HC Deb 02 July 1980 vol 987 cc1504-6
4. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent discussions he has had with representatives of British sports organisations to discuss participation in the Moscow Olympic Games; what was the outcome; and if he will make a statement.

25. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to contact the British Olympic Association about participation in the Olympic Games.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Hector Monro)

I was present at the 17 June meeting between my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and representatives of most of the sports bodies still committed to going to the Moscow Games. In the light of my right hon. and noble Friend's explanation of the wider issues involved, I remain hopeful that at least some of those governing bodies or competitors will think again about participating in these Games.

I have no plans at the moment to contact the British Olympic Association again. It is fully aware of the Government's view of the Moscow Games.

Mr. Hughes

Is it not time for the Government to stop persecuting the British athletes? Does the Minister appreciate that next week the beleaguered Llanwern steelworks in Newport will start work on a major order from the Soviet Union—an order won in free competition? Does he not agree that this is the way forward rather than the cold war hysteria being whipped up by the Prime Minister and her acolytes?

Mr. Monro

It is obvious that the hon. Gentleman has neither understood the argument over the last six months, nor begun to understand the horror and aggression being carried out by the Russians in Afghanistan. That is the reason for our stand on this issue. I hope that he will realise that our objective is to bring home to the Russians our total abhorrence of their action and that we shall not condone it in any way.

Mr. Canavan

Is it not typical Tory Party cheek and hypocrisy for this spoilsport Tory Prime Minister to condemn world-class athletes such as Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe, Linsey MacDonald and Alan Wells for taking part in the Moscow Olympics when the Tory Party chairman is making huge profits from supplying track equipment for the Olympics?

Mr. Monro

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would set his sights a little higher, and not go for cheap publicity. I hope he will also realise the serious question that we posed to the athletes and other competitors. We understand that they wish to take part in the Moscow Olympics, but in the light of events in Afghanistan we believe that our advice was correct.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Socialist-controlled Watford borough council recently decided to give a donation of £500 to the Olympic appeal? Does he not consider that to be a disgraceful misallocation of ratepayers' money?

Mr. Monro

Yes, I most certainly do. It is astonishing that Socialist-controlled councils—hard-pressed as they say they are—are prepared to give large sums of money to the Olympic appeal—[Interruption.] Those Labour Members who cheer their action should think more of the women and children in Afghanistan rather than the money that is being put forward by those councils.

Mr. Dalyell

Now, like it or not, the athletes are going to Moscow. Do Ministers wish them well?

Mr. Monro

Over the years the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Dalyell

Answer the question.

Mr. Monro

Of course I shall answer the question. The hon. Gentleman has been putting questions to me for six months; I am not going to dodge one now. It is clear that the Government's position has been to discourage our competitors from going to Moscow. Therefore, it is our wish that they should not be in Moscow this month. I warmly applaud the efforts of superb quality by Coe and Ovett last night, but I am more delighted that they were successful in a country that will not be sending a team to Moscow. I do not wish any of out athletes to be in Moscow this month.

Mr. Kimball

Will my hon. Friend say specifically whether he is satisfied with the action of the Sports Council in supporting the Government's policy towards the Olympics? Will he also say whether it may be possible to abolish this less than satisfactory organisation and give its functions to the Central Council for Physical Recreation?

Mr. Munro

I am perfectly satisfied with the actions taken by the Sports Council and by its chairman, Mr. Dick Jeeps. They have fulfilled the wishes of the Government admirably. I have no intention of removing the Sports Council from its position. The Central Council for Physical Recreation knows where it stands. It has an important part to play in the development of sport. But both organisations must operate together in harmony.