Skip to main content


Volume 621: debated on Tuesday 30 January 2001

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

7.28 p.m.

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ensure sufficient financial support for British competitors at the next Olympics.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology in begging to move the Motion standing in my name some three months after the event. And what an event it was for our men and women, boys and girls, at the Sydney Olympics, the Para Olympics and the World Junior Championships in Santiago.

I know that the whole House will join with me in congratulating all of the team. Our Olympic team surpassed all our expectations and, as we know, they won 22 gold, 10 silver and seven bronze medals, putting the team 10th in the medals table. Whilst we all measure Olympic success by the number of gold medals or the total number of medals won, overall Team GB achieved another 30 performances in the top six, including 12 fourth places. In addition, no fewer than 98 personal bests were set by our athletes.

What is more encouraging is the spread of the 11 medal winning sports compared to previous games. The Sydney Olympics were Team GB's most successful games for 80 years. It is more than obvious that lottery funding played a major part in our success. As Stephanie Cook said—and others too—"There is no way I could have achieved this standard without it.

There is one other vital factor which helped our team and that is the facilities on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane which the British Olympic Association secured, organised, managed and funded. Athletes who used those facilities in 1999 and last year prior to the games indicated that the facilities, management and expertise available were crucial in enabling them to perform at their best.

However, if you consider the population of the UK and compare our results with those of other countries with a similar population, apart from the USA, Russia and China, there are five countries of a similar size which did better, or a lot better, than we did.

In 1960, after the Rome Olympics, Germany, which won precious few medals, set up training facilities up and down the country, as did France, both spending vast amounts on providing the right kind of environment to encourage their sports men and women to train and reach the high standards that they now have. Likewise, Australia, having won no gold medals in the Montreal games, was determined to create a sports institute. It nurtured 16 gold medallists in Sydney some 24 years later, placing Australia fourth on the medals table at the games.

In 1993–94, our lottery was started and by 1996–97 Sports England set up a programme of funding top athletes costing £60 million a year. It was the first World-Class Performance aimed at those who have a realistic chance of a medal. Then there is World-Class Potential for those who can win medals within 10 years. Lastly, there is World-Class Start, aimed at the young at school where our medal winners of the future will come from. We need school sport and physical education.

In a recent European survey we came bottom of the league. It showed that five years ago only 33 per cent of our young did two hours of physical education a week. The most recent survey showed that only 11 per cent did any. That has an affect on all our sports. It has been said that in a few years' time there will be no British football players because all the young do is sit in front of the television and eat junk food.

The Government's strategy, "A Sporting Future For All", proposes ensuring that the UK Sports Institute is fully operational by the summer of 2002. The Government also refer to the UKSI acting in partnership with the sports councils in order to co-ordinate the delivery of all these services to elite athletes. Also, my party's paper, A Future for Sports, refers to the UKSI and the need for "well co-ordinated centres of excellence".

The UKSI, if properly funded and strategically organised on a UK basis, if delivering best practice at elite level and if encouraging the strategic development of much needed elite-level facilities, could have a profound and sustained impact on further improving the performance of British athletes for the next games. The Australian model, the Australian Institute for Sport, as I have said, offers an instructive guide.

The UK has 16 50-metre swimming pools but there is no Olympic-size pool in London capable of hosting an international meeting. The UK needs more Olympic-size pools and other elite facilities if British athletes and the country as a whole are to build on our collective success. Any new facilities must be built as part of a UK strategy. That will go some way to ensuring that there is no unnecessary concentration of facilities in any one home county or in any one area.

The policy to develop the UKSI should, however, be driven centrally so as to ensure a co-ordinated and British-driven approach. Devolution must not be allowed to dilute the effectiveness of this excellent initiative if we aspire to future success at the Olympic Games. A British philosophy must drive British sport and investment should reflect this focus.

Facilities should ideally be spread evenly throughout the UK. If athletes from all areas of the country are to be encouraged to participate, lottery funding and government support of elite-level Olympic athletes undoubtedly contributed to the British success in Sydney. However, if we are to build on our achievements at future games, as we must, levels of funding must be increased and not merely maintained.

In September last year, the Government guaranteed that the current level of funding for elite sports of £28 million per annum would be maintained. It remains to be seen whether that guarantee includes an indexation element. I hope that the Minister can give us some news on that in his reply.

The British Olympic Association aspires to build on our success in Sydney at future Olympic Games and aims to be placed even higher on the medal table in Athens. To do so will require not only increased levels of funding but also clear strategic leadership and direction for the distribution and use of those funds.

To improve on Britain's success at future Olympic Games, we must seek to raise the aspiration of school children by committing further funding and resources to developing sports facilities in schools and by offering school children, both male and female, incentives and added encouragement to take part in sport. Let us not only follow Australia's example but let us go one better and get into the top three of the medal table.

Finally, I thank all noble Lords who are taking part in this short debate and I and others outside look forward to the Minister's reply. I would also like to thank Sport England and the British Olympic Association for their help in preparing the debate.

7.37 p.m.

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord. Lord Brougham and Vaux, for initiating the debate, not least because it gives the House the first opportunity, although belated, to congratulate Britain's Olympic athletes who performed so spectacularly well in Sydney.

It is also an opportunity for me to say how much I miss Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge. He encouraged me to speak in the debate on school sport soon after I joined the House and he was a model of kindness and courtesy on that occasion. I certainly miss him a great deal and miss his presence in a debate such as this.

I intend to speak mainly about the new elite sports funding review group which the Government have set up under the chairmanship of Dr Jack Cunningham. The establishment of that body is most welcome but I want to hear from the Minister more about what it is doing and hopes to do. It seems to me that there a number of issues which it must address. The noble Lord, Lord Brougham, referred to one of the most important—the devolution issue. We must maintain a United Kingdom approach for as long as there is one team representing Britain at the Olympics rather than separate teams from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The second issue is the quality and availability of world-class facilities for practising and competing. UK Sport needs to take the lead in strategy and planning and ensuring that the facilities are built as part of the same United Kingdom approach. The chief executive of the British Olympic Association, Simon Clegg, spoke to me, and I assume to a number of your Lordships, while I was preparing for the debate. He said:
"Achieving British success at future Olympic Games will depend largely on implementing a successful strategy to increase the funding, available for UK distribution as opposed to home country distribution. This will ensure that smaller home country sports councils do not suffer at the expense of their larger better funded neighbours and that sufficient and appropriate facilities exist across the United Kingdom as a whole. When the country competes as Great Britain the team may as a result be representative not only of the country as a whole, but also be selected from a larger and high quality pool".
The third issue is the need to maintain and sustain funding levels for our elite athletes. Traditionally, they have received financial support from a variety of sources. I briefly mention the Foundation for Sport and the Arts with which I am associated as a trustee. My noble friend Lord Attenborough and the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, also sit on that body. When the funding of that foundation was at a higher level than it is today it was able to provide substantial sums to Olympic athletes. Among many grants, it contributed sums of £39,000, £40,000 and £30,000 to individual athletes who competed in 1996 and 2000.

Obviously, today the main source of funding of Olympic athletes is the lottery, but there is some uncertainty about it. The level of funding will depend on the fluctuating sales of lottery tickets, unless it can be underwritten in some way by exchequer funds to guarantee stability. What will happen if lottery sales fall? Is there any possibility that a fixed sum of money rather than a percentage of lottery income can be guaranteed?

The announcement of £750 million of National Lottery money for school community sports facilities was very welcome news. The investment of New Opportunities Fund money will start to provide funding for school sports facilities, which is long overdue, and may allow the Sports Lottery Unit to release additional funds for elite sport. But what will happen when the three-year NOF funding of school sports comes to an end? Is there not a risk that the Sports Lottery Fund will be squeezed and unable to fund elite athletes without having to reduce community sports funding?

It is also important not to lose sight of the role of the 150,000 voluntary sports clubs, for it is as members of those organisations that many of Britain's Olympic medal winners learn to compete and succeed. It is also in those clubs that sports such as sailing, shooting, rowing and cycling are developed. Those sports produced seven of Great Britain's 11 gold medals in Sydney.

Finally, there is the question of whether we should again seek to host the Olympic Games in the United Kingdom. The benefits of doing so are enormous. The Spanish Government calculate that the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 were worth £7 billion to the country. Further, the staging of the games acts as a catalyst in improving a nation's sporting success, in its briefing the BOA refers to how many more medals a nation wins if one of its cities is chosen as host, South Korea and Australia being two particularly good examples.

Tonight I do not have time to enter the debate about the future of Wembley, other than to say that we shall require a first-class venue if we are serious about hosting any great international sporting event. However, it is important that in our pursuit of the long-term dream of staging the Olympics we do not lose sight of the need to ensure that our athletes are fully prepared and financially supported for the games in 2004.

7.43 p.m.

My Lords, I welcome this debate initiated by my noble friend. Bearing in mind the Olympic motto that the important thing is to take part rather than to win, I cannot resist the temptation to participate. I do so, none the less, with considerable diffidence.

It is almost 50 years since I last took part in an Olympic Games and more than 50 years since I first participated. Matters have changed considerably since then. At that time the maximum prize that an individual could accept was £15. If one exceeded that one was cast into the outer darkness of professionalism. There was nothing by way of sponsorship at that time. The situation today is very different. The other side of the coin is that at that time there was no temptation to take drugs because all one tried to do was prove that one was better than other competitors. Once there is a degree of professionalism the temptation becomes very real. It is important that testing for drug abuse is improved, and I believe that if someone offends the disqualification should be permanent.

I echo my noble friend's congratulations in three categories. First, undoubtedly Sydney hosted quite the best Olympic Games ever. Secondly, congratulations should go to our athletes, who produced the best results for 80 years. Thirdly, we should also congratulate the British Olympic Association, which played such a vital role in ensuring that our athletes had facilities to enable them to compete successfully. Nowadays, one cannot hope to achieve Olympic standards, or to become part of an Olympic team, without the kind of back-up which the BOA provides. Understandably, the association concentrates on the need to ensure that so-called elite athletes manage to achieve the highest level.

However, the BOA also plays an important role as far as concern schools and so on. That raises the difficult question of funding. The Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995, of which I was a co-sponsor, has been of considerable importance in that context. Clearly, we need to ensure that our athletes have the best facilities.

I should like to make just three brief points, the first of which is one of my hobbyhorses. Despite all the excellent coaching and magnificent individual performances by our athletes in Sydney, both the men's and women's 4 x 110 teams were a failure. I believe that the reason for that was twofold. First, one member of the women's team said afterwards that the athletes had not trained together very much. That is of particular importance now that one can substitute another team member at different stages between heat, semi-final and final. Secondly, they continued to use the wrong method of changeover. The hand of the recipient was held up and the baton was held down, instead of the other way round, which would have avoided fumbling it. If one fumbles it one goes over the line.

I take up two important points made by noble Lords. First, I believe that the Olympic team should be a British team and not as some suggest, particularly those in another place, participants from England, Wales and so on. In the Commonwealth Games the teams are from England, Scotland, Wales and so on but the environment is very different from the Olympic Games. If we are to compete successfully at the Olympics it is crucial that we have a British team rather than teams from parts of the United Kingdom.

Finally, 2012 is probably the earliest that we can hope to host the Olympic Games. The last time the games were hosted in the UK was in 1948. Given the post-war environment, we did magnificently. Nowadays, enormous investment is required. The spin-off in terms of encouraging one's own athletes is enormous. I very much hope that that can be achieved. We need to plan now for the future, and it is important that the British Olympic Association is supported in that regard. I look forward to hearing my noble friend on the Front Bench whose father, together with the Marquess of Exeter, was such a tower of strength to the International Olympic Committee over the years. I also look forward to hearing the Minister.

7.48 p.m.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for tabling this Question. I declare an interest as both an Olympian and president of a governing body of sport; namely, the British Bobsleigh Association.

The Sydney Olympics were a huge success by British standards, but we should not kid ourselves: we are not yet in the first division of Olympic medal winners. We came below such European countries as France, Germany and Italy. We have a long way to go, although we did extremely well. Congratulations should go to all our wonderful athletes and the BOA led by Simon Clegg.

A successful team needs long-term planning and investment at the right level. For success the elite level in UK sport needs continuous funding. The objective must be to fund a continuous flow of world-class athletes across the board and to plan that flow at three levels: the start, the potential and the elite. This should not be done at the expense of sport in the community and schools. The home country sports councils are responsible for community sport and the first two of those levels.

The Olympic charter requires us to compete as Great Britain and Northern Ireland until, and if, we move from devolution to independence. Success at Olympic level requires sustained focus year in and year out from all concerned. Devolution is the greatest threat to sustained Olympic focus. It will, and indeed has, led to fragmentation and duplication. Other countries are rationalising their structures while we are adding layers of bureaucracy as a result of devolution. It is possible that Ministers of devolved governments will consider success in Commonwealth Games more important for their country than success at the Olympics for the United Kingdom.

The British Academy of Sport, now the UK Sports Institute, set up by the previous government, was intended to be the hub for excellence. Unfortunately, it was recently moved to Sheffield. No one wanted to go there. It has since been downgraded. Therefore, we have a spoke in Sheffield, and I am not sure what we have, other than bureaucrats, in the institute.

To do as well, or better, in Greece than we did in Sydney, the funding for sport as a whole must be increased. In particular, the funding for elite athletes must remain, at a minimum, at the same level that it was for the run-up to Sydney. Under the present funding structure there is a significant gap. This is almost a direct result, I understand, of a reduction in lottery funding for sport from 20 per cent of lottery proceeds to 16.66 per cent. Can the Minister tell the House how the Government propose to fill that gap and create the necessary funding structure, cohesion and focus that is necessary to give our elite athletes a fair chance of winning gold in the next games? The Olympic Games are seriously commercial. They require long-term significant investment to reap the real rewards.

Before I sit down, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, in paying my respects to my late friend Lord Cowdrey. It seems very strange to be speaking in a sporting debate without Colin beside us.

7.53 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, has initiated this important debate. It gives us an opportunity to celebrate two outstanding successes: first, the success of our British athletes, both in the Olympics and the Paralympics in Sydney last year; and, secondly, that of our Government, whose strategy for sport has helped create such outstanding success, making our athletes the envy of the world.

The Government aim high. In contrast with the past, where success has been achieved despite the systems in place, we are pledged to long-term, all-round support. The benefit of this support is twofold: first, our athletes are now guaranteed a future where funding, facilities and technical support are of the highest quality and firmly in place; and, secondly, and equally important, there is support to inspire young people to take up sport, emulating their sporting heroes.

With a gold medal tally of 11 in Sydney it was the best performance by our athletes since the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. Our other medals were equally impressive. I do not need to remind noble Lords that our Paralympic athletes did even better—131 medals, including 41 golds. We congratulate all the athletes who brought us such pleasure at the Olympic Games in Sydney.

But how did it happen? What was the magic formula, the magic ingredients? As other noble Lords have said, a major part was probably lottery funding. That was acknowledged by all the competitors. In the three years prior to the Sydney Olympics our athletes received £60 million from the Lottery. The Government are committed to continuing to build upon that success. Support is pledged through world-class programmes. The Sports Cabinet last October agreed to provide the Sports Council with £100 million over the next four years. Thus the long-term support is assured.

A few weeks ago I attended the all-party sports group in this House. We had an excellent presentation by Simon Clegg of the British Olympic Association and by Liz Nichol and Steve Cram. They are delighted with the Government's proactive and positive stance. The most difficult task ahead of them is making decisions on which sports will have what level of funding. Does success demand greater financial reward, or should the weakest be given more? Those are fortunately not questions for us, nor for the Government, but for those who run sport on our behalf. I am confident that their decisions will be wise and fair.

I want to flag up other positive initiatives from the Government aimed at helping sport. The UK Institute will provide expertise and training facilities which are so desperately needed. We are targeting schoolchildren with high-quality teaching and a much welcomed expansion of competitive sports. Yes, competitive sport is back in schools. For the first time we are giving money to build multi-purpose sports halls in primary schools. In short, school sport is being transformed from the miserable legacy of the previous government to one of which we can be quite rightly proud.

In conclusion, as a lifetime sports enthusiast, still playing tennis three times a week, and as a county selector for Oxfordshire, I am delighted to speak in this "good news" debate. I have absolute confidence that the nation's sporting future is perfectly safe in the Government's hands and that many more glittering prizes lie ahead.

7.57 p.m.

My Lords, I am tempted to say "follow that". I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Brougham and Vaux for giving us the opportunity this evening to debate this subject. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, will have noted from the Speakers' List that there are two Olympians on the Benches in your Lordships' House. I can think of only one other Parliament which might have Olympians on its Benches, and that is Switzerland, but the Swiss take part in all kinds of different sports. It might be the same for the United States.

I was delighted that my noble friend Lord Higgins reminded me of his athletic achievements. I had not appreciated that he ran in shorts and singlet in two separate Olympiads. I took very much to heart his motto that taking part is the most important thing. I and many other noble Lords remember that every year when in January Members of the Lords and Commons Ski Club are shot out of a start gate in blinding snow down a slalom course which they cannot see. They are not like the "pussy-cats" in St Anton—or, perhaps as we might see next year in Salt Lake City—they really take part.

There cannot be many other legislatures in the world where one has a gold medallist sitting on its Benches. My noble friend Lord Higgins referred to 50 years ago. Nearly 50 years go I recall my noble friend who then, in Eton-speak, classified himself as "Mr Dixon". He was even then an all-round athlete, but in 1964 I recall with enormous pride and delight watching his efforts with Mr Nash in the bobsleigh in Innsbruck and bringing back gold medals for the United Kingdom. It proves what we see tonight and what we saw then; that it can be done. If an all-round athlete trains and works hard enough, even in the—I hesitate to call it—somewhat esoteric sport of bobsleighing he can reach the elite standard and win a gold medal.

I hope the Minister will take on board the last two words of the Question tonight, the "next Olympics". In case he thinks it is 2004, perhaps I may remind him that next year—2002—it is the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

I happened to be watching Eurosport in Switzerland. There was a competition in a place called Soldier Hollow in Utah. It was cross-country skiing. I needed rehabilitation having watched these people charging around a 30-kilometre course at speeds that gave me the collywobbles while viewing the television. I hope that the Minister will have something good to say about the Winter Olympics. I hope to have some good news about what the Winter Olympics Association can do for the athletes in bob, luge, alpine skiing, biathlon and ski-jumping and something fascinating called the Nordic combination. One of my noble friends thought it was some form of winter underwear. I am given to understand that it is a group of brave people who go around a 15-kilometre cross-country skiing course and then take off down a 70-metre ski jump. I do not like looking at Olympic ski-jumping on television, let alone putting on cross-country skis.

I hope that the Minister will have good news as to how the British Olympic Association can be given some assistance in terms of government help and, above all, ideas. We have been reminded of the situation by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and, in the past by Lord Cowdrey. I hope that the Minister will tread lightly if he gives any predictions. The Minister may recall that we had a sporting debate in April. On that particular evening my noble friend made a powerful speech. The Minister said that he had news for us. He thought we were all waiting for the result of a mighty football match. He told us Manchester United 3: Real Madrid 2. We went outside to find Black Rod rending his garments, saying that it was the other way round. I hope that the Minister will take immense care when he gives any predictions this evening. I hope that when the figures come out he will be able to give us his ideas on how the British Olympic Association can be given government support both in terms of finance and ideas.

My Lords, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Brougham, for initiating this debate.

I have one small caveat. The thought of competition as exemplified by the Olympics might be a better phrase. It is always easy to sit back and say that we did well and we must go forward. One forgets the other games. The Commonwealth Games have been mentioned; there are European Championships and World Championships in which to take part. It is ongoing. The fact that it is on-going and will continue after the next Olympics is probably the most important factor in this debate. We should make sure that athletes for the future, with a life style that is focused and dependent on competing at these events, get through and try to achieve their best. They should be able to get through and be educated to do so.

For the first time we have something that allows that to happen. Someone said to me that it was something that others had been doing for over two decades, and we have been fairly slow. Along with the Australians, who felt that winning nothing was humiliating, finally we seem to have got our act together after a couple of disasters. For far too long we have allowed our sporting pride to be nurtured by the odd burst of brilliance here and there. The brilliant will always emerge. We merely try to give them a few extra hurdles to jump over. At last we are giving these people a chance to compete consistently. The answer is consistency. The National Lottery has been seen as the crock of gold that is allowing this to happen. Unfortunately, since the National Lottery has been in existence the good causes that drink from this bountiful cup have grown. The amount of money available is becoming smaller. Initially, it made far more money than people expected. We said that we should do something else. In the original debates it was said that this was designed not to supplement taxation but to be extra money on top. We have already crossed the line, where certain things we expect the Treasury to have financed out of public taxation have come from the lottery. It was inevitable, but I did not think it would happen this quickly. The slices are becoming awfully thin. If the cake disappears we are in trouble.

I attended a conference about sport and health at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in December 2000. The Secretary of State for Culture and a Minister from the Department of Health attended. They both said that sport is great and that the lottery helps. It reduces the necessity for ideas to limit spending in other departments. It is good in itself. It gives people motivation. Unless we are prepared to guarantee that funding, even if it means funding something out of taxation, some of these good results will disappear: the incentive to do well, the bonus of feeling good about something and of achievement and a healthy life style by playing sport at any level. Let us face it, the designer label Lycra culture does not drag many people to sport long term. Aerobics does not do it, but possibly playing tennis and enjoying it, as the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, said, will keep one fitter and healthy for longer. Certainly, it is a better strategy. Is that something that would be helped by these achievements? It is good in itself and it gives society a bonus by having a lower burden on the National Health Service.

We are here to encourage the Government to make sure that we do not drop this ball in our hands. I use an analogy from my sport; the try line is not that far away. The only thing we can do is to fall over our own feet but let us make sure that we do not undo our laces on the way there. We have to make sure that we give it a bonus.

I make a comment about the national dilution from the sports councils. We have to recognise that the culture of sport is very important. If certain people in certain sports regard the fact that they should have Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England represented separately, we have to accept that that will happen. The culture of sport is something one cannot remove. It is ultimately more important that an athlete gets to the Olympics in the best shape to compete rather than whose jersey he is wearing when he takes part. I leave your Lordships with that one thought.

8.7 p.m.

My Lords, I echo the words of noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Brougham for initiating this short but important debate. I feel daunted by the Olympians behind me. I miss my noble friend Lord Cowdrey.

I have a personal interest to declare. As my noble friend Lord Higgins mentioned, my father was a representative member of the International Olympic Committee in Britain for many years and a member of the Finance Committee of the IOC for much of that time. He would have been immensely proud of the games in Sydney, not only because of the great success of British athletes but also the universal praise the organisation and presentation of the games achieved.

It is now the right time to tap into the interest of the British people, so very well nurtured by the BBC presentation, and to start thinking about four years hence. We must look at where we could do better. The answer is everywhere. Despite our successes in Sydney, as mentioned by my noble friends Lord Brougham and Lord Glentoran, our average number of medals compared to population is not very good.

The services have become a great deal better recently but are still lacking. Swimming and diving have been two of our best post-war successes in the Olympics but not at Sydney. We need many more pools. There is no Olympic-sized pool in reach of London. Why not? Surely that is a priority. To compete against the rest of the world, let alone to win against the best in the world, requires continual upgrading of facilities and coaching at all levels, upwards from young children. All these requirements cost, and continue to cost, increasing amounts of money. In my view, the advent of lottery funding, effectively from 1996, under a Conservative Government is the significant factor in our performance in Sydney, as my noble friend Lord Brougham said. Can the Minister clarify for me the press speculation on the amounts available in the next two or three years? Can he also comment on whether the Government agree with Sir Rodney Walker, speaking as chairman of UK Sport, when he said that unless the Government provided more money, funding for sport would decrease from next year?.

Facilities need to be widely and properly spread across the UK. It is essential that Sport England uses this criterion above all in its decisions regarding the distribution of lottery funds. So perhaps I may mention to your Lordships the case of the rowing lake in Bedfordshire of which I spoke briefly in my Second Reading speech on the Culture and Recreation Bill. It has had its request for funding turned down for what seemed to me to be very inadequate reasons. It is really well placed to provide facilities for middle England rowing—not on the Thames—and to provide help for Bedford itself, which is shortly to be joined to the Grand Union canal, thereby making competitive rowing on the Great Ouse almost impossible. The situation is delicate, with a decision on appeal expected very soon. Support for it is right across the hoard. The original application was submitted in April 1997. This initiative fits exactly into the criteria we have been discussing and includes a catchment area of 3.5 million people. I hope that the Government will take due note and employ their influence.

One of the great successes at Sydney was cycling. The main reason for that was the existence of the Manchester velodrome. Are there plans to build any more? Certainly, I suggest, London will not host the 2012 games without one. Indeed, does London have any Olympic-standard facilities at the moment? Getting the games to London in 2012 will do more to focus the attention of aspiring athletes of all ages and to all sports than anything else.

The coming on stream in 2002 of the United Kingdom Sports Institute is very important, as is continuing support for the British Olympic Association. It would also be very helpful if the Government could redress their broken promises to protect playing fields, particularly school playing fields. During the year April 1999 to March 2000 some 646 applications for development on playing field sites were made. Where are the revised planning and policy guidelines on sport and recreation? Money is short, so when will the £20 million paid to help provide athletics facilities at Wembley be returned, or is there another U-turn on this matter?

There were 98 best personal performances a t Sydney by British athletes in many fields. Getting the games to London in 2012 would be wonderful. But when will the Government sort out the Wembley Picketts Lock situation and give urgent priority to the badly needed facilities in London and elsewhere? I look forward, as always, to the noble Lord's reply.

8.13 p.m.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in expressing gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, for initiating this debate. I congratulate him on attracting such a distinguished group of speakers, including, as has been said, distinguished players and competitors. We do indeed miss Colin Cowdrey. I assume that Mr Hague needs the noble Lord, Lord Coe, so much these days that he could not spare him for this debate. I personally regret that.

I join other noble Lords in congratulating all our Olympic and Paralympic competitors—the Paralympics were not mentioned in the debate and should have been—with the medal winners deserving particular praise. We look forward not only to the 2004 Olympics in Athens but also—pace the noble Lord, Lord Lyell—to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. I shall not forecast whether we will have any success, but we do have six Winter Olympics competitors in the top world 100 compared with only one a couple of years ago. The British Olympic Association is setting up a training camp in Calgary, Alberta, comparable to the Gold Coast camp which existed before the Sydney Olympics. It can be said, without making any forecasts, that we are taking that seriously.

As will become clear during the course of my remarks, we have high aspirations for sport in this country. We take the view that sporting success is important for the country. It lifts morale and brings the country together. It captivates the imagination of our young people and encourages them to participate and emulate sports people.

In congratulating those who took part in the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics, I can only repeat the highlights of what has already been said. The medal haul of 11 golds was the best performance since 1920. We secured 28 medals in total. We were 10th in the final medals table, the best since Los Angeles in 1984. Of course, it is never good enough and it is true that we are still behind some countries with smaller populations. But this is very considerable progress. The Sydney Paralympics were the best ever games so far. Great Britain and Northern Ireland won 131 medals—41 gold, 43 silver and 47 bronze, and we gained second place in the overall medals table. That is worthy of congratulations. I join the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, and others in congratulating the British Olympic and the British Paralympic associations, the coaches, the performance directors, the physios, the doctors and all those who took part. I join the noble Lords, Lord Higgins and Lord Luke, in agreeing that Sydney was outstanding as a venue for the games.

What do the Olympics and the Paralympics teach us? They teach us that investment in sport works. I hope to be able to say something helpful about that. It is not simply enough to carry on as before—even with the significant investment we are now making. We need to learn the lessons of Sydney in order to provide the maximum benefit. Kate Hoey has had meetings with the British Olympic Association and the chief executives and performance directors of the Olympic sports to identify the lessons learnt from Sydney and to discuss how the support to our athletes can be improved. She was also at the training camp in the Gold Coast before the Sydney games to hear at first hand from athletes, coaches, sports scientists and others. I am sure that she would have been glad to hear the expert advice of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, on the hand-over in the relay, although I do not think that it is quite the job of the Sports Minister to intervene in that way.

My right honourable friend Jack Cunningham is to lead a review of the World Class Programmes structure and funding, to which my noble friend Lord Faulkner referred, and the relationship with the developments taking place with the UK Sports Institute. The review will report back by mid-2001. The terms of reference and membership of the group were published in the Official Report. My noble friend Lord Faulkner would like to hear more on this issue. I could go on about it for a long time but I shall say that the review body met only today. It has been in active contact with the home countries. It has already talked to Sam Galbraith, the Minister with responsibility for sport in Scotland. Tomorrow, it is going to Wales to meet the Sports Council. I hope that that whets my noble friend's appetite.

I acknowledge that devolution and the issue of what national teams are fielded are significant matters. But I do not think that it is a defect. I know that some people call for teams to be either more local or less local. But I do not think that the way we are organising support for sport has been adversely affected by devolution. It is right for the noble Lords, Lord Brougham and Lord Glentoran, to say that we should not let devolution damage our chances. However, I think that the distinction which has been made; namely, of UK responsibility for elite athletes—those who will compete in the Olympics and other international competitions—and most other aspects of sport, including the Commonwealth Games, coming within devolution seems to be working fairly well.

In order to ensure that it does work well, we have set up the Sports Cabinet which brings together the Ministers responsible for sport in the four parts of the United Kingdom under the chairmanship of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The chairs of the five Sports Councils may be invited to attend the meeting, as may others. They met for the first time in November 1998. The next meeting is to be held on 16th February. That meeting is succeeding in its efforts to co-ordinate the work of all of the devolved administrations as well as of the Westminster Government.

On the subject of funding, of course the lottery is probably the most significant individual factor. Funding from the lottery has made an enormous difference. In view of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I do not think we need fear that the amounts are getting smaller. It is still the case that amounts going to good causes are greater than the £9 billion originally anticipated. Sport is receiving money not only from the original sports scheme; it also receives an enormous amount from the New Opportunities Fund.

In the three years leading up to the Sydney games, more than £60 million of lottery awards was given to the programme for British Olympic and Paralympic sports. Home countries also supported home country-based sports, Sport England world class programmes, Wales Elite Cymru and Scotland and Northern Ireland's talented athletes programmes. In response to those who expressed fears that these initiatives might not continue, last October the Sports Cabinet agreed to continue the World Class Performance Programme at least at its current level of funding. That will provide UK sport with £100 million over the next four years for the UK element of the programme. The record of lottery funding is unassailable.

I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, will expect me to comment on individual applications such as the rowing lake in Bedfordshire. Indeed, that would breach the arm's length principle which the Opposition have been at pains to defend, with some reason.

I turn now to the UK Sports Institute, referred to and welcomed in particular by my noble friend Lady Billingham. In addition to direct financial support, elite athletes and governing bodies benefit from the facilities and services of the UK Sports Institute, which is not based in Sheffield. It is only one of the centres, contrary to what was originally intended. The institute consists of 10 regional networks in England, along with national network centres in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will be fully operational by the summer of 2002. A central services team is in place, which provides sports with technical, operational and programme support services. We are investing £120 million in 80 facilities for the English Institute of Sport network. Over £80 million of new lottery funding has so far been committed by Sport England, with most of the remaining lottery applications—over £40 million—to be made over the next six months. Comparable figures are available for Scotland and Wales.

I turn now to what is a proper concern of the debate; namely, Exchequer funding. The spending review announced Exchequer funding for sport effectively to be doubled to £102 million by 2003–04. Of course, the advantage of having three-year expenditure figures is well recognised. Under those circumstances, the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, as regards whether this is to be index linked rather takes a back seat. In any case, the expenditure is linked to a review of programme success rather than to any other measure.

Furthermore, I challenge the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that there is a gap in the funding. I have said that we are committed to continuing world-class funding. All these issues are included in the Cunningham review. Our investment will produce a major step-change in children's participation in sport through high quality sports teaching and coaching, as well as the expansion of competitive sports in schools. I address that remark in particular to my noble friend Lady Billingham.

As regards the issue of anti-doping raised by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, the Government are funding the UK sports testing programme and will continue to do so.

The situation on playing fields is simply not true. Under the last government, we were losing 40 playing fields a month. We are now losing three playing fields a month. Those fields are almost all related to schools which no longer exist or which no longer require them.

I should like to have spent more time discussing schools sport and grass-roots support for sports. Although the Question concerns the next Olympics, if we are to look further ahead we must consider not only support for those who are already elite athletes, but also those who will come from our schools and move into sporting excellence over the coming years. As I said, we are committed to strengthening schools sport at every level. We are spending £120 million to set up a network of 1,000 school sports co-ordinators by 2004. The first 145 were appointed in September last year. We aim to designate 150 specialist sports colleges by 2003. Already 83 have been designated in England. We are spending £130 million to develop the new Spaces for Sports and Arts facilities on primary school sites; £580 million from the New Opportunities Fund to strengthen the foundation of sport across England by building and refurbishing PE and sports facilities in over 1500 schools; £50 million from the New Opportunities Fund for outdoor adventure activities; £22 million from the New Opportunities Fund Green Spaces initiative—all of these real developments which ought to be recognised.

As regards the national curriculum, to which several noble Lords referred, I must refer to the announcement made on 11th January that there is no longer merely an aspiration but an entitlement to two hours of sport and physical education a week. All that stands apart from what is being done for sport in the New Deal.

If I continue for two minutes, we shall be able to avoid adjourning during pleasure. I hope that that is acceptable to noble Lords. I should like to say a few words about the next Olympic bid, a matter referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Brougham and Vaux, Lord Higgins and Lord Luke. My noble friend Lord Faulkner mentioned his dream of staging the Olympics in Great Britain. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, remembers his participation in the 1948 games held in London. I recall those games as a mere schoolboy spectator. It was enormously exciting and it would be wonderful to see the Olympics held here once again.

So far the department has seen only a draft of the British Olympic Association's report which is to be presented to Ministers in February. It indicates the substantial level of public infrastructure investment—billions of pounds worth—which will be needed to stage an Olympic Games. The association has not yet taken a decision on whether to bid for the Olympics in 2012 or later. The decision rests with the association, which has already stated that any UK bid would have to be based on London. We have not yet taken any decision as regards whether to support such a bid. We have a manifesto commitment which states that we shall continue to work with national and international bodies to try to attract more major events to the UK. We also remain committed to supporting a viable bid for the Olympic Games. However, at the moment the ball is firmly in the court of the British Olympic Association.

We share the great pleasure expressed from all quarters of the House over the success of our athletes and players at Sydney, both in the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. I hope it is clear that we have practical programmes in place for the next Winter Olympics and the next Olympics in Greece and that we have longer-term plans and commitments to substantial increases in expenditure which will fulfil this Government's commitment to the long-term future of sport in this country.