HC Deb 07 March 1984 vol 55 cc837-9
4. Mr. Tom Clarke

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice the chairman of the Sports Council has offered on the implementation of the Gleneagles agreement.

21. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent discussions the Minister with responsibilities for sport has had with sports authorities about the Gleneagles agreement; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Macfarlane

I regularly meet the chairman of the Sports Council to discuss current issues, including the implementation of the Gleneagles agreement. The chairman has advised that it is the council's policy to support this agreement.

Mr. Clarke

In view of the New Delhi communiqué, with which the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister was associated, what precise consultations have taken place and what advice has been given to the organisers of the 1984 Commonwealth games in Edinburgh, in view of continued South African intransigence?

Mr. Macfarlane

Discussions take place from time to time with my officials and with officials of the Commonwealth Games Federation. I believe everybody understands that the Prime Minister supported fully the principles of the Commonwealth declaration on apartheid in sport, which, as the hon. Gentleman said, was reaffirmed in Delhi in November last year.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Minister condemn the 108 Tory MPs who have signed early-day motion 485 supporting the English rugby tour of South Africa? Does he agree that supporters of this tour not only give support to the apartheid regime, but could jeopardise the forthcoming Olympic games and the 1986 Commonwealth games that are to be held in Scotland? Therefore, these Tory MPs could do more damage to international sport than even the English football hooligans in Paris last week.

Mr. Macfarlane

I do not condemn what my right hon. and hon. Friends have done. It is their constitutional right to sign any early-day motion they wish. They have their views and they are entitled to them. The Government have their policy, which has been made amply clear by the Prime Minister and by myself from time to time.

Mr. John Carlisle

Will my hon. Friend accept that under its Royal Charter the Sports Council must have regard for Government policy, including the Gleneagles agreement, but that he has no power to direct it on how to allocate its funds? Will he therefore confirm that, despite his somewhat veiled threats in the House about five weeks ago, if the tour to South Africa goes ahead no attempt will be made to put any penalty on any funds that the Sports Council might give to rugby football?

Mr. Macfarlane

I must draw my hon. Friend's attention to precisely what I said. There will be no sanctions or recriminations against the Rugby Football Union if the tour takes place. If one seeks to withdraw funds, one most often hurts those in the regions who would benefit from coaching schemes. I made that point clearly. The independence of the Sports Council is guaranteed by Royal Charter.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

My hon. Friend will doubtless have noticed within the last two or three weeks the most deplorable reports of outbreaks of serious ethnic and religious violence and intolerance in the territories of various countries which are signatories to the Commonwealth agreement. If that agreement is to be applied without discrimination, which lies at the heart of its philosophy, would it not be appropriate for it to be applied equally to those signatories?

Mr. Macfarlane

Much as I should like to be drawn on that matter, I think that my hon. Friend's supplementary question does not relate to the original question. However, I shall draw to the attention of our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what my hon. Friend has said.

Dr. Cunningham

Is the Minister aware of how deeply disturbing it is to see the outright support for apartheid from the Benches behind him? Is he also aware of the grave anxiety expressed by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth about the consequences for the Commonwealth as a whole if the tour goes ahead? Does he not wish to contrast starkly, as we on this side of the House do, the Prime Minister's position on this issue with her actions in 1980, when she summoned sportsmen and women to Downing street and publicly and privately tried to prevent a British Olympic team going to Moscow?

Mr. Macfarlane

I wholeheartedly condemn the remarks of the hon. Gentleman. He knows very well that there are deeply held views on this subject. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends genuinely believe that integration in sport in South Africa is not best helped by having a total boycott on contact with that country. My own view is that Government policy has to be implemented. That is why I hope the tour does not go ahead, as I have said from the Dispatch Box on more than one occasion in recent months. I do not believe that anybody will do any good by looking back to what happened three or four years ago. The important thing is that the Government reaffirmed in November last year their total support for the concept of the Gleneagles agreement.

Mr. Latham

Is it not clear that the Government's position on this matter, which I support, is gravely weakened when black West Indians carry out a cricket tour in South Africa? Is it not time that my hon. Friend tried to redefine the agreement to make it clear that we do not support official tours from Britain, but that there is no restriction on British subjects going there to play any sport they wish?

Mr. Macfarlane

The entitlement or the desire of countries and their governing bodies to tour other countries is not a matter for which I have any locus or constitutional responsibility. Those tours are primarily a matter for the nations whose sportsmen attend them.