HC Deb 27 April 1983 vol 41 cc855-7
10. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether there are any plans for discussion with his ministerial counterparts in other Commonwealth Governments to consider the implications of the commitments made at the Lusaka and Melbourne Commonwealth Heads of Governments meetings relating to multiracial sport; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Macfarlane

No, Sir. The Commonwealth's commitment to multiracial sport remains as set out in the 1977 Commonwealth statement on apartheid in sport.

Mr. Hicks

In view of the contribution that sport makes to international relationships and understanding, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be traumatic, both for world sport and for Commonwealth sporting relationships, if a shortsighted decision were to be made, which would lead to England playing South Africa at cricket? Furthermore, is it not a fact that if that were to happen all the other members of the International Cricket Conference would not follow our example, so that we would be left playing South Africa and South Africa alone, which would be very tedious?

Mr. Macfarlane

My hon. Friend has put his finger on a most important point, which creates grave disquiet in the minds of those who put multiracial sport first throughout the world. No one in the House should be in any doubt about the serious threat that would arise to organised cricket if a tour of South. Africa were to go ahead by the MCC, which is technically a private club. It was at the ICC that the MCC and its governing body, the Cricket Council, voted 13 years ago to exclude South Africa from the cricket itinerary.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is this not an area where the Minister can usefully intervene and give guidance? Are there not many more areas in sport where help is very much needed at present? Would not the Minister's time be better spent on those functions rather than being turned into a children's nursemaid, which is the function that the Prime Minister seems to have in mind for him?

Mr. Macfarlane

Somehow I feel that this important subject has been deflected by the hon. Gentleman. I wish that he would take a closer interest in these important matters. The fact is that Her Majesty's Government acknowledge the principle of the Commonwealth statement on apartheid in sport, which was upheld in 1979 and 1981. There is no deviation from that concept.

Mr. John Carlisle

I take up the point that my hon. Friend made about the ICC. May I point out to him that the ICC went to South Africa in 1979 on a fact-finding mission and came back with a recommendation that an ICC team be sent to South Africa because of what it had seen? If my hon. Friend is so desirous, as I hope he is, of representing the interests of British sportsmen, will he go to South Africa to see for himself that sport is not organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin? By seeing that for himself he will not have to rely, as he said on Radio 4 the other evening, on pictures and newspaper reports.

Mr. Macfarlane

I do not have quite the amount of time that my hon. Friend has to visit South Africa. My hon. Friends from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office undertake visits to South Africa. That is not part of my locus. I am certain that my hon. Friend does not wish to mislead the House. There was no ICC-ratified visit to South Africa in 1979. The ICC voted to exclude South Africa from its cricketing itinerary in 1969. The visit about 10 years later was not an ICC visit. Some people went to South Africa who happened to be representatives of the ICC.

Mr. Denis Howell

Will the Minister take note that we entirely support his view on this matter, that it would be absolutely disastrous for international cricket if this private tour went ahead, and that, as the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) said, it would restrict, all our cricket matches to England versus South Africa? Will the Minister extend that thinking to Rugby Football Union? Does he agree that if the Rugby Football Union authorities are considering a public tour of the South Africa Rugby Union in two years' time in exchange for an agreement by Dr. Craaven of South Africa not to let his private tour take place this year, that would be equally reprehensible?

Mr. Macfarlane

The Rugby Football Union is well aware of the Government's opposition to this possible venture. I hope that the Rugby Football Union committee will take account of our advice when it makes up its mind.