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Lords Diary: Lord Moynihan

Lords Diary: Lord Moynihan
3 min read

The House of Lords has a long history of influence over United Kingdom sport and recreation policy. It was here in the summer of 1905 that Lord Desborough convened the first meeting of the British Olympic Association, which became influential in forming the rules and regulations of sport worldwide.

Thirty years later in 1935, Phyllis Colson, the leading pioneer in physical education of her generation, turned to members of the House of Lords to help establish the Central Council of Physical Recreation (now the Sport Alliance) to encourage participation in sport and physical recreation and to provide the separate governing bodies of sports with a central organisation which would both represent and promote their individual and collective interests.

It was in the House of Lords back in December 2002 where the debate to urge the government to support the British Olympic Association’s proposed bid to host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games demonstrated unequivocally to the Blair government the strength of unanimous all-party support to design, bid, and deliver the Games. 

Should it really take until 2070 until all our railway stations are wheelchair accessible? 

This week we have been engaged in talks about the timing of the forthcoming debate on the Lords Special Inquiry Report for a National Plan for Sport and Recreation at a time when levels of obesity and inactivity amongst young people are alarmingly high and a new approach is definitely required.

The select committee report adheres to the Thatcherite aphorism of delivering solutions and should be high on the summer reading lists of candidates for the job of prime minister.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, Lord Aberdare and Lord Addington have joined the campaign to seek a legal requirement to have defibrillators in all our schools and sports facilities; inexplicable why they should be mandatory in all new and upgraded schools but not in the existing schools. So many lives have been saved from their use. Like fire extinguishers, they should be mandatory in all schools. Report Stage of the Education Bill which began last week provides us with the opportunity to rectify this wrong.

In Grand Committee, campaigning was underway for greater urgency from government to address the impediments facing snow sport professionals in a post-Brexit world. Agreement needs to be reached with the European Union to allow mountain guides, ski and snowboard instructors and holiday reps to ply their trade in resorts, which benefit so substantially from British winter sport tourism.

The inspirational Baroness Bull was at work to see whether we could require all sports coaches to understand and teach nutrition at a time when eating disorders are sadly on the increase. Meanwhile, peers are pressing for a debate on the Whyte Report before the summer recess, which highlights the abuse suffered by so many young gymnasts. A new duty of care needs urgent consideration and made legally binding.

Now we look forward to the Commonwealth Games and reflect on the time we spent formulating the legal framework required to host this wonderful celebration of sporting talent. Many hours of debate led to government commitments and the legislation necessary to host the Games in Birmingham. The sensitivity of a two-site Games with India originally agreeing to host the Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championships, the importance of providing suitable access and facilities for all paralympians were all considered at length. Should it really take until 2070 until all our railway stations are wheelchair accessible? 

There is so much left to do. However, before the recess let’s start with a new National Plan for Sport, Health and Wellbeing to deliver an effective consistent cross-departmental approach with the minister for sport firmly embedded at the centre of the Department of Health and Social Care, where they can have effective influence. That would be a good manifesto commitment for a new prime minister. 

Lord Moynihan is a Conservative peer, former minister for sport and ex-chair of the British Olympic Association

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