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Olympic Games 2012: Legacy

Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What progress has been made on the planning and accountability for a sporting legacy from the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games in the elite and participatory sectors.

My Lords, good progress is being made to put the infrastructure in place to make the United Kingdom a world-leading sporting nation and to ensure a sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The legacy action plan, due to be published shortly, will report annually on progress towards that aim.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Are we not rather rich in plans and guidance on the Olympics which cover everything from infrastructure right down to tourist attractions, but which are very low on sport? When are we going to get something that refers to a key part of the legacy, which should be the way that we up participation rates in sport? If the Olympics provide good mood music, it is no good without anywhere to dance.

My Lords, that latter point is certainly so, but the noble Lord will give the Government credit for the £755 million to be invested during the next three years to deliver a world-class system for PE and sport. The great emphasis that the Government are placing upon sport in schools will be appreciated by the House, as will the extent to which Sport England is devoting itself towards producing high-class athletes and improvements in sport generally. Furthermore, the House will have seen the Government’s commitment in more general terms to improve the health of the nation by a strategy to deal with obesity. Although that responsibility has been taken away from Sport England so that it can concentrate on sport, it is nevertheless an important dimension for other departments.

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that this is the last major legacy strategy that has not yet been published? He assures us that it is being thought through. However, the most important matter in which people are interested is that the strategy has not yet been funded and we have no idea how much money the DCMS is likely to put in to motivate young people right across the country to participate in what used to be known in my day on the Sports Council as “sport for all”—which has disappeared in the past few years, unfortunately. Could he ensure that the strategy is published and say what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to attempt to reduce bureaucracy in their management of sport, which is costing a fortune to every governing body?

My Lords, excessive bureaucracy regarding sport has a long history and it has always been a difficult issue for Governments to address in reconciling the conflicting sporting bodies. That is why in my original Answer I emphasised the focus of Sport England on the delivery of sport—which it intends to carry out. The noble Lord is right that the legacy action plan in sport has still not been published; it will be in the next two or three months, if not earlier. There is no doubt at all that it is a crucial lynchpin of the legacy that we intend to develop from the Olympic Games and has a crucial role in the build-up to the Olympic Games.

My Lords, will the legacy action plan suggest what percentage of that vast amount of money, to which the Minister referred, will go to the north of England? I have heard nothing about the planning or the percentage of the money from the Olympic Games that will go to the north of England, where we are completely devoid of any involvement in the Olympics at the moment.

My Lords, I want to emphasise that the investment in Sport England and the sharpening focus of its role is not related to London and the Olympics. It is related to the legacy position, but directed toward improving sporting performance and opportunity across the whole country. The north of England will, of course, expect its fair share of those increased resources which are being devoted to that end. It would not be possible for us to deliver a sporting legacy for the nation if that were concentrated only in the south-east. There is no intention that that should be the case.

My Lords, is it not the case that there are already good indicators that sport is, in general, becoming much more exciting to young people? That is because of the stimulus of the 2012 Olympics, and also because sports’ governing bodies now have excellent programmes which they are linking with schools to make thousands of children more aware of their particular sport. That is a very important start. Is it not also the case that a heartening number of people have signed up to the volunteering side of the Olympics? That, too, is something to which we should surely be looking forward.

My Lords, my noble friend is very knowledgeable on these issues. Her last point latched onto the case that, even in advance of the baton of the Olympic Games—the torch—being handed over to London, there is clear evidence of increased interest in sport. That is bound to increase substantially as soon as London takes over from Beijing as the Olympic city.

My Lords, would the Minister be kind enough to write to me—and to put a copy of his letter in the Library—listing the organisational bodies in sport that have been consulted in preparing this legacy document? I declare an interest as a member of the Football Association board.

My Lords, I will be delighted to give an undertaking to write to the noble Lord on that matter. At this stage, I could not possibly list the bodies, but I will certainly write to him and put a copy in the Library.

My Lords, when the Minister mentioned Sport England in his previous reply, he said that the whole country would benefit. What does he mean by “country” in that context?

My Lords, I was referring specifically to Sport England. As the noble Lord will speedily have realised, that applied only to England. As he may recall, his noble friend had asked me about the northern part of the country; I had assumed that to be northern England rather than north Wales. If the noble Lord wishes to address a question to me about what we are doing for sport in Wales, I will be delighted to respond to him positively.