behind them and, more than that, to provide financial support. They are not looking to be paid for their 793 efforts, but the cost of providing footballs, cricket balls and so forth, and of oiling the wheels to make it all fun, is great. Over the years they have put their hands in their own pockets and those of their friends, but the cost is too big for that now. The cost is depressingly high.
I beg the Minister seriously to urge the departments dealing with sport and education to take on board the suggestion that local authorities must be given access to modest funds. We are not talking about enormous amounts of money. They would have the responsibility of providing the much-needed help where it was justified. Many small enterprises need such support and the financial help will be justified.
We talk about looking for investment in the grass roots. We often read and hear about the "grass roots" and must realise that the amateur clubs hold the key to them. At every amateur club there are volunteers, young and old, who have few facilities to assist them. Let us be clear that the amateur clubs in the UK will provide the gateway to the grass roots. The National Lottery money has created a great deal over the past few years. I received the notion with excitement because I believed that it could help just such a cause.
The money is doing a great deal of good, but is it doing it in the right places? And must we sit on such enormous resources of lottery money at the centre? It is causing despair and contempt among those volunteers who say, "We thought we were going to get something, but the government of the day are going to keep it for their own interest". That money is so badly needed to help the voluntary teachers to help the youngsters even more.
I have wonderful pictures in my mind and I am very bullish about sport in this country. We must grab this issue seriously. In my county of Kent all the sports clubs, the cricket clubs in particular, are building on the scenario. They are looking after the under-14s, the under-12s, the under-11s and the under-9s. That involvement can also be seen in tennis, rugby football, soccer and so forth. It is very exciting. I recently visited Suffolk; I was privileged to visit Bury St Edmunds, a lovely place. All they could talk to me about was sport and cricket and Ipswich Town. All their teams were being masterminded by volunteers and I went away very happy having heard about them.
I should like to paint a picture of one person I have come to know well. For a long time, he has been doing a job in Horsham, Sussex, and I mention him because his experience is mirrored across the country 100 times. He said, "Don't make a fuss of me over this. There are many marvellous people in the Midlands and the North and many ladies do the job every bit as well as I do." He is a GP and a good cricketer and rugby footballer. He loves sport and takes a great interest in youngsters. He created one of the first clubs teaching boys in the various age groups. I spoke and presented the prizes at an autumn dinner to celebrate the season. More than 200 young boys of varying ages attend with their parents and teachers. There are prizes for everyone and great enthusiasm. They all go away for the winter believing that sport is something different in life.
794 He has been working on such ventures since 1956— he is now in his mid-70s—and he is still as lively as ever. He has created in his wake many teachers who are doing the same. He visits them in other villages and says, "You have a lovely little ground or play area. Do this on it. We are not working to build the ego of Horsham Cricket Club; we are a springboard to get you all going." He is the most wonderful example to us in sport.
Therefore, if those at the highest level get depressed, each sporting body must fight through that. However, no country has a greater opportunity to benefit from such people's enthusiasm and the way in which they throw themselves into helping youngsters. Anything that the Minister can do through local authorities to give modest amounts to oil the wheels will help the whole show along.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Lord Hoyle
My Lords, in rising to speak, I declare my interest in this subject as chairman of the Warrington Wolves Rugby League Club and, as I shall be referring tonight to a cricket club, I should add that I am also president of Adlington Cricket Club.
Before I begin, I want to give an example of a sport in which perhaps not so many people participate. My story concerns Warrington Judo Club, which is very small. Its members modernised the premises and had a great opening. People came from many areas, including Olympic participants. However, having just opened the new clubhouse, they are suddenly threatened by a housing development and they may well have to leave. Fortunately, Warrington Borough Council is trying to find them alternative premises and is liaising with the developer to see whether the clubhouse can be moved to a new site. That is typical of the fight that small clubs face. There are no wealthy members in the club. By their own efforts, they built a new clubhouse only to find that, having opened it, it may be in danger of closure.
Having said that, I believe that we should also comment on some of the good things that have happened. For example, before the start of the debate I found out what had happened with regard to Sport England. Since it came into being, it has made 4,271 awards. Believe it or not, the awards have totalled £1,800 million. In addition, since January, 49 awards have been made totalling just over £14,300,000. Of those 49 awards, many have been big grants, some of them to professional clubs. Nevertheless, many have been awarded to the amateur clubs which we are discussing tonight. The 49 awards since January have gone to a variety of sports: many to cricket, many to rugby union, some to yachting, and boat clubs have benefited, too. However, I am sorry to tell the Minister that, unfortunately, not one rugby league club has benefited. Therefore, I believe that the distribution of the awards needs to be evened out.
I now turn to the lifeblood of amateur clubs—what makes them tick—and, in particular, I want to refer to amateur rugby league in Warrington. I shall tell your Lordships some of the names of the eight rugby league 795 clubs there. They are clubs such as Crosfields and Woolston, and clubs with more exotic names such as Grappenhall Griffins, Ryland Recs, Culcheth Eagles, Burtonwood Bulldogs, Bank Quay Bulls and Latchford Albion. The main point about those clubs is that their members are all amateurs. Some play at a high level—for example, Woolston and Crosfields both play in the National Conference—and all the others play in the North-West Counties League. Therefore, they play amateur rugby league at a good level.
I return to comments made earlier with regard to schools. The apprentices from Warrington Wolves visit schools and, importantly, attract youngsters to amateur clubs in the area. In that way, all the amateur clubs benefit and that is very important for them. As noble Lords said, it is not simply a matter of older people who play at the clubs passing on their knowledge; it is a case of youngsters joining at all levels. Indeed, because Crosfields and Woolston are in the National Conference, they must provide teams at every age from nine to 18. That means that a large number of youngsters take part.
All the other amateur clubs also have junior clubs: some have two and some have three. The young coaches direct the players and, after six weeks, a tag rugby competition takes place with the local amateur club in the area. Therefore, everyone becomes involved in preserving the lifeblood of rugby league. Admittedly, that is taking place in the heartlands, but it has now spread to be a national sport, particularly on the amateur side. Certainly, I believe that what is taking place there is right for the future of the sport.
I turn now to say a little about cricket and, in particular, the Adlington club. I stand to be corrected by more eminent people than myself, but I do not believe that county cricket can continue to draw many of its players from the narrow band of mainly public or grammar school pupils. The band must be far wider than that. If it were not for the presence of league and cricket clubs together, there would no sign of youngsters joining the sport. We all know that many schools do not have the facilities or the playing fields. Certainly cricket is no different from any other sport; it takes up a lot of time which teachers do not have. Noble Lords have referred to the fact that sport in the curriculum is very limited and difficult to organise.
Adlington, admittedly, has one professional player who has played county cricket, but all the work, such as running the bar and preparing the wicket, is carried out by club members. Adlington also has teams of under-11s, under-13s, under-15s and under-18s. Each club in the Bolton Association has the same number of junior teams, and leagues are provided for them by the association. The Bolton League is similarly run; indeed, it is said that on any Saturday afternoon more cricket is probably played in the area of Bolton than anywhere else.
796 I turn from that to speak for a moment about the county club. Lancashire has benefited by dividing the area into the north-west, the north-east, the southwest and the south-east. The club is looking for under-16s and under-19s to play against each other. That could not be done without club and league cricket in that area, which provides future talent for Lancashire. It is trying to make cricket a broader-based game. I believe that that is absolutely essential if we are to benefit.
Having said that, and having spoken mainly about rugby league and cricket, I return to what was said about attracting youngsters to the sport. That provides a way of instilling social cohesion in villages and urban areas. It brings people together because they have one objective. They believe in their club and they believe in the keen games that are played. I believe that that does an awful lot of good. If many of the youngsters, not only in urban areas but in villages, were not in cricket, football, rugby league or rugby union teams, they would find that they had an awful lot of time on their hands. They would not be spending it in the healthy way that we have described this evening or a way that benefits them and brings together social cohesion. Therefore, I say that more help must be given to the amateur clubs. We need to do that. One way forward may be to waive council tax for all amateur clubs; indeed, probably something could be given from the centre to compensate the local authorities for that. More use must be made of giving grants to smaller clubs.
However, one matter of which I am sure—I shall finish on this point because my time is up—is that amateur clubs are the lifeblood of sport. Also, they make for a better and a healthier nation.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Lord Monro of Langholm
My Lords, like all noble Lords in the House tonight, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for raising the subject and giving us a chance to speak about sport. I was delighted to hear about his rugby club. I thought that perhaps the next time that England are due to play at Murrayfield he might send his team instead.
We are united with regard to the importance of the amateur and volunteer in sport. Speaking from my own experience of marking out the ground, rolling the pitch, being a club official, being a president of a governing body and Minister for Sport, one has seen it from all sides of the argument. It is a mounting mountain of frustration. This has not suddenly happened but evolved over years of frustration at the administrative complication of sport and the complication of sporting finance. I think that the countless volunteers are getting thoroughly fed up and are almost in despair regarding the time it takes to obtain grants. The noble Lord spoke rightly about the number of grants that have been given out by the Lottery Commission to the Sports Council, but perhaps he should have put in brackets how long they took to come through. That is where I think people are reaching the end of their tether.
797 We are right tonight to highlight the contribution of volunteers and pay them every possible tribute. I think that some of these grass root volunteers—so well spoken about by my noble friend Lord Cowdrey— should appear in the Honours' List rather than those fleeting experts who play once or twice for club or country, get an MBE and then disappear.
For example, as to time, on Sunday I was asked to re-open two tennis courts near my home. They were reconditioned tennis courts, so planning permission was unnecessary. All that was needed was a grant to resurface them and repair the fences. It had taken over three years to get through the Sports Council, the local authorities and other bodies for a grant, three years of volunteers' hard work to resurface two tennis courts, which took the contractors only two days. We must try to speed up the action by the various bodies that are involved in sport. We thank the volunteers, the CCPR and others which represent the governing bodies for the time they give to sport. We must recognise them and give them all the praise we can.
The Minister for Sport and her department should tell the Sports Council and the local authorities that they need to simplify the red tape that is holding up the development of sport in this country. I know that the Minister will say that he is accountable for the financial expenditure. If industry took the same amount of time to take decisions as sport does, Heaven help the country's economic future. Of course government occasionally give a bad example, like the Wembley fiasco, and the Minister knows my strong objections to the way he changed the lottery so that less money went to sport and other money went to good causes, which I think was inappropriate. We need to synchronise how we can improve matters. I believe that our local sports clubs, and therefore our communities and community centres, must work in very close co-operation with our schools. Then I believe there is a way forward for development.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, says, we put a great deal of responsibility on the PE teachers. Mainly they are in the secondary schools. We are woefully short of PE teachers in primary schools. We must try to improve that as soon as we can. I acknowledge that we also have to improve what has been improved—the dual use of school facilities by schools and the community; for example, swimming pools, gymnasia, squash courts and so on. I know there are always problems with janitors and who is responsible for damage to the school in the evening and so on. None of this is insurmountable. We have to work at it as hard as we can.
It is from the schools that the sports club will recruit. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, through mini-rugby and other ways we have to involve the sports clubs and the schools working together to develop sport in the area. There is no doubt at all in my mind that competition in sport and team games does an immense amount to develop character in young people. That is what is so important in improving the whole environment of a community. Sport is necessary to develop character, to develop leadership, to understand and not to question the decision of the 798 referees, the umpires and to develop good sportsmanship, and, where possible, to help where we can with outward bound activities. We have to push youngsters to the limit, not to the extent of being foolhardy, but as far as we can to ensure that they can see what can be achieved if they really put their minds to it. We have to work at that. Stemming from that, we will see youngsters coming into the sports clubs to play all the games that we have been talking about tonight.
The schools have to bring the sports clubs into the schools. If we do not have PE teachers, let us bring a coach from the rugby club, the cricket club or the hockey club to help with sports education outside, to look after school matches, and to attend away matches. Inter-school competition is extremely important. If you have a good school team doing well in inter-school matches, that will raise the morale of the whole community. I think we must bring the sport clubs to the schools. As children leave school and carry on in their late teens and into their 20s they will continue to join the clubs that mean so much to us at the present time.
At all times, as I think my noble friend Lord Cowdrey touched on, we must make sure that sport is enjoyable and fun, otherwise we shall lose the children from day one. They must want to come back and keep coming back. That will develop their experience and their skills right on into later life.
There are many matters that one should like to touch on tonight, but one cannot in a few minutes. Certainly I believe that the country is taking the drugs issue seriously, but I think that nationally and internationally we are letting down the sports world by not having a strong drugs policy throughout the world. Whenever anybody is tested positive for drugs, everyone seems to try to find an excuse for that. We have to introduce tough measures in order to prevent drug-taking in sport.
I should like to talk about disabled sports. I have been to the Special Olympics and have seen what can be achieved by supporting those who are less fortunate. It has been very interesting listening to the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, about rugby league. For the first 70 years of my life, as a rugby union enthusiast I was not really allowed to speak to anyone in rugby league. Even when I was a Scottish selector, if one of the candidates had been on the telephone to Leeds or Wigan, he would be out for good. Now the league cup final is to be at Murrayfield in a fortnight's time. It shows how time and attitudes change. I welcome it. We have to keep working on that as much as we possibly can. Tonight is not the night to talk about our new UK sports institutions and so on or about developing high-quality athletes for the Olympics.
In conclusion, I should like to say that we all have tremendous hopes for Great Britain in the Olympics. Medals will count but the base of the pyramid must be right. That is what we are talking about tonight—the base of the pyramid. If a youngster is outstanding, the facilities and the finance must be in place to take him forward to Olympic and world-class sport. I fear that if we do not make decisions quickly and if we continue 799 to dally year after year on crucial decisions, it will take much longer than I should like. However, I hope that we can reverse some of these slow decisions in the near future.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Addington for introducing this debate and for doing so with great awareness of the importance of the social contacts that are made at a typical amateur sports club.
One can safely say that sport reaches the parts that others do not reach. There is no doubt at all that in an increasingly divided society, the role of the community amateur sports club is quite indispensable.
I do not often recommend government reports, but I do not know how many noble Lords have a copy of the Home Office document called Report of the Policy Action Team on Community Self-Help. That is one of the 18 PATs that were set up by the Government when they were returned in 1997 to try to grapple with the extremely intractable bundle of problems that we call social exclusion.
Perhaps your Lordships will permit me to read one paragraph of the report because it is totally germane to what we are talking about this evening. It is in a chapter entitled,the philosophy of community self-help".It states:But self-help is an end in itself, as well as a means to an end. It is at the core of the empowerment of communities … It is about involvement and consultation, but also about moving towards self-sufficiency. It is, in its purest form, about communities shaping their own destiny—doing, not being done to … So it can reasonably be said that community self-help, the subject matter of our Policy Action Team, underpins that of all the other seventeen. Without effective self-help, it is unlikely that any other measures of community regeneration, however well resourced, will provide long term solutions to long term problems".That just about says it all. It explains why this debate is so crucial and why I suspect that in this House we all agree that there are steps which the Government could and should take to deliver their own analysis.
Although I admire the report, there is only one mention in it that I can find of an amateur sports club. That is reference to a tiny little football team, which I believe is called the Lambeth Tigers Football Club— God bless it—which, like many tens of thousands of football clubs, provides that which no other agency can provide. The key to this is that they say that they are doing it for themselves and not having it done unto them.
Another report which I believe was published last week is from the Government Office for the East of England and is entitled Draft Regional Planning Guidance for East Anglia. In the chapter on tourism, sport and recreation, it states:In providing facilities every effort should be made to minimise the need to travel and make the most effective use of existing resources, for example through enhancing facilities in village halls and the community use of schools facilities".800 Again, that is admirable stuff but there is no reference in the entire chapter to amateur sports clubs.
One message which should go out from this House this evening is that amateur sports clubs are not just there; they are there in their tens of thousands. They cross class divides; they cross occupation divides; they cross age divides. It is not necessary for someone to create them, if that could be done. They are there.
Therefore, I hope that we shall all support the notion not that money is showered on amateur sports clubs from on high, with all the bureaucracy and complications to which other noble Lords have referred, but that the Government should not just consider but get on with encouraging citizens to give to their own sports clubs; to unlock that continuing self-sustaining resource of member subscriptions and grants which will, I believe, make a substantial difference to the facilities which clubs can provide and, in particular, the extent to which small amateur sports clubs can reach out to local schools where, as we all know, the level and quantity of sports provision, particularly team sports, has been sadly declining and declining badly.
I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for repeating what I have suggested in previous debates. But it is an important matter and, since the last debate, a great deal of energy has been put into the notion of obtaining tax exemptions for gifts to community amateur sports clubs which are akin to those available to charities.
I shall not bore your Lordships with an exposition as to why community amateur sports clubs are not already charities. That is for another day. But suffice to say that the CCPR, Sport England, the Football Association, the Rugby Football Union and virtually every sports association with which we have been in contact support the notion that tax exemptions should be made available to community amateur sports clubs as though they were charities.
The benefits which would flow from that would be, without question, substantial. It would mean that giving would come out of the gross income of the giver and enable the sports club concerned to recover tax at standard rate. It would have the advantage of the extra allowances announced by the Chancellor in the last Budget, and they are substantial. It would mean that people could leave money in their wills with no inheritance tax payable. It would mean that they could give assets and snares without them being taxed. It would mean that the clubs could avoid the penalisation to which my noble friend Lord Addington referred; namely, taxation of their measly interest and dividend income, if they have any.
The problem of confining those exemptions to a class of amateur sports clubs that would keep out undeserving cases is one which has been grappled with in detail. There is now a working definition which is supported by all those bodies which I mentioned, including the National Playing Fields Association. It is felt that it would be a workable, practical definition.
801 I conclude with a quick reference to the proposal's virtues. The beauty of it is that it requires no administration by government. It will not get caught up in government. It will have no cost to government. I see the Minister is pursing his lips, but that is true. The only cost to government will be the exemption itself. Since the exemption will be only one-third to one-quarter of the amount given by the citizens themselves, I put it to the Government that that is about the best conceivable value that they could get. There will be no administration costs save in respect of the Inland Revenue which would police it. I have had an extremely useful and constructive discussion with the Inland Revenue on those issues and it will be possible to cope with them.
We have a keen, committed Minister for Sport. We have support from all the relevant bodies. There is a crying need. The patience of this House is legendary but it is reaching the end of its course. We need to make as much noise as noble Lords can. I hope that the Minister in summing up will say that he, too, will make a noise, because this is a reformation which is "win, win, win".
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Lord Lyell
My Lords, with some humility I rise in my usual position as tail-end Charlie. Your Lordships may hear in the course of one or two of my remarks how I deserve that position in a sporting debate such as tonight's. I start by declaring an interest, first, as the honorary patron of the Scottish Jujitsu Association. When I was installed in that esteemed position—I have not as yet had an opportunity to put it in the declaration of interests—I was given—dare I say it?— a sexy pair of pyjama-like garments and an honorary black belt that excited my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton.
Secondly, I am honorary patron of Forfar Athletic Football Club; thirdly, I am a fan of a well-known premier league club well known to the noble Lord, Lord McNally. As a real sporting enthusiast in your Lordships' House, it is a wonderful privilege to hear a real sportsman at all levels who practises and who has done so much, both in your Lordships' House and clearly still does in his community: the noble Lord, Lord Addington.
I remember seeing my noble friend Lord Cowdrey play cricket all of 45 years ago—in the flesh, as well as elsewhere. It is typical of him that he continues to put in vast amounts of his time and talent, not just in your Lordships' House but in the way in which he has described. We are extremely lucky to have him here and I suspect that his county is extremely lucky to have him in all types of sport.
Looking at the Speakers' List brought me back to early morning when I quite often put on the radio and hear of the marvellous teams to which my noble friend Lord Monro of Langholm referred in rugby league. We hear about "the Rhinos" and "the Bulls", but when I heard of the "Warrington Wolves" I am afraid that I did not immediately think of the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, that cuddly colleague of mine across the way.
802 The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, was right on the button when he mentioned league cricket. I seem to recall, probably about 40 years ago—perhaps less—a young West Indian cricketer by the name of Rohan Kanhai, whom I believe was playing as a professional for Aberdeenshire in the Scottish counties league. My noble friend Lord Cowdrey and certainly my noble friend Lord Monro will know that Scottish cricket tends to be in need of mittens and earmuffs, certainly until midsummer, although clearly in Langholm my noble friend is slightly warmer, south of the hills. I can tell him that in our neck of the woods frostbite will catch you in April, certainly in Lochside park. It just goes to show that league cricket in Scotland and England is alive and well and can be the bedrock for wonderful stars and world stars at their particular sport.
My final declaration of an interest in amateur sport is that for four years I was captain of the Lords and Commons ski club. One cannot find anything more amateur than that. In my youth I was told I was too small for football and rugby. At cricket I was told that I was far too useless. That was out of 500 boys at Eton. I was told to take up scoring. At least that put me on the right path to become a chartered accountant. I am delighted that at least one had some knowledge of that.
Skiing has done wonders for me, quite apart from putting me in the orthopaedic ward. Many of my noble and honourable friends are no strangers to the orthopaedic ward. I believe that I have paid five visits to hospital. Before my noble friend Lord Cowdrey beams too much, I know that the husband of one of his sister-in-laws has paid six visits to the Davos hospital. This year, I believe that the right honourable Member for Devizes actually ran into his own daughter. That is amateur skiing. Both of them finished up in the same ambulance and in adjacent wards in Davos hospital. That just goes to show that amateur sport goes right throughout Parliament and indeed, across the water and perhaps, as far as we know, across the world.
Certainly, skiing and other sports have—not to put too fine a point on it—enriched my life. They have made friends for me throughout Europe and elsewhere in the world. Where else would an electioneering Conservative Peer find pints of lager not poured over him but given to him? I discussed football with a bunch of pensioners in a working men's club and we all agreed that we could do a considerably better job than some of the most select professional players. That aspect of friendship is important. If sport has done so much for me, let alone for my noble friend Lord Cowdrey and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and indeed for my noble friend Lord Monro, who has given a considerable amount of his time and talent as Minister for Sport and for the Scottish Rugby Union, what can it do for hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of small, and perhaps larger, boys and girls throughout this land?
At whatever standard they pitch in, I am reminded of the late Marquess of Exeter. In 1980 in a debate about the boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games; the noble Marquess said that sport is not about the Olympics—he had won a gold medal in, I think, 803 1924—but about small boys and girls. I thought of myself staggering around Kensington Gardens getting fit for the Lords and Commons skiing. It is for all of us.
If that friendship has helped me and so many noble Lords, what can it do for all the boys and girls who, first, have pleasure in sport and, secondly, show some aptitude for sport. If they have aptitude, as my noble friend Lord Cowdrey, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, recommended—indeed the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle suggested amateur rugby league in Warrington, the heartland of rugby league—that aptitude will go towards talent. With hard, and harder, work on that talent it seems that a new lifestyle can emerge.
I suspect that the players of, say, Warrington Wolves, work one hundred times harder than any of us amateur sportsmen. They receive enormous professional help. However, I believe that none of that can start unless there is good groundwork in schools, and unless there are facilities in clubs, in gymnasiums and, as in my home town of Kirriemuir, in swimming pools. With the right facilities the mothers and fathers, together with occasional professional help, can encourage boys and girls and see that they start in the right way. All that depends on Government, whether local or central, having some input, be it large or small.
I know that we shall receive some encouraging words from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and I am immensely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for raising the debate.
I conclude by saying that I have just returned from a visit to the Royal Air Force establishment at Innsworth where we had a lengthy discussion with the Royal Air Force medical services. The experts in that branch of the services were particularly keen to see that PT instructors had more and more training in sports injuries, not just because the boys and girls who are joining the services are so unfit, but because we ask more and more of them. The more sport that boys and girls can play before they join the services, let alone when they are serving, the more it will help to keep them fit. That aspect of sports injuries is particularly relevant to men and women of the services today. I hope that the Minister will take that on board.
I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has to say on these wicked cracks. In fact, at about six o'clock on Saturday I did pass by the Old Swan of Liverpool, basking in a blue glow. Like all noble Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, not just for initiating the debate, but also for being such a wonderful example of a sportsman.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, I would not dream of making any further jokes about Everton Football Club. The last time I did so, I received what can only be described as a threatening letter from an Everton supporter. I am steering well clear of that.
I welcome the noble Lord's comment about swimming and swimming clubs. I have a great nephew who swims for Fleetwood Swimming Club. When I 804 went to watch him I was amazed by the amount of voluntary work that goes on in swimming. I was impressed to see how youngsters get involved in local swimming galas through to national competitions.
The pleasure in listening to the noble Lord, Lord Lyell is that one finds out something new about him every time he speaks. I knew that he skied in an Everton shirt, but now the thought of him going to bed in jujitsu pyjamas adds something else.
One regret I have is the reduction in the number of all-round sportsmen. Specialisation at an early age has removed the all-rounder from the scene, but, thank goodness, not from the House of Lords. At 8.15 p.m. the Minister addressed the House as economics, indeed, Treasury Minister and 90 minutes later, after a quick shower and a change of strip, here he is about to address us as the sports Minister.
I always consider the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, as the C.B. Fry of the House. At least in this debate he has heard practical ideas. Whether he is wearing his sports hat or his Treasury hat, I hope that he will not approach the matter with a closed mind. The suggestions of cutting red tape, securing extra funding and encouraging greater co-operation between schools and clubs are all worthy of merit.
This debate has rightly emphasised the importance of the amateur clubs. The noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, laid great emphasis on that. I still get a thrill when I look at the team sheet and see myself listed with Colin Cowdrey. I again pay tribute to the national work he does in promoting sport. Ministers might well listen to his call for a better distribution of lottery funding.
The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, paid tribute to non-fashionable sports like judo. Boxing clubs, again not always a fashionable sport to defend, often sited in deprived city areas, can do a lot for social inclusion and deserve to be complimented. As I mentioned, I feel the noble Lord, Lord Monro, was right to talk of the cutting of red tape. We know that we have to look after public money. But these clubs are being run, not only by amateur players, but also by amateur administrators, and too much bureaucracy can clog up the system.
The noble Lord was also right about giving emphasis to the base of the pyramid. I like the idea of our winning medals and competitions. But we look back to the perversion of sport that took place in certain regimes like East Germany, and we can see that the pursuit of elitism and the idea of the result being everything is wrong. It is at the base of the pyramid that we want the emphasis.
My noble friend Lord Phillips returned to the question of tax concessions. Whether we are talking of tax concessions or charitable status, I believe that where there is a will there is a way. Perhaps in his dual capacity the Minister should look at that. It is a way of getting money to the amateur sports clubs with the minimum of bureaucracy. I know that the National Playing Fields Association supports the idea, although it feels also that if tax concessions or charitable status 805 are granted to clubs there should be some safeguard for club assets, not least the playing field if the club is ever wound up.
I have mentioned most of the speeches. Let me make one anticipatory comment. This has been a little bit of a boy's night out. But it is important to emphasise that sport is not only for boys; it is also for girls. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will remind us of that when she speaks. As my noble friend Lord Addington said in opening, it is the social and friendship aspects of amateur sport that are so important—promoting active citizenship, encouraging young people away from crime, promoting health, and promoting social inclusion. Those are benefits we have all come across in our time.
Just to prove to the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, that it is not only Warrington that has exotic names, my first sports club was Thornton Phoenix. We played on school playing fields, on park pitches and on King George V pitches. It was a tremendous experience. I can still remember the first time we were changing in a tin hut and there came a knock on the door. We opened the door and were faced with three little boys wanting autographs. Never were three little boys given autographs so quickly; it was quite an experience.
I make the point also that it is not just a matter of school and amateur sports clubs. I want to see the professional clubs involved. I pay tribute to two clubs near where I live now, occupying the same ground. The first is Watford Football Club and the other Saracens Rugby Club. Both have imaginative schemes in the local community, bringing the children to see how the club works, meeting the players and helping with training. That could be emulated and encouraged.
A Sporting Future for All has been mentioned. That reflects the Minister's practical approach. I leave the Minister with two points tonight. The White Paper commits the Government to stem the sale of sports fields. When I referred to an article in the Daily Mail in January, the Minister rather imperiously slapped me down and said that the Government had the matter in hand. However, the Observer of 13th February bears a headline,Scandal of playing fields that Labour didn't save".I am sure that the Minister has all the statistics to hand but there is still a suspicion abroad, and much empirical evidence, that the sale of sports fields is continuing. The Government will not be judged on their slogans but on people's experiences at the "sharp end". The Government will be found out if they do not defend sports fields.
Many suggestions have been made with regard to financing. Sport is one of the great driving forces of successful television, but sport makes for good television and not vice versa. I do not care whether Ministers do this by means of tax, levies or voluntary schemes but they must shake down to the grass roots some of the enormous sums of money that televised sport receives. It is not right that that money should be enjoyed only at the top level of sport. We seek initiatives from Ministers to shake clown this money 806 from television to the grass roots to sustain sport. I, too, thank my noble friend for initiating the debate. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Baroness Anelay of St Johns
My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for initiating the debate. I declare an interest as a member of Woking Golf Club and of the Chris Lane Club. I cannot say that I share the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, of wallowing in mud as part of a rugby scrum but I regret to say that on occasions I have certainly wallowed in mud when I have driven a golf ball offline. Last weekend I watched professionals do that at Sunningdale.
Sport matters. Those are the opening words of the Conservative Party's paper on sport that was published in February this year. Just two weeks ago the Government finally published their long awaited sports strategy. I note that they kick off with exactly the same words. As imitation is the best form of flattery, who am I—it is the most sincere form of flattery, as the Minister says—to complain? As the Government appear to have incorporated some of our good ideas in their strategy, we must be on a winning side at the moment.
As many noble Lords have said tonight, sport is vitally important to the physical and mental health of the nation, as well as being, of course, a multi-billion pound industry. At its best sport is exciting, passionate and hugely enjoyable. If anyone ever doubted that, they need listen only to my noble friend Lord Lyell to realise what enthusiasm for sport can inspire. Indeed, someone who makes a 700-mile return trip to watch Everton deserves congratulations from someone, even from an Arsenal supporter such as myself!
In short, sport can help to improve our whole quality of life. A testament to the huge popularity of sport is the massive and invaluable contribution that amateur clubs and their volunteers make in this field. My noble friend Lord Cowdrey was right to draw attention to the importance of the contribution made by volunteers to school sports. As he said, that is the gateway to the grass roots of sport.
Community spirit and national identity are fostered through sport. For the individual it offers a sense of personal accomplishment; it has health-related benefits; it teaches people how to win and lose with equanimity—although I am not too sure when I have taken part in sport that I have lost always with equanimity, but I keep trying—and it can improve cognitive skills such as literacy and numeracy.
For society as a whole, sport can help to reduce the level of crime; it can help to channel aggression; and it can play a vital role in dismantling social and ethnic barriers. We should work to ensure that no one is excluded from enjoying sport on the grounds of disability, race, background or gender.
When I met representatives of the Women's Sports Foundation yesterday, I was impressed by the work that they are doing to improve and promote opportunities for women and girls in and through 807 sport at every level. The Conservative Party welcomes the foundation's national action plan, which has recently been published, and wholeheartedly endorses it.
It is also crucial that members of ethnic minorities are not excluded from playing, organising, refereeing or watching sport at any level as a result of racism.
It is important that governments should recognise the immense and positive contribution which sport brings to our communities across the country, ensuring that the requirements of sport are properly taken into account across the whole spectrum of policy and in funding decisions.
It is also important to recognise that sometimes the best thing that governments can do is simply to leave amateur sports clubs to get on with their own lives, with as little regulation and interference as possible. Governments should avoid taking measures that unfairly or unnecessarily impede the development of amateur sports clubs.
As other noble Lords have mentioned, it is important that sports structures in the United Kingdom should be as simple, co-ordinated and well-understood as possible. Yet, at the same time, we must recognise that there is merit in the very diversity of our amateur clubs. We should welcome their vibrancy and their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. If too much bureaucracy is imposed on them, it simply stifles that enthusiasm and individuality. My noble friend Lord Monro of Langholm was right to draw attention to the need to simplify the red tape that entangles sports bodies, especially when they come to apply for funds.
I, too, pay tribute to the army of parents and young people who already give up huge amounts of their spare time to organise sport for others and, of course, to play in it themselves.
The Conservative Party believes that it is vital that we should use the tax system to help and support the amateur sector and its volunteers. Genuinely amateur clubs—others say that there is an acceptable definition of such clubs which encompasses those which do not pay players appearance money, have open membership rules and spend surplus money on their own activities—should perhaps enjoy charitable status or other concessions which will make it possible for them to thrive. Certainly charitable status would encourage people to give more to charity; people could see their money going directly to help their local sports organisation.
I pay tribute to the work carried out patiently behind the scenes during the past year or so by Sport England to push this whole debate forward. It submitted a comprehensive response to the Charity Commission's review of the Recreational Charities Act 1958. It has held talks with a wide range of those in the political world, including the Conservative culture, media and sport team.
Last October my honourable friend Richard Spring asked a series of Written Questions in another place about charitable status and voluntary sports clubs. I 808 shall not go into the response given by the Minister for Sport in another place, but certainly I am aware that many discussions have taken place since that occasion and that all are hopeful that some progress has been made. I look forward to hearing from the Minister what progress in practical terms the Government have been able to achieve.
I should like to raise one further matter—it has been touched upon in general by one or two noble Lords— which was brought to my attention by the Nationwide Conference, and I thank it for its, as usual, helpful briefing. It concerns the issue of the diminishing availability of sports fields that are adequate for amateur sports clubs, in particular our junior and youth football clubs. I am not complaining about the falling number of playing fields. I am looking here at the availability for use by amateur clubs of existing sports facilities.
Many schools no longer hire their facilities or make them available to local youth teams on Sunday mornings for a variety of what to the schools are good reasons. They may not have a caretaker available or willing to be on duty in the morning. I am advised that that problem has become increasingly bad in the south of England where clubs are in demise having been unable to find adequate facilities or the local pitch hire is too expensive. It now costs as much as £60 to £70 per match to hire a pitch in places such as Kent, Surrey and Sussex, and those with adequate changing facilities, such as dressing rooms and showers, are even more expensive. One may pay £60 to £70 per match just for a field—without any facilities.
Junior clubs simply cannot fund the escalating cost of facilities, which is reducing the number of teams in competitions, particularly in the youth age group 16 to 18 and amateur Saturday/Sunday morning teams. What measures do the Government believe could be adopted to address this problem?
We on these Benches recognise the importance of the role of amateur sports clubs and I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to the concerns raised by all noble Lords. It is important that we resolve them—for sport matters.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for triggering a wide-ranging and stimulating debate. Those who are familiar with my lack of sporting prowess will be amazed to learn that I have an interest to declare. I am the father of the secretary of the Black Rose of Highgate Cricket Club—the Black Rose of Highgate, I hasten to say, being a free house on the Archway Road in Highgate. But it is a quite respectable club.
Noble Lords will forgive me if I do not go over in any great detail the issue of sport in schools. We debated it a few weeks ago and it is the second of the three legs of the sports strategy which we published two weeks ago. Before I go on to the issue of amateur clubs, I want to echo the tribute of the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, to all those adults who take part in 809 helping school sports on a voluntary basis. They do a marvellous job. As the noble Lord rightly said, they do it without pay and sometimes even at their own expense and very often with inadequate thanks or recognition.
Before I leave the issue of school sports, I want to respond to what the noble Lords, Lord Cowdrey and Lord Monro, said about the interrelationship between adult sports and schools. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, spoke about co-operation between the outside world and schools. We have the World Class Performance Programme, which is helping élite performers. One of the conditions of the programme is that they should volunteer to carry out a minimum number of school visits every year as part of an ongoing development plan to raise the aspirations of young people in sport and in life.
More than that, Sport England is setting up 600 school sports co-ordinators to organise coaching, after-school activities and inter-school competitions. Kate Hoey, the Sports Minister, announced last week the first areas to benefit from this £60 million Lottery programme. The co-ordinators will work with schools and local authorities to give children more opportunities to take part in after-school activities. That includes organising inter-school competitions in the major sports and other activities such as coaching sessions, training, sports days, swimming lessons, fitness courses and outdoor pursuits. I hope that that goes some way to reassuring the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, who expressed concern about these matters.
It has properly been a theme of the debate that there are enormous social and health benefits to be gained from sport, particularly amateur sport. Millions of people watch and take part in sport. It is such a topic of conversation that I have just been handed the score for the match between Manchester United and Real Madrid. It is 3:2 to Manchester, with one minute to go. Indeed, the match is probably over now.
The Government are determined to ensure equality of opportunity for all in every area, including sport. We shall continue to take steps to remove obstacles that prevent people making the most of their abilities. Our policy of sport for all is aimed at encouraging everyone into sport. The degree to which physical activity makes a contribution to health is well-known. It can bring about a reduction in coronary heart disease, strokes, hypertension, osteoporosis, colon cancer and obesity, and it can improve mental health.
We want to see more people from all parts of society taking part in sport and active recreation. In particular, we want to see more participation by those groups who are less likely to be involved at present: the elderly, women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred to women in sport and to ethnic minorities. I thank the noble Baroness for her remarks. Applications to lottery sports funds are required to demonstrate ways of encouraging the participation of women when applying for funding. As regards ethnic minorities, on 21st March Kate Hoey launched a new charter designed to end racism in sport, drawn up by 810 Sporting Equals, a partnership project set up by Sport England and the Commission for Racial Equality and backed by national governing bodies.
Sport offers tremendous opportunities to participants. It is a powerful tool in shaping attitudes and behaviour. If we want a fitter, healthier population, demonstrating qualities such as co-operation, responsibility, self-discipline and determination, we need to encourage the widest range of sporting activity, in particular at an amateur level.
But of course, government do not run sport. Sport belongs to the millions of people who play, officiate, organise and support it. That is the way it should be. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, recognised that point. It is a strength and a weakness. It is a strength because of the enthusiasm and commitment of the people who run sport, many of whom have spoken in this debate; it gives protection to the values of fun, friendship and fair play which underpin the role that sport plays. But it is a weakness because it means that the organisation of sport is fragmented. It is run by hundreds of organisations, many of them highly professional, but some relying entirely on poorly supported volunteers with very limited resources.
There is a clear role for government to provide opportunities and encouragement for as many people as possible to take part in sport, to offer leadership to the sector in order to help the many bodies which agree to contribute to common aims and a split of responsibilities, to ensure that we maximise the contribution that sport makes to people's broader priorities such as better health and education and pride in our nation. I am happy to add to what we can do the aim of cutting red tape, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Monro, and a number of other speakers. A Sporting Future for All spells out the Government's vision for sport and our commitment to achieving that.
Before I leave that point, I ought to say a word about funding. It was referred to first by the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, and then by the noble Lord, Lord Monro, who repeated the claim that I have heard him make before that there is less money for sport now than in the past. That is simply not the case. The Exchequer funding is well known: it is £34 million for Sport England and £13 million for UK Sport. It is the first increase in Exchequer funding for many years.
In addition, lottery funding through Sport England this year and next is in a range between £470 million and £590 million; and funding from the New Opportunities Fund includes £80 million for out-of-school learning and £125 million for open spaces. Both of those include provision for sport. Within that global figure community amateur sport is ring-fenced. Sport England states that 75 per cent of its expenditure will be devoted to community sport. There is also specific emphasis in the White Paper on grass roots funding, which was confirmed by my noble friend Lord Hoyle.
What does the strategy mean for amateur clubs? It means giving a lead to key players in delivering sporting opportunity and excellence. We recognise the importance of a wide provision of facilities, and we need to improve information as to what is available. In 811 particular, we see strong potential in the thousands of sports clubs in this country. Schools and clubs must be the first step on a clear pathway to higher levels of competition for those with ability and a desire to progress.
A number of noble Lords, in particular my noble friend Lord Hoyle and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in referring to their own amateur sports clubs, put flesh on the description in the White Paper of hub and satellite clubs. The vast range of activities that they undertake is a good exemplar of what we mean by hub and satellite clubs and how they can help each other.
As to charitable status for sports organisations, I acknowledge the role which the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, in particular has played in the work being undertaken by the department together with Sport England, the Central Council for Physical Recreation and the National Playing Fields Association to devise a particular form of tax relief to help sports bodies in their role in the community. The Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, is made very well aware of this every time she visits community clubs across the country. For that reason, the matter is being considered actively by the department and will be discussed with the Treasury, although I cannot say what the outcome will be.
We have also discussed with the Charity Commission the question of sports clubs seeking charitable status, but that can be a very difficult process. The Charity Commission is reviewing the register of charities. Last year the commission issued a consultation paper on the Recreational Charities Act 1958. There are concerns about how the term "social welfare" in that Act is interpreted and junior sections of clubs can become charitable concerns. The Charity Commission will consult on charity law and sport later this year but obviously will not itself change the 812 existing law. I note what my noble friend Lord Hoyle says about rate relief for sports clubs. This is primarily a matter for local authorities themselves, although I note my noble friend's point that any rate relief that they give should be made up from central funds.
Very little reference was made to playing fields. Therefore, I believe that I can rely on the response that I gave to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, last time. First, In 1998–99 there were 800 applications for the change of use of sports fields, only six of which were granted against the advice of Sport England. Secondly, although disposals still take place—we do not advocate a complete halt which would freeze playing field provision in this country in an undesirable way—the number has reduced from 40 to six a month. If the noble Lord is concerned about what he describes as "a suspicion abroad", I hope he will reassure those who voice it that we are keeping to our manifesto commitment.
In view of the time, perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness about the issue of access to school playing fields by junior clubs.
As to drugs, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Monro, the Positive Futures initiative was launched on 27th March. The particular aim of Sport England, the Youth Justice Board and the UK Anti-Drugs Coordination Unit is to help vulnerable 10 to 16 year-olds, and in the first year the cost, spread over 24 projects, will be about £950,000.
I have reached the end of my allocated time. I repeat my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and all who have taken part in this debate. Our document, A Sporting Future for All, covers three key areas: sport in schools, lifelong participation, and sporting excellence. We have had the opportunity to debate sport in schools. I am very pleased that we have had this opportunity to debate lifelong participation.
House adjourned at ten minutes before ten o'clock.