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Sporting Activities (Gleneagles Agreement)

Volume 4: debated on Wednesday 6 May 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what arrangements are made for consultation between Her Majesty's Government, the Sports Council, the Central Council for Physical Recreation and the governing bodies of various sports when sporting events are planned that might contravene the Gleneagles agreement.

Responsibility for arranging sporting events lies with the independent governing bodies and/or their member clubs. All are familiar with the terms of the 1977 Commonwealth statement and know that the Government will always offer advice on its relevance in particular circumstances. There is no formal consultative machinery.

Is it not time that the Minister realised that merely going through the motions of quoting the Gleneagles agreement is beginning to be regarded as a wink and a nod to go ahead? Is it not time for more attention to be paid to the political and economic ill effects upon this country of those sporting links, let alone the possible loss of the Commonwealth Games—or are free Christmas holidays in sunny South Africa now regarded as being more important?

I do not know what was the point of the hon. Gentleman's final remark. The governing bodies and the clubs know the position relative to our duty under the Commonwealth statement. Since the Government came to power we have reaffirmed the position and made it clear where we stand. There is nothing more to be done except for the governing bodies to take advice.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that it might be better for everyone concerned and that it might also save the taxpayer money if those bodies were closed down altogether?

My hon. Friend has misunderstood. One cannot close down the Football Association and the Rugby Union. That is not the way sport works in this country.

I appreciate that the Minister has written to the Welsh Rugby Union criticising the possibility of the Welsh Academicals going to South Africa. Will he contact the Ministers in the Welsh Office, who do not appear to have been informed of this, as they have allowed representatives of the South African rugby organisation to meet in the Welsh Office?

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. I have been in touch with the president of the Welsh Rugby Union and he knows the Government's views about the Welsh Academicals.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the widespread satisfaction that the Irish Rugby Football Union has refused to be bullied by the Irish Government and is continuing with its policy of sending a team to South Africa this weekend? Is he further aware that in this instance Ireland is united—the 26 counties of the South and the six counties of the North?

My hon. Friend is entitled to his opinion, but it is not one which I share.