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British Paraplegic Sports Society

Volume 977: debated on Wednesday 30 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if, following the provisions of the Gleneagles agreement, he will request the British Paraplegic Sports Society to abandon its sporting links with South Africa.

:The British Paraplegic Sports Society, as a constituent member of the British Sports Association for the Disabled, can be in no doubt of the Government's position on sporting contacts with South Africa. The Sports Council sent governing bodies of sport a copy of the Commonwealth statement on sport soon after this was made in 1977.

Does the Minister accept that the ban operated by the British Paraplegic Sports Society on my constituent, Mrs. Maggie Jones, barring her from international sport as a consequence of her opposition to apartheid, is despicable and quite incompatible with the spirit of the Gleneagles agreement? While I accept that the hon. Gentleman has no more responsibility for that society than he has for the Rugby Union, can I ask him to make it clear that he expects the society to comply with the spirit of that agreement?

The hon. Gentleman has been assiduous in pressing the claims of his constituent. However, I have no powers to intervene. The society is a charitable organisation which is independent of Government, and it is not right for me to interfere in its internal affairs.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the proper position for a Government who believe in the freedom of the individual is either to introduce legislation to prevent certain actions or to offer no advice at all?

My hon. Friend must realise that, with regard to South Africa, we are bound by the Gleneagles agreement. The Government have made their position quite clear, and until that agreement is renegotiated, that remains the position.

:Will the Minister state clearly how many of his colleagues have supported his principled stand on the general issue? Might he not perhaps welcome the support of some of his Front Bench colleagues in his rather lonely stand on this matter?

My right hon. Friend and the Government are bound by the doctrine of collective responsibility, and entirely support my position.