asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of arrangements for the funding of British sport.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the funding of sport currently falls into three distinct areas: elite sport, funded by UK Sport; mass participation in communities, funded by Sport England; and schools funding, which is helped by the Youth Sport Trust, which gets no outside funding, and the DCSF.
In 1994 the National Lottery was started by John Major and the last Conservative Government. Four funding bodies were set up: the Millennium Commission, and bodies for sport, for charities and for arts. Let us look at what Her Majesty’s Government have done with this legacy and how it has affected the funding of sport over their 10 years in office.
Looking first at the recent Olympic successes, I point out that grass-roots and elite cycling has received £49.8 million in lottery funds and £18.6 million from the Exchequer since 1997; that is 73 per cent lottery. Since 1997, swimming has received £332.8 million in lottery funds and £14.2 million from the Exchequer; that is 96 per cent lottery. For the Paralympics, lottery funding of disabled sports, NGBs and competitors has been more than six times the Exchequer funding since 1997—£72.7 million versus £11.6 million.
Interestingly, the average age of a GB medal winner in Beijing was 28 and the average age of gold medal winners was 26. All their schooling and early training would have been under the previous Conservative Administration.
Funding of sport is down since 1997. Raids on the lottery for government pet projects have seen total spending on sport decline by £135 million—that is 25 per cent since 1997. More than 80 per cent of grass-roots and elite sports grants have come from the National Lottery. Poor budgeting is costing us our sporting legacy. The Government’s budget miscalculations and further lottery raids will cost sports distributors £70 million. Fifty-eight per cent of UK Sport grants and 83 per cent of Sport England grants come from lottery funds.
Some 800,000 children still do not get two hours of sport per week and 2.1 million children do no competitive sport. The Government were going to appoint 450 competition managers, one for every school sport partnership. Mr Burnham reannounced that they would be appointing 225.
Elite sport is funded in the UK through UK Sport. This is currently a mix of National Lottery—58 per cent—and Exchequer funding, with the vast majority of the latter coming on stream following the announcement of additional funding for 2012 in 2006.
UK Sport currently invests about £100 million per year in Olympic and Paralympic success. Around 85 per cent of this money goes direct to the world-class programmes of national governing bodies to fund and support their athlete programmes, including coaching, sport science and medicine, clothing and equipment, international travel, et cetera, as well as the athlete personal award, which contributes to each athlete’s living and sporting costs.
The funding submission, which the Government went for in 2005-06, required an additional £300 million of funding from 2006 through to 2012, taking the overall budget to £600 million. The Chancellor’s announcement was for a further £300 million but stated that £100 million of that would be raised by private investment. I wonder where that is.
UK Sport now needs to give certainty to sports for their funding for the London Olympiad between 2009 and 2013 so that they can plan and build on the back of Beijing by recruiting and retaining the best coaches, medics, et cetera for the next four years. UK Sport will make all its funding decisions at its board meeting in early December. At that time it will therefore require certainty over the amount of money available to be invested, as the board will only invest what it knows to be available. At the moment, it is able to confirm only £20 million. That has been embedded into lottery forecasts for the period, although this has not been confirmed yet by Camelot. Therefore it is looking at a shortfall of funding of £80 million. Obviously that would impact on its ability to fund sports and to support them with appropriate services over the period.
The DCMS has responsibility for raising the £100 million. It has taken on Fast Track and is developing a scheme called Medal Hopes to raise money against the World Class Events Programme, and, in particular, the athletes funded on it. Since 2006 the Government have stated that they should plan on the basis of a £600 million mission and that is what they have done. Nothing at the moment is confirmed, however, and there continues to be close work with the DCMS on this to ensure that by December we have certainty of necessary resources to make funding decisions, but we are only five weeks away.
On drugs and the national anti-doping organisation, in December last year UK Sport made a recommendation for a new stand-alone agency, which the Government welcomed. Since then, it has been building up the business case and working with the DCMS to understand both the transition and running costs involved. The challenge remains in securing the funding for this and ensuring that the new organisation is able to be world-leading and world-class, with full case-management and investigatory powers, well in time for 2012. I wonder where the money is. The Conservative Party has always fully supported the creation of a fully independent anti-doping agency. Her Majesty’s Government must ensure that it is fully funded so that the UK becomes a world leader in the fight against drugs.
Lottery funding has been crucial to the success of Team GB in Beijing. Since the Athens Olympics in 1996, 58 per cent of grants to elite sport have come from the National Lottery. With regard to Sport England’s strategy, changing directions in the past has been detrimental. Various funding strategies and lack of long-term funding and vision has caused a stop-start approach to plans to boost mass participation. Conservatives have always favoured an NGB-centred strategy to drive up mass participation. Sport England should act as the bank and the auditor of sports funding and leave the NGBs to distribute funding accordingly.
Eighty-three per cent of grants going into grass-roots sport have come from the lottery this year. The total going into grass-roots sport now is £135 million less than it was in 1997. As a direct result of Gordon Brown’s raid on lottery cash, lottery funding going into grass-roots sport has fallen by nearly 50 per cent, from £397 million in 1997 to £209 million in 2006. Due to the Olympic raids, sport now gets only 13.5 per cent of lottery funding. About £70 million has been diverted from grass-roots sport to pay for the Olympic overspend.
The Youth Sport Trust is responsible for young people’s participation in and enjoyment of sport. It receives no government funding. The Youth Sport Trust plays a central role in supporting the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the delivery of the PE and sport strategy for young people. The overall aim of the PE and sport strategy is to enhance the take-up of sporting opportunities by five to 16-year-olds; we believe this to be vital.
The emphasis should be placed on primary schools. Those enthused in sport between the ages of seven and 11 are much more likely to continue playing it in later life. The Government must invest in physical education training during initial teacher training. Currently, 60 per cent of primary school PE teachers have less than six hours’ training in a year. This does not provide teachers with the confidence and capability to teach quality PE.
On 13 July 2007, Gordon Brown announced a new target for children’s participation in sport. This stated a goal to give every child the chance of five hours of sport every week; yet this was originally included in Labour’s 2005 manifesto, on page 95:
“Investment in school sports will ensure that by 2010 all children will receive two hours high-quality PE or sport per week. Building on that, we pledge that by 2010 every child who wants it will have access to a further two to three hours sport per week”.
We know that we have not got that.
The Conservative policy is to return the lottery to its four original pillars and release an extra £400 million into elite and grass-roots sport in the decade following 2012. We would use this extra money to drive increases in participation through the national governing bodies. We would give funding directly to the NGBs to increase mass participation within their sports. The Conservatives would use SNGBs to drive improvements in sport and release more money back into sport by driving down administration costs of the lottery distributors. Those involved in governing bodies distributing funds will know very well what opportunities there are. On the CASC scheme, we will increase funding to sports clubs by introducing gift aid relief on junior subscriptions. If the lottery had been left in the configuration intended by John Major and the Conservative Party, the previous decade could have been a fantastic one for sports funding.
My Lords, I hope that I will be forgiven for leaving the Chamber before the end of the debate. I have discussed this with the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Davies of Oldham. I have to be in Manchester for a sporting event, which I promised I would attend. I had thought that the previous debate would be shorter.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for initiating the debate. Having spent a great deal of time with him when I was a Minister in Northern Ireland, I might say that I consider him to be a friend. However, after that speech, perhaps I will revise my Christmas-card list. Seriously, as we share a common attachment to sport, we often take part in debates in this House.
We are once again addressing the vital issue of funding sport in this country. In 1997, the Government promised a high level of commitment to sport. They promised international sporting events and initiatives that would enable and inspire young athletes. To a large extent, they have delivered on that promise and can be proud of the events that this country has hosted: events such as the rugby world cup, the Champions League final, the cricket world cup and the 2002 Commonwealth Games. I am sure that these would never have taken place without the active assistance of the Government.
Looking to the future, we will be hosting the 2012 Olympics and, if our bid is successful, the football world cup, which the Prime Minister is actively pursuing alongside the bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. So the Government have demonstrated their commitment to the nation as regards sport. The phenomenal success in Beijing was the biggest medal haul since 1912; a total of 47 medals, 19 of which were gold. The Paralympic Games boasted incredible success, too, with more than 100 medals. Those successes are the icing on the cake but, in my view, every cake needs a cherry and that cherry will be London 2012.
The task now is to match or improve on that total at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Praise is due to the noble Lord, Lord Coe, and his team’s great efforts in winning the 2012 bid. In part, it is testimony to Britain’s superb facilities and history as a host of world-class events. I am sure that all noble Lords will want to congratulate him on becoming a sports personality award winner and a Knight of the British Empire.
However, we all realise that the credit crunch and the downturn in the economy will impinge on the ability to give as much cash as the Government and the Olympic bodies would wish. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced a new national sponsorship scheme called Medal Hopes. It is intended to offer UK business national, regional and local authorities the opportunity to support British athletes as they prepare for 2012.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, the chairman of the British Olympic Association, has said that we need a full four-year programme so that we can attract the best coaches and performance directors at the high market price which most of them rightly demand. If we do not, many other countries will poach them from us. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was right in saying that the main reason for our recent success lies in the investment put in place by the National Lottery. However, if he were to read the debates—I led for the Labour Party in the other place on the lottery—he would see that most of the thrust for changes for sport came from the opposition Benches. Of course, there is the Exchequer cash for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
There is more to be done before 2012, as a number of sports did not figure in the medal tables. UK Sport, the body responsible for helping to maximise the performance of all sports, recognises that it will not be easy to achieve. Its ambitions and ours will require a certainty of funding, but also leadership and consistency of approach. To this end, UK Sport has developed Mission 2012, a means of monitoring each element of performance and assessing potential danger areas. It will encourage sports bodies to stay actively aware of how their system is performing and to be creative in problem-solving.
Winning the bid for London means that the international spotlight will be on London and our home-grown elite athletes, but it also comes with a duty to inspire those at all sporting levels to get involved. We will host the Games in world-class venues such as Wembley, Wimbledon, Lord’s and the Dome. However, we must also ensure that we make local venues and facilities accessible nationwide.
There are measures that must be taken at the grassroots level. The CCPR acts to promote sport and recreation as part of a healthy society. As such, it is campaigning for gift aid to be made available on subscription to community amateur sports clubs. I hope that noble Lords will join in this campaign, as I pledge so to do. Gift aid would mean that it would gain 28p in every pound. This applies to subscriptions to the National Trust and the Youth Hostelling Association and would be of enormous support to local sports clubs. With £538.4 million diverted from community sport to pay for the London 2012 Olympics, it needs all the help it can get.
Sport England has announced its strategy for the next five years, and pledged £800 million in community sport, a major contributor to the Government’s commitment to five hours of sport per week for five to 19 year-olds. Sport England has set itself quantifiable targets to reduce the number of youngsters who leave sport post-16. This will help to lay the foundations of the Olympic legacy. It should be noted that any negligence to cater for the vast majority of people who are disengaged from competitive sport will prove costly in the long run. Elite success is predicated on mass participation and it is crucial that we, as a country, continue to promote mass participation in physical activity in its broadest sense. If Sport England is to focus entirely on sport, other government departments, specifically the Department of Health, need to promote the wider participation agenda.
Those of us who are lovers of sport recognise a great opportunity to boost national pride in our sporting heritage. After all, we gave the world many of the sports that took place in Beijing. It is now our duty to ensure that the enormous hopes and talents we brought home from Beijing are not jeopardised in future.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Glentoran for securing this debate and congratulate him on his excellent presentation. The enjoyment of sport is a near universal activity that transcends differences between human beings. It is hard to come across anybody who has not been touched by sport at some point in his or her life. Sport brings people together and occupies a key part in the lives of many people across all countries and sectors. A love of sport is shared globally, and pride in the successful performance of particular teams can be a strong unifying factor in any community.
At a time when the economic outlook appears grim, people will instinctively turn towards sport as a means to exercise some of their frustrations and to raise their spirits. Governments have rightly been encouraging more people to engage in sporting activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. We cannot, however, avoid the fundamental truth that there is a considerable reduction in participation in sport between the ages of 16 and 18 and when moving into adulthood. That is why promoting and facilitating grassroots sport is so important. Although a number of initiatives have been developed, I want to pay particular tribute to the work of the Rugby Football Union in taking action to promote its sport through the Go Play Rugby initiative. The success of that effort has been rehearsed in other forums, but I want to repeat that it is a good example of how best to re-engage people who may have lost touch with regular sporting activity. We need to learn from its experience and apply the lessons more widely.
Another key example can be found in the England and Wales Cricket Board, whose investment has significantly increased the number of children and adults playing cricket at grassroots level, and that has had an impact on performance at elite levels. County cricket clubs are better able to choose high-quality players when the pool of people playing the game is increased.
It is very difficult to debate a subject such as the Olympics without also reflecting on funding. The unfolding chaos in the Government's approach to the 2012 Olympic Games is a clear demonstration of that point. I share the concerns stated by the shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that the Government's use of lottery funds to pay for the 2012 Olympics, largely as a result of their dithering on how best to leverage private sector investment, will have regrettable consequences for sport at the grassroots.
I would be grateful if in his reply to this debate the Minister would assure the House that sports such as rugby union, cricket and netball will not lose out as a consequence of the Olympic Games. There is very real concern on this point, and it would be most helpful if the Minister could clarify the Government's position.
I wish to focus my contribution this afternoon on the funding of grassroots sport and specifically on what could be done to the taxation regime to facilitate investment in grassroots sport. Whatever delight and success may be achieved as a consequence of the Olympic Games in London in under four years' time, if the price to be paid is reductions in resources available to local and community sports clubs we should ask whether that is really a course that we should want to progress.
The interests of specific sports are, by and large, protected and promoted by national governing bodies, such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football Union and so on. The taxation regime that they face is identical to that of companies, with this exception: national governing bodies do not obtain tax relief for expenditure on grassroots sport development, which is comparable to a company's research and development expenditure. As a consequence, sport governing bodies are taxed on their investment in grassroots sport activity and have to bear the burden of the administrative costs incurred in achieving tax compliance, which is a rather complicated regime.
On that basis, I wonder whether the Minister would consider granting statutory tax relief for grassroots sport expenditure by national governing bodies. If, as seems reasonable, economic circumstances are going to make investment complicated, we should be examining options to facilitate the actions of national governing bodies in delivering grassroots sport activities in local communities. Another potential solution would be a corporation tax exemption for national governing bodies. A recent study has calculated that the cost of a tax exemption would be between £5 million and £10 million a year and would significantly reduce the amount of time spent by governing bodies on tax planning, compliance and payment. A recent study conducted by Deloitte found that, of the 26 European Union states that responded, all except the United Kingdom provided either a tax exemption or special relief to national governing bodies. Effectively, sport bodies in other countries across Europe do not pay corporation tax.
One argument advanced is that sport governing bodies should establish charities in order to benefit from the tax advantages afforded to them. The economic benefits of this route are, however, dubious. The time and costs associated with running a charity are considerable, possibly as much as £5 million a year for national governing bodies. Not all grassroots expenditure would meet the strict definition of charitable expenditure, and charities are unable to reclaim value-added tax, which may result in a substantial VAT bill. I understand that a number of national governing bodies have been in regular communication with the Government to press this point, with limited response.
Given that we are entering difficult times, sports bodies have genuine concern about their revenue streams. We have to acknowledge that the Olympic Games could prove more expensive than originally anticipated, particularly given the failure of the Government effectively to engage with the private sector. The stories that abound of sports professionals awash with money are not reflected in the experience of those involved at grassroots level. The National Lottery is increasingly being used to pay for projects that the Government deem worthy, and the original intentions are being undermined. In those circumstances, I urge the Minister to revisit what could be done with the tax system to assist sport governing bodies, and I very much look forward to his response to this debate.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for raising this subject. I have always felt that sports funding is rather a Cinderella subject—at least, it has been in the past—because it is the thorn around the rose. It is the thing you do not want to grasp, or the thing that will always come back and bite you. As the noble Lord pointed out in his opening speech, the lottery has covered up what was, shall we say, the refusal by Governments to take this subject seriously for many years. There was a culture of not taking sport seriously. When the lottery was set up, however, I remember the discussion was that it was supposed to be for three good causes. So, whoever took the knife to cut the lottery cake first, it is undoubtedly true that the present Government have taken many more little slices here and there.
Those slices may be for very good causes, and we would not want to be in the middle of a coffin-waving contest over whether we should have research into somebody dying of cancer rather than a playing field, because everyone now admits that we can ultimately come back to this fact: many cancers are stopped or made less frequent by good sporting activity. We have a counter-productive argument there, one that is circular but which we often refuse to acknowledge as being so. If we take only part of that arc, how do we go from here?
Whatever the problem with the Olympics—and I appreciate that there is one about resources being transferred—they have given a seriousness to the discussion of sport that was not there before. That is undeniable to anyone who has followed the subject, and non-Olympic sports are feeling that they should up their game to try to get in on the edges. I will plead again that rugby sevens should have been included, as it is a wonderful day at a sporting event. I base that on the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which were probably why we have got the Olympics, for after a series of disasters—let us remember Pickett’s Lock, if we are trying to be as fair as possible—we proved that we could do it. Where do we go from here?
If we accept that private sector funding will be much more difficult to obtain in the foreseeable future, and that the lottery cannot cover everything, we must try to tie in what is going on. To give the Government some praise—of course, it will only be half-hearted, but that is why the Minister is there—the new policy from the Department of Health builds in greater physical activity, but what does it mean by that? If there is greater activity, is that sport? Reading some of the policy documents and information we have had so far, I do not think that it knows. Are we telling the Department of Health, “You should make sure that there are enough facilities for recreational sport or casual exercise, within certain parts of government such as local authorities, and you are now the gatekeeper on that level of investment and maintenance”? That is the logical extension of bringing in that department.
I have spoken about this subject before, but are we telling the Department of Health that sports medicine should be pushed further up the pile to ensure better access so that injured people, if they have had some form of accident but have neither a great deal of money available nor access to the top echelons of a sporting body, can get their bodies repaired so that they can carry on playing sport? One contributing factor in sport being played more by the middle classes than by those from traditional working-class backgrounds is that if you take part in work that uses your body, you will be less keen to risk damaging it. Why? Because many people with whom I played rugby gave it up after the third time of not being able to put weight on their knee for two weeks. It threatened their mortgage payments. That does not occur to many people who have not been there, but there it is.
How do we tie this all together? After scanning through websites to find out exactly what this new initiative means, I am not sure. There is talk of healthy weight, then talk of the body mass index. I will refer back to a nice, 10-minute rant that I had about that being a medical thing that appears in every doctor’s charts but does not take into account that muscle is heavier than fat. You can thus be an extremely fit athlete and have stopped yourself from being a less fit person, yet have gained considerable weight. Are they taking it seriously? Are they tuned in enough to do that? I suggest that people need to address that slightly more closely. What will they actually take on, and what are they going to do? I should greatly appreciate it if the Minister could give us the first hint today about how that thinking is going on and what is being encouraged.
There is also an incredible number of departments involved. We all know that it is one thing for Ministers to say, “There shall be co-operation in Whitehall”; it is quite another to get people actually to co-operate. Everyone has their own primary objectives within their own department, which we see—let us be honest—in the bids for which gets a Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is not here, but I am sure that while his experience in fighting for territory, which inspired “Yes Minister”, may have changed a little, it will probably not have done so by much. We have to try to see how those departments are brought together to address this issue.
On some more specific points, I was going to talk about amateur sports clubs, but the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, has done us a service by taking that on and asking: if there is a level of taxation, how do we fit in? We do not know. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, spoke about Gift Aid, but the thing about that is that it has covered up many cracks in our sporting culture. The amateur sports club has survived in spite of what government—generally, and not government by any particular party—have done to it, not because of that. Over time, the current Government have acknowledged that the clubs are a great asset and should be supported, but it is also fair to say that they have taken a lot of pushing to get there.
Generally, this Government can stand up and say, “We have done more in this field than anybody before us”. The answer is, “So you should have, because you are there now with the knowledge”. The same responsibility will fall on any future Government, who should carry on being able to make that boast. What are we to do about that, and can we refer across again? I understand that the Learning and Skills Council no longer funds coaching courses to get people out there. If ever there was something counter-intuitive to much of the Government’s approach of bringing government together, that is it. You are not giving as much funding towards your coaching courses, which allow your people to take part in a positive and safe way. It also makes sure that you have control over what goes on in the sport, to encourage greater participation in and enjoyment of it. Moreover, you have removed funding because it did not fit another government target about getting people skills for employment, and for the young. That was a laudable aim, but how do you bring the two together until there are employment opportunities—not as many as for skills levels in coaching, perhaps—when you have contradicted yourselves?
I could go on like this for some considerable time—but only, I see, for another minute-and-a-half—yet the fact of the matter is that the Government are making moves and noises that sound about right. What guarantees will they give that they will make real efforts to ensure that all parts of government talk to each other about sport funding, that there are to be no more cuts into the lottery cake in the foreseeable future, and that we can start to say that spending to support activity, for instance, in the Department of Health, will support sport? We will thus make sure that sports funding is guaranteed and increased, to help that department, rather than saying “Well, if the Department of Health is doing it, we will cut sport because we are already doing it twice”, for double-minus counting is still double counting.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this brief debate, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for introducing it. I thank my noble friend Lord Pendry, who is under enormous pressure because of his obligations to sport elsewhere in the country, for his contribution. I am sorry that he is taking the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, off his Christmas list and hope that relationships will be re-established by then. I am not taking the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, off my Christmas list but, like my noble friend Lord Pendry, I was shocked by the nature of the challenge put forward by the noble Lord. He suggested that all was doom and gloom in government policy in relation to sport and that we had a fairly blasted landscape in the area of sporting achievement. That is not correct, so let us be absolutely clear about the facts.
If we look at what the situation was in 1996, we certainly see a different position today. I remind the House that at the Atlanta Olympics we won only nine gold medals. If the noble Lord is saying that the extraordinary achievement of our athletes to win 19 gold medals and finish fourth in the medals table in the recent Olympics is down to their efforts and their coaches primarily, I agree with him wholeheartedly. If he is saying that government funding has a part to play, I agree with him on that too. If therefore we have four times the achievement in the Olympic Games in 2008 compared with 1996, which was at the end of a two decade period of Conservative rule, I can say only that our record compares very favourably with that.
On school sport, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, berated me because the Government have not yet hit their target of five hours of sport and exercise for children. However, that target relates to 2010 and, like all government targets, it is an ambitious one.
Two hours. But in the past decade we have seen a substantial increase in the number of hours available to children for exercise. The noble Lord identified the minority of children who are not getting two hours, sport and exercise a week; but 90 per cent of our children are. When his party was last in power it was 20 per cent.
The sale of school playing fields was rife under the previous Administration. We have put a stop to that. On the few occasions when playing fields are sold because of development possibilities or because they are substandard, it is on the strict condition that sporting facilities must be enhanced as a result of the sale. As we all know, through the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a massive reduction in the availability of facilities and playing fields for our schoolchildren.
On swimming, it is now the case that 61 per cent of the country’s total swimming stock and 52 per cent of public sector swimming pools have been built or refurbished since 1996 and the Government are now able to talk in terms of guaranteeing the over-60s free access to swimming pools. What a contrast with the perspective that we had when we came to power. So the charges of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, against the Government’s record on sport are ill founded.
I have listened carefully during the debate for suggestions on where we might get extra resources for sport. Having some responsibility as a government spokesman in this area, I am always eager to see how we can enhance opportunities for our people. I share with the whole House and everyone who has participated in the debate the sense of importance that sport represents in terms of opportunities for our people and for the health of our people. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, will recognise that health is not to be the lead department. In fact, the co-ordinating role for the onslaught on obesity is held by the Treasury as the funder; we have made clear that the Treasury has to have a role in this. But health has the statistics which measure the levels of obesity in the country, particularly among children, and it must play its part if we are going to make a successful onslaught on what we all recognise is one of the worst features of our children’s development. In western societies with ready access to the wrong kinds of food, we have levels of obesity which lead to ill health subsequently and are a significant factor in the difficulties faced by children. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, will recognise that the co-ordinated strategy involving the budgets of departments other than the DCMS is of significant importance.
I listened for ideas on how to obtain extra resources and two sources were suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said that we should look for a way in which we could exempt sports clubs from VAT. That is not an easy issue to advance and at the same time to suggest that it would not be a demand on public resources. Although it does not represent public expenditure, the withdrawal of such VAT would represent a significant reduction in government receipts, which is the other side of the ledger. We have been more concerned to promote schemes, particularly relationships with sports clubs, which yield grass-roots success.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, said that sports clubs have filled the gap which society has otherwise left. That is not how I look upon sports clubs. Sport will always be a voluntary activity; the majority of organisations providing local and community sport will be voluntary ones. Would we want anything else? The only alternative would look dreadfully like state centralism and I shudder at the very concept. Of course sport at a local level is going to be voluntary; the question is how we can, through public resources, encourage the successful development of that voluntary activity and aid sports clubs which play such a significant role in this.
Before the Summer Recess we debated in the Moses Room aspects of rugby union with regard to this factor. We have had debates in which we have discussed giving sportsmen chances to shine and a mix of government matching private resources to give opportunities to young cricketers. An intelligent way is to advance government resources to encourage partnerships between schools and private clubs. This is an absolutely crucial link to forge and one which a decade or so ago reflected a marked discontinuity which we have sought to bridge. We are concerned to give help to clubs, support in terms of resources for professional coaching and links between clubs and schools in order to overcome exactly the issue to which the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, drew attention.
The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, berated the Government for their failure to produce the necessary resources, but we have provided four times the resources for Sport England than obtained in 1996-97. So when he berates the limited resources at the present time, let us put that into the context of the resources that were available in the past.
I listened for suggestions on the crucial issue of where the resources should come from, and what did I get from the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran? Having berated the Government for having raided the lottery, he suggested better organised use of lottery funds. What else did I get? That we should cut red tape and the administrative costs of the lottery. By heavens, the last refuge of the Conservative politician is to talk about admin costs and red tape, and then to reflect exactly the way in which the Government have been addressing the issue of sport in this country, with no new policy prescription whatever. I reject the point made by the noble Lord.
I recognise that the Olympic Games are an important cost in the sporting arena and that inevitably there will be pressures on community sport as a result of our determination to make the Olympic Games a huge success, but let us be clear about a number of things. In terms of sporting recognition for the nation, hosting the great and successful Olympic Games of 2012 will do more to boost interest and participation in sport than pretty well anything else that we can conceive of. We are right to concentrate our efforts on making sure that the Games are successful, and on making sure that British athletes are equal to the challenge which, inevitably, competition at Olympic level requires.
I make absolutely no apology for concentrating resources on elite athletes. I take pride, as, I am sure the whole House does, in the achievements of our Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallists, and indeed other competitors who acquitted themselves extraordinarily well at the Olympic and Paralympic Games this last year, giving a great lift to the nation. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that we must have due regard to community sport. I recognise that we need to make sure that Sport England is equipped to play its full role in that respect. We guarantee that Sport England will have a greater budget over this forthcoming three-year period than it has enjoyed in the past. We recognise the limitations of that body, which has expansive plans and opportunities, and wants to fulfil its role in those terms. It has behind it a Government with a decade of significant achievement in sport. At the end of the day, this is not the responsibility of government, but the responsibility of sportsmen and women up and down the land, to whom we ought to pay tribute.
I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 3 pm.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
[The Sitting was suspended from 2.52 to 3 pm.]