HC Deb 03 June 1981 vol 5 cc1044-52

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Goodlad.]

11.57 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, West)

I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on bringing the previous proceedings to a close before midnight. As hon. Members know, this is Derby day. I started a tradition last year in this House that on Derby day we discuss sporting matters. It is a cause of sadness to some hon. Members that we do not discuss sport more often. Apart from my pleasure in seeing the Minister present for the debate, I am also delighted that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who is greatly interested in this subject, should have been able to attend.

Twelve months have elapsed since I brought to the attention of the House the Sports Council report that followed the mission to South Africa, led by Mr. Dick Jeeps, which was funded by the Government. The mission reported on the progress made on integration of the races in South African sport. It was a factual, comprehensive and, as I think those who have read its findings will agree, accurate report. It was well received by sportsmen throughout this country, dealing, as it did, with a delicate subject.

The Minister himself acknowledged that the report was thorough. My hon. Friend recommended that the report should be circulated to other countries. I hope that his suggestion has been adopted. The report came to no conclusion, although Mr. Jeeps gave his opinion after publication and opinions have also been expressed by representatives of similar missions to South Africa over the past few years.

The opinions expressed show that multi-racial sport in South Africa has come a long way towards full integration. Many people recognise that, despite the strong opposition in South Africa shown in the recent general election to the great reforms that the Government party has made.

The report is a measure of progress in the last several years. The progress has been made by a Department which is seeking information. It is therefore disappointing that the Minister and the Prime Minister have said that although sport has made progress towards multi-racial activity in that country, they are still not satisfied that it has gone far enough. Many people ask how far South Africa must go to satisfy Her Majesty's Government and the rest of the world.

Only this week in another place, Lord Kinnoull raised the question of segregation in sport in South Africa. The reply from Lord Avon was about rumours of recent initiatives. That was unfortunate because it shows that the Government are not taking account of what has happened in South Africa. I appeal to the Minister, who was in South Africa some years ago, to go back and see the progress for himself.

Since the report was presented and since the debate 12 months ago, events have taken a nasty and vicious turn. I regret that our Government, perhaps because of their intransigent attitude towards the Gleneagles agreement, have not recognised the progress as much as many would like. They must take some responsibility. Indeed, the South African Non Racial Olympic Committee, the London-based political weapon of the South African Council on Sport, is using the new political weapon of a black list of sportsmen throughout the world. It contains many British sportsmen.

SACOS is a totally unrepresentative body in opposition to the National Government in South Africa. It is racially discriminatory in that it is dominated by Indian and coloureds. Very few, if any, whites, and few blacks are on its board. Yet it has taken upon itself to produce a black list through its organisation in London. I am sad that it has captured the imagination of the media and has held many headlines throughout the world. It is a vindictive list relating to the spiteful policy which SANROC is pursuing.

The activities of SACOS in South Africa should be catalogued here. The report tells stories of tyres being slashed and intimidation against people who are not members of SACOS. When I was in South Africa recently, I was told the story of the world boxing championship in the Orlando stadium in Soweto. SACOS distributed leaflets round the township before the event saying that it had been cancelled in an attempt to reduce the 40,000-strong crowd. The crowd turned up and the event went ahead. SACOS tried the same tactics when the O-Jays—an American singing group—gave a concert in the same stadium.

I was also told of the story of an 11-year-old school girl who took part in a sporting event, not organised by SACOS and who was chastised in front of her 1,400 school mates. SACOS is dominated by teachers. It is not unknown for examination results to be affected by teachers if that is in the interests of SACOS.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

Would the hon. Gentleman care to comment on the extraordinary incident of the cricket match between two schools, where, because two players on one side were coloured, the headmaster and school authorities refused to allow the match to continue? There was the even more appalling case of blind people taking part in a Braille contest who refused to continue when they learnt—although they could not see—that some of the opponents, who were also blind, were coloured. Does not that suggest that progress is not quite what the hon. Gentleman suggests? Will he condemn those actions along with any other condemnation that he cares to put forward?

Mr. Carlisle

The right hon. Gentleman should be grateful for the fact that I gave him so much time. There was a similar instance in the Craven week when schools refused to play against black teams. They were banned by the organiser and the authorities took a dim view of the incident that the right hon. Gentleman has brought to the attention of the House.

When I was in South Africa the SACOS organisation seemed to be in some disarray and disillusionment. The president did resign but then changed his mind because of the pressure put on him. Only yesterday we heard from South Africa that Norman Middleton, the president of the South Africa Soccer Federation, which is a SACOS organisation, said that he would tell all. He said: For the sake of unity and our fight to bring true non-racialism to our sport, I have always accepted these backhanders. Now it has all changed. That shows the sort of organisation that we are discussing.

Only recently, in a new magazine called "Pace", the admirable journalist Ian Wooldridge, who is well known in Britain, spoke of Sam Ramsamy, the SANROC leader in London, and said about the funding of that organisation: Ramsamy's friends as the years progressed included several with strong Russian accents. It is only right that the House should realise that that organisation, which purports to speak for many millions of South Africans—although I believe that it is unrepresentative—has a doubtful means of origin for its funds.

The first example of the black list in Britain was brought to our attention by Lord Chalfont in an admirable article in The Times about John Feaver, a well-known English tennis player. He went to Nigeria to play in a tournament. He was detained in a cell overnight and then sent home with two of his colleagues, his crime having been that he played sport in South Africa, where tennis is played on a multi-racial basis. Despite my questions in the House, I was disappointed that the Government made no protest to the Nigerian Government about that incident. Not many days later the President of Nigeria was feted in this country by Her Majesty the Queen and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I could only wish that many organisations would take the view of the International Tennis Federation, which has now banned Nigeria from the Grand Prix circuit.

The first black list that appeared was well known and has been well publicised. The most prominent name on the list was that of Dick Jeeps, the chairman of the Sports Council, who said that he would lose no sleep through being on the list. But it shows the importance of that list. To cap it all, to obtain the official seal of recognition SANROC received the support of the committee of the United Nations against apartheid—a committee which hon. Members know full well is dominated by those with Eastern European sympathies. I congratulate the Minister and the Lord Privy Seal on their utter condemnation of the affair at that time. We await the full United Nations decision on the matter, but I hope that the Government will take the same line as the Minister.

The list is blatantly political, as is obvious for all to see. There was the recent example of Mr. Bill Hicks who spent a holiday in South Africa, returned to Britain, reported his activities to The Times, and was immediately blacklisted. There is Geoff Cook, the Northamptonshire cricketer, who spent the winter and previous winters coaching the blacks out there. Everyone who has been there realises the desperate need there is for coaching, when some 500 turn up for each coaching session. For his efforts he was put on a black list.

There is Charles Palmer, the well-known cricket administrator, who went with the ICC in 1979 on a fact-finding mission, the results of which were kept secret. He has been put on the black list because he went to see for himself. As hon. Members will know, there are several names, including Lester Piggott, Geoff Boycott and Mark Cox, people who have brought much pleasure to South Africa and given an. enormous amount of instruction to less-privileged members of South African society and in South African sport. To cap it all, not many weeks ago we had the incident of Robin Jackman in Guyana, when the English cricket team was on the verge of coming home. Again I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on her comment at that time. This had absolutely nothing to do with Gleneagles.

Mr. Sam Ramsamy

has promised that several more names will be added to the list. It could be considered as a fairly amateur production. As reported by Ian Ball in the Daily Telegraph, it had several tell-tale marks and duplicator mistakes when it came out. It had obviously been compiled at the last minute from newspaper reports here and in South Africa. We are told that it is to be updated. Only this week there was an attempt to blackmail three Cardiff rugby players, three British Lions, who were going on a rugby tour to Rhodesia. They were told that they would not be allowed to enter that country unless they signed a declaration that they would not return to South Africa. Thank heaven, reason prevailed and the tour went ahead.

The aims and objectives of this political organisation are obvious. They are being used as a weapon againt South Africa and against individuals and take no account of the feelings of individuals. They are nothing more than a personal vendetta. Who knows but that, if this movement were to grow, it could affect the Olympic Games, rugby in New Zealand, the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, and test matches with the West Indies, India and Pakistan. If the list included discrimination against South Africans in this country even Wimbledon and the Open Golf might be threatened. If the effort to exclude all South Africans continues it could lead to a sporting desert throughout the world.

I am told that SANROC intends to extend its activities into entertainment. An excellent article in The Guardian by Donald Swami highlighted the terrible problem now becoming evident where entertainers are being denied the opportunity to go to South Africa to entertain in front of all colours. In that article he showed how far South Africa has gone down the road.

One wonders where this is going to stop. Will a list be brought out to discourage business people from going to South Africa? There are some 350 British companies working in South Africa worth some 250,000 jobs in this country and investment of up to £7,000 million a year. One may think that the list is reaching almost farcical proportions. One can understand the temptation for some people to let the list grow. Many who might be are not on it. Perhaps we should feed names to SANROC so that the list would become completely manageable and there could be no sporting competition anywhere without those on it. I wonder what the cricketers of the West Indies, India and Pakistan would say if they had to stay away from the rich financial pastures of Lords, Adelaide and Christchurch.

This is a serious matter, because it is a gross infringement of the British citizen's personal liberty. There was much in South Africa which I did not like and which many hon. Members do not like. There was also much to encourage me. They have made massive strides towards integration and there is no doubt that sport has led the way. Only this week the Government have announced, following a special sports report, that they will accept the recommendations of the report that the Liquor, the Group Areas, and the urban area for blacks Acts, are to be abolished for sport. Spectators are integrated, players change together and there is multi-racial competition throughout South Africa. The authorities there are very hard on recreants who do not follow that policy. They are being forced into change. The biggest barrier is probably the local authorities and some Government Departments. In this way we should give credit to the sportsmen of South Africa for the lead that they are taking in trying to change the politicians' minds, an endeavour in which they have enjoyed a certain amount of success over the years.

South Africa was committed to a 20-year sentence. That was a long time ago. It has had no remission for good conduct, and I suggest that it is about time that that was considered. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will deplore the list. I hope that he will give an assurance that in the United Nations the Government will speak out against, and not just abstain on this issue. I hope that he will continue to encourage the sports administrators in South Africa to maintain the progress that they have made and encourage sports administrators in this country to go out to see for themselves.

We are much encouraged by what has happened in the United States and by the initiative of President Reagan in seeing my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The South Africans are much encouraged by the new Administration in Whitehall. I hope that I shall receive that encouragement from my hon. Friend tonight.

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

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Carlisle) for raising this subject and to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) for being present.

This is a particularly important topic, and I have no doubt that many of our sportsmen and women share my hon. Friend's concern. This must apply particularly to those who regularly participate in international competition.

I therefore welcome the opportunity to clarify the Government's attitude to the black list. I hope that I shall clear up one or two misconceptions.

Let me begin by explaining once again the Government's attitude generally towards sporting relations with South Africa. It is against this background that we can best consider the United Nations black list or any other.

As the House will know, the Government's policy rests wholly on the 1977 Commonwealth statement on apartheid in sport—the Gleneagles agreement. This requires Commonwealth Governments to take every practical step in accordance with their laws to discourage sportsmen and women of their countries from playing against South Africa.

At the same time, we are firmly committed to maintaining the established autonomy and independence of sport and sporting organisations. Beyond that we will uphold the traditional freedom of our citizens to travel and work when and where they wish.

I cannot believe that any hon. Member would deny the evils of apartheid, but I recognise that many—particularly on the Conservative side of the House—are becoming uneasy. They fear that Governments of the Commonwealth have chosen to place sport in the forefront of a battle against apartheid in South Africa. They see the United Nations following suit.

I share that concern and sense of unease. But we also have to recognise the immense and lasting value of the Commonwealth as an institution. It is perhaps the one organisation that brings together people from all parts of the globe in a real spirit of co-operation. It is this that we must set against the value of absolute freedom to play sport without hindrance. We must, therefore, face political realities. So, too, must our sportsmen and women.

In an ideal world politics and sport would not be mixed. But, regrettably, ours is not an ideal world. One can argue that our sportsmen are individuals and citizens first. They must, therefore, have regard to the wider consequences of their decisions and actions. This is especially true when they may impinge on their fellow sportsmen.

I am not suggesting that these considerations should be paramount, simply that they should be recognised and taken into account. Since we came into office in 1979 our commitment to the principles of the Gleneagles agreement has been reaffirmed many times. No one can be in any doubt about where we stand.

I do not now propose to catalogue the actions I have taken in consequence, but we have sought to fulfil our obligations as best we can in a free society—by advice and persuasion. Often this has been rejected by the independent governing bodies concerned. When it has been we can do no more. The Government have no powers which allow us to take further steps to prevent contacts taking place. Nor do we wish to take any.

In a free and democratic society such as ours it is right that we can seek only to advise and persuade. It is entirely up to the governing bodies and individuals concerned whether they accept this advice. Of course, the Commonwealth statement is open to different interpretations. However, we firmly believe that it concerns action by Governments with their own nationals. Others may interpret it differently, but we do not believe that the Commonwealth statement requires action by us, or any Commonwealth Government, against the nationals of another country.

It may well be that others consider we do not do enough. The emergence of the United Nations black list is its way of advancing the battle lines. But let me be clear. The Government cannot support any proposal which would oblige us to place limitations on the movement of our sportsmen and women, or to interfere with individual liberties.

We have to accept that every country has the right to refuse entry to non-nationals whose presence is considered undesirable. That right cannot be denied. However, we will not accept the use of such powers simply to penalise sportsmen.

We cannot, therefore, approve of this initiative by the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid and we will not support it. Indeed, we condemn all such "sporting black lists", whatever the source. My hon. Friend is therefore right to be concerned about the implications for our sportsmen and the future of international sport.

The House may find it useful if I outline briefly the history of, and background to, this unfortunate black list. Certainly media coverage of its origins and publication has been characterised by confusion over the past few months. Much of this is due to the two earlier unofficial lists by SANROC.

The United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid has existed in various forms since 1962. The United Kingdom has never been a member, but this is in no way unusual. The committee's membership has consisted almost exclusively of Eastern European and developing nations. Its decisions and recommendations—unlike resolutions of the Security Council—are not binding. The centre against apartheid, which published the black list, operates under one of several sub-committees.

Most of the information on which the list is based has been culled from newspaper reports—or, it seems, from the efforts of SANROC. Britons feature prominently throughout. This might reflect the fact that SANROC is based here in London.

As my hon. Friend rightly said, the list includes the chairman of the Sports Council and one of its members. I am sorry if my hon. Friend was concerned about my answer to his earlier question about the Sports Council chairman. That was possibly due to a misunderstanding. I have full confidence in Dick Jeeps. I am certain that the fact that his name appears on the list will in no way affect his ability to carry out his duties.

As time rolls forward we can expect new additions to the black list. The secretary's report states that one of the committee's objects in publishing the list is to help secure the isolation of South African sport as a means towards the elimination of apartheid in South Africa.

The report recognises that the co-operation of Governments and sports bodies will be necessary. The Government's view is clear. We abhor apartheid. We are committed to the Commonwealth statement. We will not co-operate with the special committee or the centre against apartheid in the operation of the black list.

It is unfortunate that some Commonwealth countries have already taken action on the black list. The United Nations report notes that Guyana has operated such a policy since 1976. It was this policy rather than this black list which prompted the Jackman affair.

My hon. Friend has given us other examples of what being on the black list means to British sportsmen. However, the United Nations committee goes further. It seems to be calling on Governments and sports bodies to bar their own nationals from domestic competition if they feature on the United Nations list. In the case of professional sportsmen, this would mean that individuals could effectively be denied any opportunity to pursue their chosen career. I need not dwell upon the Government's response to that suggestion other than to condemn it. I hope that British and international sports organisations will similarly condemn this proposal.

At its simplest, therefore, the effect of this black list may well be to present individual sportsmen and women with a stark choice. They will have to decide between sacrificing their links with South Africa and sacrificing the possibility of competing in those countries that co-operate with the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid in the operation of the black list. In a sense, this would represent no more than an attempt to make individuals face up to the wider responsibilities that I mentioned earlier, but it would be nearer to blackmail than advice. I find the prospect profoundly disturbing and potentially very divisive.

If a significant number of Governments should decide to deny entry to sportsmen named on the United Nations list, the effect could be more damaging. It is not difficult to foresee the result being complete polarisation of internationl sport. There could be groups of countries that are prepared or able to play only among themselves, which would be a total disaster for the world of sport.

All involved—and those of us who are not directly involved but care—must ask whether the end justifies the means. I believe that I have made my views and those of the Government quite plain.

However, others, too, have a role. I am thinking particularly of the international sporting federations themselves and the other sporting organisations that sanction or approve tournaments or fixtures. I hope that they will strongly resist pressures from whatever source to make use of this or similar black lists in deciding the entries for their competitions. I sincerely hope that British sportsmen and governing bodies, and their counterparts overseas, will try to persuade the relevant organisations to resist these political pressures originating from the United Nations committee. If not, the prospects for international sport begin to look bleak. The Government will do what they can, but it is important to maintain the continued independence of sport and sporting organisations. Therefore, there is a limit to what we can do.

My hon. Friend has drawn our attention to three visits to South Africa, the Sports Council's fact-finding report, his own recent visit there, and the changed views of Bill Hicks, a respected member of the Sports Council. All report on the encouraging progress made in South Africa towards greater integration of sport.

The Government note the progress with satisfaction. We monitor the situation continuously, but it varies considerably between the different sports. Some have made greater progress towards integration than others.

Every step forward is helpful. We, therefore, welcome reports of the recent announcement by the South African Government that they intend to relax the Liquor Act, the Group Areas Act and related legislation as far as sport is concerned, but I understand that the legislative changes necessary have not yet been approved. None the less, the intention is welcome.

However, we are bound by the Gleneagles agreement. When the Government are persuaded that progress towards integration in sport in South Africa warrants it, we shall certainly seek a review of the Gleneagles agreement, but we are not yet persuaded that this time has arrived——

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour,Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past Twelve o'clock.