Mr. Jack: If the Minister challenges article 152 in this context, will she tell the Committee whether, on the grounds of competency, the Government propose to challenge article 152 as being the legal base? Will she clarify the matter?
Kate Hoey: We are not challenging article 152. We are saying that the Commission has a legal base on specific public health aspects of anti-doping, but not on the whole range of measures covering testing procedures, international standards, co-operation and persuading international bodies to sign up to agreed testing procedures. Those are not public health issues. The public health issues are along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) and include research into the many different food supplements and how to clarify what they contain. Many of the problems concerning drugs in sport have arisen from such matters and they are public health issues because anyone can go into a chemist and buy food supplements.
Mr. Greenway: Perhaps I could help the Minister in response to the point that I and the hon. Member for Colchester made earlier. Paragraph 3 on page 5 of the introduction to the document on anti-doping refers to a three-pronged approach. I am happy to lend my copy of the document to the Minister because the papers are complex and repetitive.
I have a question on another matter, on which I suspect the Minister and I will not be in agreement. During her opening comments she referred to work permits for overseas players and referred specifically to ice hockey. I understand that only seven British-born players play in the highest ice hockey league in this country. Is she aware of the concern of the Institute of Professional Sport that current work permit arrangementsthey are the responsibility not of the Minister but of the Department for Education and Employmentare a movable feast? It is very difficult to monitor overseas players in all sports in this country without clear guidelines from that Department on what is permitted under the rules. In that regard, will she clarify the Government's view on quotas? Is she aware that the Football Association is increasingly coming round to the view that quotas may be the only solution?
Finally, does the hon. Lady agree that players who come to this country from outside the European Union should be of a high standard, and that while we have a work permit system, only players who are likely to play a full complement of matches should be allowed into the country? We should not bring in overseas players to the extent of denying our own young and talented players the opportunity to participate.
Kate Hoey: I am aware of the Institute of Professional Sport and have met its representatives to discuss the matter. It works closely with ice hockey, which is in an especially difficult position. I share the hon. Gentleman's worries about that. Given that it is an increasingly popular sport involving substantial amounts of money at professional level, it is sad if young players in this country do not have the opportunity to develop their talent and involvement. Despite the rule that a certain number of British players must be on the bench, the vast majority of people in professional ice hockey teams are from other countries. Difficulties have arisen over people from Canada, for example, who come here, play for a certain number of years and then manage to secure British citizenshipalthough I am not an expert on how they do that.
If we are serious about developing ice hockey and creating a pathway from the bottom to the top, we must ensure that it is played in this country. No public money should go into the game unless there is a clearly defined method of developing home-grown talent. I am considering a case in Northern Irelandwhere I come from originallyin which the new ice hockey team set up in Belfast, which is entering the league, contains not a single British player. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the permit system for ice hockey players is to be reviewed and that a meeting will soon take place between DFEE officials and the governing body. I shall keep a close eye on that, although, as he says, it is the responsibility of the DFEE.
On football, the DFEE has invited the FA to produce proposals on quotas. As the hon. Gentleman said, the FA is changing its views on that matter. The Department may be willing to accept a non-EEA quota with a quality threshold. Initially, however, quotas must be a matter for sport's governing bodies, because the position varies widely between sports.
The Chairman: Order. I have no desire to stifle discussion by curtailing question time, but there is a danger that it will consist entirely of exchanges between the Front Benches, with occasional interventions from the Back Benches, instead of a series of crisp questions and answers. I sense that members of the Committee wish shortly to move on to the debate. That will not curtail the amount of available time, but it will allow a little more flexibility from the Chair's point of view.
Mr. Jack: Will the Minister turn to the annex attached to the conclusions of the last Nice European Council, which contains a series of paragraphs about amateur sport and sport for all? What progress is being made in that respect, and are there any plans objectively to monitor member states' achievements?
Kate Hoey: European Union Sports Ministers meet regularly and discuss just such matters. My European work as a Home Office Minister involved competency and tended to be formally structured. I have found that Sports Ministers have excellent working relationships because there is no competency for sport and we can work in a more informal manner. We shall continue to monitor that, regardless of what is happening at Commission level.
We obtained huge changes to the declaration, which was initially filled with gobbledegook that the Commission had thoughtlessly produced without considering the views of the amateur sports clubs affected. I must take a position on the matter, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman takes a similar view. I always consider, ``How will this affect Joe Bloggs' boxing club, judo club or darts club?'' That is where the EU Sports Ministers obtain their mandates. We shall keep a close eye on the matter because we want sport to develop throughout the European Union, and we want everyone to have a chance to participate. However, each country has its own way of doing things, so the process will not be entirely harmonious.
Dr. Ladyman: In her opening statement, my hon. Friend said that UK rules on foreign footballers were intended to ensure that only high-quality players came to play in Britain. I can assure her that the rules are not working. As a regular supporter of smaller football clubs such as Margatewhere we shared a terrace, Mr. Galeand Ramsgate, can my hon. Friend assure the Committee that during negotiations on the transfer system both the European Union and the Government will adopt the fundamental principle that, whatever system is put in place, money will still flow down to the smaller clubs.
Kate Hoey: That is an absolute commitment. The Commission has recently stated that it wants money to flow down to the lowest levels of the game, such as the Unibond league.
Mr. Jack: In the hope of being clearer in my probing about formula one, may I ask the Minister to turn to paragraph 14 of the Nice Council declaration. It states:
Is the Commission looking to that agenda in terms of formula one?
Kate Hoey: Yes, the EC Competition Authority is currently considering a complaint about FISA, the international governing body of motor sport, and we await its statement. Paragraph 14 is the section of the declaration that allows such discussion because it clearly relates to single ownership and monopoly interests, which are the essence of the complaint about FISA.
Mr. Jack: I should be grateful if the Minister would explain a sentence in paragraph 15 of the declaration. On the subject of television broadcasting rights, it states:
What does that mean?
Kate Hoey: I assure you, Mr. Gale, that you would have found the first draft, or even the second draft, even worse. This is something that we are keen to see happen. As is already the case in Britain, it should be agreed that a percentage of the money that has entered sports such as rugby, cricket, football and tennis as a consequence of television rights ought to go to the grass roots. Rugby, cricket and tennis do that already, and more recently football has come on board by establishing that 5 per cent. of the money received from television will go to the grass roots. No other country in Europe is doing that, and when I discussed it at the Council of Europe, Ministers to whom I spoke were amazed that we were able to secure that money. However, it must be said that much of the lead has come from the governing bodies themselves. They recognise that, if one is to become and remain successful, one must nourish the grass roots.
The Chairman: Since no more Members wish to ask questions, we will proceed to the debate on the motion.
The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): I beg to move,
The motion is fairly clear and brings together the various points that we have discussed. In a sense, it signifies support for the way in which we are handling sport in Europe.
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