HL Deb 28 March 1984 vol 450 cc303-28

7.58 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusbyrose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their attitude to the proposed tour of South Africa by the English Rugby Union; and what action they propose to take.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. This short debate could not be more timely. The decision as to whether the English Rugby Union will tour South Africa this summer will be taken in two days' time on Friday, 30th March. I start by thanking the Government for their collaboration in postponing the debate from a time two weeks ago when it would have been hidden under the mask of the university debate.

I am sorry and saddened that this issue has not drawn forth what one would have expected to be the Liberal conscience here or the SDP interest in world affairs. I am particularly sorry that no right reverend Prelates are to speak because, after all, this is basically a moral issue. However, I know that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool would have liked to be here if he had not had other engagements.

I think that I am in a particularly privileged position to initiate this debate for a number of reasons. The first is that over 30 years ago in 1950, when I first visited South Africa, I was privileged just to knock up with—because my tennis was not of his standard—a young man called David Samaai who was a good enough tennis player to be accepted at Wimbledon for two years. We used to play on public tennis courts in the shadow of Table Mountain. The interest of that particular incident is that David Samaai could come to Wimbledon and play against the finest players in the world but he could not play against a single white player in his own country.

I also played some rugby in the same location with the Cape Colours in District 6. The rugby was entirely confined to coloured players apart from myself. The significance is that this was in 1950 when there had been over 50 years of bridge building between the sports of the rest of the world and the sports of South Africa. So much for bridge building; so much for mixing with the external influences as far as South Africa and its sportsmen were concerned. The external influences were so weak that in 1950 the system of apartheid was already becoming more deeply rooted than at any time in the history of South Africa.

There is a second reason why I feel particularly privileged to initiate this debate. It is because I claim to be one of those who initiated the boycott of the South Africans in the rugby field. It was in 1960 when my fellow Middlesex County referee was Denis Thatcher. In that year the Springboks were due to tour this country. Following a principle which I believed, I announced that I did not wish to be selected for any of the Springbok games. That was followed immediately by an even braver decision of a Welsh international whose name—if my recollection is correct—was John Taylor. He played for London Welsh and was an international player at that time. He also stated that he did not wish to be selected for the Welsh team to play against the Spingboks. As far as I know, this was the beginning of the boycott in the rugby world.

I should declare an interest because in the previous year I had been banned from South Africa and have never been able to return since. Because I have not been able to return, I can only speak at second hand about changes which have been accomplished since that time. I fully admit that there have been changes in the sporting world of South Africa since the 1950 I was talking about. Why have there been these changes? First of all, they should not be over-emphasised. Many of the changes can be put down to a transfer of responsibility from the central authority to local authorities, to private institutions and to sports clubs. But obviously those changes have been made because of the international boycott. They had not been made in the 50 years before the boycott began. They were made only when South Africa had been isolated in the sporting field. Those of us who know South Africa, understand how important sport is in that country. There have been constant pressures from South African people to do anything—even to breach some of the sacred tablets of apartheid—in order to get back into the international world. I will come back to the consequences of the possible lifting of the boycott in a few moments. But it is the boycott which has caused those changes.

This proposed tour is at the invitation of the South African Rugby Board. I should point out that there are two controlling bodies for rugby in South Africa. There is the South African Rugby Board and there is the South African Rugby Union. The South African Rugby Board, which is the body inviting the English Rugby Union to tour, tries to convince us that it is a multi-racial body. This is the kind of multi-racialism which exists in rugby administration in South Africa today: the Board consists of 22 white provincial unions and two black national unions; one for Africans and one for coloureds. That is the extent of the multi-racialism.

The South African Rugby Union, which is working for non-racial sport and non-racial rugby in South Africa, is opposed to the tour, and we are responsible in everything we say here tonight to those brave rugby players in South Africa who are standing out against the official invitations. What is more, they are not just black; there are some white rugby players who will play non-racial rugby. What happens to them? I will give you an example of a man called Dan Watson who has been prosecuted three times for playing non-racial rugby in a South African township in defiance of the Group Areas Acts. So much for the character of the changes which have taken place.

Beyond that, to what extent has this policy of desegregation gone within the rugby world of South Africa? I should start where I think most sportsmen would start—at the school level. If you are going in to sport you start at school. What is the position in South African schools? It is the Minister for National Education himself who announced only last year that sport in schools will remain segregated.

What happens when famous sportsmen go to South Africa? What happened to Colin Croft, the well-known West Indian fast bowler, just this winter? He was expelled from a white-only section of a train in South Africa when he was on the rebel West Indian tour. If Colin Croft is expelled from the white section of a train, what is the fate of South African blacks and coloureds? If Colin Croft with his famous features and his famous frame (he stands six feet four inches tall) can be treated in this way, what happens to the locals who are not known and who are not world famous?

South Africa is the only country where skin colour is written into the constitution and where skin colour influences the selection of teams. As a sportsman I hold that this is offensive, abhorrent and contradicts the first principle of sportsmanship: that you play against sportsmen and sportswomen; you do not play against people with skins of a particular colour.

So long as the black, coloured and Indian sportsmen of South Africa have to live in different areas; have to leave the sports grounds and go back to live in their houses in segregated areas; so long as they are forced to do different jobs; so long as their children are compelled to go to different schools, you cannot say that there has been any genuine desegregation. Nor can desegregated sport take place in this environment.

But this is not just an issue for this country. We are a member of the Commonwealth; we are proud of the fact and we value that institution. This is a Commonwealth policy. This is not British policy. The Gleneagles Agreement of 1977 was a Commonwealth statement. I read the relevant part of the statement: each of their Governments vigorously to combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and by taking every practical step to discourage, contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa or from any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin".

One cannot be clearer than that. That agreement has been reaffirmed at every successive Commonwealth Conference.

The essential wording in the quotation I have given from the Gleneagles agreement is, first, the phrase "practical step" and, secondly, the word "discourage". It is on these issues that I want to ask the Government tonight what they are doing, first, in taking practical steps and, secondly, in discouraging the contact which would result from the projected tour.

I fully admit and welcome that the Government have used their power of persuasion. I believe they are still using their powers of persuasion; I hope they are. Persuasion, yes, but where are the practical steps? I am not suggesting—I make this absolutely clear—that this or any other British Government should ban British citizens from travelling abroad; that way lies the precedent for disaster. But I should like to know what practical steps the Government have contemplated and are taking to save the sportsmen of this country from the disgrace that would be incurred by them if the tour takes place.

We know that the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics are at risk. I do not intend to go into that issue in any depth because I do not think that the question of so-called blackmail is the central issue here. But in the rugby world a hundred countries now play rugby. Rugby is spreading. It has spread as far as Barbados and any Welshman here will know that there is quite a good team in Romania.

What will the effect be on rugby? What will the effect be among the increasing number of black players in this country wanting to play rugby of being thrown into the maelstrom of international abhorrence of a decision by the English Union to appease the apartheid-mongers in South Africa?

I know that there is an organisation, somewhat ironically called Freedom in Sport, that takes a totally different line from that which I have been taking tonight. I should like to ask those who represent it in this House: freedom for who in sport? How many black players, brown players or coloured players have this organisation been encouraging or helping? This organisation has been telling us that it wants to get politics out of sport. But who put the politics into sport? We did not. Surely the onus for bringing politics into sport lies squarely on the South Africans. It is they who have discriminated, not the British, and indeed not any other rugby playing country.

In this context I must say that I believe that on the whole the Welsh have a better record than the English. I believe that the English Commonwealth Games Council is to meet tomorrow. I hope that it does not take the same line as Arthur Gold took when he was interviewed about the effect of this tour. I hope that it comes out squarely against the tour because if it does not we can then say goodbye to any peaceful Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. But the Welsh have done something practical. They have taken practical steps. I would not say that it was 100 per cent. but some of the Welsh authorities refused to pay their teachers when they were selected for teams to tour South Africa.

This brings me to two specific questions that I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to wind up, with whom I sympathise for having to step in at the last minute. I also express the hope that Lord Skelmersdale will be quickly recovered because I know his heart was very close to this debate. I should like to ask the Government whether any public money is paid to the English Rugby Union, from the Sports Council, through the Central Council for Physical Education or any other body. That is my first question.

The second question is what is the Government's policy towards their own employees, people such as teachers, the police and members of the armed forces who may be selected if this tour goes ahead? What is the Government's policy towards its own employees if they are selected and decide that they are going on tour? I hope that the rugby players themselves will take the lead in this and say "We will not go on the tour if the administrators say that the tour will go ahead". I hope that the administrators will decide against it but I hope, above all, that the rugby players will say, "We are not going to connive at the apartheid system in South Africa".

Finally, I cannot do better than to finish by quoting Sir Sonny Ramphal, the Commonwealth Secretary General, who, addressing himself to this very question last June, had this to say: To relax the international boycott now in response to largely cosmetic changes in the periphery of the structure of fascism in South Africa would be to withdraw the pressure just as it is beginning to be really felt. It must not be allowed to succeed. Among those who advocate bridge-building there are some who recognise that what little change has occurred has been provoked by isolation not contact.".

8.20 p.m.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, the House will be obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, for having put down this Unstarred Question in a penetrating and comprehensive manner, whether or not there is full agreement from these Benches or other Benches with the contents of his speech. I realise that the few remarks that I am going to make will not commend themselves to some of my noble friends on these Benches or in other parts of the House, but I make no apology for that for this is not really a party political matter. I follow the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, absolutely in one thing even if I differ with him on some other matters, and that is that this is a matter for the Commonwealth.

The Gleneagles Agreement was negotiated several years ago, and it may be that there is a case for renegotiation. There is a case for renegotiation of every agreement, of every treaty, every now and again. I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister at the outset whether the Government have any plans through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to give the lead for any renegotiation of this agreement, although I would say that there are more urgent matters within the Commonwealth at the present point which require looking into.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, I have played rugby football, although to a very limited extent. I would not have counted myself a player against any reputable team at any time of my life, but I am very fond of rugby football. It is a fine game, and I think that the more it is encouraged the world over the better. Incidentally, the noble Lord mentioned Romania. I have been to Romania—not to see rugby football—but we have to get one point in perspective. There is the argument which is sometimes made that we play against the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, which are countries without a democratic government; and in South Africa, of course, there are elections, whereas in Romania there are not. At the same time, it has to be borne in mind that in countries like Romania there is no appeal of any sort; and when I say that there are elections in South Africa, they are not, of course, elections as we know them in this country. I think that point needs to be made clear. I must confess that I am breaking a self-imposed rule. I normally never speak about a country which I have not visited—and I have never been to any part of Africa. But I have been to a number of parts of the Commonwealth, including New Zealand. I have watched rugby football in New Zealand, where the Maoris and the white New Zealanders play rugby football together. I have watched this; and there is there a very welcome situation compared with South Africa. I have also been to Jamaica, where I was one of the delegates at the 1978 Annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference. I met a number of Commonwealth members of all colours, and a number of matters were discussed. At that particular time there was a major problem in which we were involved. That was the Bingham Report on sanctions regarding what was then Rhodesia. In her absence, I must say that the leader of our delegation, the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, negotiated most skilfully.

We have to look at the possible outcome of this tour on the Commonwealth Games, although I do not necessarily think that we should put too much emphasis on that. What I think is essential—and I think that this is the central part of this whole question—is that if we are not going to have unilateral disarmament and unilateral views on nuclear weapons (and my views on that are well known: I am a multilateralist on that) we cannot have a unilateral policy on this matter, bearing in mind our responsibilities to the Commonwealth. Since we were signatories to the Gleneagles Agreement, then until such time as this agreement is renegotiated obviously Her Majesty's Government cannot give support to this matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said that there could be no question of banning teams from going to South Africa. Indeed, paradoxically, some good can come of visits to South Africa. The whole question now is what Her Majesty's Government should do. Obviously there is not very much Her Majesty's Government can do, but I would hope that my noble friend the Minister can give one assurance, and that is that our High Commission in South Africa will not be seen to be giving any hospitality to our team. I say that with the greatest possible regret, but I believe this is central to the whole question. We really cannot be seen to be condoning the matter in this way.

Some of your Lordships may have watched on Sunday night the television series "The Heart of the Matter", in which there was an interview with (I think) the president of the South African Rugby Football Board. I am not well enough up on this to know which gentleman it was. He gave a plausible case from his own point of view but, in my view, he never really answered any question thoroughly. He made reference to the fact that we in this country practise apartheid and similar matters, which I do not think is strictly accurate. Some of his arguments were plausible but, on the whole, he did not, in my view, as one who has never been to Africa, really do very much justice to his case.

I thought that Mr. Wheeler, the captain of the English team, put the matter in a much more dignified manner, because, of course, rugby footballers hold political views like any of us; but they go there to play sport. They go to countries, whether it be South Africa, Romania. Fiji, New Zealand or Scotland, to play rugby football. But, as I understood him, he was in no doubt as to his views about the apartheid situation in that country. One of the things which came out from that programme, which may or may not be true—and my noble friend may be able to confirm this—is that there are no proper training facilities on South African rugby football grounds for the coloured players. There may be—and from what I have heard I believe that there is—more integration; but unless and until there is integration of young players and the provision of proper training facilities, I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government can give credence to this tour of South Africa.

Finally, it is very sad indeed that your Lordships or the other place should have to debate a matter of this kind. In two world wars South Africa gave much to this country. So did other parts of Africa. One hopes that the South African leaders will read all the points of view that have been expressed in this debate. One can only hope that by this time next year we shall be able to send cricket or rugby football teams to South Africa, and that there will then be genuine multi-racial play.

8.31 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, as a Welshman, the fortunes of the English Rugby Union are not normally a matter of great concern to me. However, this is a question which goes much wider than that. I, too, like the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, have played rugby all over the world. I believe that the game of rugby is a great builder of real bridges between people, in spite of the noble Lord's reservations about the value of those bridges in the case of South Africa.

However, my principal concern tonight—indeed, throughout the whole of the interesting general debate which goes on outside this House as well as within it—is to ensure that the complete freedom of action of British sportsmen and sportswomen is not interfered with, however important the question of South Africa may be. This is a matter upon which, as we have already heard in your Lordships' House tonight, men of integrity and goodwill can hold diametrically opposed views. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with that.

I do not believe, either, that introducing into this debate emotive words like "fascism" is a very profitable exercise. But because this is a genuine matter of conscience, I shall not exercise myself directly in conflict with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, except to say that during his brief reference to Freedom in Sport, the organisation of which I am the president, he asked a question which I think was meant to be rhetorical but which nevertheless I shall answer. He asked what Freedom in Sport is doing about the freedom of black and coloured people in South Africa. The answer is: a very great deal. The organisation does not concern itself simply with sport in this country or with the freedom of sportsmen in this country. I, personally, and other members of the organisation have been instrumental in bringing about some of the changes which have taken place in South Africa and some of the small and, I admit, modest measures of integration that have taken place. However, this is not. I hope, going to be a personal debate, but one on a broader and more profound level.

I believe that anybody who wants to make a judgment about the prudence, the wisdom, the desirability of an English rugby tour of South Africa has to answer three basic questions. The first question is whether such a tour will damage the prospects of political reform and liberalisation in South Africa and harm the cause of black and coloured people. The second question is whether such a tour would be in breach of any existing international agreement to which this country is a signatory. The third question, irrespective of the answers to the first two, is whether the decision to make this tour should be one of free choice by those concerned, without interference by this Government or any other.

May I turn to the first question, the impact on the political situation in South Africa. Let me say that there is no difference whatsoever between myself and the noble Lord or, I suspect, any other noble Lord in this House on the subject of apartheid. It is a detestable and indefensible creed and the sooner it is swept away the better. I only wish that those who adopt this attitude in the kind of debate we are having now would pay equal attention to the institutionalised forms of discrimination and oppression that go on in other countries with which we have quite consistent and continuing sporting links. However, I do not wish to make too much of that point. The point I really want to make is this: suppose that we are agreed that we wish to see the end of apartheid in South Africa, the question is, how do we best go about it? This is, as the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, has said in another context, rather like the debate about nuclear weapons. None of us wants a nuclear war, but we may have different views on how to avoid it. None of us likes apartheid but we are entitled to have different views on how to remove it.

The major debate is between those who believe in isolation and those who believe in communication. I believe quite simply in communication. I do not accept the argument of the noble Lord that the changes which have taken place in South Africa over the last 15 or 20 years are proven to have been because of the boycott in sport. There are many other reasons. This is a complex matter.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us what has been achieved by implementing his proposals in South Africa, by not being prepared to play with another human being, with the majority of the members of the British Empire being recognised as coloured people?

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Lord's question is either too profound or too complicated for me. I do not quite understand what he is asking me. If he will allow me to get on with my speech, the answer to his question may become clear. My belief is that if one does not reward in some way the South Africans for the changes that have taken place, they will eventually resort to that condition which we know so well as the laager syndrome. They will withdraw completely from the international community. They will say, "If everything we do is dismissed as cosmetic, as unreal, and as ineffective, there is no point in making changes". But let us suppose that it can be demonstrated that the isolation of South Africa does help to bring about change. Why, then, do the Government adopt two completely different attitudes towards contacts with South Africa? While the junior Minister in the Department of the Environment is making speeches all over the country trying to persuade us not to have sporting links with South Africa, his colleague in the Department of Trade and Industry is making similar speeches urging us to bigger and better efforts in trade and commerce and in every other field of communication and activity except sport. Why is it, I wonder, that sport is being singled out in this way?

I believe that communication helps and will go a great deal of the way towards accelerating the process of change in South Africa. Those of your Lordships who, like the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, watched on Sunday the current affairs programme "The Heart of the Matter" will have seen Peter Wheeler, the present captain of the English Rugby XV, advancing, as the noble Lord pointed out, a quiet, sober, balanced view of the position and saying that he himself, if chosen to go, would find it very difficult to refuse, because he believes that his presence there would help, as it has helped in the past, to accelerate the process of political change. You do not have to agree with Peter Wheeler but he happens to be one of the people who might be chosen to go, and who will go if chosen.

Let us come to the second part of the argument. Is a tour of South Africa by an England rugby team in breach of any existing international agreement? Some will say immediately, and have said, that it would be a clear breach of the Gleneagles Agreement. Let me say at the start that the Gleneagles Agreement is not an agreement at all; it is a communique that was issued after a conference and having no legal force, national or international. It has never been debated in either House of Parliament in this country. Furthermore—and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will forgive me for saying this as he referred to it as a document of impeccable character—it is in fact a document in a class of its own for sloppy, imprecise and confused drafting. How can the noble Lord say what he did of the passage he quoted? I will quote it again because it is the key passage in the agreement, so called. It calls upon the Governments of the Commonwealth, and I quote, To withhold any form of support for, and by taking every practical step to discourage, contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa or from any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin". If I might at this point appeal to the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench, I think that it might be as well if we had one debate at a time in your Lordships' House.

I have just quoted from the Gleneagles Agreement. I believe that to be a very sloppy piece of drafting because I believe that any reasonable person might be forgiven for thinking that if under that communiqué sport in South Africa were not organised on the basis of race, colour, or ethnic origin, there would be no objection to playing rugby or any other game with the South Africans. I understand from the reply to a Question that I asked of the Government a week or so ago that that is not the case. The case is that we are to discourage and prevent all sporting links with South Africa until apartheid is abolished. That is not what the Gleneagles Agreement says.

I wish—as the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said (and I too would like to put this to the Government)—that the Government would return to their partners in the Commonwealth and review, redraft, revise and reshape the agreement so that everybody knows precisely what it means. If the agreement then says that there will be no sporting links with South Africa until apartheid is abolished and until there is universal suffrage in South Africa, then we will know what the policy is and should be able to act accordingly. I should like to ask the Minister who is to reply whether the Government will consider taking up with their partners in the Commonwealth the question of this imprecise, confusing and provocative agreement.

Sport in South Africa is not totally organised on the lines mentioned in the agreement. In the case of rugby football (except, as the noble Lord rightly said, in schools) this is now organised on an integrated, multi-racial basis. We cannot of course accept this situation until there is integration in the schools as well. Strides are being taken even towards that.

I would at this stage advance the dual proposition that a tour by the English Rugby Football Union would not damage the quality of life of black or coloured people in South Africa; would not impede the process of political change; and if handled properly might even accelerate political change. I make the second proposition that this tour would be in breach of no international agreement. The Government are required to discourage and dissuade; they are not required to take any other action.

Even if the answers to my two questions were the reverse, even if it could be demonstrated that harm would be done, and even if it could be demonstrated that such a tour would be in breach of an international agreement, is it not the right of every individual sportsmen in this country to play his games where he wants to play them, with whom he wants to play them, and whether for fun or for gain? I would hold that to be a fundamental right of every sportsman and sportswoman in this country. If it is not so, then why do we have different standards? Why is it that businessmen can travel to South Africa and carry out their business? Why is it that they can take their golf clubs with them and play golf in Sun City or anywhere else they like in South Africa? Why is it the tourists can go there? On my frequent visits to South Africa, I have met Members of Parliament from both sides of their House and Members of your Lordships' House; many of them playing games in South Africa. Why is it that we have such double or treble standards in these matters? And why is it that sportsmen are being singled out?

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said—as others have said—that the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games may be at risk if this tour goes to South Africa. Personally, I would advance my own view that that is not so. 1 do not believe that the Commonwealth countries would cut off their noses in that ridiculous way and that they would refuse to go to Los Angeles simply because 15 or 20 Englishmen have gone to play rugby in South Africa. Even if they did, I would suggest that that is a small price to pay for seeking to interfere with the right of sportsmen in this country to enjoy their sport and play their game wherever they want to do so.

I was extremely disquieted by one passage in the noble Lord's speech. It was when he suggested that the Government should go beyond their remit of persuading people not to go to South Africa and should introduce a policy whereby there would be some kind of sanction against Government employees if they were chosen to go to South Africa and decided to go. I find that very, very disquieting indeed. I know already that two local authorities have told two potential members of the touring team that if they do go, their jobs will not be there for them when they return. I regard that, too, as insufferable and unacceptable intimidation.

I will conclude by making the point that is at the heart of my whole argument. This tour is and should be a decision entirely for the English Rugby Football Union and for the individual players concerned. Whatever pious hopes the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, may have about the outcome of all this, let me inform him that when the 26 members of the present England squad were asked if they would go to South Africa if invited, 24 said yes and two said they did not know. So let us have no question in our minds about how the players feel. Secondly, a poll conducted by one of the more serious rugby football magazines—a properly conducted, sample poll of its readers—came out with the result that 78 per cent. of readers were in favour of such a tour and 22 per cent. were not. We should have no doubt about where the feelings of the rugby players lie, whatever may be the feelings of others.

In conclusion, I should like to ask the Government for one more assurance. I understand that they have a perfect right (I am not so sure it is a duty) to persuade the English Rugby Football Union to decide against sending a tour to South Africa; indeed, they have been doing so very assiduously over recent weeks and months. I do not dissent from that right on the part of the Government, but I should like to ask the Government that, when the decision is made on Friday, as it will be (and I confidently predict that it will be a decision to take a tour to South Africa), we may have an assurance that the English Rugby Football Union and English rugby players who may go will then be left alone?

The Government have fulfilled even their own interpretation of the Gleneagles Agreement and in doing so have gone much further than I personally would have liked them to go. But they are entitled to their own view about that. May we now have an assurance that, when the decision is taken freely and democratically by the English Rugby Football Union, the union will then be left alone to organise the tour and that no threats or sanctions will be instituted against the players? I do not believe that that is required by the Gleneagles Agreement, nor is it defensible in a free country. This is still a free country. Whatever may be our views on the political arrangements of other countries, it is my passionately held view that no one is entitled to promote political liberty in a foreign country at the price of curtailing it in our own.

8.50 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, my first words must be to express appreciation to my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby for initiating this debate. I am not saying that in any formal way. It is so appropriate that we should be debating this issue at this time just before decisions will be taken on the issue in the rugby world. I add to that appreciation of his initiative an appreciation of his speech. I felt at the end of the speech that there was no need for any more of us to put the case which he was arguing. It was informed, convincing and practical.

I listened as best I could to the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Auckland, and Lord Chalfont. I have rarely regretted the fact that I am hard of hearing more than when the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was speaking. I hope, however, that I heard enough to be making comments during my speech which will be relevant to what was said. Seventy-five years ago I was obsessed with rugby football. It was almost my religion. It was a rival to an awakening interest in socialist politics. In the long run socialist politics won, but my interest, my joy in watching rugby being played, is just as great as it ever was.

There is one strange memory of my activity in rugby 75 years ago. The memory is still strong in my mind of how then there was an enthusiasm for internationalism among rugby players, clubs and even the then rugby authority. Perhaps that was due to the fact that there was a great desire that the rugby game should be enjoyed worldwide. There was a feeling that rugby should have the support of all peoples, whatever their nationality and whatever their race. That process which began then has now spread in the most remarkable way. It led not merely to the international games between the three nations of Britain, but to the games with Ireland; the beginning in France; the spreading to Australia and New Zealand; the beginning of rugby playing in South Africa extending to Rhodesia and Kenya; Canada. Even the American football game—though not comparable with rugby—had some of its basis in rugby; and it even appears in Latin America now. It may have been that the enthusiasm for that process was the reason for its internationalism then. I can speak in memory of my association with other rugby players when they wanted the game to be played irrespective of nationality and of race.

It was not until after the second world war—a war where democracy was urged against fascism—that the anti-apartheid movement became strong in this country and it was first urged that sport should not be conducted against teams in South Africa because of the segregation which it adopted in those sports. That resulted in the Gleneagles Agreement of 1977. I want to agree at once with the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, in saying that the Gleneagles Agreement was an agreement by the Commonwealth and that the decision still has to be taken by the Commonwealth; and even on a wider international basis. But I put this point to him. All the governments which were party to the Gleneagles Agreement have a duty to seek to maintain and seek to make perfectly clear by their declarations and by their actions that they are loyal in their own country to an agreement which was made by the Commonwealth as a whole.

I want to recognise this. While I think my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby stated convincingly that it has been the boycott of sport in South Africa, and particularly rugby, which has brought about some minor concessions there, I recognise that even in South Africa among rugby players there has grown opposition to the segregation which is practised. I remember a debate in this House eight or 10 years ago at a time when South African rugby players were in this country. Many of them came to listen to that debate. At the end of the debate they approached me and asked for evidence that Africans could be good rugby players. I was able to give them the names of Africans playing rugby in this country; admittedly more for the Rugby League than for the Rugby Union because their economic situation necessitated them becoming professional players if they were to play continually. That little group of South African rugby players were deeply impressed by the debate in this House and some of them went back to South Africa and in South Africa itself urged that segregation in rugby should be ended.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that I entirely agree that the Government have no right to ban individuals who wish to go to South Africa to play. But is is not merely individuals who are concerned now; it is the Rugby Union itself. Surely the Government have the right to make clear their position when the institution of rugby football is being discussed by its highest authority.

Concessions have been made in South Africa. They are concessions at the top—this limited representation of Africans upon the Rugby Board; only two. Concessions have been made so that Africans can be spectators at games.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way just for one moment on a point of definition? The South African Rugby Board consists of all Africans. There is not a non-African on the board. Perhaps we can take this up later. It is just a question of semantics. There are white South Africans, black South Africans and coloured South Africans. The South African Rugby Board consists entirely of Africans, of whom one is black and one is coloured.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I am sorry if I have misrepresented the position, but I understood that the Rugby Board controlling the rugby game—not the Rugby Union but the Rugby Board—had a vast majority of white players on it and only two native Africans.

Lord Chalfont

No, my Lords, not native Africans; black and coloured Africans.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I may be a little misinformed, but the case about the majority, the vast majority, remains. I was going to go on to say this. While these concessions have been made, segregation in rugby is still at the root the rule in South Africa. Boys who are black are not allowed at their schools to play with white students. They grow up to their teens and they begin their rugby careers with a sense of that segregation and of that discrimination. Right through rugby in South Africa that climate of suppression, of non-representation, of no co-operation with the black clubs, stands. It is the very basis of South African life.

I will differ with the two preceding speakers in my conviction that it has been the boycott of rugby in South Africa which has led even to the concessions which have been made. Sport in South Africa is almost a religion, and rugby the highest item in that religious creed. The very fact that the whole world has been against that segregation on racial grounds in South Africa has inevitably had an effect upon those who wish to see the time come when South Africa will be able to compete equally with other nations.

I am not asking the Government to ban individuals. I am asking in the firmest and strongest way for them to express tonight, before the Rugby Union comes to the decision, the attitude of the Government that the Gleneagles Agreement should be maintained and that it would be viewed with displeasure if members of the Rugby Union in this country go on that tour in South Africa.

9.6 p.m.

The Earl of Lindsey and Abingdon

My Lords, I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, for introducing this debate at this very opportune moment. I should begin by pointing out to noble Lords that I was born in South Africa and lived there for 13 years of my early life. I feel that I can contribute a slight variation to this debate in putting forward what I trust your Lordships will consider to be a moderate point of view from one not looking into a situation from without but looking out from within. Having said that, I should also state that I now have no private or commercial interests in that country.

The route to all this trouble, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, quite rightly pointed out, starts with segregation at school level, but we have only to look much closer to home, such as to Northern Ireland, to see segregation at work—admittedly religious and not racial, but segregation all the same. However, integrated sport has progressed since the Gleneagles Agreement of 1977, but the sad thing is that the agreement as such is a statement of intent by member states of the Commonwealth and not a treaty, so certain member states interpret the meaning in different ways.

Rugby is almost a religious sport in South Africa, unlike cricket or soccer. It should be remembered that until the past few decades, again unlike soccer or cricket, the game was played by predominantly white nations with the exception of the Polynesian people of the southern Pacific. I hasten to say that this has changed in recent times, and that should be encouraged.

On the question of Colin Croft being thrown off a train, I should just mention the fact that Mahatma Gandhi was also thrown off a train over 60 years ago at Pietermaritzburg, so very little has changed in this respect, regardless of outside pressure. I believe—and I sincerely believe this—that the change will come from within South Africa, from both whites and blacks of liberal persuasion—painfully slow for some progressives, but it will come and I trust and believe without bloodshed.

On a final note, I never thought that I would live to agree with the writings and statements of Mr. Peter Hain, but I would refer your Lordships to an article in today's Times by that gentleman. It may be something to do with the fact that we both spent our childhood in that country and have a born understanding, which possibly does not come to people who have not spent any time living in South Africa. But there is one word in his article which I think emphasises more than anything where we are going in that respect. I shall just quote the one paragraph in which I took great interest: If English rugby, honestly and sincerely has the interests of South African rugby at heart—rather than merely a selfish desire to enjoy the fruits of its lavish white hospitality—then its leaders will postpone the planned tour: not cancel it". The emphasis is on the word "postpone". Now for a gentleman who, in the late 'sixties and early 'seventies, was roaring around London as leader of the Stop the Seventies Tour there is very much a change of heart, and I would ask my noble friend on the Front Bench to take that particular statement on board. It is not for me to give an answer to this very difficult question. I am afraid that is up to the noble Lord on the Front Bench, as the Question is directed at him, but I hope that I have given him some food for thought.

9.11 p.m.

Lord Elystan-Morgan

My Lords, I intervene very briefly in this debate because I believe fervently that the English Rugby Union, or so it seems, are about to indulge in an act that will be injurious to human freedom and indeed may well have disastrous repercussions for international sport. As a Welshman—a Welshman who is religiously dedicated to rugby, although more blessed with enthusiasm than playing skill, I am afraid—it might be tempting to speak from a height of lofty Celtic self-righteousness and condemn the English Rugby Union for their attitudes. I do not intend doing that. I am afraid that one could not, in any event, with the greatest self-righteousness, do it with confidence as a Welshman.

My noble friend Lord Hatch has generously said that it may well be that Wales comes out of this concern in a better position than many other countries. I think that is true. But unfortunately, even in Wales, there is no uniformity of idealistic view in this matter. One hears eternally the chant that politics must be taken out of sport in this connection, as if indeed it were humanly possible to consider sport in South Africa divorced from the question of politics.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, says—and, of course, we accept this—that he regards apartheid as being something wicked and indefensible. It most certainly is that. It is a vile and obscene concept, a concept that is founded upon the creed of the inherent inferiority of one race and the fundamental superiority of another race, and the fervent, dedicated belief that, in order to maintain the superiority of the superior race and its purity, it is necessary that one should draw a wall of iron between the two. That is a concept—as every Member of this House knows—that already once in this century has plunged the world into war and led to genocide and the most dreadful suffering.

I do not apologise for having a simplistic attitude in relation to apartheid. To me, any action, any attitude, any activity which is directed against apartheid and which has the effect of weakening it is to the good. Any action, any conduct, any attitude, however genuine, however innocent, that has the effect of strengthening the arm of apartheid is to the bad.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked a most pertinent question; it was the first of the questions that he posed. He asked: is the visit of the English rugby team to South Africa likely to weaken the position of the non-whites in South Africa and to strengthen the position of apartheid? I paraphrase his words, but I do not think that I do him injustice so far as the substance of the question is concerned. We on these Benches think that the answer to that question is, most certainly, it does weaken the position of each and every one of those underprivileged and oppressed millions of non-whites in that country.

South Africa is more concerned about ostracism in sport than about sanctions in any other field. If the English Rugby Union tomorrow decides to visit South Africa, and if the tour takes place, I have not the slightest doubt but that the tour will be heralded and trumpeted in South Africa as a great victory. There will be a feeling of elation, a feeling of relief. It will be the same as the relief of a beleaguered city, and it will indeed be announced the world over as a victory for everything that South Africa stands for.

It may well be the case—and I accept that it probably is—that hardly anybody who might go on the tour would believe that it would have that effect and most certainly they would not wish it to have that effect. But what matters is not what they believe, nor what they wish, but what will be the effect in the eyes of the rest of the world. It is, I believe, on that practical basis that we should look at this issue.

There are few issues which have touched the Commonwealth so deeply as apartheid, and that of course is utterly understandable. What could be more central, more fundamental, to the very concept of a commonwealth, the vast majority of whose people are coloured, than opposition to a creed that bases its concept of status—legal status, political status, economic status—upon the colour of the top cuticle of the human skin? It is not something that is tangential or peripheral to the concept of a commonwealth; it is something that goes to the heart, core and kernel of the very structure of the family of nations that calls itself a Commonwealth.

It is no accident that it was those feelings in the early 'seventies which led to the Gleneagles Agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, says that it is not an agreement. Strictly speaking, the noble Lord is of course correct in that. The noble Lord goes on to say of the Gleneagles Agreement that it was sloppily and untidily drafted. As a barrister, I would normally recoil to hear that said of any solemn document. But does it matter in this case? What matters surely is the spirit of the agreement—that the agreement proclaimed to the world the abhorrence felt by countries belonging to the British Commonwealth for this vile obscenity that is called apartheid, and which is part and parcel of the whole structure of sport in South Africa.

In his most excellent speech, my noble friend Lord Hatch said that he would not wish to touch too heavily upon the question of the possible effect of the rugby tour, if it takes place, upon the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986. That was noble and chivalrous of him; but I think that this is a matter which should be borne very much in mind. I do not think that it is blackmail at all. These matters count so much and are felt so deeply by all the countries of the Commonwealth that it is right that they should consider a policy of sanctions—sanctions in the field of sport. Myself I have very little doubt that if the tour takes place, it will mean that the English team will be banned from the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.

Forty African Commonwealth nations, meeting together a few months ago at Ouagadougou, in Upper Volta—they meet as the African Council for Sport once every four years—came to the unanimous decision that they would so ban England's team in the Commonwealth Games if the rugby tour took place. They represent, if my calculations are correct, well over one-third of the countries of the Commonwealth. It will be a great and crushing irony if England is, in fact, so banned—a crushing irony that a country that has borne so nobly the torch of human freedom should be so disgraced. I do not think that it is a matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont says, for the individuals concerned. Every member of that English rugby team, if he goes to South Africa, will go in the knowledge that by going he will not only be soiling a principle of infinite wealth—the ideal of the equality and freedom of every man and woman—but will also go in the knowledge that he will be prejudicing the future of scores of first class athletes in England who have the right to achieve, in the case of many of them, the accolade of their sporting careers.

It is certainly true that there have been small changes in the attitude of South Africa in relation to apartheid in sport over the last few years. I agree wholeheartedly with what my noble friend Lord Brockway, whose contribution must have inspired all of us in this debate, says—that they are small, peripheral and cosmetic. They have been brought about solely by the pressure that has been placed upon South Africa by countries outside. There is no hope that there can be an inevitability of gradualness along that path. If noble Lords apply their minds, as I know they do, for a second to the issue, one comes to this conclusion: apartheid is not just an accidental feature of the South African mentality. It is not something that has been attached almost by accident to their constitution. It is their constitution. It is their state. It is their government. There would be no white government in South Africa if there were no apartheid. And no white government of South Africa is ever, either swiftly or by gradual process, going to allow any meaningful erosion of that system. Therefore, all that we shall have is more and more minor and meaning-less cosmetic changes. I am not sure that one should welcome them. Sometimes cosmetic change can be very evil. It can give a false impression of progress.

I have spoken for longer than I had intended and I am grateful to the House for the hearing that it has given me. I hope very much that at this late hour the English Rugby Union will come to the conclusion that the tour should not take place. Parliament cannot stop it. There is no law against it. It is right that there should be the freedom of our citizens to leave these shores for whichever country they like. Ranged against them, however, is a great moral force. I hope that they will bow to that force and by so doing add to their stature. It would be a noble act. It would be a statesmanlike act. It would be a sportsmanlike act. In defining sportsmanship in that connection, may I end by quoting the splendid words of Mr. Neil Macfarlane, the Minister for Sport, who said a few days ago: I believe that apartheid offends the very ethics of sport, which is supposed to entail freedom, fairness and social contact".

9.24 p.m.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, may I first declare a personal interest, although not a financial interest. It is that declared by a number of noble Lords—a great enthusiasm for rugby football. I played it a lot, and I was proud to represent my regiment in its team. Secondly, I was the founder chairman 25 years ago of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, to which reference was made by my noble friend Lord Brockway and which launched the sports boycott.

I should like to say how sad I am that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is unwell, and that the burden has been placed on the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I hope that good wishes will be sent by the House to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, for a speedy recovery.

I want to thank very much my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby for introducing the debate, and for the way in which he did so. Frankly, any debate which brings my noble friend Lord Brockway to his feet is one that I welcome, because he has been for me a source of inspiration for almost as long as I have lived, but only about three-quarters of the time that he has lived.

As my noble friend Lord Elystan-Morgan has said, this is a late hour. In the sense of the decisions to be taken tomorrow and the next day it is the eleventh hour. Tomorrow the 17 members of the Commonwealth Games Council of England will decide whether or not to protest to the English Rugby Football Union about its proposed tour, and, I hope, will appeal to them not to accept the invitation when it is presented. The following day the English Rugby Football Union will decide whether to send a team to South Africa this year. So tonight is the last chance that either House of Parliament will have to address an urgent plea to both bodies to think of the implications of their decision for sport in Britain—not just the implications for rugby football in Britain, but the implications for many other sports in Britain.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is not in his place. The noble Lord raised a number of very important questions, and I should have liked to reply to them. Indeed, even in his absence I shall seek to do so, but I would have preferred to do so when he was still here, as I thought was the custom of the House. The noble Lord challenged whether the Gleneagles agreement was in fact an agreement. It is one of the two agreements that we are to discuss. The Gleneagles agreement, as has been said, was first drawn up in 1977.

As regards whether or not we like the wording, I must point out that I have seen many communications and many agreements reached internationally which I have felt that even I could have drafted better; but that is not the question. It was an agreement that was reached and signed by our Prime Minister and all the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth. It was not just the position in 1977. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, suggested that perhaps it should be reviewed; maybe we could find some better wording. However, it was reviewed in 1979 in Lusaka, because it was reaffirmed. It was reaffirmed in Melbourne in 1981, and it was reaffirmed in New Delhi in November last year. So it is not a question of saying that the issue has not been considered again.

When we have an agreement that is accepted by all the members of the Commonwealth, I think that to play around with the words would not be performing a service because it might create very great difficulties. It is an agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, says that it is just a form of words and that we do not really have to take any notice of it. If that was said by Her Majesty's Government about other agreements reached internationally and within the Commonwealth the name of our country would be mud, and deservedly so.

Of course the Government cannot forbid people to go. Of course the Minister responsible for sport, Mr Neil Macfarlane, was right to say that the key words (as my noble friend said) were "practical steps" and "discourage"; they could not forbid. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, made the Governments' position very clear when he answered the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on 13th March. I should like to say how pleased I was that he was so firm in the position that he took. He was quite unbending. Therefore, this is not a party issue across the Floor of the House. In answering the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, the noble Lord made it absolutely clear where Her Majesty's Government stood.

I think I am entitled to ask why the Prime Minister has not herself been a little more active in speaking out very clearly on this issue. I remember that at the time of the Olympic Games in Moscow she was outspoken and certainly took very practical steps. She invited the players to No. 10 Downing Street in order to try to persuade them not to go to Moscow. If she believes that the Gleneagles agreement stands and binds us. I wonder whether she would not care to invite members of the Rugby Football Union to meet her at No. 10 Downing Street so that they may realise the strength of feeling of Her Majesty's Government and the Prime Minister and the consequences of their possible actions.

There is a second agreement—the code of conduct—which was approved in Brisbane in 1982. This was the code of conduct in relation to the Commonwealth Games. Although England abstained from voting on the code, it was carried without any dissenting vote, and it is quite clear that they were bound by the agreement that was reached on the occasion.

Failure to protest to the Rugby Football Union, which as we know meets the day after tomorrow, could lead, and certainly would lead, to calls for England's exclusion from the 1986 Edinburgh Games. I see that the Scottish organising committee has acknowledged the possibility that England's exclusion may be called for and it has urged the Commonwealth Games Federation and members of the English council to press for a change of heart. It was natural that the committee should do so.

I know that Scottish sporting authorities have also made representations. I was a little sad to see that Mr. Dick Palmer, the secretary of the English council, said that the likely impact of the letter from the Scottish council would be to make: reasonable people act in an unreasonable way". I hope that that will not be so. I hope that they are reasonable people and that they will act in a reasonable way.

If a letter of protest is not delivered to the RFU on 30th March, the Commonwealth Games Federation is certainly likely to consider England's membership at its meeting in July. What its consideration will be I would not know. Therefore, I submit to your Lordships that failure to act tomorrow will be letting down sportsmen all over the United Kingdom, but especially the Scottish organising committee.

It is not very often that the Commonwealth Games are held in Britain. What an irony it would be if England was excluded from participation and was not allowed to go to Scotland to take part in the games. How sickening and sad it would be for the Scots and the Welsh, who have taken a firm position. I would say to Sir Arthur Gold and the other members of the Commonwealth Games Council of England that the sports participants and sporting supporters throughout the Commonwealth as well as throughout Britain will be watching what decision is taken tomorrow. I believe that certainly the eyes of the Commonwealth—I shall not say the eyes of the world—will be upon them.

I very much agree with the points made by my noble friend Lord Elystan-Morgan. This is not just a matter of loyalty to sporting colleagues, although I believe that there should be a good deal of that too, or a matter of agreement to which they are committed, and I have no doubt that they are committed. It is also a question of principle. I believe that people are right when they say that there has been some improvement in sport. Like the noble Lord, I too read the article by Peter Hain in The Times today. All right, there certainly have been some moves forward, but unlike the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I believe—and this has been said on a number of occasions—that it is very largely because South Africa is seeking to gain respectability in the world of sport.

I have no doubt that the boycott of South Africa in terms of sport has had the most profound influence. But let us not over-estimate what has been done. I had not realised that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was president of the organisation called Freedom in Sport. I note in col. 106 of Hansard of 13th February that the Minister for Sport in another place said: I have to say that I think Freedom in Sport seems disinterested in genuine freedom in sport". I am quoting the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, but I will not take it any further because though if he were here I might have brought him to his feet, as he is not in his seat, I can hardly do that.

I think we should not overestimate what has happened. About 1 per cent. of the country's sport is integrated. I was very interested in the exchange that took place in this House on 13th March between the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, and the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale. The noble Earl said that some sports commentators stated all sport in South Africa was multi-racial and asked if that were a sign of straws blowing in the wind. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale quite rightly said: there has been some easement of the policy of apartheid in sport in South Africa; but since sport is principally founded in schools, which are still segregated, I do not think that I can agree with the point of view which my noble friend has just expressed".—[Official Report, 13/3/84; col. 628.] I think we have to say to the English Rugby Union that if they accept the invitation, then, at every match they play, regardless of the composition of the teams against which they play, the fans will have arrived in segregated buses; they will have come from segregated accommodation; they will sit in segregated parts of the stadiums; they will drink at segregated bars; they will be within an environment of segregation.

If the Rugby Union were now to carry through the possibility of going to South Africa, then I believe that immense damage would be done to the progress which has been made. Although there has been progress, I believe that progress will only continue if pressure is sustained. If the pressure is dropped, there is no motive for South Africa to undermine what is the basis of its own State, which is apartheid. No government in South Africa has sought to undermine that basis. If pressure were to be withdrawn now there would be no motive for further moves forward.

Beyond that, I should say that it would be a betrayal of other sportsmen in Britain. I really was surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, advocating a policy which he knew could do grave damage to sports in our country as well as to sports in other countries in the Commonwealth, and to relationships in the Commonwealth. If he believes, as I do—and he said he did—in the development of relationships, we have not just to look at the relationship between Britain and South Africa; we have to look at the relationship between Britain and the whole of the rest of the Commonwealth. Whether or not the Gleneagles agreement was an agreement—as has been argued in this House—every other member of the Commonwealth knows that it was an agreement. If we take any action in breach of that agreement, it will damage their relationship with us.

In conclusion, I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will be no less forthright than I have been and as the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was in answering questions on 13th March. I hope that a final appeal will be made to both groups tomorrow and the day after to ensure that a decision is taken which does not damage what in 1986 will be for most of us an exciting prospect—the holding of the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, which has a fine reputation in this field.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, perhaps I may first thank the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, for their kind wishes to my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, whose apologies I do send to you.

The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, said that my noble friend had answered very forthrightly a series of questions on 13th March, and he hoped that I should respond no less robustly. It will, of course, be for him and for your Lordships to judge when I come to the end of my speech.

I started this afternoon by having to go back to first principles: to have a look at the Commonwealth communiqué on apartheid in sport called the Gleneagles agreement. I do not mind whether we call it a statement, communique or agreement. We all understand exactly what it is. Its central passage says that the Commonwealth Heads of Government, accepted it as the urgent duty of each of their Governments vigorously to combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and by taking even' practical step to discourage, contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations teams or sportsmen from South Africa or from any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin". That is the third time that that agreement has been repeated in your Lordships' House. It means exactly what it says, in our view.

The Heads of the Commonwealth Governments fully acknowledged at the time of that agreement that it was for each Government to determine, in accordance with its own laws, the methods by which it might best discharge these commitments. This is the basis on which the Government's policy towards sporting links with South Africa is founded.

For the Government then, sporting relationships with South Africa are primarily a Commonwealth issue. We are proud members of the Commonwealth. We respect and meet our obligations as members, as we expect others to do. For the Commonwealth the Gleneagles agreement represents an important commitment and we respect and support that general view. We shall continue to support the Commonwealth statement until there is a Commonwealth consensus favouring change. I can say no more to my noble friend Lord Auckland, and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and others, with regard to any commitment to renegotiate. It is for the Heads of Commonwealth Governments at their meetings.

Over the years there has undoubtedly been some change and progress in South African sport, which the Government welcome. The South African Government have passed amending legislation allowing, but not compelling, some exemptions to competitive sport from the wider apartheid laws. Recreational sport is less affected. White and non-white players are seen on the same rugby pitch, and, less frequently, in the same team. I have little doubt that many of your Lordships will have seen the letter in today's Daily Telegraph to appreciate this point. It was expanded on by Mr. Christopher Laidlaw, the former All-Black who visited South Africa in that team in 1970, and is currently on the Commonwealth secretariat.

All the indications are that the improvement is patchy and an element of confusion emerges from time to time as, for example, occurred in the autumn of last year when the Minister for National Education stated that sport in schools would still not be integrated. This was disappointing to those who looked for development. The general perception of Her Majesty's Government is that one step forward is matched by one step back.

The Commonwealth statement sets out the Commonwealth's opposition to and concern about the effect of apartheid on playing and the organisation of sport in South Africa. Some claim that its proposed provisions have been met: that South African sport is non-racial. The criticism is that the Government's concern is therefore no longer integrated sport but wider apartheid. However, this distinction is both unrealistic and forms no part of the Commonwealth statement itself. The statement recognised this in 1977. Its final passage looks forward to there being no significant sporting contact with South Africa so long as apartheid persists. The Government too have acknowledged this. For example, in 1982 the then Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office commented: So long as South African laws and institutions are based on racial discrimination, that must be reflected in their participation in international sport."—[Official Report, Commons, 7/7/82; col. 279.] Indeed, more recently, the New Delhi Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting's final communique reflected the consensus among those present by, recognising that sport in South Africa cannot become genuinely multiracial until apartheid itself is eliminated". The Government's attitude is clear. Our view is based on a wide perspective. My honourable friend the Minister for Sport explained that view and the Government's underlying concern to the governing bodies of sport. However, it is for those bodies and the individuals concerned to make the final decision. Whatever they decide, I assure the House that the Goverment do not and will not take any action that would prejudice the established autonomy of sports bodies.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, asked me two specific questions concerning the Government's attitude. He asked me specifically whether the Rugby Football Union received public funds. The RFU receives funds through the Sports Council towards the capital cost of its affiliate bodies. It receives no general financial support toward the cost of the proposed tour. He asked me what was the Government's attitude; whether they were positive with regard to those in the Crown's employ. He spoke about teachers. He will recognise that teachers are not in Government employ but the position there, as it would be for the local education authority which employs teachers, is to consider any request for leave and any conditions of leave for teachers who might be selected. Similarly, for the police forces, this is the responsibility of chief constables. So far as civil servants or members of Her Majesty's Forces are concerned, I have to say that it would be clearly inconsistent with our support for the Commonwealth statement and especially our efforts to discourage the Rugby Football Union to allow Crown servants special leave with pay. I do not think I can say any more since, in effect, the two questions are somewhat hypothetical.

Whether we like it or not, international sport has acquired a political role. The enormous media attention and the money which events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup involve make this inevitable. Her Majesty's Government cannot ignore the world wide importance of sport. That is why we, like most others, have a Minister of State with this specific responsibility. Nor can sport ignore its public and political importance. Sportsmen and women seek and enjoy the benefits of fame. Amateur or professional, they cannot ignore the attendant responsibility. They cannot wish away the possible wider consequences for themselves and for others of their decisions and actions in pursuit of their chosen sport.

Government have a role here, with the Sports Council, in watching and dealing with these wider, strategic issues. Overall, there is a broad measure of agreement between Government and sport about South Africa. In fact, sport itself led the way in excluding South Africa from international competition. The International Olympic Committee excluded South Africa in 1970, as did the International Cricket Conference in 1968. Other major sports, including athletics and soccer, have followed suit. The various recent unofficial cricket tours demonstrate nothing except the attraction of cash to professional sportsmen. Rugby Union stands almost alone among major sports in maintaining official contacts with South Africa. Rugby Union is of course an amateur game. I, as well as nearly every other noble Lord who has spoken this evening, have participated at some time and no doubt enjoyed the game. But it would be surprising if the administrators of the Rugby Football Union saw the example of professional sportsmen as one for the England XV to follow.

We oppose the proposed rugby tour because of our support for the Commonwealth agreement and because of the implications of the possible tour for British sport and Commonwealth relations generally. Therefore, my honourable friend the Minister for Sport and his officials have had numerous meetings with the president and secretary of the RFU—most recently on 20th March. He has also written to the president setting out the Government's reasoned case in such a manner that members of the RFU committee who have not attended meetings may be informed. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have also underlined in another place the Government's view. Only last Thursday my right honourable friend the Prime Minister responded to a question on this issue. At col. 1173 of Hansard of 22nd March she said: As I have said in the House previously, the Gleneagles agreement has been affirmed. It is a voluntary agreement, but I must make it clear that we genuinely discourage the rugby tour of South Africa because of the damaging consequences that it would have for the Commonwealth and international sport. My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport has made it clear that that is our view". There could be pressure to exclude the entire British team from the Los Angeles Olympic Games or, failing that, pressure for a boycott similar to that which occurred in 1976. There might be pressures on the 1986 Commonwealth Games. Indeed, the RFU might find itself hoist with its own petard. Within rugby, clubs could find their overseas tours restricted. Already the proposed tour of Zimbabwe by London Scottish has been postponed indefinitely because of the possible RFU tour. It could also create difficulties with the England side. As black players of international quality emerge with the likelihood of selection, how would they welcome the opportunity to go to South Africa on equal terms with their white colleagues only as long as they suspend their black identity and accept an honorary white status?

My honourable friend the Minister for Sport has impressed over and over again on the RFU the strength of the Government's conviction that this proposed tour would be a mistake. It is, however, for the RFU to make the decision on 30th March in the full knowledge of the facts fairly presented by my honourable friend the Minister for Sport. The Commonwealth Games Council to which the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, referred is an autonomous body and, like the RFU, not subject to the direction of the Government, but we have our responsibilities under Gleneagles—as the English Commonwealth Games Council have theirs as members of the Commonwealth Games Federation. We the Government are fulfilling our obligations. It is for the English Commonwealth Games Council to decide whether to meet theirs; namely, whether to write to the RFU, as the constitution of the federation requires. They are to meet tomorrow to come to a decision. I hope that they will take seriously the implications of their decision.

I have explained the basis of the policy of the Government and the Commonwealth and the connection between it and the attitude of sport. I believe that my speech responds to the central core of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. The Government's responsibility is to offer advice and to make representations in positive terms. This we have done. Whatever the RFU decides on 30th March, our responsibility does not cease.

House adjourned at five minutes before ten o'clock.