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Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket Report

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 20 July 2023

7. What assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the report of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket entitled “Holding Up a Mirror To Cricket” published in June 2023. (906073)

Discrimination has no place in sport or wider society. The ICEC report makes for difficult reading. Clearly, the sport needs to reflect carefully on the report’s concerning findings and consider how best to deliver clear and sustained cultural change across cricket. The Government will review the findings of the report, and we welcome the England and Wales Cricket Board’s commitment to bring forward a plan to tackle these serious issues, which must be addressed in full.

After the exposés of whistleblowers such as Azeem Rafiq, the “Holding Up a Mirror to Cricket” report lays bare the extent of racism, sexism and classism in cricket. Over the past couple of years, we have seen scandals in cricket, abuse in gymnastics, a whole plethora of issues unearthed by the fan-led review into football and the sport of rugby union undertaking a review into its governance, and I fear that, sadly, there will be further such examples. Just how confident is the Minister that structures are in place to deal with inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour in sport, and does he now feel that there is a need to look into governance in sport more widely?

I have made that issue a priority in the time that I have been in this role, because it does need addressing. I hold regular meetings with the national governing bodies of all the sports and I have laid down challenges to them. We need to work together, though. That is why this will form an important part of the new sports strategy. I know that it has taken some time, but I have been really clear that I want that issue to be included in it, and to be a central plank of the work that we do when we publish it.

In my constituency we have fantastic grassroots cricket clubs promoting inclusivity in the sport during their cricket weeks. That includes clubs such as Sidcup and national club champions Bexley cricket club. Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking the clubs for the work that they do to promote cricket in our community, especially to women and girls, and Bexley cricket club for its efforts to raise funds to address cardiac risk in the young?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight that not everything is bad. Let us recognise some of the amazing work, particularly of volunteers, who do so much for grassroots sport. He highlights a club in his constituency. It is not just about encouraging more people to take part in sport; clubs also do tremendous work in the community, as he has just highlighted with the fundraising that that club has done.

I wish you a restful recess, Mr Speaker. I put on the record my hopes that the Lionesses do very well in the forthcoming World cup. Congratulations to the women’s English cricket team on a strong performance, and good luck to the men’s cricket team in trying to pull off a great Ashes comeback. I just hope that the Manchester rain holds off.

Despite the teams’ successes on the international stage, the ICEC report showed that there is a lot to do to increase diversity and participation in cricket. It found that English cricket suffers from sexism, elitism and racism. Do the Government understand that they also have a role to play in addressing those serious findings? For example, what discussions has the Minister had with the Department for Education about increasing the take-up of cricket in state schools and ensuring better access to pitches, equipment and coaching? Also, does he agree—I am sure he does—that it is about time that the women’s team had as much access to Lord’s cricket ground as Eton and Harrow?

I join the hon. Lady in wishing the men and women’s England cricket teams all the very best, and thanking them for what they have done so far, as well as the Lionesses. I am very fortunate that I will be off to Australia on Monday to wave the flag in support of them. [Interruption.] It is a very difficult job, but someone has to do it.

On the serious point that the hon. Lady raises, she is absolutely right. On the day of the publication of the report, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met with the England and Wales Cricket Board. We have said that we will be following the development of its plan very carefully. The hon. Lady is right that we need to see more access to facilities for women and girls, not just at Lord’s but right across the country.