|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and I had a competition to see who could attract the most people to our debates. I know that he won, but I am very pleased that so many noble Lords have chosen to speak today so soon after the Christmas break--indeed, so many noble Lords who may find themselves with more leisure in the near future than perhaps they thought a few years ago.
Following the previous somewhat traumatic debate--the parts that I listened to left me very depressed although the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said that it was possible to introduce some humour--this debate should be enjoyed and taken slightly more light-heartedly.
What is "leisure"? I was put up to this by my fellow Cross-Benchers, so I asked one or two of them yesterday what they thought "leisure" meant. How about this? Leisure is the time that people spend when they are not working or sleeping. That is probably as good a definition as we have at the moment.
There is no doubt that the amount of time available for leisure is increasing, and it is important for it to be spent sensibly. In yesterday's Mirror I read that we spend two whole years of our lives shopping, looking for houses and booking our holidays. That is surely not right.
Changes in patterns of leisure cause problems, and government intervention is needed. We hear a lot about the nanny state, but nanny is needed to provide leisure and a structure for it because the devil finds work for idle hands. I want to mention a few topics which concern me. I hope that what is now called "joined-up" government, which presumably means that departments talk to each other, will take my concerns in hand.
Perhaps I may refer first to Sundays. I am sorry that no right reverend Prelate is present. Sunday was traditionally the day for people to have leisure--after they had been to church, it was hoped. Sunday shopping has changed all that for ever. Shopping on Sundays produces work. Heaven knows how many days a week it makes people work--not only in shops but in car-parks, as traffic wardens, in street cleansing, in rubbish disposal and so forth. We are seeing a change in leisure patterns, both in time of day, in days and in seasons.
I understand that the Department for Education and Employment is discussing a five-term year. That is an interesting concept. I remember that when I was the chairman of the East Anglian Tourist Board it was proposed that a four-term year might be appropriate. Strangely enough, my executive minuted me that it was very upset about that, but it did not do a great deal about it. When one thinks about it--and people must think about it given that a five-term year is being proposed--one must question how that may affect people's leisure
There have been big changes in leisure patterns, with people working flexi-hours and women and students working. Unlike in my day when I received a grant to have a holiday--not in the long vacation but in the other two--today not only is there no grant for the holidays at Christmas and Easter, but most students work during that time. This may well lead in future to students taking their degrees in modules over longer periods and working in between. Sunday shopping has a great effect on the pattern of leisure activity.
I should like to touch on one other topical matter: the active participation in and the watching of sport, and television. If enormous sums of money are floating around, as in the Premier Division, that money must filter down not only to the other divisions, but also to schools and clubs to encourage people to participate in sport at an earlier age. We must consider sport at the weekends and in the evenings, linked with family obligations and transport. In rural areas, and probably also in the cities, all of this movement and flexibility will have a tremendous effect on transport systems and on the number of cars and vehicles on the roads generally.
It is somewhat ironic that many of my friends who enjoy rambling drive into the country in order to go for a walk. That does not seem right. We should be considering the provision of buses that serve circular routes; that is, they pick people up in one place to go for a walk and later pick them up again in another place. I am aware that my county is thinking about this. Norwich has a very good park-and-ride system. Perhaps that can be reversed so that the citizens of Norwich can park in the park-and-ride area and take a bus to the country.
On a slightly more frivolous note, I observed in my diocesan newsletter the suggestion that children should be taken to school by a "walking bus". This takes a bit of thinking about. Two parents do it: one leads a crocodile of children over a short distance and one goes to the back with a trolley carrying all the bits and pieces. They go to the school, pick up the children and afterwards take them home. That is a marvellous way of getting rid of one motor bus. I fully appreciate that parents do not want to allow their children to walk to school even for a distance of two miles. It is not just because of the fear of paedophiles; it is because of the sheer volume of traffic.
One other subject has come up recently: television and computers. I refer to an article in the Independent on 15th December last. There is no doubt that we are watching less television. The more there is, the less we watch. But more and more people use computers and become computer literate--and rightly so. The importance of computer literacy in the future cannot be underestimated. People must be computer literate if they are to enjoy themselves. It is also essential that people do not simply look at the screen to consult the net about what they can do, but that they go out and actually do what they learn about on the net.
I am very pleased that a good number of NGOs work abroad. We have heard a good deal about them this afternoon. In what may be called the "traditional charities"--I do not quote any in particular, but noble Lords will know what I mean--the volunteers are ageing and find it very difficult to get young enthusiastic replacements. It is very important to find ways to encourage younger people to volunteer to work for some of our major charities. Perhaps the Government can encourage people to do it. Noble Lords who read The House Magazine last week will be aware that my noble friend the Convenor suggested that the quality of regional, district and county councillors should be improved so that they can take a good deal of the workload from the overworked people at the other end of this building. I believe that they are overworked. If 40,000 pieces of paper arrive on their desks every day, something must be done about it. I suggest that we need more and younger councillors at all levels of local government.
Next, I turn to use of the countryside for recreation. Today's Guardian contains an article which, frankly, I do not understand. I refer to page 3. I am sure that the Minister has read it and will tell me exactly what it means. I believe that the problems of access to the countryside are often exaggerated. I have been deeply involved in opening up over 25 miles of walks and other areas in Norfolk. I believe that the fact that people walk around my farm helps with security and in the prevention of vandalism. I can assure noble Lords that members of the public very quickly tell us of problems such as sheep and cattle dying. Furthermore, we suffer no litter problems whatsoever.
However, if people are to appreciate the countryside, more education and understanding is required. Some wildlife require protected areas. Farmers and landowners need payment for looking after particular habitats. I know that a good number of them are subject to stewardship agreements, as indeed I am, but these matters must be linked to access. If one receives money for preserving something, it must be available to the public. But it is essential that this does not mean access all the time and for all the people. Wildlife requires to be managed, and at certain times of the year it must be left undisturbed.
I cannot be precise about the number of people who go for walks around our farm because we do not charge for that. We simply charge for car parking. However, it is a very large number. The British Trust for Ornithology and the RSPB have remarked that there are 1,000 nesting pairs of barn owls. I was told yesterday that we have nine nesting pairs within range of our farm. This does not just happen; it is due to the management of what I call "owl food": voles, mice and nasty little things that must be encouraged in order to keep the owls going. We also have skylarks, otters and kingfishers. Referring to the recent NFU list entitled "Have You Got on Your Farm?", I believe that there are only two species of wildlife that we do not have. We have them tame but not wild. That is in spite of thousands of people walking around and looking at them. It can be done; it does work, with a little management.
Finally, I wish to ask the Minister two questions. He knows one of them: can he tell us what the future of the English Tourist Board is and what is happening about it? The second question is purely frivolous: what does the Minister suggest that I do with my extra leisure time? My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, on moving this Motion. What attracted my attention and interest in the noble Lord's Motion was his reference to increased leisure time.
I remember some 10 years ago reading many learned papers and articles about the increased leisure that we would all have thanks to the new technologies that were being introduced. Unfortunately, this was not to be. New technology replaced unskilled work but created many new jobs requiring new and more complex skills and equally long hours.
Those who obtained the increased leisure were those forced into unemployment or early retirement because their skills were inadequate or obsolete. Many people in unskilled jobs have had to take second jobs in order to make ends meet, which virtually eliminates their leisure time. Those in work have had no increased leisure.
Again, according to Social Trends of 1998, page 216, people who are retired or who are not working spend most of their leisure time on TV and radio, with women from all social classes spending more than three times longer than men on cooking and on routine housework and more than twice as long on caring for children and adults. I am not sure where all this increased leisure which so concerns the noble Lord is coming from.
The noble Lord mentioned various changes in leisure patterns. However, there are other aspects which seem to me to be equally important. The first is lifelong learning. Working life has become more complex and more demanding than anyone anticipated. To maintain one's income level, continuous improvement applies as much to people as to products. That is why this Government and employers pay so much attention to education, as to a certain extent the previous government did. They recognise that this is a key factor in our competitive future. Indeed, the title of the competitiveness White Paper published last month is Building the Knowledge Driven Economy. Computer literacy, which the noble Lord mentioned, is an important element in this.
Learning is becoming an important leisure-time activity, not only to improve people's skills and employability but also as education for learning's sake. Indeed, if I have a criticism of the Government's policy, it is that they have not abolished Schedule 2, which stops government funding for learning not leading to a qualification.
Learning is also important to retired people, who do have more unoccupied time. Together with increasing good health, this means that they can look forward to some 20 years of active retirement. Learning provides access and opportunity for retired people to be of service--the voluntary services which the noble Lord mentioned. It is difficult to over-emphasise the contribution made by the voluntary services provided by retired people in their leisure time. They voluntarily look after the very old and the very young; they help in teaching and education; they help to look after and maintain the environment; they are active in schools, in hospitals, in charities in towns and in the countryside, in churches and in homes.
Perhaps the factor which really gives rise to the noble Lord's concerns is not increased leisure but increased disposable income. To many of those in work their time is more precious than their money. If time is at a premium, people want to get more value from it. This has given rise to what the leisure industry calls--I hate to use their awful word--"edutainment"; that is, doing or learning something of value while enjoying oneself.
The attraction in Britain which charges for admission which has the most visitors is Madame Tussauds. That is because people have a history lesson and enjoy themselves at the same time. That is why people visit stately homes and gardens and similar attractions in such vast numbers. They learn about our history, our geography and our culture and at the same time enjoy a day out. This is not necessarily because they have more leisure time; it is because they wish to use their valuable time well and can afford to do so. I agree that this is not something we should seek to curtail. Surely we want to encourage access to our heritage in order to give people pride in what we have in this country. If the numbers become too great, we must work out how to share the facilities. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, that we must learn to make agreements which are environmentally sustainable, such as "walking buses".
In summary, those in work use their increased disposable income to get more value out of their leisure time. The unemployed are encouraged to use their spare time to obtain the skills and education to get them back into work. Thanks to better health and more disposable income, retired people give much of their leisure time to voluntary service. Many seek to combine education and enjoyment.
Baroness Sharples: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, has introduced a truly apolitical subject today, which is most welcome. Many people welcome leisure, but equally there are those who dread facing retirement. The latter include their partners, who have been used to a pattern of life which will inevitably be disrupted.
During their working lives people should make time to take up a hobby or a sport which should last them through their lives. I feel saddened when I see so many of my age group giving up the many activities which they enjoyed when young. At almost 76, I still play golf and tennis and work in the garden, in spite of arthritis, and I have found new interests in joining local adult classes over the years. With the assistance of grandchildren, I am endeavouring to master my laptop computer, e-mail, and so on.
I wonder why more of your Lordships do not attend the gym or indulge in a massage, reflexology or one of the other treatments which are available within the Palace. Maybe some of your Lordships do not know about these. Bridge, which I took up again after 50 years, is available and encouraged in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough.
We are fortunate in this age to be able to avail ourselves of so much leisure, whether active or passive. Please make time before it is too late and retirement means inactivity and consequently boredom which affects not only yourself but those around you.
Lord Addington: My Lords, the debate calls attention to increased time for leisure activities and the pressures and problems it causes. The noble Lord, Lord Walpole, described leisure as time when one is not working or sleeping. I would describe leisure as a period of time when one is not working or sleeping, and has the energy or inclination to do something. Some people I know would describe leisure and activity as a contradiction in terms. One of my university tutors said that when he had the urge to exercise he lay down and waited for it to pass. Leisure is not the same concept for everyone.
On a more serious note, those who have money have leisure options. To those with disposable income, the choice of leisure activities is vast. At under £300 a year, the cost of using the gym in the Houses of Parliament is comparatively cheap, but not to those with a standard or below average income. In such circumstances, we can see why there is such a problem of obesity among the lower stratum of society. For those people, the habit of taking exercise is not an easy option. They cannot simply throw money at the problem, buy the right designer kit, allow someone to shout at or cajole them, and feel guilty because they have paid someone to do that, in order to become fit.
There has to be motivation. Our society requires good public gyms to be made available. We need good leisure activities and good halls. We need easy access to the countryside if we wish to encourage walking, as the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, drew our attention to the fact that money
If one has money, one has only to decide which leisure activity to take up. There are few jobs where one is not more efficient if one is rested, ready and alert, as opposed merely to being at the job for hours. That is a cultural problem which runs through society at present. For many people, the climb up the career path involves being seen at the office an hour early and leaving an hour late. They tell me that their skill at crosswords is improved and their telephone bills at home are reduced because they make all their calls to friends at work. It is quite easy to justify doing so; it may be to another business. That is a factor we must bear in mind.
We must consider those who do not have money available to solve the problems associated with increased leisure time. I have some knowledge about the area of sport, as one who has slipped from being an active sportsman to an occasional sportsman. While I may be a younger Member of your Lordships' House, I am an incredibly old rugby player at 35! Having attempted initially to be a top flight sportsman, and then to reach personal goals, I am now a recreational sportsman. The vast majority of people are recreational sportsmen. If we encourage that aspect, we shall probably save on health bills because the problems relating to inactivity are addressed. But we must make sure that there is a supportive environment. If there is insufficient funding within local structures, with encouragement through schools, the problem will continue throughout the lifetime of any generation. If we do not address the issue properly, we shall always be hit by extra costs for social services and the health service.
We need a culture in which people are encouraged to try sports at an early age--for example, at school--with support services to follow. Temperament and culture are the two determinants of the sports we take up. Unless we have such a culture, we shall always have the problems associated with couch potatoes. I suggest that we can have a healthier life and an enhanced social life at the same time as saving the Exchequer money. Surely a little investment is well worthwhile.
Lord Gladwyn: My Lords, in considering this problem of our time, appositely raised by the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, my first thoughts were for the pressures on our countryside as agriculture declines and leisure replaces it, with acres of car parks, golf courses, country clubs and theme parks, with crowded lines of traffic-choked roads, or trails congested by walkers, horse riders, scramblers and cyclists.
I then thought of the pressures imposed socially by the pursuit of happiness, that elusive goal which the American founding fathers chose to enshrine in their constitution. To many this has become an absorbing and even exhausting preoccupation which, among other things, has served to loosen the conventional fabric of daily and weekly life, keeping people constantly on the move and awake or asleep at all hours.
However, I should like to devote my allotted time to the pressures of leisure that impinge, not externally in space or time, but internally within the human ear, namely, excessive noise. In a mechanical age some mechanical noises are inevitable, though they are rightly controlled by legislation and have often been reduced by technical innovation. Strict laws govern the levels of noise in the workplace, though it has to be said that at several places of entertainment, such as pubs and restaurants, such laws are quite often ignored. Individual motor-vehicle and aircraft engines are quieter than they used to be, though various sorts of engines, used mainly for leisure--such as lawnmowers and other garden instruments, motorbikes and mopeds, and low-flying microlight aircraft--still cause annoyance, and many would welcome stricter controls on them. But the greater aural menace of leisure today, I suggest, is not so much from mechanical engines as from the amplification of music.
The facts relating to amplified sound as an adjunct to leisure make disturbing reading. It is generally accepted that prolonged noise above 85 decibels is dangerous to human hearing. But the 1990s have witnessed the widespread breaching of this barrier by those who provide entertainment. Personal stereos can rise to 110 decibels at maximum volume. A nightclub dance floor can be subject to constant sound at 120 decibels. The film industry has recently released blockbusters such as "Lethal Weapon 4" and "Godzilla" with soundtracks above 100 decibels, and the climax of "Armageddon" registered 110. Those respective decibel figures may at first sight seem only marginally different but the scale is in fact logarithmic, so that in fact sound at 120 decibels is eight times louder than sound at 90 decibels. What is more, it releases a thousand times more energy into the eardrums. There is increasingly recognition that those who expose themselves frequently to such levels may well suffer noise-induced hearing loss and will enter middle age with degrees of deafness normally experienced only by very old people, just as used to happen in the bad old days in noisy factories. Recent research at Keele University has already provided proof of this. It is depressing to learn that the incidence of tinnitus, which had been on the decline, is now on the increase.
Some have suggested that these amplified sounds are less dangerous than other noise of equivalent levels, for the reason that they are "musical". We have come a long way, however, from the heavenly harmony from which Dryden imagined this universal frame began. The sound of hard rock is as harsh as its name implies and a "pop" concert, though an abbreviation for a popular concert, is also an appropriate term for the popping of eardrums.
Why have these unprecedented levels been attained? Obviously because there are millions of young people who derive a thrill from the tremendous impact of those overwhelming sounds, inducing an unthinking form of trance. Those who are already high on alcohol or drugs are even less likely to be concerned at the bombardment of their brains.
What is to be done? Legislation could be introduced further to reduce the maximum decibels permitted in films or stereos; the latter has already been done in France. Even rave clubs could be restrained. I fear, however, that as with teenage smoking, drinking and drug-taking, we are up against a form of youth expressionism which can be discouraged but never effectively suppressed.
Natural music, whose sound reaches the ear direct from larynx or instrument, cannot attain the sound levels of amplified music other than instantaneously. For instance, a loud movement of an orchestral concert may produce around 90 decibels to the audience in the stalls. Many years ago, the late Kabaka of Buganda escorted me to the hut where his drummers were playing, and it was a most exciting experience; but, thump and sweat away as they did, even their decibels were nothing like those of a rave concert of today.
Natural music, seen as a leisure activity, can of course be aggravating to close neighbours if excessively loud or prolonged. People next door can make life hell by all sorts of audible intrusion. All the same, it would be ridiculous to condemn all neighbour noise and to suggest that modern society could be conducted in monastic silence. I was relieved when the Garsington Opera was permitted to continue, despite the objections of some of their neighbours. I was dismayed when Cocky the cockerel was silenced for waking up his neighbours in the village too early. I also remember long ago being annoyed when a fellow student attempted to get the authorities to stop the chapel chimes at night.
Looking back over the century that is about to end, it is evident that one of the greatest changes to society has been the ability to record and amplify music. It has enormously enhanced the quality of life and widened human perception. As with other products of the microchip, however, it can now be so readily produced from such infinitely small devices that it is all around us all the time. Many are tempted to have it as a sort of semi-permanent background to their lives: something not really listened to but just there in a comforting sort of way, requiring no mental attention. Many stores and places of entertainment pander to this feeling. Even top people indulge in it. The most frequent form of recreation listed in Who's Who is "listening to music". It used to be "reading". I would also say therefore that music can be misused for leisure, not only by excessive volume but also by excessive use.
It is said that Attlee once reproved John Strachey, who had been monopolising some Cabinet discussion, with the words "A period of silence from you, Strachey, would now be acceptable". In taking my cue from that, I conclude with the thought that longer periods of silence--periods without the TV, the radio, the
Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge: My Lords, I should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, for opening up a wide-ranging subject and such a spread of ideas, although, speaking personally for a moment, learning for the first time from my noble friend Lady Sharples that there is a gym in the Palace has rather spoilt my evening because my conscience tells me that I should be using it!
For the purpose of this debate I shall confine myself to the field of sport, which offers so many opportunities to fill leisure time. My thoughts go out to the unemployed--tens of thousands of them, an alarming number, many in their prime--who, for one reason or another find themselves put out of work and, worse still, with only slight prospects of moving into something else reasonably quickly. For them, time sits very heavily. There are 27 year-olds, 35 year-olds and those in their early forties. One week they are pottering along, supporting a young family, in a seemingly secure job, and then the hammer blow falls and, with it, the loss of pride and self-respect. As the hunt for fresh work is met with one closed door after another, the trauma of it all heightens the gloom and despair. The family look on helplessly. Each one of us here this evening will know people who have suffered this and will have done our best to bring encouragement and support.
My point is that if that person has a natural love of sport, better still if he shows a talent for it--but this is not vital--sport, as run by local authorities across the country through leisure services and leisure centres, with enlightened sportsmen and sportswomen around him, can throw out a valuable lifeline.
I had a rewarding experience just a few months ago. I am the president of the National Association of Umpires and Scorers. Watching a keenly contested local game, I was pleased and rather surprised to find a young umpire in his thirties who carried all the badges to show his qualifications. At tea time I greeted him and asked how he had come to be an umpire so young. He explained, very dramatically, that he came to this as a result of a very unhappy, traumatic period of redundancy from a job that he enjoyed. Luckily for him, very soon fellow sportsmen in the locality were putting an arm around him and persuading him to become involved in a range of sporting activities. This got him out of the house with a little more enthusiasm, as he wrote off for endless interviews in the relentless search for appropriate work. It helped to keep him out of the pub and from squandering time and money in the betting shop--money which he could not afford.
The period of redundancy dragged on and he was persuaded to take various courses to learn how to umpire at lower levels and to referee football matches, all at minimal cost. This proved to be the breakthrough for him. Very soon he made his mark locally. The telephone never stopped ringing. Suddenly he was wanted again, called in at the last moment to stand in to
The cynic will say, "A one-off. It would not happen very often". Perhaps so; but I do not think so. I think all of that is worth pursuing, because we are well organised in this country, much better than we give ourselves credit for. I am encouraged by the work of the local authorities, their leisure services, the centres, and the increasing number of volunteers and paid folk around--enlightened sportsmen and sportswomen.
My message is therefore for those of us in sport to pursue this, but not with a huge hullabaloo, because of the sensitivity with regard to people out of work. I urge closer co-operation between the local social services and leisure services in identifying the unemployed, and the dispirited too, and preparing enlightened, welcoming sportsmen and women to seek out those people with the warmth of genuine welcome. There is so much time for leisure, especially if you are out of work.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right to say that there is so much time for leisure for the out-of-work. We must increasingly face the problem of trying to help people fill their leisure time. Under the present capitalist system, as long as we strive to achieve efficiency in production all over the world by saving on labour rather than any of the other factors in production, we shall save labour. All over the world there will be less and less paid work and more and more people out of work, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
That is a very sad state of affairs. It does not look as though we shall be able to reverse that trend for a very long time. This evening I do not have the time or the opportunity to discuss that aspect of the matter. In this debate the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, called upon us to concentrate on leisure. He made an extremely good speech. I was extremely fascinated by his account of what happens on his farm.
The more that we have the industrial set-up which we have at present, the more it will be difficult, necessarily, to talk about leisure without talking about how leisure leads back into work. It is not just as the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, said--although he is absolutely right in what he said--that being involved in a leisure activity which is creative and purposeful gives one the morale to get back into work. It is also that one learns skills which are useful for work. That do-it-yourself attitude can lead to an increase in craftsmanship.
The craftsmanship in this country has increased enormously over the past few years. The fires at Uppark, Hampton Court and Windsor Castle have resulted in the most extraordinary collection of skilled craftsmen working together and getting to know each other; in some cases we have seen revived crafts which had almost died out in this country. I am almost tempted to suggest that we should look around for a couple of
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, reminded me at tea time that I should say something about allotments. I am very sad that she used only two minutes of her time to make her speech and did not herself say something about allotments. Allotments are a very useful, productive and skilled use of leisure time which we should do our best to encourage. I know that local authorities say that there is no take-up of allotments and that there are too many of them. However, not enough has been made of trying to popularise the use of allotments. A television programme like "Gardeners' World" dealing with allotments would be an extremely useful and helpful step forward.
Then there is the whole question of being in the countryside--walking and learning how to appreciate the countryside which we desperately need, given that ours is a society which is badly divided between city and countryside. The national parks--and I have the honour to be a vice-president of the Council for National Parks--serve an extremely useful purpose. They draw an enormous number of people into the countryside all the time. Any body which tries to encourage that is also to be commended.
I draw particular attention to the work of Nicholas Albeury who works for the Fourth World Trust, of which I have the honour to be a trustee. He organises a whole list of walks within easy reach of London with a book telling you how to get there. Every weekend there is a suggested walk, with walks for those who are fit and able and for those who are less fit and able. In each case, one can be set down at a railway station connecting with a London terminus and after a walk and an opportunity to have a sandwich, or perhaps a visit to a pub, one then returns. We all remember seeing films and reading novels about how cyclists used to do that at the turn of the century. That is now being encouraged a great deal for walkers, and it is very good that that is happening.
There are all sorts of leisure activities like that which should be encouraged. Last night I saw for the third time on video tape that splendid film "The Full Monty". I am not advocating that we should all learn to become male strippers in our leisure time. However, the film was an extremely interesting study of how people who are out of work get encouragement to do something different. To a certain extent that is what the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, was talking about. That is very important. Six ex-steelworkers put "The Full Monty" together. Small groups of people working together will have a major effect over a wide area.
I could talk about this subject for a long time but my eight minutes is up. This has been an extremely good debate. The noble Lord, Lord Walpole, made an extremely good speech in introducing it. I hope that the Minister and the Government will pick up some crumbs from it in order to encourage the better use of our leisure time.
Viscount Mersey: My Lords, I echo the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, on initiating this debate. I wish to concentrate on the subject of rambling. The noble Lord will be pleased to hear that I do not use a car because I am fortunate enough to live in the middle of the South Downs in the Sussex Downs conservation area, the board of which is chaired by my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry. Those downs are hemmed in to the north by Horsham, Crawley, Haywards Heath and to the south by a huge conurbation all along the south coast for about 100 miles from Hastings to Bournemouth. There is a lot of pressure therefore on their use. They represent in miniature the problems that we ramblers face and, let us face it, cause, the length and breadth of the country.
There is a basic question: who are the South Downs for? Farmers who earn their livelihood from them, and foresters, can be annoyed by us ramblers who use them for enjoyment. But the counter-argument is that, since more people live in the town than in the country, the "townies'" will should prevail and the whole area should be one of recreation.
But it is more complicated than that. Recreationists are divided among themselves. Walkers dislike mountain bikers; bikers dislike horses; all of us dislike off-road vehicles. However, we all live together in reasonable harmony due to a splendid network of tracks of differing status. There are footpaths for walkers, bridleways for horses and mountain-bikers, and green lanes for off-road vehicles. I should like to ask the Minister one question about motorbikes on bridleways. They certainly spoil one's day; they create ruts and throw up mud, besides making a lot of noise. I am not sure as to the law in that regard. Are motorbikes allowed on bridleways or should they be confined to the byways open to all traffic, otherwise known as green lanes?
That apart, the planning of a country walk on varied rights of way is a fascinating exercise. There is some skill in following a route, particularly in mist. But we have extremely good maps. The pathfinder 1:25,000 series is very good and one should not go wrong, provided one also has a compass. It follows therefore that I cannot see any point in the "right to roam" as there is no skill in it. Furthermore, bulldozing one's way through country that may contain bulls--forgive the pun--is foolhardy, and crossing a mixture of bramble and barbed wire is painful. It is more satisfying to navigate the twisting green dotted line on the map and to discover the stile that leads out of the field or the plank that bridges the stream.
I have been dealing with short routes, but must now refer to long-distance paths and that greatest of all pedestrians, A. Wainwright. For instance, we have the Pennine Way of nearly 400 miles and the Coast to Coast--a wonderful route--running from St. Bees in the West through the Lake District, over the Pennines and the Cleveland Hills to Robin Hood's Bay. Fifteen years ago, those were the only two known to me but now there are many such paths; for instance, the Ridgeway, the Pilgrims' Way, the Mariners' Way, the Southern Uplands Way, the West Highlands Way and the coastal paths in Norfolk and Suffolk. The best of them all is Pembroke and the longest is the Cornish Coast Path which, surprisingly, is 480 miles long.
My point is that those paths did not just happen. Someone worked away to establish them and to obtain permission from landowners to open rights of way. It is obvious that on a coastal route, one unco-operative landowner or farmer can jeopardise the whole. In fact, I have found landowners remarkably willing. Surely the right way forward is for ramblers to work out new routes with them rather than claiming blandly that the whole countryside belongs to us. We should negotiate specific routes. In his guide to the Coast to Coast Walk, Wainwright offers the surprising advice that we should not walk it as it will become eroded. He says that we should use our initiative and work out our own routes on rights of way, using a load of maps.
I conclude by offering a tribute to a great Englishman who died recently and who was known mainly for leading the first ascent of Mount Everest. I refer to Lord Hunt. When I first joined your Lordships in 1981 we were debating the Wildlife and Countryside Bill and the problem of the long-haired conservationist. I remember Lord Hunt jumping up and describing himself as a short-haired recreationist. At that time, rather quietly, he was creating a splendid 190-mile route along the English-Welsh border called the Offa's Dyke Path. For those few noble Lords who may not have walked it, I point out that it does not actually follow Offa's Dyke because the dyke exists for only some 25 miles and its course goes through the middle of Wrexham! That is all very well, but it is not as good as the Hunt route which goes over the Clwyd Hills--a wonderful route--and leads south through Montgomery to the hills above Tintern Abbey, ending at Chepstow on the Severn.
I offer that route as an example of how the rambler can coexist with the farmer, of how it is possible to establish a right of way anywhere, provided that one works at it and, finally, as a tribute to Lord Hunt whose greatest quality was his modesty.
The Marquess of Bath: My Lords, I should declare a personal interest. In running a stately home my business lies within these leisure industries which we are discussing, tourism in particular. Rurally based leisure industries are emerging very much as the occupational inspiration of our day, which finally reverses a trend which became established at the start of our industrial revolution. That optimum organisation acquires an increasing importance within the economic welfare of our society. Indeed the significance of tourism has risen so high that it now ranks among the foremost of our national industries in the earning of hard currency.
This is a trend which the whole of society can welcome. The over-dependence of any region upon its big cities was always undesirable, in that it encouraged population shifts which left the countryside depleted and sometimes impoverished. So the present switch of emphasis upon the usefulness of activities which can be based at home, and even in the heart of our rural countryside, transforms the very character of that region in a manner that should be encouraged.
Individually, these leisure industries are small, and they are vulnerable in what for them is a difficult economic climate. Tourism relies to a large extent upon the natural beauty of the local countryside, but also upon the historical and architectural interest that is aroused by the listed buildings that the region contains. Because of their age, however, most of these buildings require constant attention and repair to conserve them for what they are.
One of our biggest headaches in this task is the additional cost of the VAT incurred when the work is to be classified as "repair". There is VAT to pay, for example, if there is an outbreak of death-watch beetle in the roof. It would help us considerably if there were to be zero rating for any such repair work, bringing it into line with those alterations which are categorised as new building work.
My other plea is that simplicity should prevail in the introduction of any new directives concerning such matters as employment, health or safety: much of which emanates from Brussels. We have found it difficult to be economically efficient while the administrative burden is so heavy. Much inconvenience is involved in conforming with all the directives and regulations handed down to us, which needlessly distract us from the task of obtaining optimum performance in these relatively new industries. So simplicity in the legislation (especially from Europe) in establishing the standards to which we must conform will always be appreciated and found beneficial to these enterprises.
But in more important ways the need to focus upon the European influence is becoming ever more apparent. We in Wessex are well aware of this where tourism is concerned, in the approaches that are being made to us from regions outside Britain, the most significant of which has recently come from the Pays de la Loire. They seek partnership with other tourist regions in Europe, as far afield as Germany and Italy, to discover the best means for mutual benefit. But they are now
The Government should encourage this tendency for the leisure industries of one region to commune and communicate with all others throughout Europe, to promote the mutual interest by augmenting the flow of tourists around the continent as a whole: because tourism only works at its best if it becomes a general habit, where we go to visit European regions as much as they will be coming to visit ours. And the Government should be setting up a framework wherein the regions of Britain can emerge as their own tourist identities, to communicate directly with other regions on that basis.
It is essential that the leisure industries of each region should start to be promoted from a unified regional tourist board, whose purpose will be to project the full creative individualism of the region as a whole, so as to attract the maximum number of tourists into their fold. But for this purpose the boundaries between the existing tourist boards need to be redrawn, so that larger territories are encompassed than are envisaged today. I believe that the Government should be marking out these tourist regions, with a view to identifying where the borders of the political regions will subsequently be drawn. The creation of these amalgamated tourist boards will set the ball rolling in this most significant direction, and is a step which should be taken without delay.
Once these tourist boards have been given the clout that I am anticipating for them, they will apply direct for the European funding of what is becoming an increasingly widespread European concern. The leisure industries are perhaps in the best position to front this trend, to the benefit (while not at the cost) of our national Exchequer. And by their co-operation with such Euro-regions they will be assisting to set up the pattern of a Europe of regions that will see us into the next century: whereas to omit to do so would involve us getting left behind, and then subsequently out of touch with the way in which our European culture is working out in practice.
Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, for bringing this subject before us. I must declare an interest as a director of one company, the prime role of which is running an activity centre, and of another which is developing an hotel, a golf course and leisure centre, and as a professional commentator on leisure sports.
Leisure is taking more and more time in our lives. Not only are we living longer, but we are retiring earlier. We are working shorter hours; the latest directive being for a 35-hour working week, down from 48 hours when I was a bit younger. Personally, I wish I could remember the last time I ever worked fewer than 70 hours a week,
Leisure, if used properly, can keep you fit and keep you active. Idle hands, they say, make for a dulled, unambitious mind and more time for gossip and causing strife. Too much time on your hands leads to drink and drug problems, to hanging around street corners, to holding down the sofa in the TV lounge and to acquiring square eyeballs from watching too much TV.
What we need to do is to educate our young, our employed and unemployed, and especially our elderly in what to do with their spare time. They have plenty of time for leisure and many do not know what to do with it. It is like the poor man winning £18 million on the lottery: all too often he finds that it totally ruins his life, as he cannot cope with the changes in his circumstances that have been brought about. Over the Recess, we in the West of Scotland had gales, which destroyed everything in their path. At home, we had no electricity for a very long time, but we learned as a family, and with 12 friends staying, to converse and to play games. Having no TV and living with candle-light really made the holiday.
My main interest is equestrianism. I am a director of the British Showjumping Association. Over the years, hundreds and thousands of children have been kept off street corners by looking after Dobbin and other faithful ponies, because a pony, like all other animals, needs to be looked after for 365 days a year. Many other popular sports carry on the same role of keeping people off the streets and keeping them fit and well.
However, too many members of our population are bored. How many times have we heard children cry, "What is there to do? I'm bored; I'm fed up"? They have stagnated watching television and cannot think what to do. We have lost the art of creating things to do. Local and central government have spent millions of pounds building leisure centres, play-parks and so on, but some set out to destroy those facilities, sadly, rather than use them. Television has given us the perfect excuse to vegetate in our own homes without speaking. Children and adults are not encouraged to read at home, and the local library has all but disappeared. That is a tragedy, I think, because one learns so much by reading.
Why has this happened? We have more choice of what to do now than ever before, and more time to do it in. Why, when all these facilities are there at an affordable price, are there still so many at a loose end, lounging around at home, standing on the street corner, taking drugs, smoking and all too often causing trouble? Why have we lost the art of conversation in the home? That is one of the primary reasons for the high number of broken marriages today. How can we educate the population to enjoy and make the most of their leisure time? That is the question this debate asks, and as succeeding governments all seek to increase employment by cutting working hours, this is a question
The strange fact is that if you live in a rural area you are less likely to encounter crime. We must remember that 34 per cent. of the total population were victims of some sort of crime in 1997 and 1998. That is a frightening statistic. Also, if you live in a rural area you are likely to live longer than if you live in a town. Is there something to learn from those facts? Is not an outside leisure pursuit more beneficial than an indoor one? What are we going to do about all our inner-city schools, which sold off their playgrounds for development and now have no sports programmes at all?
Surely if we teach the young how to use their leisure time, that will follow through to their old age. We are rearing a generation who have never known what team spirit is in their school lives. Can that be healthy for our future? Have we lost the urge to go en famille for a day trip to the country with a picnic basket, beside some pretty river or on top of a mountain, as a I did when I was young? We can think only of going to places where everything is laid on for us, such as Alton Towers or even the home of the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, Longleat, or on a package tour to some foreign centre where it seems there is fun, drink, touristy tours and sex on tap. The days of the deckchair on the beach and of the beach changing hut have gone.
However, there is plenty of scope to do things which cost nothing. Therefore, I disagree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who said that money helps people to do things. There is so much that people can do for absolutely nothing. Why have our habits changed in that we all want to do things where we spend money? Are we unable to make our own enjoyment any more? Walking and jogging seem to be enjoyed by only a very few. The majority want to use a car, if only to go to the shops a few yards down the road. We sit in traffic queues and become frustrated. As trains and planes are often late, we now have road rage, air rage and many new human phenomena. We all love to moan and groan.
I therefore hope that we can help the population to enjoy their leisure time by teaching them to think for themselves, to create ideas and novel thoughts on what to do and to become involved in sports--not necessarily as participants but as judges, administrators, umpires and so forth, many of which roles can be performed by the old and relatively unfit. One thing is certain: if one keeps busy, one will keep out of trouble and will not have time for excesses of drink, drugs and so forth. How often is there a full-blown fight on the golf course, the athletics track or the ski slopes?
If used properly, leisure leads to a better standard of life, better enjoyment of life, better understanding of the meaning of life and better relationships with one's family and friends. We must have leisure to recoup spent energy and to recharge our batteries; but we must learn to appreciate our leisure for what it is--a time for unwinding and relaxing. I venture to suggest that leisure is rather like housework; it vacuums the aches and pains from our brains and bodies, lifts the dust and cleans the cobwebs from our minds. It clears our minds of today's problems and invigorates us for those of tomorrow.
We live in a society where leisure time has increased in two areas. First, the working week has progressively shortened since the war, leaving men and women with more leisure time during the working week. Secondly, retirement ages have fallen from 65 for men, often to 60 or 55 on early retirement. That means that people more and more find themselves at home. If married, a fully-occupied person comes homes stimulated by the day's activities or, at least if not stimulated, with something positive to talk about. However, with decreasing occupation, or no occupation, the conversation can soon run out and, to put it bluntly, the typical wife finds the husband getting in her way while she does the cooking and chores. Worse still, they have little to say to each other. If single, the position is, if anything, worse, with loneliness and isolation creeping in.
There is probably little profit in a speech in this debate in listing all the leisure activities that a man or woman might undertake, from golf to darts, cribbage and shove-halfpenny. I believe it will be more valuable to try to get at the mechanism by which people with time on their hands may find something absorbing to do.
A new occupation can be a slightly frightening or nerve-racking undertaking, with creeping doubts about its usefulness or likely outcome. It is unfamiliar territory, a new experience. For that reason, I believe it is a positive benefit if our leisured person starts an activity with a friend or former colleague. That tends to lend confidence to the new experience. There can be discussion and note-swapping which help to overcome initial sheepishness.
Where a new activity comes from may be as diverse as the sands on the beach. I would strongly recommend local authority classes. For some reason, many have cynically written those off as consisting only of pottery and flower arranging. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the beginning of each academic year, local authorities publish a lengthy, glossy booklet of courses available, usually for a modest fee. Some, such as lectures, are non-participative, while others, such as learning a musical instrument, are participative. The diversity is enormous and, from my knowledge of one authority, range from a history of the Inca peoples to female brass band playing. My wife, for example, has learnt, to varying levels, French, German, Russian, Greek and Arabic, and is learning to play the flute. New friendships are made. She is still in regular touch with three people she met at Greek classes 20 years ago.
What may first appear as a diffident and desperate attempt to do something may develop, perhaps surprisingly, into an absorbing passion. The essential move is to dip one's toe into the water. By doing something, an interest may be started, but it is essential to do that something.
I have had experience of how an unlikely "doing something" may develop into a passionate absorbtion. Twenty-five years ago I bought two aquamarines while on a consultancy assignment in Egypt. Wanting to have them set, one each for my two daughters, I approached a local silversmith. He said, "Come to my workshop and do it yourself". I did. It worked out well and one thing led to another. I have had a silver hallmark registered at the London Assay Office for over 20 years and am a passionate silversmith, attending two evening workshops at Sir John Cass College in Whitechapel. All that was the result of dipping my toe in the water and doing something. I suppose my point is that the most modest initiative can be the acorn which gives birth to a large oak.
One of the great impediments to leisure activity is a tendency to sit at home and watch endless television, as we have heard. TV is excellent on a selective basis, but mindless watching is futile and a conversation killer. It is probably the greatest single barrier to constructive leisure activity. Many leisure activities can be conducted at home, although maybe after an initial start outside. There is no need to go out if you want to build a model of the Houses of Parliament in matchsticks, except perhaps to buy the matches. However, it is essential to break the mould of slumping down in front of a television set day in and day out.
Increased leisure should be a joy. However, because of the sombre terms in which the debate is cast referring to pressures and so forth, noble Lords have rightly concentrated on the worrying aspects of the subject. To end on a lighter note, one person in literature had no problem and found a somewhat unusual leisure activity, namely Old Father William in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, this has been a most enjoyable debate. If I understood the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, correctly when he introduced the debate so entertainingly, that is exactly what he intended it to be. I do not think that he has been disappointed so far.
He opened his remarks with a definition. I went to the Library and looked through the dictionaries. "Leisure" was well covered, particularly in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are various definitions of leisure in its different aspects. The shortest and perhaps most appropriate, at least to this debate is,
I recently read some memoirs of a French emigre from the time of the revolution who was much struck in England by the cruel way in which affluent families treated poor widows who often had to move out of the familial house to make way for the daughter and son-in-law. They often had to move into a smaller residence in relative poverty, with few obligations or indeed employment. Of course, depression often ensued. Therefore, I would avoid using the term "a lady of leisure". I am very glad to have the example from the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, that women do like obligations and responsibilities. Indeed, she is a fine example of someone who uses her time well.
Of course, the history of leisure is interesting. As affluence grew, so the nature of leisure changed and it became wider in the eighteenth century. Various of the pastimes, games and sports that we know so well today developed at that time; for example, cricket, shooting, fishing and other such occupations.
There is something very curious about the 19th century at the time of the Industrial Revolution. I was reminded about it when I noticed the noble Lord, Lord Murray, who was a trade union leader, sitting opposite me. Unfortunately, he is no longer in the Chamber. However, the first concern of many of the great industrial leaders, who were often self-made men who created great enterprises, was to ensure that their heirs got out of the business and into leisure. They wanted them to become gentrified and to be country landowners with leisure time. That probably had a very good effect on them and their descendants in some ways; but I suggest that it had a very detrimental effect on the competitiveness of British industry, which is not the case in some other countries. So leisure has always had an attraction for people in our islands.
As we come to the present day, more and more people have leisure time made available to them. This is where the worries, which many speakers have mentioned, begin. We owe a great debt to those who used their leisure in the past in the field of ideas and inventions. There was an ethos which had much to do with the influence of the Church and other institutions; namely, that it was considered absolutely necessary for leisure time to be used productively. Thus, so many people became accomplished watercolourists, musicians, and so on.
However, at present I am very worried about the use of leisure and the way in which we define it. Indeed, we seem to confuse recreation with leisure in the way that we recreate ourselves. One of the most worrying aspects is a sort of all-pervading narcissism which brings in compulsive exercise, body-building and, I am afraid, jogging. Indeed, one noble Lord referred to the latter as being something to which we should pay attention. A jog around the Palace of Westminster might be good from time to time, but to be doing so all the time and spending all one's money on special shoes, and so on, shows a certain eccentricity.
I am also worried about gambling. In his excellent speech the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey, referred to an umpire. If I understood him correctly, I believe he said that someone had been taken away from his gambling and put into the excellent field of being an umpire and a referee. Of course, in the eighteenth century we created horseracing as it is presently known. It was a leisure activity indulged in by relatively few rich people who matched their horses one against the other. However, over the years it has become a huge industry and a sport which provides great entertainment for many people; but it is also a way of losing a lot of money, as I know to my cost. The public policy on gambling which, again, was connected with the influence of the Churches, seems to have almost disappeared without any comment. Indeed, it was scarcely referred to when the National Lottery was introduced. I do not think that there is anything wrong with putting a pound on a horserace occasionally, but it gives rise to an area of concern when people do not know how to control something which can become an addiction.
When talking about addictions we must include television, as mentioned by some speakers today. There is a headline in one of today's tabloid newspapers, which noble Lords may not have noticed because there is a picture of a very pretty young lady right next to the article. It refers to a woman who watched television for 16 hours a day. It is possible that people are watching less television and I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, said in his opening remarks. However, for those who become addicted to it, it is extremely dangerous. I have been accused by my wife of being a couch potato for watching one-and-a-half hours of golf on a Sunday evening. Sixteen hours does seem to me to be a bit eccentric, and I no longer feel like a couch potato. Nevertheless, it is an area of concern.
There are other addictions which are often associated with leisure which is not properly used, including drugs and alcohol. I should like to make one comment that I have wanted to make for a long time. I am most concerned about the way in which people label certain drugs which seem to me to be specifically for certain clinical ailments. For example, some drugs are referred to as "recreational drugs". Indeed, I have even heard it said that the intention of Viagra is that it should become a recreational drug. At 63 years of age, I have to say that I am happier on my 180 mile-an-hour motorcycle than I would be on taking Viagra. That is quite a serious and worrying matter. Moreover, in certain circles, cannabis is also referred to as a recreational drug. In my view, no drug should be labelled as recreational. I find
This is a most complex subject, but I have enormously enjoyed listening to the debate. I had intended to refer to one or two other remarks that have been made but my time is now running out. I shall conclude by saying that the Government obviously have a responsibility in such matters and the Minister who is to reply responds very well to such issues under his responsibility for the arts. Obviously the arts form an important part of people's recreational lives. Leisure spent watching ballet, listening to opera, music, and so on, and visiting galleries is a most important part of our lives. The Government have a great responsibility in that respect.
Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, on introducing the debate with such expertise and good humour. That goes well in this first week of our new approach to work, although I am not sure whether noble Lords would define it as such, given the definitions of leisure put forward earlier. Perhaps the work of all those Members of your Lordships' House, except those on the Government Front Bench, is leisure time, as other noble Lords are not paid. However, we shall have to discuss that issue on another occasion.
Some might argue that it is misguided, even pretentious, to treat hobbies, recreation and sport as serious and important matters. That is not so, as they affect vast numbers of people, as we have heard during the debate today. Many people now spend more time at leisure than they do at work, and research shows that leisure can have enormous consequences not only for our happiness but also for our health, longevity and mental stability. I wonder whether the good health and great age enjoyed by so many Members of your
This debate about the use of leisure time goes to the very heart of the debate about the nature of society itself and about how society should function. I propose that it is the role of government merely to create the conditions in which individuals can flourish, exercise choice and seize opportunities. Government should not direct behaviour. Government have an enabling role. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is ideally placed to enable individuals to exercise choice throughout their lives in their enjoyment of the arts, tourism, education, sports, media and recreation in general. This is a particularly relevant topic for debate in modern society where the perception of one's identity by others is so often determined by the answer to the question, "What do you do?"
This is also the age in which people have more free time at their disposal than at any time since the Stone Age. We are assured by social scientists that there will be much more of it too as people live longer after retirement, and computers and automation do more of the repetitive work. I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, had to say on that matter. Certainly government statistics released in the previous Session indicate that in the future there will be more leisure time as a result of the increased use of computers and automation. The proportion of people's incomes that they need to spend on the basics of life is declining. The British now spend more on leisure and tourism than on food, rent and their community taxes combined.
The extended leisure time that is now available should be seen not so much as a problem but more as an opportunity. I listened with interest to what my noble friends Lady Sharples and Lord Rowallan had to say about the importance of making time for leisure and also about making the most of that time. I certainly listened with interest to what my noble friend Lady Sharples had to say about the importance of using the facilities of this House with regard to the gym. I promise my noble friend that although I have not yet got there this new year--as is evidenced by my girth--my new year's resolution is to climb the 53 stairs to my desk on the second floor rather than use the lift. So far I have managed to keep that resolution but we are only three days into this year's Session. We shall see what happens.
It is certainly important to use our leisure time to enjoy and to improve ourselves intellectually--whether that is through lifelong learning or through using the Internet--physically, through sport and exercise, emotionally, socially or materially. Indeed voluntary work can be used as a bridge into paid employment. That has been the experience of the national citizens advice bureaux. I declare another interest as president of my local CAB--that is, of course, a non-pecuniary position--which has a strong tradition of enabling people to find a way back into employment, or into employment for the first time, by providing strong interviewing skills and IT skills.
I argue that overall the key to making a success of any leisure activity is to make everyone feel welcome to participate. Inclusiveness is not merely a matter of abolishing entrance fees or the costs of getting into leisure activities, nor of trying to force owners of private museums to provide free or cheap admission. That may be part of the process if one believes what the Government have to say about that. I may disagree on that matter but I believe that inclusiveness involves including all kinds of people in activities and welcoming them whatever their age or physical or mental ability and whether they are elderly or young.
Those who run Welsh bowls have long been at pains to point out that theirs is not an old man's game or an old woman's game. We should congratulate the organisers of the Welsh under-25 women's indoor international championships. They have included in their team Rebecca Shore, who celebrated her ninth birthday in November 1998. She will be surrounded by a clutch of other girls who are still at primary school. The Shore sisters ventured down to the bowls club at the invitation of their maternal grandparents and have subsequently persuaded their paternal grandparents to take up the game for the first time. The telling comment of the family was, "We found the club very welcoming".
I appreciate that including children in sports clubs is good business and an investment for the future, but it depends strongly upon the good will and activity of their parents as participants or organisers. The NIKE research entitled, "If You Let Me Play", points out that:
I pay tribute to the legion of parents who give up their own leisure time to ensure that their children benefit from access to leisure activities, whether it is by spending two hours on a wet, cold day marking out football pitches with hydrolysed lime and hoping that it does not wash away before the match takes place, or, more commonly, by ferrying their children and others to and fro, whether it be to matches or to museums. I also pay tribute to voluntary organisations and the vital role they play in promoting social inclusion, especially in inner cities.
The National Playing Fields Association launched its millennium centres project to provide a series of community facilities rather like village halls in high density urban areas throughout the UK run by the community for the community. By next year there will be 10 centres across the UK from Glasgow to Hackney. Noble Lords will also be familiar with the work of the NABC for young people. It is one of the largest, longest established national voluntary youth organisations in the United Kingdom. It is a club and activity based organisation supporting over 2,000 affiliated clubs serving the needs of more than 350,000 young people. Even though the participation of girls and young women is relatively new to that organisation, they already form over 30 per cent. of the membership. Its diverse
But what of the future? When the children born in the year 2000 grow up, what can they expect? Current forecasts suggest that when they retire at about the age of 55--that will be the normal retirement age, not early retirement--they will have about 35 years of full-time leisure ahead of them. How they, and we, use our leisure will become more and not less important.
In the meantime what should be the task of the Opposition in debates on such matters throughout the remainder of this Parliament? I believe it is proper for the Opposition to examine whether government activity is promoting or hindering individuals' opportunities to make effective choices in their use of leisure time. For example, how does government activity affect levels of unemployment? My noble friend Lord Cowdrey spoke with great sensitivity and insight about the impact of unemployment on individuals and the importance of their establishing a sense of self-esteem.
It is important for us to ask whether the Government are intervening in private lives in an inappropriate way. It is right that we should apply these questions as a litmus test to examine government legislation across a whole range of government departments. Of course we shall first focus on the work of the DCMS. My noble friends have referred to matters which will be covered by other departments, such as the DETR. My noble friend Lord Mersey spoke with great expertise about the problems that may arise as a result of introducing a right to roam. However broad the task, I assure the House that I and my colleagues look forward with great relish to taking part in it.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, while expressing gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, for introducing the debate and to all those who have taken part, I must confess that I approached it with a certain degree of trepidation. That was not just because of my doubts about my own abilities in this matter, but because the noble Lord saw fit to include in the Motion a reference to the pressures and problems caused by increased leisure. I was afraid that I should hear a whole series of moans about pressures and problems, and was hoping to respond in a different way by being somewhat positive and upbeat. But I have not heard much in the way of moans. Everyone has been pretty upbeat about leisure and the opportunities it introduces. I invite the noble Lord, in withdrawing his Motion, to consider whether he ought not to have amended it first and included a more positive form of words, more appropriate to the debate that has taken place.
I was afraid that we should hear modern day repetition of what the distinguished composer and conductor, Constant Lambert called "the appalling popularity of music". I think he meant a lot more than the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his passionate plea for more silence. Of course, Constant Lambert was
Those who take up minority activities and enjoy them turn very sour when they find a large majority of people taking up the same activities. They remind us that it used to be fun to drive around the roads of England in the 1930s, when there were very few cars, and indeed on the roads of Ireland in the 1980s when there were few cars. They deplore, as Constant Lambert deplored, the fact that that hoi-polloi take advantage of those activities that are really the preserve of the aristocracy. But we have not heard that in the debate, and that has been very nice. I am grateful.
In the Department for Culture, Media and Sport we see the use of leisure time as a measure of the quality of life in this country, both for individuals and for society as a whole. I was grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, for quoting Bertrand Russell on that point. Perhaps I may in turn quote Bernard Shaw, who said of amateur leisure that if a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing badly. That is one of my favourite anti-aphorisms. It is clearly a measure of quality of life. The possibility of creative and enjoyable leisure is one of the objectives of education and social change.
Although many government departments are involved in the subject matter of this debate, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is concerned with the cultural, sporting and creative life of the nation, as well as with tourism. I deliberately mention the two together. It is interesting that the debate has been much more about tourism and sporting activities than about some of the cultural and creative aspects of leisure to which I was prepared to respond but now do not have to. Nevertheless, all of those are reflected in the principles that the department set out as a result of its departmental spending review: first, that there should be access for the many and not merely the few--I shall come to the upsides and downsides of that in due course; secondly, that there should be the pursuit of excellence and innovation; thirdly, that we should always be aware of educational opportunities; and fourthly, that there should be a fostering of the creative industries.
In setting out those principles I acknowledge that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is right in saying that, fundamentally, the role of government is an enabling one. It is not for government to create leisure activities; however, it is certainly its role to make sure that they exist and flourish.
There is a strong economic case for the effective use of leisure. The economics of the tourist industry are well known. However, perhaps I may briefly mention the economics of the creative industries, which have only recently been mapped by my department.
In pursuit of the objectives of the department we achieved at the time of the spending review an increase in resources--taxpayers' money--of £290 million over the next three years for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport alone. Of course, there are many ways in which other departments, for instance, the Department for Education and Employment and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, are contributing to the enhancement of leisure.
I shall not be tempted into definitions of leisure. I rather liked the first provided by the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, but then it was built upon by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, to such an extent that I thought I had better leave well alone. There were many ostensive definitions, with speakers giving surprising listings of activities that should be included under the heading of leisure. Allotments was one, and I entirely agree. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, was suggesting arson as a leisure activity, but the noble Lord was taken up on that by only one other noble Lord, who volunteered to undertake that form of leisure! Certainly a number of speakers, including the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, and the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, mentioned the importance of walking. The noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, seemed to think that it was in decline. In statistical mode, let me reassure him that there were 400 million walks taken last year by 15 million regular walkers. I do not think that walking is in decline at all. I shall come to the points raised about rambling by the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, shortly. If we can be given such examples as silversmithing by the noble Lord, Lord Broadbridge, and the avoidance of exercise by the noble Lord, Lord Addington and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, then we are reasonably in agreement about the matters that will be covered.
My first duty, given the weight of the debate, should be to mention tourism. I wish briefly to refer to the organisation of tourism. I was asked specifically about the English Tourist Board. The board will continue as a strategic tourist body which will be responsible for a national framework, including in particular standards in tourism. Tourist services will be delegated to the regions and the regional development agencies. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will have representatives in each of the Regional Government Offices. More funding for tourism will go direct to the regions.
I realise that that is a small step to the "Europe of regions" that the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, is looking to see. I also realise that that does not resolve the problems of boundaries to which he referred. It is true that economic regions are not necessarily the same as tourist regions if one is doing what is technically described as destination marketing. However, I hope that he will feel that even that small step is worth while.
At the same time, when talking of the reorganisation of tourism, I wish to pay tribute to the work of local authorities referred to in the debate and to the work of the voluntary organisations mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay and others. Our tourism strategy will be published later this year, probably in the summer. It already has broad objectives which it is worth setting out briefly. We hope to encourage career opportunities in tourism, access to tourist activities for families, the elderly and disabled people and those on low incomes. I say that in response to the noble Lord, Lord Addington. We look for better information about tourist activities, in particular about the sustainable development of tourism in the countryside. We look to enhance the quality of "tourist experiences" and to improve the support structure.
The department includes a responsibility for both heritage and tourism together, which emphasises the importance we place on sustainable tourism. The objectives of government cannot be achieved if tourism is allowed to destroy the heritage. Up to a point, it is pure advantage. The more visitors we have, the more money becomes available. That can be translated into more and better tourist attractions, with the spin-off perhaps of more public transport in rural areas, better food and drink provision, more entertainment and more local economic activity.
It is true that stresses can take place and we are aware of that. It is why we shall publish our tourist strategy following our White Paper last year entitled: Tourism: Towards Sustainability. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will publish its own White Paper on a UK sustainable development strategy.
Before I leave the point, I say to the noble Marquess, Lord Bath, that I recognise his point about value-added tax and work on buildings. However, it has been a matter of public controversy for a long time and I have answered a number of questions on the point. We are constrained by our obligations to the European Community. VAT is the one area of taxation where the Community is able to tell us that certain changes will not be possible. I am afraid this is one of them.
I turn to rural matters. There will be a White Paper in the summer this year from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, as well as MAFF, about how existing policies can be directed towards sustainable rural communities, towards the development and regeneration of deprived communities in rural areas and towards conserving and enhancing the countryside. I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, that in his view problems of access have been somewhat exaggerated. However, either he or the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, said that there was no need for the right to roam. Our attitude on it has not been changed by the fact that Mr. Gordon Prentice is proposing a Private Member's Bill on the subject. It is that we would prefer to achieve the right to roam by agreement with landlords. We shall only resort to legislation if agreement with landlords is not available.
I do not know the answer to the noble Viscount's question about motorbikes on bridleways. I did not expect it, but I will write to him on the subject. I do not entirely agree with him that it is undesirable to lose skill in walking in the countryside. Those who wish to walk around the estate of Mr. Nicholas van Hoogstraten, such as neighbours of his in Sussex, might find some of the difficulties he places in the way of walkers. The Open Spaces Society, if not the Ramblers' Association, are determined to overcome them.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page