HC Deb 17 May 1972 vol 837 cc500-2
6. Mr. Stanbrook

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, in view of the result of the England and West Germany match on 29th April, he will initiate discussions with the appropriate football authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with the object of entering a single United Kingdom national team in future international competitions.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)

No, Sir.

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my hon. Friend give a positive lead in this matter? Does he agree that we owe it to the British people, the originators of this sport, to provide the best available soccer team to compete in international competitions rather than dissipate our national effort into four separate channels? Would not an all-Britain team, including Best, Bremner and Banks, be a world-beater?

Mr. Griffiths

I am not sure that Scottish or Welsh football supporters would rejoice to see their national teams losing their identity in order to rescue England from its difficulties, which I am sure are purely temporary.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Will the Minister also bear in mind that if Welsh football players were released by the League to play in international matches for Wales, Wales would be a match for England, West Germany or any other country?

Mr. Griffiths

The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to engage in a little propaganda for Wales. I hope he recognises that due to the efforts of the football authorities and my own Department the release of Welsh players is now much easier than it has been.

Mr. Kilfedder

Just as the total integration of Ulster within the United Kingdom would be best for the country in the long run, does my hon. Friend agree that what England needs is the stamina and skill of Scottish and Ulster players? Does he agree that with the magic of George Best in the game against Germany, England would not have lost?

Mr. Griffiths

I shall put that matter with the utmost seriousness to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the Minister aware that although sports bodies welcome the interest of Members of Parliament we should be very careful before abusing the Order Paper of the House to discuss the sporting performances of any of our British sports teams and that this would be resented by sports bodies, which want our interest but not a political interference in purely sporting matters?

Mr. Griffiths

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is not a matter for Government, but he has a great deal more experience than my hon. Friend in abusing the Order Paper.

Mr. Howell

Since I was Minister for six years and have been Opposition spokesman in the two years since that, for eight years I have never put down a Question on the Order Paper about these matters. Is the hon. Gentleman's remark in order, Mr. Speaker, or is it simply a cheap and disgraceful comment by a Minister who should know better?

Mr. Griffiths

It was not the hon. Gentleman's Questions on the Order Paper I was complaining about; I was complaining about the answers he used to give.

Mr. Speaker

These are not matters of order, but I think they are matters of taste.