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Lord Pendry: My Lords, I begin with the alleged words of King Henry VIII to all his wives, "I will not detain you long". However, I do wish to welcome this debate, which relates to the weighty issues of health, education and social affairs. These are priority areas for any government, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the Government, who have retained their commitment to these vital policies throughout their first and second terms, and now their third historic term.

There are of course great challenges ahead that result from this commitment, and I would like to bring to the fore one aspect that unites these policy strands, and yet is often forgotten in their debate: the development of sport and physical activity. The gracious Speech states that,

and that the Government will,

Standards are already improving up and down the country, as we know, and with record investment in the form of the Building Schools for the Future programme, we can expect further progress in the years ahead.

The Government are also addressing the need to improve sport provision in schools. I particularly welcome the commitment of £250 million a year for PE,
 
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School Sport and Club Links. As the House will be aware, the Government are working towards all schools, primary and secondary, being part of 400 school sports partnerships. Each partnership will be centred on a specialist sports college and will have approximately eight secondary and 40 to 50 primary schools. Currently, there are 350 specialist sports colleges and 311 school sports partnerships. By September 2006, all 400 will be in place and will be delivering tangible results.

The national summit on physical education highlighted the potential which investment in quality programmes of physical education and sport can have on behaviour, attendance, retention and even academic achievement. That has since been replicated by a report from the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University, which specifically illustrates the potential of school partnerships in,

among pupils. Indeed, there are also encouraging illustrations of the potential that sport has in encouraging educational interest from pupils. Sport provides role models for the young, and programmes such as the Premier League Reading Stars, in which footballer stars promote the virtues of reading to children, are a great illustration of the power that role models can have beyond the field of play.

Sport does not detract from academic work but encourages, even forces, the participants to be highly driven, organised and efficient in pursuing long-term goals as well as short-term ones. I hope that noble Lords will join me to unite around the Government's aim to ensure that by 2010 all children will receive at least two hours high-quality PE or sport per week at school and further access to sport in the community.

A number of noble Lords, not least the noble Lords, Lord Coe, Lord Moynihan, Lord Higgins, Lord Monro and Lord Glentoran, have all excelled in their respective sports. Alongside their own commitment and drive, they would not have been able to achieve those sporting heights without support and access to facilities, starting with their respective schools.

Therefore, the PE, School Sport and Club Links is an important mechanism for this development and will help integrate schools and clubs into providing and extending participation by widening the scope of accessibility for young people. Through club links and promoting out-of-school activity, as well as the physical education curriculum and increased competitive school sport, this integration will develop sport, the emerging talent and encourage lifelong participation and activity.

Increasing sports participation at school and in the community also has a tremendous opportunity to increase public health, particularly for those in deprived areas. Obesity costs the National Health Service at least £500 million per year, with additional direct and indirect economic costs of £2 billion per year. Research conducted by the National Centre for Social Research found that in 2001–02, 16.4 per cent of children aged two to 10, living in the most deprived
 
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areas were obese, compared with 11.2 per cent in the least deprived areas. With increased sporting access at school, children will have more opportunities to participate and in consequence improve their health, particularly in those deprived areas.

Sports participation will be beneficial to the health of our children, but it will also have many positive benefits on the lives of everyone who participates, as well as having long-term advantages. The physical activity can reduce the chances of suffering from a range of health problems, as we know, which include heart problems and strokes.

That leads me to a concern in sport which is not given the prominence that it deserves; namely, the issues facing women in sport. The Women's Sport Foundation has produced a report on female participation. Interestingly it highlights that,

That is reinforced by the General Household Survey 2002, which indicated that there was a drop in the number of women who participated in sport from 38 per cent in 1996 to 36 per cent in 2002. According to the Game Plan, published by the Cabinet Office in 2002, women are 19 per cent less likely to take part in physical activity than men. In my opinion, these are worrying trends and I would like to know what solutions the Government see to those declining figures. Perhaps the Minister might comment on that at the end of the debate or write to me on the subject.

Both the Football Association and the Premier League are to be commended for their encouragement of women's football, which is the fastest growing women's sport in the country. The Government are right to pledge to work with the FA, the Premier League and the Football Foundation, to find ways of raising the standard and level of participation in community sport, particularly among women.

As we consider the wider questions of social inclusion, I would like to draw noble Lords' attention to a project run by Loughborough University to foster relations with, among others, the Muslim population. This project, entitled Widening Access Through Sport, has set up a totally female environment for young girls, providing them with more opportunities and confidence to take into their studies. Even with such initiatives being tested and used, it is important that more measures should be considered or implemented to promote female participation in sport.

For each of the areas that I have touched on, there is one common theme: sport is a good in its own right. It is also a tremendously powerful tool in ensuring that wider social aspirations are met, from education through to health and even social inclusion. The challenge is quite simple. In order to ensure that participation is high, and that we engender the benefits about which I have spoken briefly, it is essential that funding is made available to provide opportunities. That comes through new facilities, access to high-quality coaching and then getting the necessary structures in place to engage and retain community involvement.
 
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Your Lordships may know that I am the president of the Football Foundation, which the Government recognised in their manifesto as being the model from which to develop a national sports foundation. The Football Foundation and the Football Stadia Improvement Fund have invested over half a billion pounds in the past five years to create a new generation of community facilities and ground-breaking initiatives.

Happily it is not football alone that is meeting the many challenges. I was privileged yesterday to be at the launch of a campaign to rejuvenate cricket in schools in England and Wales. The scheme is called a Chance to Shine, which seeks to raise £50 million from both public and private sectors. Its aim is to regenerate competitive cricket in the state schools by 2015.

So, by way of conclusion, I reaffirm my support for the gracious Speech and look forward to the progress that can be made in this historic third consecutive term of a Labour Government.

4.48 pm

Lord Patten: My Lords, I agree with almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, has said. I listened to him with great attention. I also listened with great attention to the speech, full of intellectual zip, vim and analysis, of my noble friend Lord De Mauley. In a bipartisan way I have long regarded the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, as my guru of choice on pension matters, but he will now have to look to his laurels with that crystal-clear analysis by my noble friend Lord De Mauley.

In an equally bipartisan way, I extend the warmest congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis—that despite the fact that he spent many a happy year in the City of Oxford trying under various guises to unseat me from my then comfortable billet in electoral politics. These are matters to which I shall return over the years as things become more partisan, rather than following the noble Lord's maiden speech—that I promise him.

It has become commonplace over the days of this debate to say that there is too much legislation around; that it is badly thought out and then ill-considered in another place. That has been said time and again and I say "Hear, hear" to that. The gracious Speech, like the whole collection of them since 1997, I think can be seen as one more example of the "thoughtless autopilot torrent of legislation" school of government that has throughout put spinning on a higher plane than thinking. Never can a Prime Minister have frittered away landslide victories to such little effect as has the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister. He has been blown hither and thither by every passing wind of political fashion, every bit of focus-group feedback and every tabloid campaign that has kick-started the policy of the weak, whatever that has been.

However, there is one issue in the gracious Speech that I welcome very much: there is no substantial legislation affecting either arts or culture, to which I intend to restrict my remarks. At least in this, his last hurrah, the Prime Minister has done no further damage in that respect. It is one area where government should
 
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manage a strategic retreat from legislation, targets, interference and so on while leaving behind a superstructure of support and encouraging a new in-rush of funds for the arts from private donors—what might be thought of as a private finance of culture initiative (PFCI). The state's dilemma in respect of support for the arts will always be with us: either it supports some fascist or communist official state culture, or it stands back and simply gives a bit of support to everything in sight. It is not a dilemma easily solved.

There was once a halfway house, when the state, via the Reithian idea of the old BBC, tried to balance high culture and the realm of judgment against popular culture, and to help the two to meet at the margins. Broadly speaking, that consensus has gone and the state has been colonised by a much more egalitarian ethos, sometimes, alas, hostile to high achievement, high thought and high culture. It is hostile to the very idea that some people might know a bit more or have a bit more to say than others. That trend has been brilliantly analysed by Professor Roger Scruton, whose works I recommend to noble Lords.

There is an iron rule that once government introduce subsidies they are captured, first, by bureaucrats, and, secondly, by producers. It might be an idea for the state, rather than labouring to have a few cultural policies, to promote cultivated people, whether composers or conceptual artists, in their ranks, within their own power structures. We see this Government as lacking the balance and drive to do that.

One area where the arts should be appreciated is the honours system. I have no interest to declare in the arts. The celebrity system has colonised and taken over the honours system in the arts. People are all too often honoured by way of government endorsing a popular fascination with celebrities in the hope that electoral stardust will twinkle down from having given an MBE to the latest proponent of some ephemeral bit of artistic fame.

As the tide for the present Prime Minister ebbs before our eyes and power begins to flow evermore vigorously towards his colleague Mr Brown, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer should reflect on the fact that he could also become the best arts Minister this country never had and save a great deal of public expenditure at the same time, without any legislation cluttering up his first Queen's Speech. He could do so by pre-empting the need for more public expenditure in what Budgets are left to him.

He should remember that in his Scotland, which he rightly respects as much as south of the Border, cultural life in museums and galleries in the 19th century was stimulated by private patronage, not the state. Private patronage was intent on building temples of the arts or libraries that were open to all, indeed often with the specific purpose of promoting what is these days called access, but all without Ministers' intervention, policies and subsidies. We do not look enough to the private world to stimulate cultural life. Cultural life is stimulated by private patronage, and the much bigger tax breaks
 
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that Mr Brown could provide would encourage it even more. We do not have those tax breaks, but compare this country's system to the mechanisms in the United States, where there are many creative and well funded opera companies and symphony orchestras, for example, while their equivalents in the United Kingdom are constantly in crisis and on the verge of bankruptcy.

Mr Brown might reflect on the lessons of history as he moves towards office, something that the present Prime Minister has never liked doing in this respect. He could quickly see that private patronage has historically been inherently favourable to supporting matters of permanent value—those museums or temples of culture—and encouraging 19th century workers to come to them. State patronage tends to lose itself in the ephemera of the kind that can be sold to the present and fleeting assemblies of fashion, the sort of world that has given us the Dome.

However, we are where we are; we have state subsidy for the arts, although at huge bureaucratic cost. Under Labour, central bureaucracy in the arts has ballooned. DCMS running costs have doubled since 1997 and the Arts Council now costs £45 million a year just to run itself. Imagine what the arts world could do with that £45 million a year if they could get their hands on it to sustain an orchestra, promote theatre or acquire in museums.

The Government's policy of putting bureaucrats before the arts should stop. I talked the other night to a distinguished and thoughtful administrator in one of our major museums—of no known political form to me, at least—who said that all the targets that the museum world now have are time-consuming and destructive to what a museum should do. For example, endless attention to access, which is of course important, means that substantial funds must flow from that particular museum's budget into the pockets of public opinion polling organisations which stand outside day after day checking on the exact percentage of C2s and Ds who come through the door. The great philanthropists of the past did not bother much with that; they simply built great buildings, which were stuffed full of great art, and in poured the C2s and Ds of the day. They flocked there free of charge. By comparison, that museum administrator told me, they are given no guidance, let alone set targets, on matters such as conservation, which cost money in the holdings of those museums.

I welcome the thinking of my colleague in another place, Mr Hugo Swire. He has come up with the concept of a national acquisitions fund of at least £150 million, funded by increased National Lottery resources available for arts and heritage plus the savings on bureaucracy. The arts need just that kind of light-touch approach; they certainly do not need new legislation. That is why I welcome that aspect of the gracious Speech. They certainly do not need quangos or increasing armies of civil servants, let alone the strangulation of ever-tighter targetry.

Having addressed my remarks more to Mr Brown than to Mr Blair, I end with something for Mr Brown's new broom to attend to when he assumes office as well
 
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as power. I think that when the right honourable gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer assumes power, he will present himself to the electorate as a simon-pure and crony-free zone; as someone against sleaze, ephemera, fads and, above all, spin, in favour of serious, long-term, well thought through legislation and policies.

I must warn my colleagues on the Front Bench that that will be something that we must watch out for: this new new Labour that will appear within about the next 18 months. But it will also give Mr Blair much to think about in the years in future—much to ponder, perhaps, when tapping into some site called "flatmates reunited", sending messages through the ether: "Where did we go wrong? Why did we not achieve more with our three substantial victories?" The answer is very simple: by and large, they preferred and continue to prefer spinning to thinking.

5 pm


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