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Olympic Games

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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Before calling the Lord Privy Seal to move the motion and make his speech, I wish to inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his right hon. and hon. Friends.

Secondly, well over 50 right hon. and hon. Members have already indicated to me that they would like to participate in the debate. It will be quite impossible for that number to be called, but I appeal to those who are fortunate to bear in mind the large number of their colleagues who also wish to speak.

I have one final request. I ask right hon. and hon. Members, on such a day as this, when so many wish to speak, not to come to the Chair to seek to advance their claims. It makes it exceedingly difficult for whoever who is in the Chair when such pressures are applied.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to delay the House, but as this is an occasion when there will be a free vote, although the Government themselves have put down a motion, I ask you especially to bear in mind that many points of view have been expressed in the various amendments tabled, and I ask whether you would reconsider your decision to call only one amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No "] There are precedents for this, as you, Mr. Speaker, well know.

As at least 29 hon. Members have signed the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and 46 have signed an amendment that I have tabled, may I express the hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will reconsider the matter and provide an opportunity for a separate vote on at least those amendments?

The House knows that it has given me instructions on this very matter. I am able to call more than one amendment only when the House expressly instructs me or gives me permission so to do. There is no motion suggesting that, or giving me that authority. Therefore, I have been able to select one amendment only. I have no doubt that others whose amendments appear on the Order Paper wish equally strongly that I had selected theirs, too.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is related to today's business but is slightly different from the point of order just raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller). May I ask you for clarification of the motion, before it is moved, since it refers to Great Britain and not to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

There are many competitors in Northern Ireland, and it so happen that the boxing and equestrian competitors in Northern Ireland go to the Olympic Games under the flag of the Republic of Eire whereas the athletes in Northern Ireland go to the Olympics under the flag of Great Britain. Therefore, the issue of those living in Northern Ireland who wish to be competitors and go under the flag of the Republic of Eire or under the flag of Great Britain is not covered in the motion, which seems totally to ignore the position of Northern Ireland.

If we are to get this matter settled properly, for the avoidance of doubt both here and among everybody outside, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule whether the terms of the motion are in order, or, if they are not, will the Government make a statement about it?

The hon. Gentleman seems to have lighted upon an interesting question, but it is one to which the Minister will have to reply. It is not for me, since it is not my motion.

3.43 pm

I beg to move,

That this House condemns the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and believes that Great Britain should not take part in the Olympic Games in Moscow.
The first part of the motion is, I think, uncontroversial, and I shall spend little time on it, but the issue of the Olympic Games is inevitably linked to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and our position is that so long as the Soviet Union continues its aggression against the people of Afghanistan it would be completely inappropriate for Britain to take part in the Games.

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman before he has got started, but I hope that he will think it desirable at this stage that he should clarify the point raised a few moments ago on a point of order and make clear whether the Government's disapproval extends to the competition of athletes from this part of the kingdom, or whether the motion should have referred to the United Kingdom.

I am glad to clarify that point to the right hon. Gentleman. It does, of course, include the whole of the United Kingdom.

The Russians sent massive forces—

If this is an error and the position of Northern Ireland has been left out by mistake, should not the right hon. Gentleman say so at once and apologise not only to the House but to the people of Northern Ireland?

I do not think that the people of Northern Ireland would expect to be separated from this motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to make a great thing of it, I shall willingly apologise to him, but it is not, I believe, a matter about which they would worry unduly. As I say, I believe that Northern Ireland is not separated in this matter—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In order to clarify it, will you accept a manuscript amendment to put the matter right?

If a request comes to me and a manuscript amendment is submitted, I shall, of course, accept it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I, then, give you notice that I shall at the appropriate time wish to move a manuscript amendment?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for the Lord Privy Seal to indicate which sports, if any, are covered by the whole of the island of Ireland and those which are covered only by the Six Counties of Northern Ireland?

The Russians sent massive forces into a hitherto non-aligned country in order to prop up a short-lived system that had already lost the confidence of the people. Their attempts to explain the sequence of events leading up—

I am most grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for giving way. With reference to the points of order made earlier, will he be kind enough to specify, in the terms of his motion, those sports to which he is referring and those to which he is not?

When I come on to the sports, I shall, but at the moment we are on the subject of the invasion of Afghanistan. This is a serious motion, and I do not think that the House wants it to be messed up by fiddling about with particular sports.

The Russians' attempts to explain the sequence of events leading up to their intervention were contradictory and quite implausible. This was the first occasion since the war on which Soviet combat forces have been used outside the Warsaw Pact area. The Russian action has been widely condemned by the international community. It has cast a deep shadow over East-West relations. It has underlined the selective and self-interested nature of the Soviet attitude to detente and the underlying expansionist aims at Soviet imperialism.

Certain inescapable conclusions flow from this. The first is the need, now more than ever, for the West to maintain its military preparedness and to prevent the Russians from further tilting the military balance in their favour.

Secondly, we need to take measures which will convince the Soviet Union that it has misjudged the firmness of the Western response. We need to show the Soviet Union that its definition of detente is unacceptable—that detente is indivisible and that it cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of Western technology, credits and foodstuffs while flouting the other areas of detente. I shall come later to the measures that we have taken.

Thirdly, we must help our friends in the area to strengthen themselves so that they are better able to withstand this new threat.

Fourthly, we must keep as our goal the complete withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, which alone will allow that country to pursue a peaceful, nonaligned status and permit a return to a more normal relationship between East and West. That is why we have taken the lead in developing the proposals for a neutral and non-aligned Afghanistan, endorsed by the Foreign Ministers of the Nine on 19 February.

The Soviet regime continues to insist that "outside interference" should cease before it begins to withdraw. With 80,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan, it is quite clear where the outside intervention is coming from. It is clear also that, but for the Russian invasion, their present stooge would be unable to sustain himself in power.

Nevertheless, the Russians' reactions suggest that they do not want to close the door to further discussions We are therefore considering the next step in our initiative. Equally, we must be on our guard against any Soviet attempt to use the prospect of discussions as a means of gaining the faint-hearted acquiescence of third countries in a permanent Soviet presence in Afghanistan.

Yet the search for a political solution will be long and arduous. To succeed, we need to keep up and indeed increase the pressure on the Soviet Union. We must intensify the measures that we and our partners have, from the beginning of this year, been working together to apply.

This process of acting together is never simple. Differences in the Western response are an inevitable reflection of the openness of our societies. The views of all countries have been very well aired. As my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary said at Chatham House on 22 February,
"In our democracies policy cannot be dictated by some kind of supernational …politburo, and the discussion of policy neither can nor should be conducted wholly in secret."
That is, after all, why the House is debating the motion today

Nevertheless, a number of major steps have been taken already.

I shall not give way. The steps include the United States decision to cut back on sales of grain, backed up by the decisions of the European Community, Australia and Canada not to make good the shortfall. The Government have consistently made clear to the Community that we oppose any further subsidised sales of agricultural products to the Soviet Union. The members of the European Community have agreed to refrain from giving the Soviet Union export credit at special rates. The United Kingdom has decided not to renew the Anglo-Soviet credit agreement which expired last month and which gave the Russians especially generous terms. The export of high technology goods which requires the prior approval of our partners in COCOM is suspended. Meanwhile, we are pursuing with our partners lasting arrangements for the tightening and widening of strategic controls on exports of technology to the Soviet Union.

Does the Lord Privy Seal think that it is wise to stop export credits? I agree that that should be the case on weapons, but is it wise when applied to non-military goods? British engineers would be out of work as a result of such measures.

Will not these measures injure detente, on which our lives depend?

As the hon. Gentleman should know, I am talking about specially privileged terms for the Soviet Union which were granted five years ago. The hon. Gentleman should know also that those terms were far from being fully taken up. The inferences that he has drawn are not justified.

Bilateral Anglo-Soviet events which might give a public impression of business as usual after the aggression in Afghanistan have been cancelled or postponed. These have included various ministerial contacts, as well as, for example, visits to Britain by the Red Army Choir and to the Soviet Union by the English Chamber Orchestra. It is difficult to strike the right balance—to do more harm to the Soviet Union than we do to ourselves. It may be that we should be prepared to go further than we have already. But I believe that the measures that have been taken add up to an effective and measured response.

I wanted to ask my right hon. Friend earlier whether he would make it clear that he associated condemnation of the events in Afghanistan with the condemnation of everyone in this country of the way in which the Soviet Union treated its Soviet-Jewish dissidents, especially in removing them from Moscow for the purposes of the Games.

Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. I was hoping to deal with that point in some detail later in my speech.

Where we have refrained from certain other actions, that also has been for good reasons. For example, we still need to be able to convey our views to the Soviet Government. We cannot responsibly forsake efforts to preserve world peace and seek balanced arms control agreements which will enhance our security. We believe that we should continue to try to influence the Soviet Union towards more peaceful coexistence, for example, by seeking better implementation of the Helsinki Final Act. We should continue our attempts to help open up Soviet society.

I know that some hon. Members are worried about our continuing to trade with the Soviet Union, but we are not advocating the severance of all contacts in political, sporting, cultural or scientific fields, any more than we are advocating the severance of trade links where opportunities exist, especially for non-strategic capital goods.

However, if trade is to continue it must be profitable and not privileged. That is why we have not renewed the Anglo-Soviet credit agreement. As the House knows, the Government are opposed to subsidised exports of agricultural products, and we shall make further efforts to persuade our partners to join us.

I shall give way in a moment.

We are also opposed to sales of high technology, and we shall be taking steps, together with our partners, further to limit those sales.

I give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins).

I am sure that my right hon. Friend does not wish to mislead the House on the question of export credits. Are not export credits still available to the Russians on interest rate terms that enable them to buy our exports at a lower rate of interest than that at which British industry itself can invest? If that is true, is not the distinction that he is seeking to make between strategic exports and others a very blurred one? It may well be that some of these exports will go to help the Russian war effort.

As I have already said, we are not agreeable to any preferential treatment for the Russians. I have referred twice to COCOM, and I stress that there is no question of our agreeing to exports that will help the Russian war effort. That is fundamental to our position.

The amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing and others of my right hon. and hon. Friends is, therefore, in accordance with Government policy. As I have said we have not renewed the Anglo-Soviet credit agreement, with its extremely favourable terms. We are strongly opposed to doing anything that might facilitate the Soviet war effort. We are aiming to tighten and broaden the COCOM rules. Finally, we are opposed to the subsidised sale of butter to the Soviet Union.

Order. It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to give way. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) must resume his seat.

These measures have been part of a consistent, co-ordinated policy involving, on the one hand, the diplomatic efforts and initiatives of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, and, on the other, many private organisations and individuals.

As I have shown, these have already involved British people in many spheres of life. We are now asking that British sportsmen should make their contribution also.

The Government accept that a considerable sacrifice is being asked of our sportsmen, since to forgo the Olympics would involve the loss of an irreplaceable opportunity.

Of course, we fully understand the dilemma in which many athletes may find themselves. As the House knows, the Government did not initially advise a boycott of the Moscow Games. Our first efforts were to try to get the Games moved from Moscow and relocated in another place. The athletes have made sacrifices and subjected themselves to a hard training discipline for many months or years in order to arrive at peak condition for the summer Games in Moscow. We understand and sympathise fully with their feelings. We all share the pride of those British athletes who, in the past, have been successful in Olympic Games.

Preference is no problem. However, I was about to give way to the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) since he has made several remarks from a sedentary position which I believe to be out of order.

I was merely wondering whether we must endure for much longer this hypocritical nonsense.

I hope that the House will give its reasoned attention to a serious matter.

Our athletes, as responsible citizens, cannot but share the concern that we all feel at the brutal behaviour of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the wider issues which that raises. We have thought hard about the issue and about how we might help.

My honourable Friend the Minister of State is now in Geneva with a group from like-minded countries examining the possibilities of enabling sportsmen to compete against each other in conditions similar to those of the Olympics but without the moral conflict attached to attending the Moscow Games.

However, there are many practical difficulties in the way. Governments in the free world cannot organise sporting events. They can encourage and facilitate the holding of games, but the organisation rightly and properly is a matter for the sporting bodies themselves. The international sporting organisations have their own rules and procedures. They have the power largely to decide whether and under what conditions international sporting events take place. I hope that they will facilitate our efforts to mount alternative games.

In this situation the Government have felt bound to give a lead and to point out the context in which individuals will have to take their own decisions. We fully understand hon. Members' anxiety about the liberty of the individual, but I do not accept that we have in any way harassed or bullied anybody, as has been suggested. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Hon. Members would be wise to wait to hear the facts before they jeer. The scope of our decision is limited.

I must carry on. We have decided, for instance, that it would be wrong to prevent athletes from going by such measures as the withdrawal of passports. On the other hand, certain decisions inevitably flow from the Government's decision to advise against going to Moscow.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, has made clear, we have advised the Sports Council that public money should not be made available to send attaché to Moscow. It would also be wrong for us as a Government to continue to provide and pay for an attaché in Moscow helping to organise British participation in the Moscow Olympics, so he is being withdrawn. However, the British Olympic Association is at liberty to do as other associations do and appoint its own attaché. Any British visitor to Moscow will continue to enjoy the full services of our consular officers in the normal way should they get into difficulties.

I accept that Governments in the free world cannot organise the Games, but why is a Foreign Office Minister in Geneva today, with representatives of three or four other countries, talking about such Games as an alternative to the Olympics? Is that not a contradiction in policy, and a wasted journey for the Minister?

If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) had listened he would have heard me say that those representatives are not trying to organise a Games but are considering the difficulties and how they might help.

The Government's attitude to leave facilities for civil servants and members of the Armed Forces has been misrepresented and exaggerated.

No official instructions have yet gone out, but we have decided that we cannot grant special paid leave to people working in the public service for a purpose that we believe is against our interests.

However, how individuals use their annual leave and whether they ask for unpaid leave are matters for the individual in a free society. The answer to any request for unpaid leave, will, in the usual way, depend on the needs of the service. Naturally, we hope that individuals will listen to our advice about British interests. In the last resort the decision in this country will rest where it belongs, with the individual.

I support the line that my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister have taken, but I wish to ask one question. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the problem for athletes and sportsmen is that they have to take a once-for-all, irreversible decision? In those areas where the Government have control they seek an equivalence of sacrifice. I am listening carefully to my right hon. Friend but I have yet to hear any evidence that the Government have given a lead in seeking an equivalence of sacrifice in other areas of our national life.

I am sorry, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) obviously did not take in what I said earlier. Equivalent sacrifices are being asked of people in- volved in other spheres. We accept that in a free society such as ours individuals must decide for themselves. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition believes in what we are doing.

I have given way on many occasions, and I must move on.

There are considerable divisions and fluctuations of opinion in the athletic community. Mr. Derek Johnson, the secretary of the International Athletes' Club, for instance, recently wrote to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to express, on behalf of a number of the club's members, the strength of their desire to take part in the summer Games in Moscow. However, on 11 January, in the Daily Mail he stated:
"Frankly, it does not matter what happens to the Olympic Games. They have become such a political thing that it is actually desirable that they should be cut down to size. The Olympics are an emotional attachment without intrinsic value. Their disappearance would be no great loss to society, or to athletics."
He continued:
"Like many athletes, I believe that Eastern Europe is up to its eyeballs in drugs. Yes, of course, drug-taking exists among Western athletes, but in Eastern Europe the federations are running an organised State drug programme for athletes."
Opinions are divided.

It has been suggested that our athletes should demonstrate disapproval of Soviet actions while participating in the sporting events. I cannot commend such a course. To attend is to become a guest and to accept the rules of the host—technically the International Olympic Committee but in Soviet propaganda terms the Soviet Union. Refusal to comply with the requirements of the organisers would not merely be seen as a discourtesy; it could be represented as a disruption or, in Soviet jargon, hooliganism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish. Nonsense".] Hon. Members are very eloquent, but the effect of such action on the Soviet television viewer would be different and much less certain in its results than the unmistakable and uncompromising act of absenting oneself.

We are convinced that the only effective course of action is, purely and simply, non-participation in the Games.

The British Olympic Association maintains that the attendance of British athletes in Moscow would no more signify their approval of Russian behaviour in Afghanistan than does the continued presence of the British ambassador there, and that politics should be kept separate from sport.

The arguments of the British Olympic Association are fallacious, because they ignore the Soviet attitude to the Olympic Games. The association seems to think that the Russian attitude to sport and politics is the same as its own, whereas, as I shall show, it is very different indeed. "The Handbook for Party Activists" in Russia, which was published in June last year, has this to say:
"The forces of reaction are trying to exploit the Olympic Movement and Games in the interests of the exploiting classes, for the goals of business and commerce, as propaganda for the bourgeois way of life, capitalist construction and its ideology, and for the distraction of youth from the political and class struggle."
The handbook goes on to say that the holding of the summer Games in Moscow is convincing proof of the general acknowledgement of the historical importance and correct foreign policy of the USSR and of the huge services of the Soviet Union to peace. The book refers to
"proof of the correctness of Russian foreign policy and of the huge services of the Soviet Union to peace."
Nobody reading that could for one moment believe that the Soviets think that sport should be kept separate from politics.

Indeed, it is official Soviet doctrine that to say that sport lies outside politics—

Order. I appeal to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) to recognise when the Minister is not giving way, so that we may have an orderly debate.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to ask, through you, that the Minister should indicate—

Order. The hon. Member has said enough for me to realise that it is not a point of order.

It is official Soviet doctrine that to say that sport lies outside politics is not a serious point of view. As we know, in a totalitarian State such as Russia, nothing is separated from politics. All activity is political. So to those who view the world in the abstract, and still maintain that sport and politics should be kept apart, I would say, "Maybe, but what you will find in Moscow is not your kind of sport".

There is no question but that for the Soviet Union, holding the Olympic Games is Moscow is of supreme importance. It sees the Games as a propaganda exercise from which it hopes to derive very great advantage.

Conversely, a decision by several Western countries to absent themselves from the Games will have a powerful impact upon the Soviet population at large. In Russia, sport generates intense public interest. Soviet athletes receive many privileges. They and their supporters among the Soviet public know that without full international participation the Moscow Olympic Games will he fatally flawed—and it will not be easy to hide that fact.

The Soviet people will realise that for Western countires to stay away from Moscow implies a response to a Soviet action of great gravity. Those doubts and uncertainties, which have already arisen in the minds of many about Soviet armed intervention in Afghanistan, whatever the pretext given for it, will be magnified and will call for a satisfactory answer.

All this explains why the British Olympic Association is wrong in seeing no difference between the presence of athletes in Moscow and the presence of the British ambassador. High as the prestige of the British Diplomatic Service is, and distinguished though our present ambassador is, his presence in Moscow cannot be said to confer a great propaganda victory upon the Soviet regime. But the presence of Western athletes at the Games would undoubtedly constitute a great propaganda victory for the Soviet Union. If our athletic bodies wish to give such a victory to the Soviet Union, so be it, but they should at least know what they are doing and they should reflect very carefully before they reach a final decision.

I am sorry, but I am running late.

Mr. Brezhnev said that the decision to intervene in Afghanistan was a very difficult one to take. The decision to decline an invitation to participate in the Olympic Games is no less difficult, especially for a country with the sporting traditions and achievements of our own. But grave breaches of international order require serious responses, and there is no other Western response that would be so unequivocally clear to millions of ordinary people in the Soviet Union.

Another very important element in the present situation is the defence of human rights and the position of Soviet dissidents. [Interruption.] Some hon. Gentlemen may not think that the position of Soviet dissidents is important, but I assure them that it is. We cannot lightly brush aside the views of those who continue their steady and courageous insistence on the rights assured to them by law and by international agreements, notably the Helsinki Final Act.

Dr. Sakharov has said:
"While the USSR is waging military actions in Afghanistan, the holding of the Olympic Games in Moscow contradicts the Olympic Charter. This is obvious."
Alexander Ginsberg has said:
"You should boycott the Olympic Games. These games are not sport primarily, they are politics".
Bukovsky, Kuznetsov, Amalrik and others have all said the same thing.

The House will be aware that a wave of arrests of dissidents has recently taken place—50 persons at least in the last few months. Jewish emigration has fallen sharply since the end of last year. Harassment has been stepped up. We have recently seen the arbitrary banishment of Dr. Sakharov.

Part of this campaign can certainly be ascribed to official concern that nothing should be allowed to mar the resounding propaganda victory that the Soviet authorities had hoped to gain from the Olympic Games. The recent increase in the persecution of dissidents has been particularly marked in Moscow, where, of course, the majority of the Olympic events are scheduled to take place and where most of the foreign visitors are due to be concentrated this summer.

The perversion of the Olympic ideal that the new wave of repression represents would itself be a reason for not going to Moscow this summer. Decisions by Western nations not to participate in the Olympics will be a message to them that where Soviet action in international affairs is unacceptable, Western nations will not blandly condone it. On the other hand, a decision to attend in spite of Afghanistan will be a betrayal of all that they have so courageously fought to defend.

I should like finally to congratulate the Select Committee on foreign affairs on its impressive and timely report, which has been invaluable in informing our debate today. One question in its report—that of the site or sites for future Games—is a matter for the longer term, which will require careful study.

The Select Committee's recommendations are very much in accord with the Government's view, especially those in paragraph 3, which states that
"Until such time as those forces are withdrawn, the House should support all proper measures to make the Soviet leaders mindful of Britain's abhorrence of their aggression against Afghanistan, including in particular limitations on the supply of credit and high technology equipment, a reduction of cultural exchanges and the withdrawal from the Olympic Games in Moscow of all British Athletes."
The Opposition's amendment is very far from being a direct contradiction of the Government's position, and a good deal of it could be accepted by everybody in the House, but it is unfair in what it says about consultation. Similarly, while substantial common agreement with other countries is obviously desirable, if everybody waits for everybody else nothing will ever happen. In any case if the Opposition's amendment is defeated, I hope that that will not stop their supporters from then supporting the Government motion. I am sure that a good many Opposition Members are in agreement with what we are saying.

We have made no secret of our views and we have had extensive contacts with other countries in the Western alliance. We have found that many countries in the free world face exactly the same problem—

If the hon. Member tries to use the procedures of the House, namely, points of order, as a means of interrupting, I am unlikely to give way to him.

As I was saying, we have found that many countries in the free world face exactly the same problem as ourselves. In some countries, there is a close indentity of view between parliamentary and public opinion and the Government view. The United States is a conspicuous example. In some other countries, the Government position determines what sportsmen must do, but many Western countries face the same kind of problem, with the same conflicting currents, as exist in our own.

It is not surprising, therefore, that some Governments are cautious about expressing a view. But we believe that, at the end of the day, many prominent sporting countries will decide not to go to Moscow. I do not believe that in these circumstances, British athletes would wish to go to what would be discredited Games.

The Government have been accused—not only by the Opposition—of ignoring sporting problems and procedures. I hope that what I have said today will have shown that we have considered both the personal dilemma and disappointment of individual athletes and the very real difficulties of organising alternative games. In return, the Government are entitled to ask British athletes and their representatives, as well as this House, to consider the international consequences of their actions.

In view of the points of order made earlier, Mr. Speaker, I seek to leave to move the motion in an amended form, with the words "the United Kingdom" substituted for "Great Britain".

There are other people, in Afghanistan and in the Soviet Union, whose lives and whose freedom are at stake. The Government believe that non-participation in this summer's Games offers Western countries the single most effective way of bringing home to the Soviet regime and the Russian people our refusal to accept their occupation of Afghanistan. I therefore ask the House to support our motion tonight.

4.20 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "Afghanistan" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"calls upon the Soviet Government to withdraw immediately in the interests of world peace and detente in Europe; believes that an effective response on the Olympics as in the economic, trading and political fields can only be achieved by securing substantial common agreement among the Governments and sporting authorities of Western Europe, the United States of America and elsewhere; regrets the Government's failure to consult properly with the sporting bodies in this country; and asserts the right of individual citizens at the end of the day to make their own decisions."
Given the large public interest in this year's Olympic Games, it is right that the House should debate the matter, and that the debate should be held at a proper time and be of sufficient length to enable a substantial number of right hon. and hon. Members to take part. However, whether it is wise or necessary to hold this debate this week is another matter, and one to which I shall return later.

We have listened to an unhappy and unconvincing speech by the Lord Privy Seal. I do not believe that any right hon. or hon. Member on either side of the House who came with serious doubts about what is the best course to take will find his decision made any easier by the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Indeed, I am inclined to wonder just how closely No. 10 and the Foreign Office have kept in touch with each other during the past few weeks. In view of the Prime Minister's leading interest and initiative in the matter, it would have been far better if she had opened the debate herself.,

When we last debated East-West relations and Afghanistan, on 28 January, with so many issues of high policy left uncertain and unresolved at the end, I did not expect that the next occasion for a debate would be focused exclusively upon the issue of the Olympic Games. It shows an extraordinary—and to many people outside the House and outside Britain almost laughable—sense of proportion, apart from the fact that, in thrusting the issue forward ahead of other Western responses of an economic and trading kind, the Government have unnecessarily fed the suspicions and resentment of the community of sport that it is being singled out and asked to make sacrifices that others have not yet been called upon to make.

I do not think that the Lord Privy Seal's references to the non-renewal of the export credit agreement and his total failure even to mention the continued export of buttter, grain and other items to the Soviet Union will help to convince—

I substitute the words "failure to reach agreement about doing something". I do not believe that that will help to convince sportsmen that they have not been put in a special position.

Most of my remarks will be related to the position that we state in the amendment. I accept that on this issue there is bound to be a wide divergence of opinion. The Order Paper certainly reflects it. Therefore, it is entirely right that there should be a free vote—I hope a genuinely free vote—on both sides of the House.

I shall develop my speech in my own way. One always finds, in putting forward a case, that many interruptions early on merely anticipate what one has already decided to say and to deal with as the argument develops.

In spite of differences, there is no disagreement anywhere on the condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Nor should there be, for, whatever the Soviet motives may be, the Soviet Union's action has breached international law and flouted international opinion. The Soviet Union has extinguished the independence of a small neighbouring State, and it is engaged in a continuing armed struggle with large numbers of its people.

Reports from Afghanistan make clear that resistance is widespread and determined. It is almost certain that, unless there is a major change of Soviet policy, for which we must all hope, fighting will continue and intensify when the winter ends, with large loss of life and many punitive raids on Afghan villages for months ahead. In short, when the Olympic Games commence in July, if they do, they will be accompanied not merely by the sounds of national anthems ringing through the stadium but by the sound of gunfire in the Hindu Kush and in the villages and plains of Afghanistan.

Therefore, all the amendments rightly reaffirm condemnation of Soviet action. With two exceptions, to which I shall turn shortly, they do not directly challenge the desirability of transferring the Olympics away from Moscow. The right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) calls for action on the Olympics to be accompanied by trade measures. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) points, with good reason, to the double standards of many Conservative right hon. and hon. Members who are now calling for boycott action. The amendment in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself calls for concerted action with our principal partners abroad.

There has always been a strong opinion in this country that international sport and international politics should be held apart. I suspect that that is the dominant opinion of sportsmen themselves, who are concerned above all with pitting their skills and strengths against those of competing sportsmen. They are hardly at all concerned with the political systems under which they and their competitors live, or with the external policies that their Governments pursue.

I understand that point of view, but I do not share it. More important, it is not the view of my party or of Commonwealth Governments, or indeed—although there are ambiguities—of the International Olympic Committee itself. All have insisted that South Africa, where racial discrimination is the dominant principle of the whole society, affecting the organisation of sport itself, should be excluded from the world of sport.

So the question of principle, of the linkage of sport with international and external policy, causes no difficulty for me or my party. The question is whether it is sensible to apply it to the Soviet Union in the context of Afghanistan, and whether sufficient common agreement—for to be effective it must be collective; otherwise, it is simply a unilateral gesture—can be effectively mobilised.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He knows that I always take his amendments seriously. I ask him one simple question. The amendment says that

"an effective response…can only be achieved"
in certain ways. That is understood, but what is the right hon. Gentleman's advice to the athletes now? In his view, are they to go or are they not?

The hon. Gentleman has made my point for me. I have obviously thought about this, and I intend to deal with his question. However, I should like to do it in my own time.

My approach is this. Racism is not the only evil that we must combat in the world today. The invasion of one country by another is also a great crime, one that challenges the very principles of national independence, security and peace on which international order and the United Nations charter are both founded.

The 1936 Olympics were held—I believe wrongly—in Berlin. But if it had nbeen a year later, after the Anschluss with Austria, let alone the seizure of the Sudetenland in 1938, I do not believe that they would have been held in Berlin. The proposed Tokyo Olympics in 1940 were cancelled, not just because many European nations were already at war, but because Japan's continued assaults upon China were offensive to the majority of the international community.

To me, the attack on Afghanistan is equally offensive. The Soviet Union's motives may be complex, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has spelt out. Like him, I am not convinced that Afghanistan in itself is sufficient evidence of a will to global military domination. But it has involved the swallowing up of a neighbouring independent country and the suppression of its people.

Nor am I convinced that to switch the Olympic Games would adversely affect human rights and civil liberties in the Soviet Union or heighten tension between the great Powers. The Soviet Union has already, since the Afghanistan invasion, shown its approach to civil and human rights in as dramatic a way as it could find—namely, by stripping the most renowned of its human rights leaders, Academician Sakharov, of all his honours and by banishing him from Moscow where he and his fellow protestors might otherwise be in touch with Western visitors to the Olympic Games.

Nor do I believe that there will be any significantly adverse effect on the existing tensions between the great Powers. The United States, in any event, has decided not to go. It is my strong view that, neither in the West nor in the Soviet Union, is there any intention of abandoning the major achievements of the past decade—arms limitation, arms balance, arms control—or to allow the resumption of the old cold war. This is a limited and specific action in the civil sphere; not the launching of an arms race or the reemergence of the kind of "pactomania" that we had in the 1950s.

I have real sympathy with those who protest against double standards in these matters. There are many examples. Only two weeks before the Soviet move against Afghanistan, the Order Paper contained a resolution on the British Lions' tour of South Africa, inviting the House to support
"the forthcoming British…Lions' tour of South Africa; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to do likewise."

No. We note that the Government have made only minimal and ritual noises about this tour. I doubt whether the voice of the unfortunate Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for sport was heard anything like as loud as the voice of a certain Mr. Denis Thatcher who saw no reason at all why the British Lions should not go.

In a moment. That motion on the Order Paper on the British Lions was signed by no fewer than 72 Conservative Back Benchers. It will be interesting to see how they cast their votes in the Division Lobby tonight.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Is he really suggesting to the House today that there is any comparison between the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes".] Wait for it. Is the right hon. Gentleman really suggesting that there is no difference between the Government of South Africa today and the tyranny that rules in Moscow now? If the is saying that, his case is lost.

The hon. Gentleman's question makes my point. I condemn both. I do not think that he does.

My view is simple. We would be doing Russia a favour—a very singular favour—if we and others were to allow Moscow the great spectacle and triumph of hosting the 1980 Olympic Games. After Afghanistan, and unless there is a change in Russia's policy and occupation there, why should we?

It is reasonable to suppose that, if a sufficient number of countries decided not to attend, that, more clearly than anything else, would communicate to the Soviet people, as well as to their Government, the condemnation that the world has already expressed at the United Nations. On the other hand, for the world community to send its athletes to Moscow now would be interpreted by the Soviet people—and certainly interpreted for them—as international acceptance or approval of the Soviet Government and their policies. I find repugnant the image of British athletes at the opening and final ceremonies and, whenever a British success is scored, parading with our flag and anthem and paying their collective respects to the leaders of the Soviet Union.

I turn to the whole issue of practicality. When action on the Olympic Games was first mentioned in the House of Commons on 17 January, the Prime Minister said:
"We favour trying to move the venue from Moscow to elsewhere, if it is possible to do so. That cannot be done alone, and we believe we should try to do it by taking concerted action with our allies in making an approach to the International Olympic Committee, in whose lap the decision lies."—[Official Report, 17 January 1980; Vol. 976, c. 1864.]
Not alone, but concerted action and an approach to the International Olympic Committee.

The same approach was pursued in the main statement on Afghani- stan made by the Lord Privy Seal on 24 January, when he said:

"if the Games were to be cancelled entirely, it would be a bitter blow to the dedicated athletes in Britain and elsewhere who have trained so hard for so many years. That is why the British Government believe that the summer games should be moved. That will not be easy, but it should not be beyond the capacity of the 104 countries which condemned the Soviet Union in the United Nations."—[Official Report, 24 January 1950; Vol. 977, c. 659.]
I said at the time, and again in the debate on 28 January, that the key question was whether it was feasible in terms of organisation and whether the athletes themselves were prepared to co-operate. Those questions, as I said then and say again now, have not been answered.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the International Olympic Committee. Does he agree that any member of the International Olympic Committee who has a financial interest in the continuation of the Moscow Olympic Games should declare it? If, for example, Lord Killanin had an interest in a possible loss that he might make by the discontinuation of the Olympic Games, should we not know about it?

The hon. Gentleman may have information that I have not got. I think that people with interests have a bounden duty to make those interests public.

As late as 27 February, the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for sport, in his evidence to the Select Committee, was still talking of
"the possibility of holding an alternative games",
but insisting—and he did it twice over—that
"this would of course be very much subject to the international federations giving approval."
Up to this point, the Government's approach seems to me to have been reasonable.

Since then—precisely when I do not know—there has been an announced and major switch of policy. The House is being asked tonight, in the Government's motion, to declare itself against Britain taking part—or is it the United Kingdom?—in the Olympics without any regard to the conditions laid down on 17 January by the Prime Minister herself.

Those conditions matter. First and most obvious, if only a handful of the leading nations in sport stay away, the impact on the Moscow spectacle will be greatly reduced. So, too, will be the possibility of organising alternative high level events.

Secondly, there is a real danger of Western divisions being exploited to the advantage of Moscow and to our own embarrassment.

Thirdly, if neither the National Olympic Committee nor the other supporting authorities in Britain can be persuaded to agree, there is a real danger that our sportsmen will take part in substantial numbers, despite the views of the Government.

Knowing this, and knowing the Government's desire to deny Moscow the Olympic Games, one would have thought that the period from 17 January would have seen intense consultation with European and other allies to secure concerted action and, at the same time, intensive discussions with the various British sporting bodies. As far as I can judge, this just has not happened.

I really must ask my right hon. Friend what he is saying. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Is he saying that, if all Western countries agreed, we ought to stay away? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Then that is totally contrary to a widely held view on the Opposition side of the House and, I would argue, in the mass of the Labour movement.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) for making plain what was otherwise obscure in his amendment. I understand that there are different views. I began by saying that. We have a free vote throughout the House tonight. I am giving my view, and I shall give it as truthfuly as I can.

We know that there was no consultation before the first statement by the Prime Minister on 17 January. I do not necessarily indict her for that. More importantly, we know that there was no consultation with the British Olympic Association beyond one informal meeting between the Minister with responsibility for sport and Sir Denis Follows on 24 January. Of course, some letters have been sent; and we know that no agreement was reached at the political co-operation meeting of the Nine in Rome on 19 February when the matter was last raised.

The art of persuasion and of winning consent is not a strong point of the Prime Minister and her Cabinet, but if action in this area is to be effective, there has to be a winning of consent both abroad and at home. What has happened? Where are the alternative sites to which the Lord Privy Seal referred in his statement on 24 January when speaking about the Olympic Games?

What are the views of the different sporting bodies and federations in this country? What is the present state of play in trying to reach agreement with our principal allies and other countries? We have not yet been told, although it is crucial to any sensible vote or decision that the House may make tonight.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the rather squalid hole-in-the-corner meeting today in Geneva, where two or three Western countries are trying to gang up without taking the views of the Third world into account, is the worst possible way of proceeding?

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) has drawn attention to an important point. I do not know—nor do I think that anyone in the House knows—precisely what this meeting is about. All we heard was the extraordinary insistence by the Leader of the House last Thursday that this debate was crucial because of that meeting. We shall see what answer we get to that question later.

What I think has happened is that, following the initial rebuff by Sir Denis Follows, the Prime Minister lost her patience. In her frustration and anger, she decided to turn on the unfortunate athletes themselves. Last week we had what I suppose some would call a smack of firm government and others would call a taste of tyranny. No athlete employed by central Government is now to be given leave to attend the Olympic Games. The special attache in Moscow has been withdrawn.

I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to misrepresent the position. I did make this quite clear. He is reading a speech that was prepared in advance and has not taken account of what I said.

Am I to understand that leave is now to be given to those who wish to attend? Is that the correction that the right hon. Gentleman made, because that is precisely the point that I was making?

I talked about paid leave and drew a distinction between that and unpaid leave. That would have been perfectly clear to the right hon. Gentleman had he listened to what I said.

I did my utmost to listen to what the right hon. Gentleman said. However, I am sure that he will agree that in a long speech with many interruptions, I might have missed one minor adjective.

The Lord Privy Seal said that unpaid leave might be applied for but that it was subject to the needs of the Civil Service whether the applicant would be allowed to go. Should any athlete decide to go to the Olympics would my right hon. Friend ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he can give a categorical assurance that the files of such people will not be marked "No further promotion", or "Dismissal"?

I hope that there will be no question of that, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) for that further elucidation.

The statement was made to the Select Committee by the Minister of State on 20 February:
"We are not going to bulldoze athletes or sporting organisations",
has simply been discarded. First, it is counter-productive. If the Government were simply determined to stop athletes from going to the Games, as distinct from advising them not to attend, they knew that they would have to come to the House and ask for specific powers. Quasi-compulsion is repugnant in itself and reveals all too clearly a fundamental lack of understanding by the Prime Minister and the Government of the people that they have been elected to lead. As they do not appear to know it already, I will tell them now that the British people can be persuaded but they always refuse to be bullied. How appropriate it is that the Secretary of State for the Environment, the most experienced bully in the Government, has been given the task of winding up this debate.

In conclusion, I believe that we have here in this Olympics issue all the makings of a total botch. What started as a reasonable and widely-shared objective has been turned by incompetence and mishandling into a source of serious division—

which is likely to do damage to us all.

In putting forward this motion, the Government are treating the House with cynicism. There is no earthly reason why the House should be expressing a view today simply because a Foreign Office Minister is meeting a few other Ministers in Geneva. They have met before without the need for any such resolution of the House. It is not the Minister who needs a resolution of the House; it is the House that needs a full report and statement from the Minister in the light of his meetings this week and of the further discussions which even this Government must have with the sporting authorities of this country.

It is only then that the House will have the information necessary to express a considered and worthwhile view.

Order. It could not be more clear that the right hon. Gentleman is not giving way.

If the Government do not obtain substantial agreement—I do not say universal agreement—at home and abroad with our own sporting people and with the countries which are principally concerned, they will do great damage to this country's reputation. The will of the Government and the House will be seen to have been flouted, and it will be a gift to Soviet propaganda.

In such circumstances I recommend not a British boycott but rather that we concentrate on how our athletes can avoid the more offensive ceremonies which are built into but are not crucial to the Games themselves. I shall advise my right hon. and hon. Friends not to vote for the Government's motion but to abstain and to support the reasoned and conditioned approach in our amendment.

4.49 pm

The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) spoilt at the end what began as a very constructive speech. He has avoided by a shabby device the decision which the House has to take tonight. He put the issue to the House very clearly at the outset. He condemned the invasion of Afghanistan, and then he said, quite properly, that one could condemn both the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and, quite logically, sport with South Africa. He said that one should not apply the double standard. But he himself applied the double standard at the conclusion of his speech. Certainly those on the Opposition Benches who have consistently condemned any sporting activities with South Africa must, on the basis of his speech, now condemn the holding of the Games in Moscow.

There are those of us who have to face the dilemma of this double standard. There are certainly those on the Conservative Benches who have argued for sporting activities with South Africa, including the Lions' tour, but I suggest that there is a distinction. No one has ever suggested that there should be no sporting activities at all with the Soviet Union. The condemnation in this case, arising out of the invasion of Afghanistan, is specifically directed to the holding of the Olympic Games in Moscow this year, and not to refusing to have any sporting activities with the Soviet Union.

However much we may regret the bringing of sport into politics—and many of us do; it might be very nice to divorce politics from sport altogether—I believe that we should boycott the Olympics in Moscow this year, because holding the Olympics in Moscow specifically honours the city of Moscow and the country in which the Games are held. That is what I find wholly objectionable in the present circumstances.

I believe that Sir Denis Follows and his colleagues seem to have completely missed the point about the invasion of Afghanistan, which has established a military hold over a sovereign nonaligned country. As the Prime Minister has said, that is a completely new development in the history of post-war Soviet expansion. Is has been condemned in forthright terms not only by the Prime Minister but by the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar this afternoon. It is an event that the free world ignores at its peril.

It is not just a question of singling out atheletes or making a gesture over the Olympics at their expense. In the admirable and measured speech in which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal put the case to the House, he indicated the measures which the Government are already taking. I certainly do not dissent from those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who think that further measures may be necessary. We certainly need to take measures to strengthen our defences and to preserve the security and the territorial integrity not only of our own country and Western Europe but of other free independent nations.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has great and serious experience in foreign affairs. Why does he think that the Russians went into Afghanistan in the first place?

In defence of their own vital interests, as they saw them; certainly not to protect the poor people of Afghanistan or for any other bogus reason of that kind.

Whatever Sir Denis Follows and his associates may think, or may wish to think, to give the appearance of condoning a naked act of aggression of a most brutal kind would, I think, be contrary to our national interest and the interests of the free world.

When I and other members of the Hands Off Afghanistan Committee, of which I am one of the co-chairmen, met Sir Denis Follows and members of the British Olympic Association and the National Olympic Committee, it was quite apparent that many of them simply could not understand—this may, indeed, be a failure of communication between the politicians and the athletes—that to the Soviet Union the Olympic Games are a major political event which will be deliberately used to boost Soviet prestige in the world. They simply could not understand the significance of the statement in the "Handbook for Party Activists" which was published in Moscow in June of last year. They said "You cannot expect us to be influenced by Soviet propaganda. What has that to do with us?"

But it seems to me that the House cannot ignore what the Soviet Union is now doing in regard to the Moscow Olympics. I have a slightly different translation from that of the Lord Privy Seal, but it comes to the same effect. It is the nub of our debate today. The Soviet Union is saying:
"The decision to offer the honoured right to hold the Olympic Games in the capital of the first Social State was convincing proof of the universal recognition of the historical importance and correctness of the course of our country's foreign policy, the vast contribution of the Soviet Union to the struggle for peace".
Do the British athletes really want to go and pay a tribute of that kind at this time to the Soviet Union?

There was one good lady who observed that, after the Soviet invason of Hungary in 1956, the Olympic Games were still held in Melbourne. She said that they gave us a good opportunity to meet and get to know Soviet athletes in a non-political atmosphere. Again, we must bear in mind that Australia was not responsible for the invasion of Hungary. Here again, no one is saying, as those who oppose sport with South Africa often say, that in no circumstances should we ever meet a South African on a rugby field or a cricket field. No one has said that one should never meet a Soviet athlete in any circumstances. Where we do not want to meet them this year is in Moscow to honour that city. Who can believe that if in 1956 the Olympics were to have been held in Moscow there would have been no objection?

In a letter to The Times of 21 January Sir William Hayter, who was our ambassador in Moscow at the time of the invasion of Hungary, tells how he had the duty of advising that it would not he right for the Sadler's Wells Ballet, as it then was, to go to Moscow. When he returned to London, he found that the dancers were very disappointed, even angry, but he said "Do you realise that if you had gone to Moscow at that point in time you would have been dancing on the grave of Hungary?", and then they agreed with him when he explained the position. As he commented in the letter,
"Let us hope that British athletes will have as much good sense, and as much patriotism, as British dancers."
Of course we can all understand—without being hypocritical about it—how disappointed the athletes will be, and how hard they have trained and so on. Their feelings are perfectly understandable, even though I believe that they are mistaken and thoughtless. The athletes are certainly entitled to guidance from the administrators, as Mr. Sebastian Coe said on radio this weekend. They are entitled to guidance from the administrators who have the responsibility for making the decision. But I hope that before they make that decision Sir Denis Follows and the rest of them will study an article which also appeared in The Times of 21 January which came from a Prague dissident group—and we know what has been happening there in recent weeks. That group wrote:
"We would be happy to live in a world where sports could be separated from politics. But we do not live in such a world…
In the Soviet concept the Olympic Games are above all a political matter as well as an opportunity of gaining hard currency."
I believe that the dissidents were right in drawing an analogy with the Berlin Games of 1936, to which the right hon. Gentleman properly referred. They said:
"The moral boost which Hitler Germany received by the organisation of the games drowned the warning voices for a long time to come…The Olympic flag at the Berlin stadium was an insult of thousands. The same flag at a Moscow stadium will be an insult of millions."
It is significant that at the first NATO meeting which considered the position it was the German ambassador who drew attention to the effect that those Games had had on German morale. Do not let this House or British athletes give the same propaganda victory to the Soviet Union that, with hindsight, we now know we so mistakenly gave to Nazi Germany.

5 pm

I shall begin with a point that I had intended to put to the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). Normally I agree with his opinions.

As a schoolboy I attended the 1936 Games. I did not see what happened on the day that Adolph Hitler was profoundly insulted by Jesse Owens, the great American runner. He left the stadium in high dudgeon. Jesse Owens did not go to Berlin to accept, advertise or glorify the racial doctrines that were being forced down the throats of the German people by their FÜhrer.

Most people have seen only the edited version of the film that was made by Leni Riefenstahl about those Olympic Games.

I take that point, but it is irrelevant to my argument.

Leni Riefenstahl took two years to make that film. The reaction of the largely German audience to the victorious Jesse Owens was edited out. The FÜhrer was offended not because a black American had done so remarkably well, but because the entire audience were applauding him after three years of Nazi propaganda, and simulated FÜhrer worship, that had been organised and orchestrated by Dr. Josef Goebbels. The show had been staged specifically so that it could be filmed as a gigantic spectacle. However, many Germans gave a huge ovation to that black runner who, according to Hitler's racial theories, belonged to an inferior species.

There is another fact that is not generally known about 1936. Jesse Owens experienced some difficulty with the German starting blocks.

His leading German opponent, who later became his best friend, assisted him with those starting blocks. One does not necessarily give support to a regime if one takes part in a sporting activity that happens to take place in that regime's capital city.

I shall not give way, as many right hon. and hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate.

If our athletes participate in the Moscow Games and do as well as our young friend Cousins did in the winter Games at Lake Placid and elsewhere, we shall show the Russians and those who attend the Games that we are not an effete, bankrupt, useless collection of corrupt nations. We shall demonstrate that we, too, can produce athletes who can win gold medals.

The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to speak later.

There is reason to believe that there are divisions in the Kremlin about Afghanistan. It would be odd if there were not. The Kremlin has more economic problems than this Government—and, by God, that is saying something. There is a conflict within the Kremlin that must have reached the Politburo. This subject has been dealt with by British television and is not a State secret. There are conflicting views about what can be done to increase the Soviet Union's resources, and about what to do with those resources, once gained.

The hardliners look back towards the past. Russia has had a terrible past. It has been invaded again and again. It was invaded by Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon Bonaparte and by Adolf Hitler. As a result of Hitler's invasion, 20 million people died. Ordinary Soviet citizens would not agree with the persecution of dissidents if they knew about it. If they came to the House, they would understand us and regard us as comrades. We should appeal to their sense of insecurity and fear of invasion. That fear has existed since the revolution and is being strengthened all the time. They feel that the rest of the world is hostile, and is waiting only for an opportunity to drive on Russia.

If we boycott the Games, would we not strengthen that feeling? We would weaken their desire to concentrate on developing Siberia and those other vast underdeveloped tracts of the Soviet Union in the interests of their people and of their consumers. Can we give aid in this conflict; or must we strengthen those hardliners in the Kremlin who wish to build bigger and better submarines, bigger and better frigates and bigger and better nuclear weapons? A boycott would strengthen the hand of the hardliners. We can show that we do not approve of what has happened in Afghanistan in various other ways.

There are ways of impressing the Soviet Union, and the Government know of them. By attending those sporting activities in Moscow, we are not supporting the suppression of dissidents or the suppression of those who signed Charter 77. We shall not be giving support to Soviet interference in Afghanistan. Similarly, Jesse Owens did not lend support to the racial theories of the national Socialist regime under Adolf Hitler.

I was at school abroad in 1936. I do not recall in this House or the English press any protest about a British presence at the 1936 Olympic Games. Some people have learnt very slowly and very late.

I stress that simply to go for a boycott, simply to have a reflex action of that kind, will strengthen the arms of those in the Soviet Union who feel instinctively that they will come at us again. To carry on as Sir Denis Follows recommends, to demonstrate that we can beat country after country in sporting activity, will perhaps strengthen the arms of those more concerned with peaceful development than military glory or display.

This course is wrong. I am not referring only to the course advocated by the Government. I do not like the amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore). It would be totally dishonest not to say so. It is not strong enough. Between now and 10 o'clock I have to do some thinking. [Interruption.] We do occasionally think, and we change our minds. In politics I have changed my mind more than any other hon. Member, as everyone knows.

Nevertheless, I am totally with our sportsmen. I am totally against a boycott. I hope that tonight the House will demonstrate that we will not make any attempt to stop our sportsmen doing what they have been assiduously training for over the past four years.

5.11 pm

I wish to make a brief contribution to the debate in support of the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins).

The Lord Privy Seal's speech was inadequate. He did not do the House justice in reading out a sterile Foreign Office brief. The people of the country expect the House to debate the problems of the Olympic Games in Moscow in a more open and full-hearted manner than the Foreign Office apparently wishes.

A number of people residing in my constituency in the North-West hope to participate in the Olympic Games. I am not sure exactly what they think about the regime in Moscow and the society that exists there. However, they are concerned that they should not be used by this Government as the sole political pawn in their determination to impress on the Soviet Union that we profoundly disagree with the invasion of an independent, non-aligned country, namely, Afghanistan.

If my party had proposed a total boycott of the Soviet Union, involving trade, commerce and cultural and political activities, I should have no difficulty in voting in support of that policy. However, the limited action that the Government have taken to register disapproval of Soviet tyranny in Afghanistan is totally inadequate.

I hope that the Secretary of State for the Environment will come into the debate battling for the British people and the free Western world as a whole. I ask him not to wave the Mace at us but to show the Soviet Union that we are prepared to do more than produce a few platitudes. We should be prepared to bring the Government of the Soviet Union to their senses and to persuade them to withdraw their 90,000 troops and armour from the independent country of Afghanistan.

The team for the Lions' tour of South Africa is to be announced today. Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to condemn that tour and ask the Government to take rigorous action to stop it taking place?

No. The internal affairs of South Africa are no threat to world peace. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is a direct threat.

No, not at all. I shall do my best to persuade the Government and people of South Africa to adapt their policies and phase out separate development. On the visits that I have made there, I have done that. I do not believe that the internal affairs and structure of South Africa are at this time a threat to world peace. I believe that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is a direct threat to world peace.

The Soviet Union has gone into a country that borders Pakistan, which at present is not stable. Afghanistan also borders Iran, and we know well the problems that exist there. The invasion of Afghanistan is a further step in Soviet expansion, which it has followed for many years. Whether one looks to Africa, South America or the Far East, we can see how the Soviet Union has sought to take over important, strategically located countries.

I am not practising double standards in being prepared to support the Lions' tour of South Africa. I seek to ensure the stability and peace of the world by trying to persuade the Soviet Union to adopt a less belligerent and expansionist policy and to get its troops and armour out of an independent country at an early date.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) indicated that, if they do not go to the Olympic Games, our sportsmen will be making an enormous sacrifice. Many of them may never have another opportunity to compete in an Olympic Games. Sportsmen take four years, and in some sports eight, to prepare to compete.

I agree that to boycott the Olympic Games is the easiest way to impress the Soviet people at large. They will ask their Government why the spectacle that they have for so long looked forward to is so undervalued that many countries and leading sportsmen do not participate.

If there is a restriction on the press in Russia, will our refusal to participate in the Games be made known to the people in Russia or will it merely be a waste?

The Russians will be there in large numbers, and I am not sure that unfilled stadiums will go unnoticed. The Soviet Union and its State-controlled press will doubtless do their best to promote the Games as a fantastic propaganda exercise. If Sebastian Coe and other well-known sportsmen from countries such as America and West Germany do not attend questions will be asked.

I accept that, if we possibly can, we should ask our athletes not to go, but I am not prepared to condone such action in isolation from other measures that the Government can take. Why have we not set on one side the sporting agreement reached with the Russians by the last British Government? The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), as Minister with responsibility for sport in the last Government, played a major part in the signing of this agreement in Moscow, which was part of the Helsinki accord. Why has that not been set aside? Why have we not withdrawn the majority of our staff from our embassy in Moscow? Why do we allow multinational companies such as ICI to establish offices in Moscow? Why do we allow the EEC to supply cheap subsidised food to the Soviet Union? The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) and I appeared on a radio programme on this matter yesterday. Why do we allow this sort of thing to take place so that the Soviet Union can spend more money on military hardware and aggressive materials?

It is singular that when America invaded Vietnam with half a million troops there were no protests at all from the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). He never suggested ending trade with America, and therefore I suggest that he is guilty of double standards.

Honestly, I should have thought that the hon. Member could have made a better intervention than that. The Americans went into Vietnam invited by the legitimate Government of that country, and, unlike the Soviets, when they entered Afghanistan, the Americans did not execute the President within 24 hours. I hope that that reply to the hon. Gentleman's intervention puts the matter in perspective. All I can say is that if he looks at Vietnam since the Americans left he will see that the people of that sad country are hardly better off under a Marxist regime than they were under a more pro-Western Government.

I wonder why the Opposition have put down their amendment today. I should have thought that Georges Marchais was the only one of the European politicians who would see any good or any justification in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But, no, the Shadow Minister for sport, the right hon. Member for Small Heath, now appears to be another star from the East who has taken up the Soviet message. That is unfortunate.

That is absolutely disgraceful. Not only have I always opposed the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, but on every occasion when I was a Minister and I went to Russia I objected personally to the treatment of dissidents—both Jewish and trade unionists—and my record of opposing Communists in the world is far better than that of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). His accusation is that, in saying that in a free society it should be up to the sportsmen to make up their own minds, we are condoning Russian or any national aggression anywhere in the world, and that is not so.

Then I am sorry that the right hon. Member is not prepared to support the responsible and authoritative line being taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, whose amendment has not been selected. If he captures Mr. Speaker's eye, I am sure that he will indicate that the line taken by many of us on this side of the House is acceptable to him.

The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) was quite right when he said that if we take action against the Soviet Union and we want to make a real impression we must act as a united group of countries. Surely the invasion of Afghanistan, the exile and humiliation of the Sakharovs, the imprisonment of Yuri Orlov, the continued persecution of dissident minorities and human rights groups and the whole panoply of Soviet tyranny should make an impact on the collective conscience of the Soviet Union as a whole and its people. Sadly, from what we have heard from a number of hon. Members below the Gangway, it does not seem to make any impact on the Labour Party.

Therefore, I believe that the Government must take far more action in the areas where they can take positive action if they expect our athletes to give up the opportunity of winning Olympic medals. Of course I believe that the peace and stability of the world are much more important than a few gold medals, but the Government must act and must not just use the sportsmen of this country as their sole political pawn in this procedure.

I am very depressed by the Government's limited action. Why have they not imposed a trade boycott? Why have we not used some form of veto within the EEC to stop the supply of food to the Soviet Union? The sportsmen of Britain look to us for a lead, but it must be an honest and principled lead. I look forward to the Government's reply, because at present I certainly cannot support their motion. I will not support the Opposition's amendment, but I must stress that I cannot support the Government's motion as it stands.

5.27 pm

I should like to think that if a Labour Government were in power we would be having a free vote on this most important question tonight. I know that some of my colleagues feel that we should not have had such a debate at this time and that it is a little premature. As I read letters in The Times and listen to public discussions, I become more convinced that many of our athletes are looking to us for some guidance. I have signed an amendment to the original motion which, we all agreed, was a bit mixed up, to say the least.

My point is simple: I believe that the Olympic Games are unique in the sporting calendar every four years. It would be quite wrong if this House did not express an opinion on this matter—in fact, it would be a dereliction of duty. Quite simply, I am in favour of boycotting the Olympic Games, and I shall explain why.

So far in this debate hon. Members have raised the issue of the double standards technique. Members from one side accuse those from the other of having double standards. In this context, South Africa has been mentioned. I think that public opinion on this matter was right, but I also think that it was engineered by the Government of the day. Politicians mould, create and sustain public opinion to a large degree.

It was the politicians who said that it was quite abhorrent for British sportsmen, or sportsmen from any other countries, to go to South Africa. The record will show that the initiative in this case did not come from the sportsmen themselves. Obviously sportsmen enjoy contacts. Unlike the distinguished right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), who represented this country in the Olympic Games, I was a rather poor athlete. I ran for a club team in St. Helens and I often had a job to finish my favourite distance—the mile. I would love to have been in serious contention for the Olympic Games and I would not have liked politicians to spoil my chances.

The sportsmen did not decide to boycott South Africa. The decision was fuelled, initiated and sustained by the House and others, and I believe that it was right. A group of Labour Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) and myself, met the four home rugby unions and told them why we thought that the British Lions rugby team should not go to South Africa. They have decided to go, just as the athletes will be free to decide to go to Moscow, as I believe they will—whatever we say—though we have a duty to try to influence them.

I believe that we were right to boycott South Africa and to continue to urge that it should be boycotted. I noticed that Sir Denis Follows believes that the boycott has achieved a great deal. I believe that South Africa is a relatively free country, in most respects, compared with the Soviet Union, and the boycott has had a considerable impact in breaking down barriers. We are not yets atisfied that South Africa is a free and open country, but I hope that that day will soon come.

All the amendments, with the exception of that in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dal-yell) which "hopes" that the Russians will withdraw from Afghanistan—presumably when their strategic interests have been satisfied—condemn the invasion utterly and unequivocally. Russia will use the Olympic Games as a vehicle for propaganda. If our athletes attend, the Russians will be able to say that the West—and it is the West which matters—is not really bothered about the invasion of a defenceless country.

Suppose Yugoslavia had been invaded, which is not an unlikely possibility. Does anyone seriously believe that we would be suggesting that sport is so elevated above everything else that our athletes should be almost encouraged to go to Moscow for the Games? I do not think so. No one, except the most sycophantic to the Communist regime, would dare to say that the invasion of Yugoslavia did not matter. Why does Afghanistan not rate the same consideration?

When giving examples of national cowardice and Nelsonian blindness, we often refer to the infamy of a certain Prime Minister who said, speaking about another act of aggression, "It was a faraway country". I do not know much about Afghanistan. None of us would consider it to be a model of democracy, but it was an independent country which was brutally invaded and its people are still being subjugated. We can read of the massacres that the Soviets are carrying out in order to strengthen their hold on that country. It was a wicked crime.

With respect to my hon. Friends, I believe that mixing up the invasion of Afghanistan with apartheid in South Africa is the worst excess of sophistry. The sophists deluded themselves by their own false reasoning. Those who equate the Russian invasion with apartheid are deluding themselves.

I may have the opportunity to make my own speech, but my hon. Friend made a critical reference to my amendment. In reply, some of us might say that we believe that the Soviet Union wanted in the the first place, regardless of what happened later, to send troops into Afghanistan about as much as some of us in the House wanted to send troops into Ireland.

I shall listen to my hon. Friend's speech with interest. I am sorry that he thought that I made a critical reference to his amendment. I said that I got the impression that all the amendments condemned the invasion unequivocally and that my hon. Friend, in using the word "hopes" and giving historical analogies, was tempering his amendment a little. I am not saying that he approves of the invasion. I shall listen to his speech with interest.

We should not confuse certain events that are taking place in the world. I condemn apartheid in South Africa and I support those who refuse to go there.

The Orrell rugby football club, in my constituency, has a player named John Carleton who has today been selected for the Lions' tour. An argument is raging because the Wigan metropolitan borough council has said, collectively, to John Carleton "We disagree with the policies of South Africa. If you want to go, we will not help you." That is a reasonable attitude for the council to take.

I have spent too much time on the analogy of South Africa. The Russians will make the Olympic Games a great propaganda exercise. There are those, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who believe that the British athletes should not take part in the ceremonies before and after the Games or have anything to do with the flag waving and so on that may seem to be a tribute to Brezhnev and his colleagues.

That is a naive attitude. The idea that the Russians will show on television anything that would be embarrassing to them is too daft to contemplate. It will all be carefully edited. I am not concerned whether they show anything or not. There is a principle at stake and it was upheld by the IOC in 1938. The Japanese had been awarded the 1940 Olympic Games, but the committee said in 1938 that the invasion of a defenceless country—Manchuria—could not be permitted and the IOC could not give its imprimatur to the Olympic Games taking place in Tokyo. One cannot separate that invasion from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the IOC should demonstrate that in a more practical way. I disagree with its judgment so far.

I hope that the IOC will get the message before the Games take place and I believe that most people in this country would be affronted if, on a free vote, the House were to vote in favour of our athletes going to Moscow. We have a duty to say that we condemn it. The best way for the United Kingdom to do that, and the least injurious way that we can humiliate a country that deserves to be humiliated for invading a free nation and continuing to remain within it and to serve its own interests is to carry out a boycott. I intend to vote for a boycott.

5.40 pm

I welcome the remarks of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire). My difference lies not with the motion but with the Government's attitude on the Afghanistan invasion. It is not enough to condemn. I believe that more is needed than that.

Two issues of great difficulty for me have been cleared up by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. He assured me that no backroom pressure is being put on individual athletes by the Government. That is a statement that I am prepared to believe. If such pressure were being applied, I should totally and utterly condemn it. The application by Governments of pressure on individuals to declare their view on a matter of conscience is totally unacceptable to the House. That is not merely government by exhortation but government by arm-twisting, to which the previous Labour Government subjected British industry. I hope that even further reassurance will be given by those on the Government Front Bench.

There is a much wider issue which I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) will raise. I hope that he will be able to catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair. The remarks of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal on control of credits and on other pressures being put on the Soviet Government were not satisfactory. We seek further reassurance. The force of this issue should not fall on British athletes and athletic teams alone.

There is a great danger that not only is the West disunited but that we are talking about something called the neutralisation of Afghanistan. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends who occupy the Government Front Bench will give due consideration to what that means. I do not know what it means. However, there is danger in that sort of talk. Not even the Neville Chamberlain Government said after the Nazis had destroyed Poland "We regard you Poles as neutralised". It is hardly a doctrine that will give encouragement to those who are fighting against Soviet attacks on Afghanistan. It is hardly a doctrine that will give succour to that great man Marshal Tito as he struggles for life. It is hardly a doctrine that shows determination, courage and will.

It is possible that by June or July, when we are still talking of neutralisation—a policy already mocked at by Brezhnev, a policy rejected by the Chinese Government and a policy that the American State Department can do little about but frown on—and when a wasteland has been made of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union will say "We are prepared for neutralisation". Let us really consider what these issues are about—this ritual dance about the Olympic Games, this diplomatic buffoonery. These are serious matters. If the House comes to a full realisation of them, I hope that we shall see from the Government and from the whole House a proper response to one of the most bestial acts in modern history.

5.46 pm

I cannot support the Government's motion or the Opposition's amendment. I feel that both of them avoid the serious issues with which we are faced. We can discuss this matter only if we consider the international scene, the tension that has been built up and the danger that can arise if that tension is heightened. We are not discussing merely whether our athletes go or do not go to Moscow. We could easily and quickly find ourselves heading towards a Third World War. It is that about which I am concerned.

We are not discussing the Olympic Games in isolation. The issue is much more serious than that. I regret that the amendment that appeared on the Order Paper in my name, which was supported by 46 hon. Members, was not selected so that we could vote for our clear position.

I make it clear to the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) that I am bitterly opposed to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. With all due respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), I declared publicly my view of the invasion before those on the Opposition Front Bench declared the Opposition's view. I made it clear that I was opposed to it. I am opposed to it now. It is wrong. No one can accuse me at any time of being soft towards the bureaucracy that runs the Soviet Union.

We may be in opposition to the political and social system that operates in the Soviet Union, but that is no justification for allowing ourselves to get into a position in which we could become victims of a Third World War. I repeat that no one will win a Third World War. The entire world will lose. The world will be destroyed if such a war breaks out. If nuclear weapons are used, that could be the end of us all. That has to be stressed.

The Lord Privy Seal rightly referred to the persecution of the great scientist Sakharov. He rightly said that Sakharov is against the Moscow Olympics. He believes it right for them to be boycotted. That is undoubtedly the view of a wide section of dissidents in the Soviet Union. Of course, we must listen to them. It is also true that there are others—some still living in the Soviet Union—who are dissidents but who take a different view. Their voice should be listened to as well.

I shall draw the attention of the House to an interview that took place with Roy Medvedev by Vittoria Zucconi in Corriere della Sera, Milan, on 4 February 1980. The interview took place in Moscow. The background is important. Zucconi states:
"An automobile, mounted on bricks, where its wheels should be is wintering in the open under a shell of snow, which protects it both from the cold and from thieves given to stealing windshield wipers and rear mirrors. At the entrance to the apartment"—
that is Medvedev's home—
"stands a shiny black sedan; two men sitting inside have left the motor running. The car bears a "Mok" licence plate, one of those. people whisper, assigned to the Ceki secret police."
The report goes on to make clear that they are outside the home of Roy Medvedev, and that that is almost a permanent feature of his life.

In the interview, Medvedev is asked by Zucconi:
"Apropos of international crisis, Medvedev, what do you think of the Olympic boycott?"
This is Medvedev's reply:
"A mistake, a serious mistake, and I will tell you why. Again you Westerners, especially Americans, are tripped up by your social and political convictions. Here, political decisions in no way depend upon public opinion, upon any pressures—what pressures?—or the mood of the people. The grain embargo will not deprive our leaders of a single glass of milk, a roll or a beefsteak. If anyone, it will be the people who suffer from the scarcity of food."

Not just at the moment, if the hon. Lady does not mind.

I shall quote now from a letter from Roy Medvedev's brother, Zhores Medvedev, who, incidentally, was put inside a mental institution. The facts are all on record. Anyone can buy the books at any decent bookshop or bookstall here in Britain. Zhores Medvedev was put inside a mental institution by the Soviet Government.

I am speaking, therefore, of people who also know the situation, who also have a point of view. What does Zhores Medvedev say?—
"The Soviet propaganda will describe the British athletes as 'dissidents' who were rudely oppressed by the reactionary Government. The Soviet sportsmen will later send a letter of support for the struggling British athletes, who are struggling for freedom'."
That has to be taken into account, too. Are we helping those in the Soviet Union who want human and civil rights? This boycott will not assist them.

I should like to continue, if the hon. Lady does not mind. I am always ready to give way, but on this occasion I shall try to complete most of my speech before I give way.

I say to the House also that it does not help if, in opposing what they do, we adopt methods similar to those adopted by the Russians themselves. I do not want that to be taken in any exaggerated sense, of course, but when the British Government intervene and say that civil servants and members of the Armed Forces will not be given facilities, what are we to think? Incidentally, the Irish Government came in and said that they would help. What a humiliation for us when the Irish Government say that they will help the athletes out. I have never heard of anything so ridiculous in all my life.

If we adopt measures of that kind, and we fight the oppressor with the same sort of methods directed against our own people, we do not win any support in the country at large. That is why the poll in The Observer on Sunday showed clearly that the majority of people are opposed to the Government's attitude and believe that the athletes should go.

I hope that hon. Members will not mind if I do not give way. I should like, for once, to make a speech without being interrupted. I always give way, and my speech always takes longer when I do. I have already taken longer than I intended.

I conclude in this way. In debates of this kind I get a little tired of the way in which some hon. Members on the Government Benches seem to develop double standards. Only a couple of weeks ago, this country decided to send an ambassador to Chile. The Government decided to ignore the report of the United Nations on what was happening in Chile. They said that that was perfectly all right, but almost at the same moment they said that the question was quite different in relation to our young athletes going to Moscow.

We ought not to have double standards. I know what I hope the House will do tonight. I say to my hon. Friends that the House should not necessarily vote for the official Opposition amendment, for this reason. It does not clarify where we stand. We ought to be absolutely clear about where we stand. Either we are for sending our athletes to Moscow or we are not. That is the question. I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) when he says that they ought not to go. I have the greatest respect for his point of view. I do not agree with it, but I know where he stands.

I ask right hon. and hon. Members to stand up on this issue and declare themselves, not necessarily, therefore, voting with either Front Bench but, if we are forced to a vote, voting down the Government's motion, because I think that if carried it would be disastrous.

5.56 pm

I support the motion, despite the extraordinary gyrations of last Thursday over the timing of the debate, which seemed designed to ensure that the House was to give a lead but that nobody outside the House should know what that lead was to be, and also despite the rather quaint wording of the motion before us today. Indeed, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), who raised the matter on a point of order, showed that, like Morecambe, he has no need of Wise if he is to continue to make effective points in the House.

My support for the motion has been greatly helped this afternoon by the attitude of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), who moved the Opposition amendment. The right hon. Gentleman gave absolutely no lead to the House or to his own side on this matter. He equivocated at the start, he continued with his equivocation, and as he sat down he gave a great rallying call—"I do not know what I am going to say because I have not made up my mind, and it is not my intention to give the House any advice this afternoon".

I sympathise greatly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) and my other right hon. and hon. Friends who have tabled an amendment to the Government's motion because I agree that the Government's attitude to the whole issue of the invasion of Afghanistan has hardly been as strong and firm as one would expect. But such things as credit terms, the export of technology and the export of subsidised EEC butter to the Soviet Union, though worthy subjects for action in themselves, will have no impact whatever on the people of Russia.

I was very disappointed when my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade, the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South (Mr. Parkinson), came back from Leipzig the other day protesting that, despite the invasion of Afghanistan, it was our hope that we should continue to build on our trade relations with countries behind the Iron Curtain. It is difficult to accept that the Government are being thoroughly wholehearted in their condemnation of the invasion of Afghanistan when such statements are made by a Minister on his return from East Germany.

The reference to East Germany leads one to the great parallel of the Olympic Games of 1936. The hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher)—who is not in his place at the moment—told us of being in Germany at the time of the 1936 Games. He pointed out that very few people, if any, in this country condemned our participation in those Games, yet today, with hindsight, we must agree that that was a mistake. There is no doubt whatever that Adolf Hitler used those Games as a great propaganda exercise to put across not to the people of the outside world, as the hon. Member for Ilkeston seemed to imply, but to his own people inside Germany the view that, because the Olympic Games were being held in Berlin, Germany was therefore accepted in the world community, and the evils of Nazism were not in fact evils at all because the whole of the rest of the sporting world, with all the publicity which even in those days the Olympic Games attracted, approved of Hitler's regime in Nazi Germany.

So it is, too, with the Russian people in 1980. I believe that the only effective way to get across to the people of Russia the message that we entirely disapprove of their invasion of Afghanistan is, basically, through the medium of the Olympic Games.

On Radio 4 this morning—if one can believe what one hears on the BBC nowadays—we heard of the great market in souvenirs which is already starting up in Russia, of the enormous interest which is being taken in the Olympic Games in the Soviet Union, and the fact that day after day the Soviet propaganda machine is putting out the message "These great international world-wide games are to be held in the Soviet Union this summer".

Is my hon. Friend aware that emblems such as the one that I have on my lapel of the Olympic Mishka bear have been made by forced labour in Soviet prison camps?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I was aware of that. The Mishka bear, among other matters, was mentioned on the radio programme this morning.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) and my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal talked about the handbook for party workers that has been issued in the Soviet Union. In that handbook the party activists' attention has been drawn to the fact that allowing the Olympic Games to be held in Moscow in 1980 gives an international seal of approval, not only to the Soviet Government but specifically and obviously for the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

If Opposition hon. Members cannot understand—or do not wish to understand—that by sending our international athletes to compete in the Olympic Games we shall be giving comfort and succour to the Soviet Union and its Marxist masters, it is because they do not believe what is happening in the world today.

Vladimir Bukovsky said recently—happily he is now away from that sad country—that thf, Soviet propaganda machine could explain nearly everything. If the propaganda machine wishes people to know, it can explain why Russia will not receive butter from the EEC. There is no need for it to explain why technology agreements are no longer being made with Western countries. One matter that it will not be able to explain—after the vast propaganda build-up of the past four years—will be the absence of British, American and other nations' athletes. It will not be able to explain the empty stadiums, although tens of thousands of Russians may be watching. Even the Russian propaganda machine cannot keep the names of the great athletes of the world from its people. If they do not see the athletes, they are bound to askߞ

Perhaps one other matter that the Russians will have difficulty in explaining is the tens of thousands of items of athletes' clothing that will not be used because the athletes will not be there, but which have been supplied by a British company, the chairman of which is the chairman of the Tory Party, namely, Lord Thorneycroft.

I regard that as a totally irrelevant remark. It has nothing to do with the principle of whether British athletes should take part in the Olympic Games in Moscow. If the British athletes of the free world do not go to Moscow, how will the Russian Government explain that to their people?

This is the only way in which the free world, together with the 130 nations of the United Nations—with a unanimity that they have virtually never shown before—can show their condemnation of the Russian aggression in Afghanistan.

It is for that reason that we must pass the Government motion and reject the Opposition amendment. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to give the House an assurance that in addition to telling British athletes that it is the view of the House and of the Government that they should not go—not that they must not go—to Moscow, the Government will announce further means to show the nation's disapproval of this fundamentally evil act—one of the most evil deeds perpetrated since 1945.

6.6 pm

We have been told that the debate is crucial both to the Geneva talks and to this country. Frankly, I am concerned that, whether one votes for the motion or for the Opposition amendment, neither those participating in the Geneva talks nor people in this country will have any real idea of what we are voting on or what lead we shall be giving to the country.

If hon. Members vote in favour of the Government's motion, they will not be making it clear whether they want our athletes to go to Moscow. If they vote for the Opposition amendment, they will not be making it clear whether they reserve the right of the individual to do as he wishes.

When I speak. I shall make it quite clear that in my view, given the present circumstances of the response of this Government and of the West to the invasion of Afghanistan, we have no right to select athletes for special treatment and to ask them to boycott the Games. I shall recommend them to go to Moscow, and invite the House to support that view.

The vital part of our amendment, which the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) has missed, is where we assert the right of sportsmen to decide for themselves. That is the most crucial consideration of all.

I was coming to that. It is the heart of the Opposition amendment, which I totally support, as do my right hon. and hon. Friends.

I am in favour of a boycott. Unlike hon. Members who have said that they will shun bcth the motion and the amendment—I am not sure that it is relevant whether they shun it, vote for it, or vote against it—I shall support the amendment because my hon. Friends and I believe what the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) has said.

I deplore the way in which the Government wish to enforce sanctions. I was astonished—as many hon. Members were—by the suggestion of the Lord Privy Seal that he had considered revoking athletes' passports.

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend considered revoking passports in the context of somebody asking him whether that should happen, to which he promptly said "No".

The House will be pleased to hear that explanation, as the remarks of the Lord Privy Seal did not come across in that way.

There is nothing new about Olympic disputes. In the fourth century BC, Demosthenes told Alexander the Great, in no uncertain terms, to go forth and multiply when there was a dispute between their countries. Afghanistan is a prima facie case of unprovoked aggression, which comes as no surprise to those who study Soviet politics. None of us expected sweetness and light. It is my contention that the monumental mistake was in awarding the Olympics to Moscow in the first place.

I believe that, in the Government's eyes, Afghanistan was the final straw. It is quite clear that consecutive and successive straws by the Russians have manifested little repentence on their part.

I am glad that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked that question. The Government now ask our athletes to bear the brunt of our displeasure. The Lord Privy Seal raised the question of comparative sacrifice. I was singularly unimpressed by the comparison. The nation appears to be suffering hardly at all, yet he expects our athletes to suffer almost totally.

When the Secretary of State for the Environment replies, will he answer a pertinent question? The Lord Privy Seal said that the athletic attache in Moscow had been withdrawn but that other Embassy officials remained at the service of Britons. Is he encouraging British tourism in Moscow, while trying to ban athletes? That is an important question. If he is asking our athletes to make what is, to them, the supreme sacrifice, to say at the Dispatch Box that we are retaining officials at the Embassy in Moscow to look after tourists—who will go, presumably, to watch the athletics practised by other countries—is a totally wrong and very false way in which to consider the issue. Gladstone said that the principle of foreign policy is good government at home. For the Prime Minister the last few days at home have been rotten. Even the debate is wrong. It is on the wrong day, for the wrong length of time and based on the wrong motion.

Is not the situation that we are debating today far worse than the Bulgarian atrocities on which Mr. Gladstone waxed so eloquent? The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) has equivocated. Does he believe that the athletes should go, or not?

I believe that it is the duty of any country to examine the atrocities in the world and to take a stand. I believe that we are absolutely right in the stand that we are taking. I am saying that the sacrifices should not only be complete but fair and exercised with equity. The athletes accuse us, with justification, of continuing to trade when we are not permitting them to play.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) was interrupted by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) who asked who will notice if the British athletes do not compete. The people of Russia will notice. It will be impossible to edit missing Americans and Britons in Olympic heats into a television tape. The withdrawal of the British team will have an enormous effect on the Olympics as they are shown to the Russians. In every way the move will be worth the candle. It will humiliate the Russians.

The Olympic movement is dead in its present form. The old art of competing is a thing of the past. It has given way to the hell-bent desire to win in order to cash in. Amateurism is no more. We are on the verge of professionalism, and people know it. Sport has never been divorced from politics. The rights of the individual are not only important, they are crucial to our way of life. We must fight for them.

With few exceptions hon. Members cannot conceive the work and dedication of the athletes who depend on the few weeks this summer to show the skills for which they have worked for so long. We do not have the right to stop those who want to go from going. It is right for the House to insist on those rights by doing everything it can to dissuade.

The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) mentioned Mr. Chamberlain returning from Germany. The old Prime Minister spoke of
"a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing."
I remind the athletes that one year after that appalling remark we were at war. I hope that they bear that in mind when they decide whether to exercise their alienable right to go to the Olympics, or whether they listen to public opinion.

6.13 pm

It is profoundly important that the House and the Government should do everything possible to deter Russian aggression following the events in Afghanistan. That is particularly so because of the sensitive situation in Iran and Yugoslavia. Therefore, nothing I say should detract from my support of the Prime Minister's and the Government's objective of deterring Russian aggression.

It is tremendously important that we take effective action in order to bring that about. I believe that it would be counterproductive if the Government and the House appealed to the athletes not to go to Moscow, and the athletes went any way. I do not doubt that if there were an effective boycott of the Games it would have a big impact on Russian opinion and Russian politics. At the same time, it must be recognised that the R ussions will exploit the Moscow Olympics for political purposes. In that sense politics and sport cannot be divorced.

It does not follow that we in a free country should go ahead and use sport for political purposes in order to damage the Russians. No one in the House takes the view that we should do the same as the Russians and prevent our citizens from leaving the country to go to the Olympics, or for any other purpose. We all rule that out. The essential point is that we must persuade the athletes not to go.

That being so, we must do everything that we can to set out the arguments involved in the events in Afghanistan. I do not believe that the events of the last few days have been helpful in persuading the athletes to boycott the Moscow Olympics. The announcement of the withdrawal of the liaison officer ahead of today's debate was not helpful. The suggestion that the matter was so important that we should debate it between 10 pm and I am was not helpful.

I understand the Government's view on civil servants, and others, but that has hardened attitudes. Once athletes say that they would rather give up their jobs than not go to Moscow, it is difficult to persuade them to change their minds. Yet, for the reasons that I have outlined, I believe that that is a matter of tremendous importance.

I shall explain what I believe we must do now. The athletes argue strongly that they are being asked to bear the brunt of the effort. They are not convinced that the Government are doing everything possible to back an overall policy of deterring Russian aggression. They are right. With respect to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, I do not believe that he made an adequate case that everything possible is being done. It is unlikely that we shall get the athletes to agree. The Government must announce more.

I tabled an amendment which has not been selected. It commands widespread support on both sides of the House. I wish to speak about the terms of that amendment because if the Government accept them that will have a big impact on the athletes.

I call on the Government to stop new export credits on exports to the Soviet Union. Some restrictions on exports already exist for strategic materials. It is difficult to distinguish between what are and what are not strategic materials. A machine tool which can be used for peaceful purposes can also be used to make machine guns for the fight in Afghanistan. The Government are still subsidising exports to Russia.

My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said that the previous agreement made by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) has expired and that we have not renewed it. None the less, we are still prepared to offer subsidised export credits on goods which are exported to Russia and which can be used to further the war effort. Existing restraints are not sufficient.

We should like to see general agreement in the EEC on that issue. However, if that is not possible and if we want to persuade the athletes not to go, we should put a unilateral stop on new export credit subsidies. That would have a significant impact but we should not put a stop to existing contracts because that would be wrong.

My right hon. Friend will argue that my suggestion could have an effect on employment or industrial activity in Britain. That may be so, but I believe that the effect would be small. The athletes are entitled to say "If you are not prepared to go along with that, we are not prepared to give up going to the Games."

The other part of my amendment, to the effect that we should
"not facilitate trade with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or its allies which may help the Soviet war effort"
ought to be acceptable to the Government. The Government ought also to make a renewed effort to stop the export to Russia of the EEC butter mountain at subsidised prices. It is crucial that the Government should make efforts along these lines if they wish to persuade the athletes not to go to Moscow. I stress that point above all others.

I should like next to deal with the athletes' complaints about the Government's attitude to an alternative Olympics. I have grave doubts whether this is feasible. Indeed, the athletes view the proposals with great cynicism. When the Government first made the suggestion, we did not see a great outburst of enthusiasm from the United States or from this country. We did not find people saying "We know that it will cost about £300 million to organise an alternative Olympics—here is the cash on the table." I understand that none of the athletic bodies has said that it wants an alternative Olympics.

The whole point of the Olympic Games is what the late Iain Macleod used to call the pursuit of excellence. Athletes in the Olympic Games are seeking to show that they are the best, the second best or the third best in the world. Athletes are not really interested in a partial Olympics, whether it be in Moscow or elsewhere.

It is no use saying that the athletes have been splendid chaps, that they have trained for 10 years, given up a great deal of their time, and that we must provide some alternative, when that alternative is not a world-wide competition. That is completely to misunderstand the whole point of the Olympic Games and the objective of the athletes. The suggestion is not, therefore, one that immediately fires the enthusiasm of athletes. It is not regarded by them as a splendid alternative—still less if it is split up between different places. As is well known, there are grave security problems involved. We recall what happened at the Munich Olympics.

The real concern of athletes is to know what position the Government are adopting. They want to see an overall policy of which they are part. It is not just a question of the individual sacrifice, although we know that that is tremendous. There is also the very real damage that would be likely to be caused to British representation on international sporting bodies.

In relation to an alternative Olympics, we have to consider the question of British representation on the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which is responsible for organising bilateral and other international contests. It has to be remembered that effectively we would be going against that body. The structure of athletics in this country is from the club to the national body and from the national body to the IAAF. The Government have not taken that aspect sufficiently into account.

I stress that I am not speaking simply on behalf of the athletes or the sporting bodies. I am talking about effective political action against the Russians. I am talking about the fact that we need to persuade people not to go to the Olympic Games. My amendment would help towards this objective. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I believe that it has very widespread support.

My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, in his opening remarks, said that my amendment is not inconsistent with the Government's policy. Fine. But if that is truly so, either the Government should provide an opportunity for the House to vote on my amendment or the Government should say that they accept the precise terms of it. It is not enough—for the reasons that I have already explained when talking about export credits—to fudge the issue and to say that the Government are already doing a great deal. It would be much better to include the terms of my amendment in the Government motion, so that the athletes could see it in black and white. No doubt my right hon. Friend will be able to express a commitment on the matter in precise terms, but after 12 years on Finance Bill Committees, I am fairly clear as to what is involved in an undertaking.

I believe that, if my right hon. Friend would accept the precise terms of my amendment, it would enable far more Members on each side of the House to support the Government motion. There would then be a much greater expression of opinion in favour of a boycott. We should also be able to have a real influence on opinion outside this House—and particularly on the sporting bodies which, at the end of the day, have to make a tremendously difficult decision.

It is very hard to assess the opinion within the sporting bodies and among athletes. My view is that if nothing further is announced today, then, despite what the Government have said, the athletes will still go to Moscow. Nothing would give greater comfort to the Russians. If the Government are prepared to accept the terms of my amendment, there is still a chance, despite what has happened so far, of persuading athletes in a free country, of their own volition, in the light of the Government's overall policy, not to go to Moscow. That would be the most effective action that we could take on this issue.

6.26 pm

I can claim to have taken a life-long interest in sport. Since 1973, I have been the chairman of the sports group of my party, although I do not profess to be speaking for anyone other than myself this evening.

I welcome the present interest of Members of Parliament in sport, for never in history has sport had so much attention paid to it and interest shown in it by politicians. I hope that this interest will continue, but I very much doubt that it will.

President Carter has been expressing his deep concern about events in Afghanistan, and taking out his concern on the athletes of his own country in terms of their participation in the Olympic Games. After what his country did to Vietnam, one might have expected his remarks to show just the slightest trace of embarrassment. In any case, the puritanical stand of the American President is blown sky-high by a little book that I have in my hand, "Inside the company: CIA Diary", by Philip Agee, a former servant of the CIA.

There are some classical references in this book on pages 541, 546, 548, 549, 550 and 551. The book shows how this officer of the CIA was employed by the United States embassy to spy on Olympic athletes with a view to recruiting them into various emigré revolutionary organisations. That is the context in which the American stand can be put at present, but I suppose that anything goes during an American presidential election year.

I do not propose to go over the pros and cons of the Russian intervention in Afghanistan. I am a fairly regular at-tender of the foreign affairs group of my party, presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). A week or so ago we were addressed by the acting Indian High Commissioner. No matter what doubts one had in one's mind previously about Afghanistan, one could not have left that meeting without gaining the impression that it is not by any means a black and white issue; there are various shades of grey involved.

Whatever the merits of the issue, the cynical approach of the Government, and of the Prime Minister in particular, has been disgusting. We know the duplicity that she displayed over the British Lions' proposed tour of South Africa. Her own Parliamentary Private Secretary took in public an entirely different stand from that of her Minister with responsibility for sport. If the Government feel as strongly over the issue as they allegedly do, then, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said yesterday in an admirable newspaper article, they should introduce a suitable Bill to make adherence to their view compulsory.

The Government have tendered advice to our athletes. There is every indication that sporting bodies and individual athletes have overwhelmingly rejected it. If the rule of law and individual freedom mean anything, the matter should have rested there. Instead, all manner of petty tyranny has been used by the Government.

Has my hon. Friend seen the reply that I received last week from the Minister with responsibility for sport? I shall quote only the final sentence:

"I have advised the Sports Council that there can be no post-Games grant for travel costs to and from Moscow."
The use of the word "persuasion" is totally contradictory to such a reply.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is the very point that I am coming on to. There was at first a softer touch. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office engaged in posh lunches in the West End. When there was no response, other measures were activated, including financial sanctions and refusal of special leave for civil servants and members of the Armed Forces to take part in the Moscow Olympics. One must commend the attitude of the Civil Service trade unions for their admirable stand on the freedom of their members who wish to take part. Thirdly, there has been the cock-eyed attempt to organise alternative Games.

I have been a member of many delegations to Ministers at the Treasury and to the Minister with responsibility for sport, calling for more money for sport. The response has invariably been negative. But now, presumably, if alternative Games can be arranged in Australia or any other country, money will be no object. That shows the hypocrisy of the whole business.

The Games are essentially the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee, as that leading sports body, the Central Council for Physical Recreation, has pointed out. The council, which represents all major sports in this country, greatly resents the present Government intrusion.

Yesterday we read in The Observer the headline
"Go to Moscow, poll tells British athletes".
The report underneath said that the opinion poll in question showed a 3 to 1 majority in favour of the athletes' going. Roughly the same proportion said that the International Olympic Committee was right to continue with the Moscow Olympics.

The Prime Minister is known as the Iron Lady. She has not gained that reputation for nothing. She is always most anxious to stoke up the fires of the cold war. The people of Britain are coming to realise that the Government under her direction are doing immense harm to the country. Do we not know it in South Wales, with the steel crisis and so on? There are also the high interest rates stifling all enterprises and mortgage rates which are a crippling burden on many young couples. In addition, inflation is once again raging at about 20 per cent. a year. That is why there was the 13 per cent. swing in the Southend by-election last Thursday.

My point is that the Olympics issue, which the Government are bringing to the forefront, is an old dodge, known throughout history: when there is something bordering on chaos on the domestic economy, divert attention overseas. The Olympics are the chosen weapon on this occasion. The athletes are simply pawns in the game. The Prime Minister thinks that in order to meet her overall objectives sport is expendable.

It is worth reminding ourselves that Olympic rule 24 says that national committees must resist all pressure, of any kind whatsoever, whether of a political, religious or economic nature. We—at least, those of us who are members of the Opposition—should stand by that.

I commend the stand taken by Sir Denis Follows, who has stood up for sport and for what he believes in. He has been embarrassed, particularly because he knows that the decision about the go-ahead for the Moscow Olympics is essentially one for the International Olympic Committee.

The Games are the outward manifestation of a movement whose central idea is the meeting in peace and friendship of all the young people of the world. The Prime Minister may temporarily embarrass the Soviet Union by what she is trying to do, but the real loser will be the Olympic movement. If a free society means anything, it is athletes themselves who must decide whether to go to Moscow or to stay away. I strongly urge them to go. Long may the Olympic movement continue!

6.38 pm

The young people who form our Olympic teams are looking to the House to give them wise counsel. Neither Front Bench has given them a great deal of help. For the Government, my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal gave a clear answer: they should not go to Moscow. But his arguments were far from convincing. The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, gave a series of eloquent and—in my view—convincing arguments. But his conclusion was simply a fudge. He was like an athlete who bursts away at the beginning, does well round the bends, but falls flat on his face when he comes to the straight.

What was the right hon. Gentleman's advice to the waiting athletes? He told them that they should abstain, not from Moscow—he does not know what to tell them about that—but from deciding. Whatever feelings we may have, the House should not today send forth an uncertain conclusion to our atheletes.

I had about four' years experience as a member of the smallest and most unimportant trade union in the House, the trade union of Ministers with responsibility for sport. One of them, as we see tonight, is not even allowed to speak on his own subject. It happened to me as well.

I followed the policy of encouraging British athletes to compete in games with the entire world, to go wherever they wished. I also encouraged to Britain, people who came from Left-wing and Right-wing countries irrespective of colour, religion or outlook. I did so because I believe that sport, above all, is a bridge. I did so too because I think it is folly to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, be it Chile, Cuba, South Africa or, indeed, the Soviet Union.

But Afghanistan is different. It is different because the invasion of Afghanistan was, above all, an international event. It was international because it involved the crossing by a foreign army of another country's frontier. It is international because Russian troops are now killing Afghans in their own country. It is international because it has been denounced by the United Nations, by the Muslim States and by the European Community. Therefore, it is against an international background—not the internal affairs of the Soviet Union, South Africa or anywhere else—that we have to judge the appropriate international response.

The United States has responded most strongly. President Carter has increased United States armaments. He has sent his carriers to the Indian Ocean, stopped the export of wheat and high technology and said "No" to athletes going to Moscow. Europe has responded less vigorously. I think that Europe should do more. But the House has to decide the adequacy and appropriateness of the British response.

Having spent a good deal of time with sportsmen, I do not find this an easy decision. Everyone in the House knows the commitment that a young man, his trainers, clubs and parents put into preparing for the Olympics. Everyone knows of the high hopes entertained by these young people. Everyone ought to recognise that, for them, it is once in a lifetime; it is a chance that never comes back. Therefore, for the athletes, this is a most heart-rending decision.

I judge the issue on three clear criteria. The first is: can athletes contract out of a national political issue because they are athletes? My answer is that they cannot, that they must not and that, if they do, they will regret it to the end of their lives. But, in answering that question in that way, I think that our athletes are entitled not to stand alone. If they are to be expected to make their protest by staying away from Moscow—giving up the chance of a lifetime—they certainly are entitled to look to the Government, and to the rest of the British nation, to make equivalent gestures in other directions.

I refer here to the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) and the admirable speech in which he drew attention to it. His amendment is exactly right. I appreciate some of the niceties that the Government have to face, particularly on export credits to the Soviet Union. I declare an interest. I am a director of a company which sends engineering goods to the Soviet Union with the benefit of ECGD credit. I recognise that there would be employment implications if we were now to stop any new credits to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, in the light of Afghanistan and, above all else, because of the need to prevent Soviet leaders from miscalculating the reactions of the West, I believe that this is a price that we must pay. My right hon. Friend's amendment ought plainly to be accepted by the Government.

Unfortunately, the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is to reply, is not present. I ask him to accept the amendment not merely in spirit, but without any ifs or buts. I say plainly to my right hon. Friend, for whom I have the greatest admiration, that if the Government fudge this issue, as the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar fudged it today, they cannot expect either the athletes or Members of the House to give them the support that I for one sincerely wish to give.

My second criterion in judging this matter is: can there be an alternative Olympics? In the circumstances, perhaps not. But I would mention one personal experience. This year a special Olympics was organised in the United States. From 18 nations just over 4,000 mentally handi- capped athletes met at Brockport, New York, before a crowd of 40,000. With colleagues, I was able to take a team of 35 young British mentally-handicapped athletes who had to be trained, prepared and run off. We did it without a penny of Government money by the commitment and dedication of the athletes, the clubs and the voluntary organisations concerned.

I am not convinced that it is possible in present circumstances to organise an alternative Olympics, and I am not even sure that it would be wise. But where there is a will, there is a way. We should abandon all thought of there being some alternative, somewhere, and this should be better than nothing.

My third and final question, in the turmoil in which young athletes, training and worrying, find themselves, is: who should make the decision? In a free country such as ours, they must decide for themselves. I do not think that anyone in this place would wish the Government or the Opposition to decide that moral question for each of them. None the less, I believe that they should make that decision with the advice, and perhaps the consent, of the House of Commons.

No. I should like to finish my speech. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

When Sir Denis Follows came before the Select Committee, of which I am a member, he was asked some direct questions. In particular, he was asked whether, if the British Parliament came to the conclusion that the athletes ought not to go, he would accept that advice. He fairly said that he would consider it. He went on to imply that it would make a difference to the athletes if the House made its position quite clear. But he also said—I think perhaps unwisely—that in these matters he and the British Olympics Association had rather more experience than we do. I like Sir Denis Follows. Indeed, I think that I may have appointed him to the Sports Council. He can sometimes be pompous, occasionally unctuous, but he is a man of enormous sincerity. But his sincerity has been misplaced insofar as he judges that he knows better than the House on the wider issue of how Britain should respond to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

I conclude by saying that the House should now give a lead. The lead should be to say to our young athletes "We understand the tragedy of your losing this opportunity. We recognise that we are asking you to make a unique sacrifice, because you alone can make a unique impact on the Soviet people. We ask you to go with us along that road, but we give the undertaking that the Government will ensure that you are not alone in your sacrifice. They will ensure that all other parts of the British community which have some contribution to offer will also be expected to make it."

The Government should say that in terms by accepting the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing.

6.49 pm

In his excellent speech, the right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) said that there was still a chance that our athletes could be persuaded by common sense, by their belief in fair play and by the clear advice of the House not to go to the Moscow Olympics. There is a slim chance. That is why it was vitally important to have this debate and that it should take place on the basis of a free vote. I am certain that when the Division Bells ring at 10 o'clock tonight, Opposition Members will go in a number of directions. I declare with the same forthrightness as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) where I shall go. I shall not go into the Lobby to support the Government but into a Lobby to call for a boycott of the Moscow Olympics. I shall say why I shall take that action and why I hope that a significant number of my right hon. and hon. Friends will be with me.

There has been worldwide condemnation of the Soviet invasion, occupation and suppression of Afghanistan. That has been voiced not merely by politicians in this country and the United States of America, but also in the United Nations and by the non-aligned countries. Almost every international assembly has issued its condemnation. Yet three months after the invasion Soviet troops are still in Afghanistan and people there are still being murdered. It would be a disgrace if that Soviet action and suppression was condoned by the international sporting community by athletes going to the Moscow Olympics.

When I began in a campaign at the beginning of the year, it was our intention to mobilise public opinion and to try to galvanise the Government into taking a lead not for a boycott at that stage but for a move of the Olympic Games from Moscow. That did not happen. The Government did not take the lead which I and many others thought that they should have taken at the beginning of this year. Now it is too late to move the Olympics from Moscow this year so I conclude firmly that there should be a boycott of the Games.

I also have an amendment on the Order Paper signed by a number of my hon. Friendsߞ

I should like to continue for a little longer. I shall perhaps give way to the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) later.

My amendment, while joining in the general condemnation of the invasion of Afghanistan, goes on to note
"the widespread expulsion of dissidents from the Moscow area in advance of the Olympic Games."
We believe that an effective boycott of the Moscow Games by the Olympic movement would bring home to the Russian people both the strength of worldwide feeling against their Government's denial of fundamental human rights to Soviet dissidents, Soviet Jews and other religious minorities and the international condemnation of their Government's brutal and cynical invasion of Afghanistan.

It is because I believe that a boycott would be effective in bringing home, probably for the first time in my lifetime, the condemnation by world opinion of the actions of the Soviet Government not only for having invaded Afghanistan but also many other deeds that they have perpetrated that this issue is important.

I believe that it was the hon. Member for Isle of Ely who said that, however the Soviets might try to edit things out of Soviet broadcasting, television and news services, they could not "edit in" athletes from the free nations if they were not there. So, for the first time, young men and women, middle-aged men and women, and perhaps old men and women in the Soviet Union will have the seed sown in their minds, the reality brought home to them, that the actions of their Government have been condemned and are held in contempt by the sporting fraternity of the world. That is why British athletes should consider carefully their actions and the advice that they will receive from the House.

I do not like to keep praying in aid the right hon. Member for Worthing. I know that if one is involved in a little dispute with one's colleagues, it is embarrassing continually to pray in aid the name of a member of the opposing party. However, I have to do so because the right hon. Gentleman was critical of the Government's handling of this matter. The Government's handling of this issue has been inept. Today we had yet another manifestation of that ineptitude when the Government's motion had to be amended by the Lord Privy Seal.

I could go over the leaking to the press of the attempt to bully people in the Civil Service and the Armed Forces. We know that that has now been retracted, but the damage has been done. The temperature in the sporting world has been raised, and the athletes are saying "If that is the attitude of the Government, they can get stuffed. We will not respond." I hope that more sane and reasonable opinion will now prevail and that sportsmen will now overlook the ineptitudes of the Government and judge the issue on its merits and in the light of its implicatons for world peace.

We all know that a young athlete who has been training from perhaps three, four, or five years of age to win a medal in the international Olympics must find it devastating to be confronted, after all that sweat, toil and training, with the prospect of not being able to participate and perhaps win that medal. All hopes and aspirations are now in jeopardy because many years ago the International Olympic Committee chose Moscow as the site for the Games.

I hope that the Minister with responsibility for sport and his Opposition coun- terpart will, during the weeks and months ahead, look closely at the IOC. It is not a very democratic body. I do not want to be sidetracked into saying too much about it, but it is a self-perpetuating body and there is no semblance of democracy in it. The two representatives on that committee who voice the views of the United Kingdom are two old chaps from the House of Lords—hereditary Lords. I hope that those responsible for sport will see whether more democracy can be brought into the IOC.

I turn to the British Olympic Association. I will not follow the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) by making any comment on the character of Sir Denis Follows. I have met him on a number of occasions since I have been involved in this issue, and I believe that he is a perfectly straightforward and rational fellow. All I hope is that he will follow to their finality the logic of his decisions. He told me that he believed that we had to accept the decision of the BOA about sport in South Africa and that politics were therefore already involved in sport. But politics were involved before Sir Denis accepted that fact. Therefore, if the South African issue involved politics—and rightly so—nobody can argue about politics being involved in the Olympics issue. They have been involved in the Olympics issue since time immemorial.

Reference has been made to our national pride being involved when the natonal anthem is played. The tremendous effort put in by the United States of America the Soviet Union and many other countries which have virtually full-time athletes was also mentioned. Nationalism is involved and so is politics.

I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) will oppose the boycott and talk about British athletes going to Moscow and demonstrating in the Olympic arena by not participating in the opening ceremonies. That would be very much fifth best or fourth best to a boycott, but it would be better than nothing. The only thing that I would say to him is that he ought to take seriously the views of the Soviet official in charge of the Olympics, a man called Mr. Popov, who has made it quite clear that no such demonstrations will be allowed in the Soviet Union. Perhaps we may even have some deportations of British athletes from the Olympics in Moscow if they dare to take the advice which I think my right hon. Friend will be giving them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer), as usual, made a perfectly straightforward and deeply sincere and emotional speech. But he articulated the fears of many hon. Members—that this business about the invasion of Afghanistan and the reaction to it could contain the seeds of a third world war. There cannot be any Member who does not share those fears of the horror, disaster and catastrophe that would befall mankind if that were to be the result.

Where I differ from my hon. Friend is that I believe that by taking action and demonstrating to the Soviet Government and bringing home to the Soviet people the enormity of what has happened we do not increase the chance of war; we decrease it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher), also in a most moving speech, referred to the fact that as a young man he attended, as a member of the audience, the Berlin Olympics of 1936. The young men and women from the non-Nazi world who attended those Olympics did not have much impact on Nazi Germany, and within three years they were marching off to war, giving their blood, limbs and lives because they had condoned the Nazi tyranny by going to Berlin, and condoned it with the assent of many people in this country, and perhaps one or two now who are the successors of those who condoned the Nazi tyranny.

I have read quite recently in a national newspaper a letter from a man called Edwin Roth, a very distinguished international journalist, who described what really happened at the 1936 Olympic Games. He said that after Albert Speer, Hitler's fellow Cabinet Minister, was released from gaol, he interviewed him, and Speer said that when Hitler knew that the world was coming to Berlin he stamped up and down the room saying "They all come! They all come! This is a great day for Nazi Germany. We are being recognised by the world."

That is what we shall do if our athletes go to Moscow—recognise and condone the invasion and the occupation of Af- ghanistan, the suppression of the dissidents and the treatment of the Soviet Jews.

That distinguished journalist also went on to say that he attended a ceremony at the Dachau concentration camp after the Second World War, where a young German went to the rostrum and made a contribution. This is what that young German said not so long ago:
"When the Olympic Games were held in Berlin in 1936, the world refused to hear the cries of those who were tortured here and in other camps of horror. Whose cries do we refuse to hear today?"
That is the question that the athletes of this country must answer. Whose cries will they refuse to hear if they accept the invitation and attend the Moscow Olympics?

7.4 pm

There was so much to admire in what was said by the hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) that I do not wish to spend time going through it. However, there was one point on which I know he will accept my agreement, because we have been in touch about it for some time. That is that neither of us, when we go into the Lobby tonight, will be in support of the Government or the Prime Minister, because the hon. Member and I, and some others, were pleading, begging and working to try to prevent the Olympic Games from being held in Moscow long before the invasion of Afghanistan. It is only that which has excited present public opinion.

I have no hesitation in saying that I believe that the fixing of the Olympic Games in Moscow was a fundamental mistake from the start. Mr. Bukovsky's name has been called in aid several times today. It is Mr. Bukovsky, Mr. Solzhenitsyn and others who have been saying, in regard to the treatment of dissidents and the whole atmosphere of tyranny in the Soviet Union, that it was not a fit place in which to hold the Games. These distingushed people, the best and most entitled to know what conditions are in their country, were saying this long before the invasion of Afghanistan took place.

I make no apology for saying again that it was a mistake. We now have an opportunity, at least partially, to put it right, with the full support of those best entitled to know what will further the cause of Soviet imperialism. As was so eloquently said, the cause of Nazism was furthered in 1936 by a similar mistake. Tonight we must help to prevent such a thing from taking place again.

It has been said that we here ought to be guided by public opinion polls, notably the one that was published in The Observer, which showed, I am told, a majority of 3:1 against the policy of seeking to prevent the athletic teams from going to Moscow. I am always very amused when I hear these public opinion polls quoted as being something which ought to guide our deliberations as Members of Parliament because they are quoted only when they happen to agree with our own views. There have been many occasions in the past when those who, for instance—and I am not among them—favour the return of capital punishment have been pointing to public opinion polls and saying "Surely we ought to be guided by the fact that this week, last week, and so on, public opinion polls everywhere showed that the people of this country favour the return of capital punishment." What has been the response of the intellectuals in this House? They have all said "Ah, but we in this House should form our own impressions. We are here to lead, not to be guided by these polls." It is only now, when a poll happens to suit someone's opinion, that suddenly we are told that we Members of Parliament should be subordinate to the polls, instead of taking a lead.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) is temporarily absent from the Chamber. I agree with him completely that the Government ought to have introduced stronger measures in economic and other fields than they have done, and they ought still to do so. I shall differ from my right hon. Friend in that I shall not make my support conditional, in voting the way I intend voting tonight, simply because I do not think that up to now the Government have taken strong enough measures.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an example of the stronger measures that he thinks ought to be taken?

Certainly. Without going into great detail—and I shall not yield to the temptation to read them out—in the field of export credits, of which mention has been made, further measures could take some considerable strength, and there is a list of measures that the Government have already taken. But the point is, simply, that while I support all my right hon. and hon. Friends, and those Opposition Members who have spoken in a similar fashion, in saying that we ought to take stronger measures, in fields other than sport, to show our disapproval, I do not think that our support in the Lobby tonight should be made conditional on that. Simply to say that the fact that we did not get something quite right before is an excuse for not doing something right tonight is not the way to form a conclusive argument.

Another point is the fatuous statement that politics should not be allowed to invade sport. Several Opposition Members and several Conservative Members have said what a nonsense all this is. Leaving apart the South African issue—I have no wish to detain the House by going through that yet again—in 1920, the International Olympic Committee banned Germany from joining in the Games in Antwerp that year, not because she was being aggressive but because, under another Government, she had engaged in a war, albeit one that had ended two years earlier. That was done by the same committee that has said that politics should not be allowed to interfere in sport.

In 1948 Japan and Germany were banned from coming to Wembley on the ground that they had taken part in a recent war, despite the fact that the war had ended three years earlier. However the Olympic Committee said that as those countries had been contaminated by aggression in the past, they should not be allowed to attend the Games.

In 1938, the Olympic Committee met. It said that the venue should be moved from Tokyo to Helsinki, because Japan had invaded China in that year. That decision was reached without the clamour that has been raised by Sir Denis Follows. The Olympic Committee contradicts history when it says from its lofty sphere that politics should not be allowed to interfere in sport. I am surprised that it has perpetrated such drivel.

It has been said that by holding the Games in Moscow, a window will be opened there. It has been said that ordinary people will be able to mix with other young people in the Olympic village and that everyone will get on happily. It is said that we shall see the full benefit that can be derived from holding the Games in Moscow. However, how many of those young people who went to Berlin lived long enough to take part in another Olympic Games? Nevertheless, we hear the same arguments today as we heard in 1936. It was said that Nazi Germany was one thing, but that a meeting of sportsmen, young people, spectators and observers was another. It is said that these Games will have a beneficial effect. In the light of events since 1936. I cannot understand how such arguments can be used.

We have been asked to accept the Prime Minister's advice. I am usually willing to do so. However, tonight the Prime Minister's opinion would not make any difference to my decision. President Carter has not persuaded me either. Incidentally the British Olympic Committee and others are in danger of making fools of themselves. Although President Carter has been known to change his mind, we can be certain that no American team will go to Moscow. Germany will therefore boycott the Games. If anyone wishes to make a wager with me in the Lobby afterwards, I shall take up that wager in roubles or any other currency that is offered. For it was the West German ambassador to NATO who was the first person to moot the idea of boycotting the Olympic Games.

However, if I myself had needed any persuasion, I would have been persuaded by Mr. Sakharov. Many tears have been shed, many gestures of sympathy and expressions of horror about that unfortunate and brave man have been made in the House and in the press of the free world. However, I sometimes feel that they were only crocodile tears. I have been greatly influenced by the last words that he sent out of Russia through his wife, in that last brave act. His words contained a solemn plea to the free world namely, that it should not participate in the Olympic Games.

7.14 pm

The Government have strenuously argued that this debate should take place before a meeting that will be held later this week to discuss an alternative to the Olympics. However, it is deeply regretted that the Government did not adopt the same attitude towards the installation of cruise missiles. They made no effort to arrange a debate before reaching a decision to install 160 of those missiles. Perhaps the principle of consulting Parliament before making a decision has been adopted as a matter of political expediency. Perhaps it is a new Government principle. However, we know that it has been adopted merely as a result of political expediency. The Government have clutched at athletes as they would clutch at a straw. They wish to make a political gesture about Afghanistan.

The Government have made a tactical blunder today. They chose the wrong time for the debate; that had to be altered. They chose the wrong motion; that had to be altered. The motion is still not correct. I understand that a manuscript amendment has been tabled altering "Great Britain" to "the United Kingdom". The motion does not cover citizens of Northern Ireland competing in boxing and equestrian events, as they would be covered by the Irish flag and would use Irish facilities. The motion is therefore inaccurate. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us and tell us the terms of the motion.

The Government were so concerned about the need for detail that they did not realise that the motion had been incorrectly worded. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) had to inform the Government of their mistake by means of a point of order. The debate has been a mess from beginning to end. It is typical that the Government have been so ill informed.

It has been repeatedly confirmed that the facilities of the Export Credits Guarantee Department are still available and that trade is continuing with Russia. The Russian ambassador has not been withdrawn. The Government have chosen a course of mean and petty discrimination against athletes. They have not been victimised. It is merely unfortunate that they cannot take time off from work. Many people will not be able to attend the Games unless they are prepared to sacrifice their jobs. Some athletes are prepared to do that. However, the Government have raised an enormous barrier. The Government say that they have not adopted such petty means of victimisation. That flies in the face of truth.

Some Conservatives have done rather well out of the Olympic Games. Those athletes who listen to this debate and who read the reports can be forgiven for thinking that the Government's decision betrays a certain amount of hypocrisy. Perhaps some athletes read an article in The Sunday Times that appeared yesterday under the heading "Good Lord! ! !". It said:
"Behold Lord Thorneycroft, chairman of the Conservative Party and of Trust Houses Forte, one of whose subsidiaries Lillywhites-Cantabrian, a manufacturer of athletics equipment, is sole supplier to the Moscow Olympics. The bulk of the track and field hardware is already in the Soviet capital, and the subsidiary company in Thorneycroft's empire has already pocketed three-quarters of the £150,000 asking price from the Russians."
The Lord Privy Seal has called on athletes to make sacrifices. However, the chairman of the Conservative Party has not made any great sacrifice. Will he pay that £100,000 back, or will he quietly pocket it and join the Lord Privy Seal in asking only athletes to make sacrifices? Are only athletes to be asked to make gestures on behalf of this bankrupt Government?

Motions have been tabled condemning Russian aggression. Opposition Members have consistently condemned aggression. They are people who, for example, condemned American aggression in Vietnam.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) made it plain from his remarks that he thought that the Americans had not gone far enough in Vietnam. They had not exterminated enough people, used enough defoliants or enough chemical weapons.

That was the impression that I gained. Throughout the Vietnamese hostilities the Tory Party gave lickspittle support to the Americans. To the deep regret of myself and many of my hon. Friends, there were some in the Labour Party who supported that view.

Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. The American aggression in Viet- nam was greater than the Russian aggression in Afghanistan, which we hope will not escalate. We condemn aggression in Vietnam and Afghanistan. We do not have double standards. We do not support aggression when convenient and condemn it when that is a useful political weapon to divert attention from difficulties at home.

Where was the voice of condemnation when Allende was deposed in Chile with CIA support? Where was that concern for the freedom of the individual and condemnation of aggression? The CIA was supported. The Conservative Party supports aggression when it suits its book.

My hon. Friend does not have to go back as far as Vietnam. A member of NATO at present has its armies deployed in the territory of a small non-aligned country. The Turkish army is still in Cyprus, and there is no suggestion of economic or diplomatic sanctions against Turkey.

My hon. Friend is right. When asked about Turkey, the Lord Privy Seal said that there were two points of view.

The Government's motion of total condemnation and a boycott is based on double standards. It cannot be supported. Athletes are being asked to take action when the Government are not prepared to do so. Our athletes are entitled to feel that it is a hypocritical motion and that those who support it have double standards.

Some hon. Members on both sides believe that if we do not stand up to the Russians their aggression will develop and we shall move towards a Third World War. Unfortunately, my motion has not been chosen, but it deals with future guarantees of neutrality for Afghanistan. It is conceivable that the Russian claims of CIA intervention through Afghanistan and Pakistan are accurate. I do not know. If they are credible, the neutralisation of Afghanistan would eradicate the Russian fear, which would be preferable to increasing confrontation.

As the Leader of the Opposition says, if we do not live with Russia, we shall die with Russia. Both sides are armed to the teeth, and the storage and deployment of weapons is increasing. Both conveniently blame the other. In varying degrees both are involved in acts of aggression and both believe that they need more weapons to protect themselves. Sooner or later one of those weapons may go off.

How will we react? Will it be treated as a false alarm and a Third World War may be avoided, or will we deploy technological might to begin an Armageddon that will produce a radioactive cinder heap in this country and possibly throughout the world? We are going in that direction if we increase confrontation.

I urge our athletes not to boycott the Olympic Games, which build bridges, as an hon. Gentleman said. We have to carry on relations with Russia, whether people like it or not. The Government encourage trade with Russia. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) asked the Lord Privy Seal about jobs in his constituency. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear that jobs would not be lost through boycotting trade with Russia. The Government are maintaining the ambassador and most of the embassy staff in Moscow, apart from the one person who was to assist with the games. The Government recognise that we must maintain our contacts.

Our athletes should follow that example, and maintain and follow up their contacts by attending the Games. They should ignore the hypocritical motion which the Government have tabled for short-term petty political advantage.

7.26 pm

Many letters have been written to the newspapers recently about the boycott of the Olympic Games. One such letter was a model of simplicity and clarity. It asked whether, if one had arranged to play bridge on Wednesday with an acquaintance who had spent the previous weekend overpowering and murdering a neighbour's family, one would still do so. That is essentially the same problem that faces us over the Games. If the answer is "No", we should reflect how much more important, far-reaching and significant is the decision that our athletes have to take.

Many hon. Members and far more people outside are amazed that the venue was ever chosen. Over many months many of us have consistently tried to have it altered. Once Moscow was chosen, it was inevitable that the pressure on athletes of any free country would be enormous.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates no sudden Russian conversion to repression. The Russian nation has repressed and treated people cruelly for many years.

I am surprised that our athletes have not noticed the pressure applied to Soviet athletes. The other day I heard the heartbreaking story of a young Russian athlete forced to take steroids to improve her performance, as so many are. She flatly refused because of the side effects. So much pressure was put on her that she was very frightened and subsequently escaped. The alarming thing was that then the pressure and tyranny were moved to her family. Her mother was taken away and pressure was brought to bear on her sister. It amazes me that if there is any solidarity among athletes this country's athletes should not be influenced and should even contemplate attending the Olympic Games.

In the Soviet Union, if one hangs a protest banner from one's window, one is liable to be sent to a prison camp. If one attempts to monitor whether the Helsinki Final Agreement is being carried out, one is liable to be sent to Siberia for a long time. If one reads a Bible, or if one is a Jew, that is all it needs to bring the full weight of the Soviet Union bearing down upon one.

How much of this is known to the people of the Soviet Union? Certainly it is extremely difficult for any of them to take a clear decision—or any decsion—because of the heavy censorship that is constantly applied to all their newspapers.

Boycotting the Olympic Games is one clear and immediate way of getting the message across to the people of the USSR that their oppressive and cruel Government is the pariah of the free world. This is the only chance that we shall have for many years, and that is the point that Sir Denis Follows has failed to understand.

I agree with my hon. Friends who have said that there should not only be an Olympic boycott but that there are many other things that we should do. But it is perfectly clear that if we withdraw the ambassador that would not get the message across to the Soviet people. The same is true of a trade embargo. It is a question of using the opportunity that is before us now. We shall not have such an opportunity again to make clear to the Soviet Union the opinion of the world.

The tour by the Moscow Military Ensemble has been postponed, but what impact will that make in Russia? None at all. The British-Soviet meetings on environmental protection, medicine and public health have been cancelled—and I should think so, too. But in themselves they do not make a peep of difference to the people of the Soviet Union. However, if the teams withdraw, as they are doing increasingly, from these great Games, that fact cannot be hidden from the Soviet people. This is our one chance to make clear the way in which we feel.

If whole teams boycotted the Olympic Games, this would be a golden opportunity to show the Sovets how the world regards their behaviour. Who knows where that might lead? It is highly significant. As many of my colleagues wish to speak in this debate, I shall yield to them.

7.35 pm

The Bank of America, the Bank of Scotland, the Chase Manhattan Bank, Credit Lyonnais, Lloyds Bank, the National Westminster Bank and the Midland Bank, plus 25 other Western banks all have offices open in Moscow doing business at present. In these circumstances, how can anyone, like hon. Members opposite, talk about "equality of sacrifice"?

I have a specific question to put to the Government Front Bench. On 21 February, the Prime Minister quoted a letter that she had written to Sir Denis Follows. The second sentence of that letter read:
"Nevertheless, as you will have seen from my statement in the House of Commons on 14 February, the Government has decided that its advice to British athletes must be not to go to the Games in Moscow next summer.'"—[Official Report, 21 February 1980; Vol. 979, c. 274.]
I ask why the Prime Minister of this country did not see fit before making that statement to Parliament—rightly or wrongly—at least to talk to the British Olympic Association. It is more than simply a matter of manners. I would be the last to take issue with anyone on the question of manners because there are much more important issues at stake. Could this be answered in the Minister's reply tonight?

My amendment shows that some of us—albeit a small minority—dispute the premise on which this debate takes place. We dispute the premise that the regrettable invasion of Afghanistan can be seen simply in terms that are wholly black. We argue that this is a complex issue and that there are various shades of grey.

The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) has talked about "bestial acts". I do not doubt that bestial things are being done every day, but I must point out that bestial acts were committed in Afghanistan long before any soldier of the Red Army entered that country—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) says "Rubbish".

I am glad that my right hon. Friend denies it. I need all the support that I can get. The fact is that, in the four months before the Red Army went into Afghanistan, 58,000 people had their throats cut.

By Afghan factions fighting one another. This is a very complicated situation.

I have asked time and again—and this has never been answered completely—why the Russians went into Afghanistan in the first place. Why? Why? The Lord Privy Seal today said that Mr. Brezhnev referred to it as "a difficult decision". Probably it was a difficult decision. But the issue is why should the Russians have embarked on such a course in the first place? Various explanations have been given. It has been suggested that they have their eyes on the Iranian oilfields, but that does not hold much water. Afghanistan is 200 miles from the Iranian oilfields but Azerbaijan, where the Russians have been for centuries, is only 100 miles from the Iranian oilfields.

We are told by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and others that this is the beginning of the Russians' global aggression. If this is all about global aggression, our athletes have no business going to Moscow. But it is difficult to imagine that the mountains of Afghanistan should be the place for starting global aggression. If we are talking about global aggression, surely it is relevant to say that the men in the Kremlin are very concerned about the Kakorham highway which links China and Pakistan and the Chinese pouring materials into Pakistan. I do not make much of this, but it is fair to point out that the Russian Government have been extremely concerned for more than two decades about the Chinese. They may be neurotic about them, but anything that leads the Russians to suppose that there is a serious Chinese threat and that people in Afghanistan may have been supplied from China puts a somewhat different complexion on the Soviet actions.

I refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher). If we are considering the global aspect, there is one group which might be very pleased to see the West withdraw from the Olympic Games. That is the view of Professor John Erickson, the Russian expert, who will give evidence to the foreign affairs Select Committee. In his view, there is the faction within the Soviet hierarchy, led by Mr. Andropov, the head of the KGB, who will be absolutely delighted if Western athletes and tourists do not go to Moscow. In the argument about global aggression, we have to be careful, because in the Soviet Union Government, as in every Government, there are factions. All factions were united in not wanting a Soviet supplicant State in chaos on their borders.

If we are to take definite decisions, we must look carefully, and certainly at much greater length than one can in a single speech, at what is involved. Consider, for example, the actions of the GRU, the military intelligence in the Soviet Union. It may be that the GRU greatly exaggerated the threat and that it did not act rationally, but it seems that there were intelligence sources in the Soviet Union that persuaded the Russian Government that an irredentist Moslem insurrection in Afghanistan would make it difficult for the Soviets to hold 2,700 kilometres of frontier on that difficult terrain.

If the Foreign Office Minister who is on the Government Front Bench doubts the general drift of my argument, let the Foreign Office look at the incredible story of General Pastuchkin, the KGB general who was sent to Afghanistan last year and who committed suicide on his return to Moscow. It is a fairly good guess that he committed suicide because the KGB had failed inside Afghanistan. So the Red Army had to sort out the chaos.

We are not concerned with the morality of the KGB becoming involved, except to note that the Russians have been deeply involved in Afghanistan for more than half a century. The kings of Afghanistan were the first people in the world to recognise the Soviet revolution. It has been a close relationship and it cannot he seriously argued that it has been an exploitative relationship. Afghanistan's natural gas and other raw materials have been sold to the Soviet Union at world prices and the Soviet Union has poured a great deal of money into Afghanistan.

I find my hon. Friend's speculation about the motivation of the Soviet Union historically interesting but somewhat dangerous. The relativism of his approach to aggression seems to be a mirror of the sort of arguments that were used by the friends of the Nazi regime in the 1930s to justify the invasion of the Sudetenland, the Danzig corridor and the reoccupation of territories that were held to be German in origin.

Since the conclusion of the war. we have tried to live in the world by rules of international law which are enshrined in the United Nations charter. Whatever may be the motives of countries that decide to send troops across the borders of others, they are clearly in breach of the charter and we have an obligation to recognise that such a breach constitutes a threat to global peace aind security, however well conceived may be the motivation of the Government concerned.

That is a point of view, but faced on the borders of the Soviet Union with an irredentist fundamentalist Moslem revival and ayatollahs' State, it was not straightforward aggression.

That it not so, though the Sudetenland analogy is relevant to the extent that there are on both sides of the border people of the same tribeߞ10 million Uzbeks in Soviet Uzbekistan, out of 14 million, and 5 million Uzbeks in Afghanistan, and the same may be said of the Turkomans, the Khizkirs, and the Tadjiks.

That is the problem faced by the Soviet State. I do not dismiss the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), because I am not an apologist for the Soviet Union, but there is a great problem here. My hon. Friend used the analogy of the Sudetenland. I shall use another uncomfortable analogy.

Eleven years ago, much against the wishes of some of us who pleaded with our own Ministers not to do it, the British Army was sent to Northern Ireland. I agree that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that Afghanistan is not part of the Soviet Union, but people can get sucked into situations that they had no wish to get involved in at the start. That is different from global aggression or casting a covetous eye on the oil fields. It is a considerable problem, internally, perhaps, as well as externally, for the Soviet State.

We know from our experience in Northern Ireland the problems that can arise once troops have been sent to a country. Doubtless Mr. Brezhnev intended that the Soviet troops should be in Afghanistan only temporarily, just as the British Government intended that troops should be in Northern Ireland temporarily, and just as the Americans said in Vietnam. Great States can be drawn into circumstances that they did not want to get involved in. It is one thing to put troops in—quite another to pull them out, when there is a civil war situation. Look at Northern Ireland again.

The Russians may be trapped by their own presence. They may think that they have to stay, perhaps to prevent a civil war which may never have materialised had they not intervened in the first place. It is easy for hon. Members to laugh, but I wonder how many of those who are laughing their heads off would be so amused if they had the prospect of a militant Islamic State on their borders. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) spoke about all the dreadful things that had been done in the Soviet Union; but dreadful things have also been done under the rule of ayatollahs and Muslim fundamentalist States are not a great deal more pleasant places to live in than is the Soviet Union.

Part of the argument is that the Soviet Union felt, rightly or wrongly, that it had to insulate itself from the effects of contagious difficulties on its borders caused by an Islamic revival. If hon. Members can laugh so much at that argument, how come the Government of India, the greatest democracy in Asia, have consistently refused to endorse any wholesale condemnation of the Russian action? The reason is that they see that the situation is extremely complex and that there are complex issues involving not only Afghanistan but Pakistan.

We would do well to look at the details of the situation before jumping to any conclusions about what to tell our athletes. Some of us wonder about the reactions of the West. Did it not suit President Carter's image to blow up a situation that the Russians never thought would be blown up, just at the time of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries and caucus politics? I shall not say too much about the Germans, except that they also have an election coming up.

Let us consider the actions of our own Prime Minister. I do not often launch personal attacks, but if the right hon. Lady had been serious about all this, why did she not consult the British Olympic Association first? Why did it all come out, apparently spontaneously, in the House without previous thought? I suspect that there is an explanation, namely, that people in politics like to live up to their own images and justify a position that they have taken in the past. Is not Afghanistan, as portrayed by the popular press, a marvellous way in which the Iron Lady can say "How right I was all along about the Russians?" I view with the greatest cynicism the actions of the Government. I say to the athletes, like some of my hon. Friends, get away from this humbug and go to Moscow.

7.51 pm

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) will not expect me to take up his arguments nor his apologies for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The hon. Gentleman succeeded in persuading singularly few Members even on his own side in that respect.

The Soviet invasion has been brazen and overt. It has been condemned by 104 members of the United Nations as a flagrant breach of the United Nations charter, yet the hon. Member for West Lothian seeks to excuse it. He tells us that it is a temporary measure, that Mr. Brezhnev was hesitant about going ahead with it and must be unhappy about it, and that no doubt he will wish to withdraw at the earliest possible moment. What evidence does he have for these absurd speculations?

Why does not the hon. Gentleman consider the plight of the peoples of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and all the other peoples oppressed and occupied by the Soviet Union, who 35 years after the end of the Second World War, still remain under the Soviet tank track? Instead, the hon. Gentleman chooses to apologise for these new invasions, these new conquests. I do not believe that he will have much support for his policies inside or outside the House.

We see in the invasion of Afghanistan a new dimension to Soviet imperialism. It is one that threatens every Third world country and ultimately ourselves in Europe. What is to be our response? The United Nations has made clear its response—namely, its overwhelming condemnation. Is the House to make its voice any less clearly heard? Is it to condemn any less rigorously the outrage that has been perpetrated against the peoples of Afghanistan?

We have the opportunity to make our position clear tonight. The Soviets are inviting the world to participate in a propaganda spectacular at the Moscow Olympics. There can be no illusion about the extent to which they regard it as a political orgy in glorification of Soviet foreign and domestic policy. I find it difficult to believe that British athletes would knowingly wish to condone and pay tribute in this way to the oppressors of the peoples of Afghanistan.

There are those who mention the phrase used by a former Prime Minister on returning from Munich—namely, that the Czechoslovaks were a far-away people of whom we knew little. I ask right hon. and hon. Members who are considering abstaining whether their reaction would be the same today if, instead of Afghanistan, it had been Finland that had been invaded, or NATO Norway. Would we still be sending athletes to Moscow? Would Sir Denis Follows and the Marquess of Exeter still be speeding our sporting heroes up the line to pay tribute to the enslavers of Europeans? Or is it because these people are not European—that they are only a Third world people—that invading them does not rate so highly in the opprobrium of hon. Members?

The Government are urging the boycott to register our protest at the internal policies of the Soviet Union as well as its external policies. Internal oppression has been evident for many years but it has intensified in recent months. In the past three months more than 50 members of the Soviet human rights movement have been arrested in Moscow directly, so they believe, in relation to the forthcoming holding of the Olympics. They have been arrested and many have been sent into internal exile. Others are still being interrogated. Those who go in their quest to win devalued gold in Moscow will be paying tribute to the guardians of the world's greatest concentration camp.

The totalitarian and racist policies of the Soviet Union disqualify it, even under the International Olympic Committee's own rules, from being the venue for the Olympic Games. I wonder how many Jews who have expressed their wish to leave the Soviet Union are being permitted to take part in the Olympic Games. How many Soviet citizens who have expressed their concern for the implementation of the Helsinki accord are being invited to represent their country at the Moscow Olympics?

The leader of the human rights movement in the Soviet Union, Dr. Sakharov, has been sent into internal exile and he and his family are being persecuted. This weekend Anatoly Shcharansky finished three years of his prison sentence, only to be despatched to 10 years in forced labour camps. Ida Nudel is in the middle of her four-year sentence, and even though there is grave concern for her health she is being denied proper medical attention by the Soviet authorities. What was her crime? It was to display a poster in her window demanding the right to be allowed to leave the Soviet Union.

But it is also right that we examine the part of the British Government in all this. British athletes have complained that they are being unfairly singled out by the Government and pushed into the firing line. I believe that they are right in their complaint. What steps have Her Majesty's Government taken, or what steps do they propose to take diplomatically, or in the fields of technology or trade, which are proper areas for Government concern?

I am not suggesting the imposition of economic sanctions against the Soviet Union, though I know that successive British Governments have led the pack in imposing sanctions against Rhodesia over the past 14 years. I am not aware that Rhodesia ever invaded any other country as the Soviet Union is now doing. I am not calling for the Government to impose comparable economic sanctions, but I find it strange that we are continuing to provide subsidised interest rates enabling the Soviets to buy equipment from the United Kingdom, on interest terms that are half those available to British industrialists and British business men who are trying to provide jobs in their own country. When is that to stop?

The most absurd outrage of all is that we continue to send subsidised EEC butter to the Soviet Union. An estimated 80,000 tonnes is likely to go this year in spite of what has happened, and, of course, it will be the British taxpayer, as overwhelmingly the largest contributor to the CAP budget, who will be required to foot the bill for that outrage.

We have heard of the policy of having to choose guns or butter. The European Community has made nonsense of that; the Soviet Union buys the guns—we give them the butter. I should certainly wish to add my support to my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) in the amendment which he has sought to draw to the attention of the House tonight.

I should welcome elucidation of another aspect of British Government policy. We all agree, I believe, that the British Government have no right to forbid or prevent a citizen of this country leaving our shores for whatever purpose he or she may wish to leave. I am glad that that should be the case, since that is in the nature of the society in which we live. Our Government, therefore, have to confine themselves to persuasion rather than coercion.

I believe that the Government are entitled, indeed have a duty, to give a lead to the country and to make clear where they stand. Moreover, they have the right to decide whether public funds should or should not be made available for a given purpose. Nevertheless, I must express the profoundest concern about the way the Government appear to be planning to behave in their role as an employer in this case, in respect of civil servants and members of the Armed Forces.

In my view, the Government are entitled to say that they will not give people special paid leave, but I do not believe that they are entitled to say "We will deny you special leave." In my judgment, the Government are duty bound to respect what would in this country be regarded as the tenets of good business practice. I draw an analogy here with a major employer in my own constituency. I cannot conceive of Sir Arnold Weinstock of GEC saying to an employee who qualified for Moscow "As I, Weinstock, am against the Moscow Olympics, I will deny you two weeks' extra leave."

I greatly hope, therefore, that in replying to the debate the Minister will make clear that there is to be no coercion. I firmly believe that to be the Government's position, but I should welcome elucidation of it.

To our athletes who may still be thinking of going to Moscow, I say only "You are free to go if you must, but go in the knowledge that you are betraying your fellow men in their hour of need in Afghanistan and within the Soviet Union by going to play games with the murderers of the Afghan patriots and by paying honour to the gaolers of Shcharansky, of Sakharov, of Ida Nudel and of countless hundreds of thousands of others."

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), and especially the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) in a moving speech, have called upon right hon. and hon. Members to stand up and be counted. I believe that we owe it to ourselves and to those who are facing this persecution to do not less. Let this not be a fudged issue tonight. I appeal to those hon. Members on the Opposition Benches who believe in and uphold the tenets of democracy to leave the "No" Lobby free tonight for those who do not choose to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for those who do believe that British athletes should go to pay tribute to the Soviets. Let us by our votes tonight demonstrate our support for, and solidarity with, the oppressed and suffering in Afghanistan, in Eastern Europe and within the Soviet Union. Let us not break faith with them.

8.5 pm

As he would expect, I disagreed with a great deal of what was said by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), but I found myself agreeing with his criticism of the Government in their threat that they will deny special leave to the Armed Forces and to civil servants. I regard that as repugnant.

I should have been happy to support the Government's motion if it had stopped at condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I should have taken that line, as, I believe, all right hon. and hon. Members would. I should have liked to follow the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), but I do not wish to do so. I condemn the invasion. In my view, no justification can be found for it. Arguments can be found, but there can be no justification for aggression. The United Nations voted overwhelmingly—by 108 votes—in condemnation of the Soviet invasion, much as it did when Britain invaded Suez and as it did from time to time with reference to American activities in Vietnam. I condemn all three. But that is not what I want to talk about tonight.

The reason why I oppose the Government's motion is that I believe it to be thoroughly unrealistic. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) was right when he called it a ritual dance. I think that it is totally lacking in clarity.

Let us look for a moment at the terms and intention of the motion. The Olympic Games will take place in Moscow. I wish that that decision had never been taken. I wish that the Games were to be held in some other part of the world. But we were not consulted about that, and I do not think that we protested at the time. The Games will take place in Moscow, and no weight can be attached to the thought that some alternative can be cooked up by the Minister of State and other colleagues now in Geneva. The athletes will not accept it.

We are, therefore, making ourselves look silly in the eyes of the world by trying to pretend that we can mount some alternative Olympics anywhere else in the world. There is no indication whatever that the Olympic committee will change its mind. Moreover, I believe that very few countries will actually take the action which would be necessary. Let us remember that if one is to stop being represented one has to take draconian measures. One has to take away people's passports.

Admittedly, one can make one's appeal, but I have little doubt that only those who are prepared to take the sort of draconian action which non-free countries take can ensure that they will not have teams at the Olympic Games. I do not believe that there will be many of those, and I am perfectly sure that that will not apply to our country. Indeed, we have an assurance from the Government Front Bench that that will not be done.

What is proposed is that the Government should use their best endeavours to persuade the United Kingdom athletes not to go. In most cases, even if the House were unanimously to decide that today, it would not succeed because most of the athletes have decided that they will go to the Olympic Games. They will not be persuaded to the contrary by politicians of any colour, on a free vote or otherwise, because for them the Olympic Games happen every four years, they are a unique occasion in the athletics world and, wherever they are held, the athletes want to go.

I assure the hon. Member for Stretford that our athletes will not be going to Moscow to pay their allegiance to Mr. Brezhnev or to the Soviet system. They are going as athletes to compete with athletes from other parts of the world. Many of the finest, at least in Britain, have been training for years for this event, and they have indicated their intention to disregard the Government's pleas. Moreover, the British public—certainly, if one follows the poll in The Observer—appear to agree with them in that view.

Therefore, what we may see if the Government proceed on their present course is a weakened team in Moscow from a number of free world countries. There will, of course, be some British people there. Perhaps some of our best will not go, but there will be a team, and for Britain and any other countries which go down this route there will be fewer golds, fewer silvers and fewer bronzes. Fewer of our athletes will have the honour of hearing the national anthem played because of their achievements. In fact, there will be more Russian medals, and the Russians will take the credit. It will be a heyday for the Russians if our athletes are prevented from competing in Moscow.

As for the effect that a boycott will have on Soviet public opinion, I cannot believe that anyone in the House who knows the Soviet Union and its control of the Soviet press will believe that this demonstration will have any effect. As the House knows, the Soviet Government have a total control over their radio and television systems. They will not explain that the true reason for the weak teams from Britain, the United States or any other country is the Soviet action in Afghanistan. They will say "Look how great are the Soviet athletes." They will take credit for that. We will be playing into the hands of the Soviet Union if we take the proposed measures.

If I thought for one moment that it would be possible to alter the venue, or that no British teams would participate, I should support the motion. However, I know that there is no chance of that happening.

I shall be brief, as many of my hon. Friends wish to speak. From the beginning, the Government have bungled their handling of the position in an almost inconceivable manner and in a way which will do great damage to the cause both of Britain and of our athletes. Whatever motion the House may pass, there will be a British team competing in Moscow. If they want to, the Russians will be able to say that they are dissidents who refuse to accept the policies of the British Government. That will put the athletes into an extremely difficult position and will give the Russians a marvellous opportunity for Soviet propaganda.

The way in which the Government have handled the matter is an example of bungling, of which we have seen example after example over the past few weeks. There has been instant policy making by the Prime Minister, on her feet, which her Front and Back Benches have had to support in debates such as this. It does no good to this country, and I greatly regret it.

I should be happy to debate Afghanistan and Soviet aggression. I have many views that I should like to share with my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, to whom I did not say "Rubbish". However, we are discussing by what means, if any, we can prevent a British team competing at Moscow. There is no way of bringing that about other than by using methods that are not used in a free country.

8.14 pm

I had hoped to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). He represents a view that I hold dear to my heart.

Many hon. Members referred to the fact that the Games were being held in Moscow, and asked "Why Moscow?" The right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) said that that was not the concern of the British Government when the International Olympic Committee decided to hold the Games in Moscow. I think that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) will paint a different picture. A decision was taken on 23 October 1974 that the Games would be held in Moscow. I give all credit to those in the country and in the House, who, even then, said that it was a wrong decision. It was taken at a time when detente was in the air, and we thought that times were changing and that the Russians were changing their spots. However, since that decision, we have seen that that has not happened.

As the years progressed, and in political and military spheres event followed event—the Russian interventions in Angola and Ethiopia, the genocide in Eritrea, and the attack on Somalia—the numbers grew of people asking why the Games should be held in the Soviet Union, and demanding to know why more thought had not been given to finding a possible alternative site. I hope that that question will be answered.

I shall not give way, since many other hon. Members wish to speak.

I turn to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Much has been said in foreign affairs debates over the past two weeks about an invitation being extended by the Afghanistan Government to Russian troops to move into their country. It is a pretty poor way to show acceptance of hospitality when, the day after the troops move in, they take the President of Afghanistan and his family, including his children, line them up against a wall and shoot them down. It may be in the tradition of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union to do that, but it does not suit our book.

The invasion of Afghanistan alone is reason enough for saying that we should not support the Games in Moscow. If I had been in the House on Friday, I would have supported the motion of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford. In line with all that has happened in the political and military sphere over the past six or seven years, we have seen increasing internal repression in Russia itself.

Time after time hon. Members on both sides of the House have put forward the names of those people condemned for crimes that they have not committed and sent to concentration camps and even to mental institutions. The catalogue of those crimes grows week by week. We know that as we move into the immediate pre-Olympic Games period more and more repression will be exercised against all minority groups and nationalities, against all who believe in free thought, against all Christians and against all Jews. That is undeniable. That is why I wish to couple, in this motion, the invasion of Afghanistan with the increased repression within the Soviet Union.

I quote one small incident in Russia which serves to illustrate my point. The main names of those concerned are well known. I quote from The Observer of 6 January 1980:
"Vladimir Shelkov, an octogenarian Russian religious dissenter, is in a Siberian jail serving five years' strict corrective labour—at his age as good as a death sentence."
Mr. Shelkov is 84 years old. It is unthinkable that we should have any contact with people who behave in that manner to a man of that age, whatever his crime. His crime happens to be that he is a Seventh Day Adventist. I am not well versed in that religion, but I know that the Russian Government's behaviour is disgraceful and that we all deplore it.

As I stand here, I may not appear to be a good example of someone who has taken part in a national sporting activity. However, I had the great honour to be a member of the first national modern pentathlon team after the war. It is a gruelling and tough individual sport, as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) will agree. He had the honour of taking part in the Olympic Games, whereas I only worked towards it, came fifth in the field and, therefore, missed the opportunity to compete. I understand, as does my right hon. Friend, that it is a tough decision for the athletes to make. But it is a decision that I should take willingly, because I cannot conceive that, if athletes in Britain really understand the sort of society that exists in Russia, they would compete in the Games and become involved in a propaganda exercise on this scale.

That is the great merit of today's debate. By the time that it has ended, some 30 hon. Members will have spoken, and we shall have made clear our views and our universal condemnation. From that point on, it is for the individual member of the British team to make up his own mind.

My final point concerns the role of the International Olympic Committee. Reference has been made to the members of that committee. Whatever happens to the Olympic Games this time, there must be an examination of the composition of that committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) said that people who serve on that committee should declare their interests in the Olympic Games other than that of organising them. My knowledge of the members of the committee leads me to conclude that they have become a superannuated, pampered elite, divorced from reality and mainly concerned with preserving an empire which visibly is crumbling around them. I leave that thought, with others, about my belief that athletes should not participate in the Olympic Games at Moscow.

8.20 pm

The first few words of the motion state:

"That this House condemns the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan".
There is much slipshod thinking and many hon. Members do not make many inquiries before they make statements. Several hon. Members have said that everybody in the Opposition condemns that invasion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) said that, and yet at least two hon. Members who took part in the East-West debate made it clear—as I do tonight—that we do not condemn the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Nobody should say that everybody condemns it.

It is typical of the slipshod thinking and activities of the Government that, in their search for brevity—and motions should be as brief and clear as possible—they have sacrificed clarity. We have seen the extraordinary spectacle of the Lord Privy Seal asking to move a manuscript amendment to a 24-word motion that had been carefully prepared. The words "Great Britain" were used in the motion when "United Kingdom" was meant. That might seem to be a small issue to some, but it is of great importance to others. One would have thought that whoever drafted the motion would have been aware of that.

There are several mistakes. The motion refers to the "Soviet invasion". That means nothing. We might as well say "united invasion" or "great invasion". The motion means "Soviet Union invasion". The motion also refers to taking part in the Olympic Games in Moscow. The Games are to take place in centres other than Moscow. The Olympic Games are being held in several centres. Does the motion affect only those athletes who are to take part in events at Moscow? The person who drafted the motion knew so little about the issue that he did not know that the Games are to be held in several centres. Why mention "in Moscow"? The decision to use those words reveals either gross incompetence or lack of knowledge about the Olympic Games. That is typical of the present Government.

Many people believe that we have a Government of great determination. I believe that we have a Government who prefer to act at second hand. At Question Time Ministers say that they are not responsible for cuts in the Health Service, but that the area health authorities are responsible. Ministers say that the authorities are given the money and that they must decide where to make the cuts. The same is said about cuts in education and local government services. The Government say that they are not responsible for charges made for school transport. They say that the choice is for the local authorities. Time and again the Government dodge such questions by washing their hands of them.

The same is true of the Olympic controversy. The Government could have taken many actions. To my surprise, I agreed with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who made a strong speech in which he outlined the actions that he would like the Government to take. A determined, resolute Government who really wanted to show the Soviet Union that they condemn its actions in Afghanistan would not leave athletes to represent them. They would impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on the Soviet Union. The least that they should have done was to withdraw their ambassador, but there is no mention of that.

Perhaps the lack of determination on the economic front is because the Government realise that that would not have much effect on the Soviet Union. Exports from Western countries to the Soviet Union represent less than 1½ per cent. of the gross national product. There is not much chance to do much damage on that front. Even that 1½ per cent. falls lightly on the United States. The United States proposes to stop grain exports to the Soviet Union. Such exports can be begun again quickly. However, we export machinery and technology to the Soviet Union. Once that market is lost, it will not be easy to get it back. Perhaps that is the answer to the rhetorical questions posed by the hon. Member for Macclesfield.

The Government prefer to make a song and dance about athletes going to the Olympic Games and to put the responsibility and guilt on their shoulders. If the athletes do not do what the Government want them to do, they will be made to feel that they are supporting the Soviet Government. Nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could be further from the minds of the young athletes. The Government want to do something about the situation. They cannot do anything themselves, so they look for scapegoates who can be blamed. It is said that Moscow should never have been chosen as the venue for the Games.

The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer) asked why hon. Members suddenly objected after everything that has happened in the Soviet Union. Perhaps he should have addressed that question to the Prime Minister. She agreed to act as one of the sponsors for the fund to send British athletes to the Olympic Games. Her name is still on that list and she recently made a donation to the fund. Perhaps he should have asked her why, despite all that he claims has been done to dissidents in the Soviet Union, she was still quite happy to associate her name with the British team to be sent to the Olympics. What has happened recently to change her mind? Obviously it is Afghanistan. If she is so determined to be a firm Prime Minister, let us see some action from her, but let her not once again carry out government at second hand by placing the responsibility on the shoulders of young athletes.

8.29 pm

I believe that we are debating this issue at great length today because in so doing we are debating democracy—the freedom of the individual and freedom of speech. Those are the rights for which the Western world—and particularly this country—has always stood and in which it has always believed.

Some of us have been accused of raising only very recently the question whether Britain should be represented at the Moscow Olympics, but there are those who for many years now have been working incessantly against the Moscow Olympics. I have been involved with Soviet Jewry for a considerable number of years. I have been perturbed for a very long time at what has been happening within the Soviet Union—long before the matter of Afghanistan arose.

Only recently, some of the people who were accused at the Leningrad trials were pleading for further help. We learnt that one of them had cut off his finger as a means of trying to get medical treatment for a kidney disease.

The reasons why I have been against the Moscow Olympics have already been described by other hon. Members, who spoke of the flouting of the Helsinki agreements in respect of human rights. What has happened in Afghanistan is typical of what has been going on for a very long time.

If a large number of athletes were to stay away from the Olympic Games, it would inevitably be brought home to the Russian people. Whatever the television or the radio or the media generally may say, athletes cannot be produced out of a hat. If the athletes stay away in large numbers, there will be a point at which the Russians will be unable to hide what has been going on for a very long time.

Aggression has been a problem since the last war. Many countries have been accused of committing acts of aggression. There is no doubt that since 1945 Communism has been advancing throughout the world.

I would not disagree with the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) about the grain sales to Russia from the United States of America. America, as the largest and strongest of the Powers in the Western world, should have held back on its grain sales to the Soviet Union.

I have the impression that if the Afghanistan matter did not exist the Government would have had to invent it. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister is using Afghanistan to divert attention from the record unemployment and rampant inflation in this country. That is obvious to some of us on the Labour Benches. I do not condone Soviet military activity in Afghanistan—far from it—but let it be made perfectly clear that what the Russians have done—