Health Promotion Bill [HL] – Second Reading | Lords debates

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this Second Reading and, as other noble Lords have done, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who is a champion for sport both in Parliament and, still, on the pitch. I also congratulate all members of your Lordships’ Select Committee on the National Plan for Sport and Recreation, which produced such an excellent report, as pertinent today as on the day of publication.

The Bill has two significant underpinnings. The first is to place this in the Department of Health and Social Care, a significant spending government department. The second is that we need a cross-government, cross-Whitehall effort. This is often the case for a number of policy areas and, to my mind, in recent history has really happened only twice. The first was the tremendous effort that everybody across government made with the Covid pandemic. The second, 10 years ago now, was the cross-Whitehall effort for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Why was there a cross-government effort for that? People wanted to be involved and wanted to make it a success.

What we were trying to do in 2012 was not just to have a sensational summer of Olympic and Paralympic sport but to try to do what no previous Games had done and drive a legacy of participation. We achieved something but by no means did we achieve everything, hence why we are where we are today: an obesity epidemic; a type 2 diabetes crisis; stroke and heart attack. I will not go on, but we as a nation cannot go on like this, which is why the Bill is so significant. First, I ask my noble friend about the name of the office. Would it not make sense to follow the excellent recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that it should be the “office for health promotion”, as it was initially going to be? Certainly, the government response is uncompelling as to why that name does not encapsulate everything we are trying to achieve with this body.

Similarly, on the prescription of exercise, can my noble friend the Minister tell the House how successful that is currently, how widespread it is and what the department is doing to put it on absolute turbocharge to ensure that it is available to everybody up and down the country? The Bill rightly highlights the importance of detection. What is being done to have a culture across society of scanning and screening to stop disease and early death in their terrible tracks? There is much we can do, as the Bill indicates, with data and new, innovative technologies, so what is the department doing to foster an ecosystem, a culture of exploration and of concept proofing across the public and private sectors to bring forward all the possible ideas in this area? Wearables is an obvious example. What is being done to ensure that all those involved have the right level of data and digital education? I know it is not my noble friend’s department, but what is being done to ensure effective data and digital education right from primary school onwards?

The clue, in many ways, is in the name: “sport” is a contraction of “support”. What the Bill offers is support for every citizen across the country—enabling and empowering through exercise, physical well-being and the mental well-being that flows from that. We cannot go on like this. We do not have to go on like this. We have a choice. In this straightforward, significant Bill, we have an important part of that choice. Let us take it.