7.14 pm

Wayne David: We have had a good debate today, and there were excellent debates last week on Second Reading and in Committee. I am glad the Government made the right decision to allow sufficient time for a proper and full debate in the House.

As I have said before, although the Bill is small in size, it is constitutionally and practically significant. A number of hon. Members have made the point that we should not tamper with our constitution, and particularly the monarch’s role within it, unless we are very sure about the changes we are making. Moreover, it is important that there is a large measure of consensus that transcends usual political divisions. In that respect, I thank the Minister for the co-operation with Opposition Front Benchers. I, too, associate myself with his remarks on wishing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge all the best for the birth of their first child. For the first time, we can be sure that we have established equality between the sexes.

Mixed marriage—so-called—was raised on a number of occasions during our debates. I accept that it is a theological discussion, but clear reassurances have been provided by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.

We discussed the resources of the Duchy of Cornwall last week. I am assured that money will go to the Treasury, and that, under the provisions of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, exactly the same money that would normally go to a male heir apparent will go to a female heir apparent via the Treasury. There is also the possibility that a female heir apparent could be the chair of the duchy, which is to be welcomed.

A number of hon. Members have been exercised because some people allege that there is a contradiction in clause 2(1) and clause 3(1). It is important to recognise that there is no contradiction—the clauses sit well together. The Government of the day will have a clear role and express a clear opinion to the monarch if the monarch’s right to deny the royal succession as it would normally take place is exercised. It is important to explain that the monarch is not a detached institution—we have a constitutional monarchy. That important point needs to be stressed time and again, but these are complicated and emotive issues. Will the Government consider providing additional explanation in the explanatory notes when the Bill goes to the other place, so that they provide further clarity?

That leads me on to the decision of the monarch regarding the six in line to succession. On Second Reading, the Deputy Prime Minister specifically stated

28 Jan 2013 : Column 732

that the figure of six was seized on for pragmatic reasons, but the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Norwich North (Miss Smith), has said that the succession after Queen Victoria—the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) was extremely helpful on this point—set a useful precedent. Six is a reasonable figure that the Opposition can easily accept.

In conclusion, I am content with the reassurances that Ministers have provided and I look forward, once we have concluded our deliberations, to hearing the views that will be coherently expressed in the other place. The Bill is indeed an important piece of legislation. The roots of the monarchy as an institution are firmly embedded in our history—there is no doubt about that—but today the constitutional monarchy is a form of government that places the Head of State beyond political competition. That is surely to be welcomed. The sovereign, as well as being Head of State, is head of our nation. As one of our most distinguished constitutional experts has argued, the monarchy alone is in a position to interpret the nation to itself—that is its central function, its essential justification and its rationale. The Bill will help our constitutional monarchy fulfil that role even more effectively today and well into the future.

7.20 pm

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I wish to speak very briefly. First, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Miss Smith), for her courtesy and kindness in dealing with the queries that have rained down on her in the course of the debates. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), who has brought to this debate an inquiring mind, which is necessary when dealing with such matters, and a profound knowledge of history and tradition and everything that goes with them. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), whose contributions are always worth listening to and whom I salute across the House even though I profoundly disagree with him. I always think it must be pretty hard going to be a republican at the time of the diamond jubilee, but he has stuck to his guns nevertheless, as he always does, and it is a pleasure to speak in the same debate as him.

I want only to say that I regret that a Bill that was pretty miserable in the first place has not been improved by its passage through this House, introduced, as it was, by the Deputy Prime Minister as a messy amalgam of political correctness and a desire to interfere. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, these are extremely complicated, complex and difficult matters that have served this country very well down the generations. Our old friend the unintended consequence rears its ugly head, I am afraid, very substantially during this debate so we look to their lordships to deal with those matters.

I fear that the word “consultation” has been grossly overused. I would be interested to know the full extent of the detailed consultation that went on in the preparation of this Bill. I believe that consultation with the institutions concerned has been very minimal indeed and it is therefore in my view disrespectful to the institution of the Crown.

The Government are playing fast and loose with the hereditary principle and I look to their lordships to deal robustly with this matter in the other place.

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7.22 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) and I want to start my speech on a note of agreement, as he is absolutely right that the contributions made by the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) added to the debate. It has been very worth while and will be followed, although at times it got complicated. I thought I knew everything about the Catholic Church and a bit about the history of this country, but I have learned so much from so many colleagues and I appreciate what they have said.

I pay tribute to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Deputy Leader of the House and the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Norwich North (Miss Smith), for the way in which they conducted the discussions preceding and following the introduction of the Bill in this House. In particular, the hon. Lady went out of her way to ask Members for their views. In all the years I have been in this House, I have not often been invited to meetings with Ministers to discuss my views on impending legislation. That took place in a formal meeting at which many right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House were present. We had a fruitful discussion and she certainly seemed to have listened to the points that were made, as demonstrated by her speeches.

The difficult task was that of the Deputy Prime Minister. He has had to go to other members of the Commonwealth and persuade them to agree. He has done that diligently—I do not think that people automatically agree when he rings up and says that he wants to alter the law of the land. Of course, there has been careful thought. I know that, because when I introduced my ten-minute rule Bill on 18 January 2011, two years ago, I wrote to all 16 Commonwealth Heads of Government. Obviously, I do not know the royal family and Heads of State as well as the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) does, but I do my little bit in royal circles. The response I received was quite depressing, and the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, went so far as to issue a statement saying he did not think that this issue was a priority—the Canadian people were facing other issues—and that he was not absolutely supportive of the proposal. He has changed his mind, and I am sure that that was because of the Government’s persuasion.

In conclusion, I want to pay tribute to Terry and Janet Herbert, two constituents of mine who live in Northfields and came to my surgery to say that it was quite wrong for us not to have equality in our succession laws. They pointed out that at least six European countries have changed their succession laws to ensure equality, as we have heard in our numerous discussions on this matter. We have heard them all: the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and others. If it was good enough for them, my constituents asked, why were we not doing the same? They started a petition that was circulated around Leicester and put on websites, which many thousands of people have signed since. I pay tribute to Terry and Janet. I know that they are not solely responsible for this massive change in the law, but I am grateful to them for coming to me and making suggestions. They are great royalists and supporters of

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the monarchy and they love the Queen, as we all do—we all like her as a person even though we do not all support the monarchy.

We have now brought the monarchy into the 21st century and we can all be very proud of that.

7.27 pm

Michael Ellis: It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I am a member of that Committee and I venture to suggest that there is no more important person to the home affairs of this country than our sovereign lady the Queen.

The unwritten constitution of this great country is rather like the roof over the temple of Solomon, and the monarchy is the central pillar holding up that roof. Other pillars include this House, the other place, the judiciary and the law courts. Perhaps even the press are a pillar of the constitution—although rather a stunted pillar so perhaps more of a balustrade. Nevertheless, one might argue that a number of pillars hold up the roof of our constitution. It is a multi-pillared structure—one might almost say a Parthenon—and one must be cautious before one chips away at those pillars. The consequence of such actions can be a structural collapse, and we all know that those who are beneath the structure chipping away at it can be the victims of such a calamity. I would exercise all due diligence and all due caution before instituting any changes, such as those that are envisaged.

However, I support the Bill. On balance, 300 years is about the right period of time—it is not overly hurried—for the provisions being changed by the Bill to be looked at afresh. Some aspects of the Bill are appropriate because they renew the ageing—one might even say decrepit—parts of the constitution and the ancient structure that I mentioned. It is always right to consider that this country of ours and the monarchy that heads it has always changed with the times. The monarchy has always tended to adapt to changing times. Recently, Queen Victoria, by her character and temperament—[Interruption.] Recently, in constitutional terms. When Queen Victoria came to the throne she represented a considerable change from the Georgian sovereigns who went before her. Her conduct, her decorum and the manner in which she reigned were lessons to her descendants.

There is no doubt that there is unacceptable prejudice currently written into the constitution of this country by such Acts of Parliament as the Act of Settlement 1701.

Keith Vaz: I accept everything that the hon. Gentleman has said so far, but does he agree with me and other Members of the House that there is unfinished business in respect of modernisation—for example, the succession to baronetcies? These are issues that we should return to in the future.

Michael Ellis: For my part, I prefer to leave the structures alone if we can possibly do so. I think there is something to be said for the ancient customs, traditions and privileges of this country, and we should be very cautious about making changes willy-nilly because of their unintended consequences.

We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). He said, I believe, in a debate last Tuesday from which I was absent but which I have read in the Official Report, that

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he does not take offence at the terms of the Act of Settlement because it is the history of this country. I admire that and I wish more people would take such a mature view of such things. All too often people are quick to find offence where none should be taken. There is an inbuilt prejudice against other religions, my own included. Because those religions may not be in communion with the Church of England, their adherents cannot be eligible to be sovereign of this country, but I for one take no offence at that because it is part of the noble history of this country and it seems to me that there are reasons why we should retain that. Principal among them is the establishment of the Church of England.

The prejudices that exist are based not on current thinking but on historical reasons, and have been left unchanged only because Members of this House in recent generations have taken the view, presumably, that they have more important things to do than change them or because changing them involves great complexity. For that reason, as well as for many others, I admire my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister for being the one who brought these measures before the House. Whereas others have spoken of them and made supportive noises about them for many years, the Deputy Prime Minister has done it, and I congratulate him on that.

With reference to male primogeniture, one has only to look at the long and noble history of this country to see that we have been very fortunate with our female sovereigns. There should certainly be no reason why we should deny or make it more difficult for females to succeed to the Crown. We have the example of our current Queen and of Queen Victoria, and I dare say of those queens who were not queens regnant but queens consort. I am thinking of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Her late Majesty Queen Mary, who also were exemplars of duty, service to their country, and spirit. I have no problem with removing the male primogeniture aspect, as the Bill does.

However, I would not go as far as others and seek to defenestrate completely those parts of the constitution which in some way can be said to be prejudicial to some group or other. For example, one could argue that the law that says that the oldest person, whether male or female, should take precedence over young siblings is also biased. It is also prejudicial because it is ageist in that it favours older over younger. One could go on ad absurdum. I suggest that we try not to get too concerned about removing all aspects of the legal fictions that the law has had to develop over the years.

For example, when, for the purpose of inheritance, both the father and the eldest son die in the same instance, such as in a road traffic accident, the law assumes that the older died before the younger, even if it is transparent that they both died instantly in an accident. That is because the law has to develop types of legal regulation—legal fiction, one might call it—in order to make sense. I use this as an example to indicate with caution that attractive though it is in principle to remove all types of bias, there will always be some type of bias within the system, but the Bill goes some way towards rectifying the most egregious examples.

The Bill also deals with the Royal Marriages Act 1772. The Act has become redundant in as much as it is difficult to operate effectively.

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Wayne David: The hon. Gentleman says the Act is redundant. Would it not be more accurate to say that it is a ridiculous piece of legislation?

Michael Ellis: I do not go so far as to say it is a ridiculous piece of legislation because there is a good reason why the sovereign should have a right over those closest to him or her in their marriage arrangements. The hon. Gentleman must also agree with that principle, because he said he agreed with the principle that the number should be reduced to six. So whether it be the heirs of Electress Sophia or whether it be six people, the principle remains the same. The sovereign has special rights and responsibilities. Of course it is true that in ordinary families no head of the family would have such a say, but it is nonsense to suggest that the royal family should be in that position. It is right that some demarcation be made so that the sovereign can exercise control. My understanding is that in other constitutional monarchies similar provisions apply, whereby restrictions are placed on the marriage rights of those closest in line.

I support the Bill. I commend it to the House. Although I emphasise that I would exercise extreme caution when chipping away at the pillars of our constitution, in my submission the Bill should have the support of the House.

7.39 pm

Chris Bryant: I am grateful to follow the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis). When he talked about the temple of Solomon, I was somewhat concerned about the number of pillars he was adding to the established archaeology of the building. The fact that it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar many centuries ago also made me worry about quite what direction the hon. Gentleman was going in, let alone whether we were going to start talking about how many wives and concubines Solomon had under the provisions of his own royal marriages Act.

I support the two main thrusts of what the Bill is trying to do, but I think that we will end up ruing its passage. That is not because I disagree with the principle of abolishing male-preference primogeniture so that women can inherit equally with men, nor because of the minor adjustment to the provision on those who marry Roman Catholics being allowed to continue in the succession. My problem with the Bill is that it does something very significant that I do not think the Government intend it to do. The Royal Marriages Act 1772 provided that an individual who was in line to the throne had to get consent from the monarch at the time of marriage. If the monarch refused to provide that consent, or the individual refused to ask for it, their marriage would simply become null and void. I do not think that any of us believes that anybody should be able to declare anybody else’s marriage null and void.

The new legislation that we are seeking to agree will have no effect on the validity of the marriage, but it means that the person will be removed from the succession. That matters because throughout the whole history of English Parliaments, Scottish Parliaments and Irish Parliaments, the succession has always been determined by Parliament, not the monarch. Parliament decided what should happen at the deposition of Edward II. In the case of Richard II, the decision was made by the

28 Jan 2013 : Column 737

shortest Parliament in our history—a one-day Parliament in Westminster Hall gathered by Henry Bolingbroke. One could argue that it was not a proper Parliament because Richard II was not present, but none the less the Commons, the Lords and the Church, gathered together, made the decision on who should be the new monarch.

Michael Ellis: May I suggest that Parliament will still make the decision, because it could intercede and put someone back in the line of succession if they had been excluded for this reason?

Chris Bryant: That is not in the Bill. Indeed, the Government have said that it is entirely a matter for the Crown, in the double sense of the monarch and the monarch’s Ministers, who might have a role in advising the monarch.

Incidentally, I would not want to be a monarch apart from Elizabeth with a “II” in my title, but when James II was removed, Parliament decided, through the Bill of Rights and then the Act of Settlement, to hand over a joint monarchy to William and Mary rather than to anybody else. Then, when the Stuart line was going to end with Queen Anne, Parliament decided how the succession should proceed. Again, when Edward VIII tried to abdicate in 1936, the abdication could be allowed only because there was a statute of Parliament the next day.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Bryant: This is waistcoat-to-waistcoat business, isn’t it?

Jacob Rees-Mogg: The hon. Gentleman missed out the succession of Mary Tudor, when the Act of Parliament —the Third Succession Act of Henry VIII—was followed rather than the instructions issued by Edward VI.

Chris Bryant: That is absolutely right. It is interesting that we had gone through three Succession Acts, but again Parliament decided the process. Incidentally, exactly the same situation applied in Scotland. The calling of the first Scottish Parliament was prompted by a contested succession in Scotland on who the next monarch should be.

For the first time in our history, the monarch himself or herself will be allowed to decide whether somebody is barred from the succession by refusing to provide consent, without any reason given, at the moment that that person chooses to marry. We do not have a capricious monarch at the moment, but we have had plenty of capricious monarchs in the past, and I suspect that we will have a capricious monarch in future. At that point, we will rue the day that we passed the legislation in this form. I desperately hope that a good Bill is made better by their lordships. This is the kind of moment when one wants to vote both Aye and No, because it is a good Bill in principle but a bad Bill in its detail.

7.44 pm

Mr Wallace: I had no intention of contributing to this thin Bill’s passage through the House of Commons. In fact, it was only last week, one lunchtime, that I looked at it and decided to do so because I could see a

28 Jan 2013 : Column 738

problem with it. Of course, it was also because I wanted to help my coalition partner, the Deputy Prime Minister, and to give him the same easy time that he gives us, by making sure that the Government were given some helpful hints on the Bill during its passage. I agree with the principle of what we are trying to achieve and totally support the Government’s policy on this. However, experience from my previous life, and, I suppose, from my current life—I should declare that I am a member of the Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland—means that I recognise that there are many foibles in modern and historical changes to the constitution. Making changes is easier said than done.

Wanting to be helpful in last week’s debate, I raised some concerns about the other titles and assets that accompany the sovereign. It is easy to talk about changing the succession without realising that our monarchs are more than that—they have other titles, such as the Duke of Rothesay, the Earl of Carrick, the Duke of Lancaster and the Duke of Cornwall. Some are merely titles without asset, while some are titles with asset, but they are all very important. They are regulated by more people than just one Government lawyer. I am surprised by the lack of consultation with key people such as the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland and the Garter Principal King of Arms in England. These people monitor and, in effect, register letters patent to make sure that the power and extent of a title is upheld. This is not as easy as saying that we can change the succession and everything else will fall into line. I am therefore hoping for clarification from the Government.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) gave the example of one or two Scottish titles that can follow through the female line. That is absolutely correct, as in the case of titles such as the Countess of Mar—one of the oldest titles in Britain. However, my right hon. Friend missed out the fact that that takes place only when there is no male heir as a sibling; when there is, they will get the title under the rule of primogeniture. We have heard the example of what would happen if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had a son and an older daughter, and I assume that the son would be likely to continue to inherit the other titles.

The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall are titles that come with asset, and they have a very significant impact. I understand the Government’s line, and I accept that it is likely—almost certain—that the monarch will continue to enjoy the incomes from those assets, but not necessarily the assets themselves and control over them. A situation could arise whereby the Duchy of Lancaster’s assets, which are considerable— the latest valuation is over £400 million—reside with the son, but the income is diverted to the monarch. That is fine the first time round, but the second time round, when the son of the son has the asset, the asset will get further away from the title, as will the control that may go with it, and the process will continue.

We need to know that the Government—I urge the other House to make sure that this is the case—have consulted the deeds patent under which these titles are issued, and the duchy chronicles and charters of the 15th and 16th centuries that set out what conditions are attached to the Crown. If we do not get this right, it could come back to haunt us at a later date. I urge the Government to make sure that clarity is provided to the other place by the time the Bill arrives there.

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7.49 pm

Miss Chloe Smith: With brevity and the leave of the House, I simply want to confirm that I would be happy to expand the explanatory notes as the Bill goes to the other place. I also want to suggest that everyone in the House—

Wayne David: Will the Minister give way?

Miss Smith: Will the hon. Gentleman not allow me the pleasure of simply saying, “God save the Queen”?

Wayne David: I have no objection at all—the Minister can say it again if she likes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) mentioned how the six people nearest in line to the throne could lose their place if the Queen did not consent to their marriage. It is important to say on the record that the explanatory notes state clearly that that would be the case; in fact, it says so in the summary on the front page. I do not think, therefore, that it is fair to say that the issue has not been referred to properly in the House—it has been referred to in the documents and in last week’s debate.

It is also important to remember that we are talking about a constitutional monarchy that has a close relationship with the Government of the day. I am sure that a monarch would not take any action if they believed that, in doing so, they would be acting incorrectly in the background.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Thank you for that short intervention.

Miss Smith: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and commend the Bill to the other place.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)).

Public Bodies

That the draft Public Bodies (Abolition of the Disability Living Allowance Advisory Board) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 15 October 2012, be approved.—(Mr Evennett.)

The House divided:

Ayes 267, Noes 165.

Division No. 144]


7.51 pm


Adams, Nigel

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bingham, Andrew

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Macleod, Mary

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittingdale, Mr John

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mark Hunter


Joseph Johnson


Abrahams, Debbie

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Campbell, Mr Alan

Champion, Sarah

Clwyd, rh Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doughty, Stephen

Doyle, Gemma

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Edwards, Jonathan

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goggins, rh Paul

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hanson, rh Mr David

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonald, Andy

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh David

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Steve

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Heidi Alexander


Tom Blenkinsop

Question accordingly agreed to.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 740

28 Jan 2013 : Column 741

28 Jan 2013 : Column 742

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

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Public Bodies

That the draft Public Bodies (Water Supply and Water Quality Fees) Order 2012, which was laid before this House on 22 October 2012, be approved.—(Greg Hands.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 18),

Regulatory Reform

That the draft Legislative Reform (Hallmarking) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 26 November 2012, be approved.—(Greg Hands.)

Question agreed to.


Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With the leave of the House, we will take motions 5 and 6 together.


Communities and Local Government

That Stephen Gilbert be discharged from the Communities and Local Government Committee and John Pugh be added.

Scottish Affairs

That Fiona Bruce and Iain McKenzie be discharged from the Scottish Affairs Committee and Mrs Eleanor Laing and Graeme Morrice be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

28 Jan 2013 : Column 744

Basketball (Funding)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Greg Hands.)

8.4 pm

Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): I am delighted to open this evening’s Adjournment debate on the funding of basketball in the UK. I will begin by declaring my interest as the chairman of the British Basketball League Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that co-ordinates and delivers national community basketball programmes.

The catalyst for my requesting this debate was the recent decision by UK Sport to cut the funding of basketball for the Rio 2016 Olympic games to zero. I also want to demonstrate how basketball is hugely underfunded in the UK.

In terms of grass-roots participation, basketball is incredibly popular. In the most recent Active People survey conducted by Sport England, it was estimated that just short of 153,000 people in the UK play basketball at least once a week. Basketball is the fifth most played team sport in the country and the second most played sport among 11 to 15-year-olds. In the key target area of 16 to 25-year-olds, where participation rates in all sports drop off at their fastest, basketball holds on to the highest levels of interest of all team sports.

Equally important is the demographic make-up of the sport’s participants. More than 40% of the 153,000 weekly players are from black and minority ethnic groups.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): Does my hon. Friend recognise that basketball is played principally in conurbations, which is incredibly important because we need to get young people to play sport?

Stephen Mosley: My hon. Friend is correct that basketball is played mainly in urban areas. In fact, among the lowest socio-economic groups in the country, basketball is the most popular sport.

Oliver Colvile: Does my hon. Friend also recognise that the Plymouth Raiders, who are based in my Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport constituency, are one of the principal basketball teams in the country?

Stephen Mosley: The Plymouth Raiders are an excellent basketball team. Looking around the Chamber, I can see representatives from Leicester, Newcastle and, of course, from Cheshire, so basketball is well represented here this evening.

Participation levels in basketball are very good, but we should be doing all that we can to ensure that they are exceptional.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman talked about basketball’s popularity in the black and minority ethnic community and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) mentioned urban areas. As one would expect, therefore, basketball is incredibly popular in Leicester, which has the excellent Leicester Riders. They have told me in recent days that the decision to cut the funding is absolutely wrong. I hope that the Minister listens to the representations this evening and announces a U-turn.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 745

Stephen Mosley: When the Minister replies shortly, I know that everyone in the Chamber will be looking at him with expectant eyes, hoping that he will help.

One would assume that with so many people playing basketball and given the demographic make-up of the sport’s participants, Sport England would be backing basketball with all its might. However, that assumption is misplaced. In the past month or so, when confronted about the decision to cut funding for the Olympics team to zero, the Minister has been keen to stress that England Basketball has received a substantial sum from Sport England to support the grass-roots game and talent development.

For the coming four years, Sport England has allocated £6.8 million to community programmes and the development of talent through the youth ranks. That sounds like a lot of money. However, the best way to understand the figure is to break it down into per person funding. Based on Sport England’s statistics, there is just £12 a year for each person who plays basketball once a week.

Although it is not my intention to pit sport against sport, the only fair way of judging that figure is to compare it with Sport England’s funding of other sports. Hockey, for example, has 109,000 weekly participants, yet the sport will receive £12 million over the same four years, or, using the same formula, £28 a year per player—more than twice the amount allocated to basketball. Netball has 159,000 weekly participants and it will receive £25 million, or £39 a year per player, which is more than three times the amount allocated to basketball. Finally, rugby league has 51,000 weekly participants and £17.5 million funding. That is £86 a year per player—seven times the amount allocated to basketball.

Given that basketball is the most popular team sport among BME and lower socio-economic groups, and that it carries the most interest among Sport England’s key 16 to 25-year-old market, it seems incredible that such a relatively small amount of funding is available from Sport England.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman makes a compelling argument about funding. Does he agree that not only do 16 to 25-year-olds—and beyond—benefit from investment in this sport, but children do as well, through the hoops for health programme? That is having a massive impact on school children and getting them interested in basketball from a young age, as well as teaching them about healthy lifestyles, not smoking and the other health benefits of sport.

Stephen Mosley: The hon. Lady is totally correct. As basketball is so easy to play, it can be played anywhere on any bit of tarmac. It is very popular among young kids and is, I think, the second most played sport among 11 to 15-year-olds. It is easy to do, kids want to do it, and basketball teams across the country have a good reputation for going out, encouraging people to get involved, and targeting those who might not necessarily get involved in sports other than basketball.

However, if the game is to prosper in future, as it has the potential to do, a fairer funding settlement must be agreed, and I urge the Minister to meet representatives of Sport England to discuss the inherent inequality of

28 Jan 2013 : Column 746

their decision. I would also be grateful for his thoughts on whether £12 a year per player is indeed a fair settlement for basketball.

Although funding at grass-roots level is integral to any sport’s long-term success, the structure and funding of the elite game is of equal importance. In December, UK Sport announced its funding allocation for the Rio 2016 Olympic games. After receiving £8.6 million for London 2012, the GB team has not been allocated a single penny for Rio. After making incredible progress over the previous funding cycle, the rug has been pulled from under the British basketball team. Unless that decision is reversed, elite British basketball will once again have to start from scratch.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is making very good points. When I visit primary schools in my Newcastle constituency, the hoops for health programme mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) is often spoken about with great praise, admiration and enthusiasm. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that being able to see top-class players such as those who play for the Newcastle super Eagles is important? It is even more important to see such players at the Olympics, as that would help inspire young people in my constituency and across the country.

Stephen Mosley: The hon. Lady is right. Over the past two or three years some world-class players have come forward—probably the best basketball player in the world at the moment is a Brit, and I will come to him later.

Oliver Colvile: Does my hon. Friend recognise that one great thing that took place last year was cage cricket? Sir Ian Botham came along and showed us how we could do that sport. We should be doing exactly that sort of thing—by taking small cages we could end up playing these games in places such as inner cities.

Stephen Mosley: Again, my hon. Friend is correct. At the moment, there are schemes in which temporary basketball pitches are put up in town centres so that the game can be played in the middle of the town. I understand—I am looking at the chair of the all-party group on basketball, the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson)—that in summer people will be able to go to Trafalgar square and do some hoops—[Interruption.] Yes, shoot the hoops. The basketball game is very conscious of that, and it is a good way of getting young people involved and enthused by the sport. Our problem is that UK Sport funding is based on what it considers to be each team’s realistic chances of gaining a medal or a top eight finish in Rio or the 2020 games.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): The hon. Gentleman is being generous with his time. Is not the real challenge that the formula for deciding funding has been an overwhelming success, and changing it might end up jeopardising some of our success in other sports?

Stephen Mosley: My hon. Friend has a point. I can be fairly relaxed about taking interventions because I think I can stand here until 10 pm tonight, although I reassure

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the Minister that I will not take quite that long. I have reservations about the funding process, on which I know the Minister has recently commented. A couple of weeks ago in

The Sunday Times

he expressed doubts about how the current funding process works; going for medal positions and the top eight in the Olympics may not be the right way forward. I do not argue that the whole process should be scrapped and restarted for all sports, but I do argue that with the right funding, the Great Britain basketball team has every chance of a top eight finish at Rio, and even greater potential for success in 2020.

Mr Leech: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. Does he agree that there may be scope for looking at team sports, as opposed to individual sports, slightly differently? Individual sports currently get an awful lot of the funding.

Stephen Mosley: The competitive situation of team games at the Olympics tends to be more difficult in terms of the number of people who play. Every country in the world plays basketball, but some of the more successful sports in the UK have a more limited pool of participants. Perhaps there are arguments for looking at team sports slightly differently from individual sports. My point, however, is that Great Britain basketball has a fantastic opportunity in 2016 and 2020. Will the Minister explain how UK Sport has assessed the Great Britain team’s potential for success in Rio and beyond? Who was consulted during that assessment, and what reasons were behind the conclusion?

Oliver Colvile: Does my hon. Friend recognise that Plymouth college—which, I discovered the other day, would be 49th as a country in numbers of gold and Olympic medals—is willing to offer some of the state schools just outside or in my constituency the opportunity to use some of their people, including their basketball people? Should we not be encouraging private schools to go off and help state schools in that way?

Stephen Mosley: My hon. Friend is correct. Basketball is a game that includes everybody and more people should get involved. Given what he says, it sounds as if Plymouth college is doing a fantastic job to get people into the game and playing sport, which I am sure is what we in this Chamber all want.

My argument about UK Sport and its decision to remove funding from basketball is that the facts do not add up. Since UK Sport funding for basketball was initiated, both the men’s and women’s teams have gone from the bottom rung of the international ladder to being some of the most respected teams in Europe. At London 2012, the men were one basket away from achieving their UK Sport quarter final target, and they recorded an historic 32-point win against China, which was ranked 10th in the world. They lost by just one point to eventual silver medallists, Spain, and they almost beat Brazil, which finished fifth overall at the Olympics. These results were unthinkable just four years ago, and demonstrate not only the huge progress that has been made, but the potential for basketball in the future.

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In addition to their collective achievements, the number of individual star talents in the GB team is growing all the time. Chicago Bulls superstar Luol Deng is one of the greatest sports stars in the world and one of the hugely successful British players currently plying their trade in the greatest league in the world, the NBA. He has written to the Prime Minister to protest against UK Sport’s decision, and I hope that the Minister has seen his letter. What message are we sending to young British basketball players who aspire to similar greatness if we do not fund our national team?

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): My hon. Friend is coming to the crux of the matter. If we are to encourage young people, in whichever sport, we need a broad-based pyramid to get the elite players at the top. Without that pyramid, boys and girls will not participate.

Stephen Mosley: My hon. Friend is correct. I am not talking only about the men’s team, but about the women’s team and the youth team.

The women’s team was the youngest team at the Olympics. It almost beat the silver medallists France, and was narrowly defeated by fourth-placed Russia. That is stunning progress from a team which came together only a few years ago. I also want to quickly mention the British youth men’s team, who just last week won bronze at the Australian youth Olympic festival, demonstrating the strength that we have coming down the pipeline.

For UK Sport to categorically state that neither adult team has any hope of medals is hugely disappointing. It ignores the enormous progress that has been made over the previous one and a half funding cycles, and it consigns British Olympic basketball to the scrapheap for the foreseeable future. How is the British national team expected to progress further and to bid for future funding if UK Sport is removing any chance of success in the short and medium term?

Furthermore, the Minister’s recent assertion that the Great Britain basketball teams are unlikely to qualify for either Rio or the 2020 games also looks to be wrong. For example, the men’s team has qualified for the 2013 European championships, and because it has risen significantly in the world rankings over the past 12 months it has avoided a number of the higher ranked teams in the group stage draw. It now has every chance of qualifying through to the next round. As a result, Rio qualification is a real possibility, and choosing to write the team off at this stage would be a gross miscarriage of justice.

I also understand that the Minister has expressed some concerns about the administration of the game and the ability of the governing body to deliver. To my knowledge, and to the knowledge of British Performance Basketball, there has never been any past criticism of its performance, structures or business model. I am sure that the Minister will understand the concern felt by British Performance Basketball, so before it makes any official appeal to UK Sport, it would be grateful to know if those comments were in fact directed at it, and if so, what it has done wrong and what it needs to do to improve. I would be very grateful if the Minister could cast some clarity on this very important matter.

I know that the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West would like to make a brief contribution to this debate, and I hope that I have left her sufficient

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time to do so. An hour and 40 minutes should be enough —




I would like to stress that, as I am sure the Minister will appreciate, the breadth of these arguments means that they warrant far more attention than the time afforded to them in an Adjournment debate. I hope that he will consent to meet representatives of British basketball as soon as possible, so that they can gain some clarity on what exactly they need to do in the future. There are a lot of unanswered questions and a great deal of confusion surrounding these decisions. The whole of the British basketball community would be very, very grateful for the Minister’s support in the crucial weeks ahead.

8.24 pm

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley)—I want to call him my hon. Friend—on securing this important debate. We work together closely on the topic of basketball. I am the chair of the all-party group on basketball, and he is my excellent vice-chair. I am also a trustee on the board of the British Basketball League Foundation, which he chairs. I thank other hon. Members from both sides of the House who are members of that fantastic all-party group for showing their commitment to the cause and being here in force tonight.

I endorse everything the hon. Gentleman said and will not seek to repeat the many excellent points he made, even though we have the time available. Needless to say, I too am deeply disappointed by the decisions, both new and historic, that have led to this debate. Basketball is important, both in my constituency and across the country, because it reaches a demographic that few sports can. It is dynamic and accessible, and its natural ties to urban culture give it a street credibility others sorely lack. It is no wonder that it is as popular as the hon. Gentleman described. Basketball was consistently one of the most viewed events at the Olympics and Paralympics; 7,500 fans turned out to see the Newcastle Eagles, my local team, play in the BBL cup final earlier this month; and just the other week, 17,000 people packed out the O2 arena to watch an NBA game, which by all accounts was fantastic.

Catherine McKinnell: I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley) on securing the debate. I had not realised that we had a little extra time, so I tried to be as quick as possible with my previous intervention—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I hope the hon. Lady will be quick again.

Catherine McKinnell: I will try, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I have attended a few of the Newcastle Eagles’ games, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) will share my enthusiasm for the amazing family-friendly atmosphere at them. Everybody should experience it as it is quite something.

Mrs Hodgson: That is an excellent point, and I am sure that other hon. Members who are here to support basketball will agree with my hon. Friend. I was at one of the matches that she attended with her young children,

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and they were running around and thoroughly enjoying the game in a very safe environment. Anyone going to basketball for the first time falls in love with it, because it is so exciting and fast. I know that my appearance now does not give the impression of an elite basketball player, but in my youth I played at school with some enthusiasm and have loved it ever since. It is very exciting to play and to watch.

Chi Onwurah: I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley) on securing the debate. I wish to add my voice to that of my hon. Friends. I have also attended the matches of the Newcastle super Eagles and I have been to St James’s Park to watch Newcastle United play. The family atmosphere at the basketball matches is striking and visitors of all ages are welcomed and supported. This is made possible in part because of the elite players, and they need to be supported to the Rio Olympics and beyond.

Mrs Hodgson: As we have heard, basketball is an inclusive and accessible sport that is often found at the heart of some of the best community projects. The hoops for health programme run by the Newcastle Eagles in my constituency and across the north-east, with professional players encouraging young people to get active, has no funding from Sport England. Sport England does not target that age group, despite the recent observation from Baroness Campbell, the chair of UK Sport, that 20% of pupils aged five are overweight. The statistics get worse as those children get older.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, and clearly I will be winding up the debate. Just to be clear, Sport England is not allowed to intervene that far down the process. It is tied by the lottery additionality rules, so there is no way it can invest: it would be against the law and it would break all the lottery rules.

Mrs Hodgson: I thank the Minister for that clarification. Basketball is not an established sport, so it is fair to say, as the hon. Member for City of Chester described, that it tends to be at the back of the line when funding gets divvied up. In terms of the elite level, the House has also heard about the massive strides made by Great Britain’s men and women basketball teams within just one Olympic cycle. I share his doubts about a process that could write off their hopes for 2016 on that basis. I hope the Minister will be able to shed some light on that.

Catherine McKinnell: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way again; she is being very generous. On the hoops for health programme, I appreciate that Sport England does not give funding for that age group. Does she agree, however, that Sport England should recognise that the funding and effort that goes in at that younger age produces the athletes of the future, and that without it they cannot become elite players?

Mrs Hodgson: That is the key point, which I will move on to. We were promised that the London Olympics would inspire a generation, but which part of that generation are we going to inspire? That question matters because how we distribute that money for sport—whoever is distributing it and under whichever rules—says a lot

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about what sort of society we want to be. UK Sport’s no compromise policy inadvertently, yet knowingly, punishes team sports for being accessible, as they are more globally competitive.

Hugh Robertson rose

Mrs Hodgson: If the Minister could hear my point out. If a sport is more globally competitive, the medal hopes for Team GB will be lower. I applaud the successes of sports such as rowing, sailing and equestrian—obviously, we all do—but we need to find a balance between rewarding “easier” success on a global level and taking into consideration the wider societal positives that accessible team sports, such as basketball, provide to our local communities.

Hugh Robertson: I am terribly sorry, but I cannot let the hon. Lady get away with saying that it is easier to win a gold medal at rowing or sailing than it is for basketball. [Interruption.] She did definitely say that we should not fund sports that are easier to get a medal in. She should see the sheer exertion that young men and women go through to win a rowing gold medal—they are up at six o’clock every morning, day in, day out. I appreciate her concerns, but it is unfair to run down other sports on the back of them. She did say that.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We are in danger of straying off the point. The debate is purely about funding for basketball. I understand that there will be examples, but I think we have taken the example a little bit beyond where we should be. I am sure that the hon. Lady will come right back on the subject of funding for basketball.

Mrs Hodgson: The wider point I was making was about the global accessibility of basketball. I was not decrying any sports, but globally there are fewer people playing a sport such as clay pigeon shooting, so it may be easier, in the sense of numbers, to win a medal at that sport—there are not as many competitors, because it is not as accessible. Perhaps I did not explain it correctly.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Maybe I could be helpful and say that we are not comparing like with like. That is the danger in where we are going. I want to get back to where we should be.

Mrs Hodgson: Thank you ever so much, Mr Deputy Speaker. You certainly made the point I was trying to make and I thank you for that.

I admit that it may be a difficult task to get a medal in Rio but, when we look at how far basketball has come in just six years, it is by no means impossible. More importantly, how much will not having at least a decent showing in Rio further damage a sport that is also suffering from cutbacks in grass-roots and talent funding?

All we are looking for is fairness: fairness for the young boy or girl in Sunderland, Newcastle, Merseyside, Leicester, Chester, Plymouth and so on who loves basketball because it is of the cities and of the street. It is cool and it is urban, and they idolise basketball

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superstars across the world from other countries because our national team is not as prominent as it should and could be.

I would like to end by quoting Luol Deng’s letter to the Prime Minister, which the hon. Member for City of Chester mentioned. With the indulgence of the House, I shall read it into the record, seeing as we have a few minutes to spare:

“Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you following the news that we, as Team GB, have had our funding completely cut which has been deeply upsetting and confusing to say the least.

My initial reaction was to try and understand why and how if by any means I could help to change this. The UK has given so much to my family and I, the honour and pride I’ve felt to play for Team GB over the last 5 years has been something words really can’t explain. Looking back to when we started, it’s incredible how far the team has come; so many people have worked too hard for this to happen now.

I truly feel like we are starting to put British Basketball on the map and we are now being taken seriously on the world stage. Taking myself and the other guys out of the equation, what about the future generation? Do not underestimate the fan base that this sport has in the UK. It’s a sport that kids can relate to and a sport that should be easily accessible when all you need is some concrete, two hoops and a ball! We all heard about the ‘legacy’ that London 2012 was going to bring to sport in the UK and I refuse to sit back and let that legacy be completely demolished for basketball. I along with thousands of other people involved with the game have put too much in and care too greatly to let this happen.”

Oliver Colvile: Does the hon. Lady recognise the importance of media interest? I must declare an interest in that my brother is a cricket commentator for Sky TV. That broadcaster has invested a lot of money and effort in grass-roots sport, especially among youngsters, and, in places such as Plymouth, which has a brilliant cricket club, has done an enormous amount of very good work.

Mrs Hodgson: I agree, and I hope that media interest will be raised by this debate.

The hon. Gentleman’s intervention came in the middle of Luol Deng’s letter, so I shall return to it. It will look rather odd in Hansard, I am sure, but if you will bear with me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will continue:

“My UK Foundation aims to help basketball, to help people not only get into the sport but to also help those more capable players develop their skills and achieve their goals of becoming a professional player. The sport of basketball is a pathway, a pathway that teaches so many valuable lessons on and off the court, how are we supposed to motivate these kids to carry along their journey when there’s now nothing at the end? No Team GB, no Olympic dream, no goal. You’re allowing a sport to be greatly harmed; a sport that can bring so much to so many and I won’t accept it. The sport needs more input from other resources I totally agree, but then let’s force the sport as a whole to live up to its promises and its potential but we need this funding in order for that to happen. As I said I get to see first hand what this sport can do for kids in the UK and it’s too valuable to just be chucked away.

There is a petition being circulated, which I have signed”—

I have signed it, too—

“and will encourage as many people as I can to do the same. I’ve been told about and shown examples of other letters that you and other members will have received detailing all the facts and figures relevant to the growth of the sport, of which there are many, but I wanted you to hear first hand from someone who came through the grass roots basketball system and from someone who knows what talent the UK has to offer in the sport of basketball. I also want to share with you one fact that I was given

28 Jan 2013 : Column 753

when this news came out—basketball participation for 11-15 year olds is at 27% which is 2nd only to football, this is the time to be supporting such a statistic not wiping it out.

I have asked that this letter also be sent to everyone connected to the decision and next week’s appeal with UK Sport. Again, too much has been achieved for this to happen.

I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Kind regards,

Luol Deng”.

That is quite a powerful letter from a world-famous sportsman. I hope that the Minister will give back to everyone involved in basketball in Great Britain their Olympic dream.

8.39 pm

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Very briefly, I would like to put on record my appreciation for my constituents Mr John Lloyd and his son Mr Mark Lloyd, who over the years have contributed nationally and locally to the development, growth and success of basketball. On their behalf, I hope that they will be able to continue doing that.

One of the great delights in last year’s Olympics was the breadth of sports in which Britain won medals. We won medals at sports in which, only a few Olympics back, Britain’s participants did their best, but never came within a whisker of winning a medal. It is a credit to the Olympic movement in this country that that breadth of sports has developed.

Let me finish on the point I raised in my intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley). To my mind, the Olympic legacy is the participation of as many young people as possible in sport. We all know that basketball, with a court set up in the corner of a playing field or across the full pitch, attracts youngsters in numbers, particularly in urban communities. If there are international and national figures whom they can look up to and aspire to be, the pyramid of participation will widen. Whatever the sport, the wider the base of the sporting pyramid, the better chance we have of seeing the pinnacle—the elite athlete—come through. Therefore, the withdrawal of funding is short-sighted. We only have to compare our record in the London Olympics with what happened five, six or seven Olympics back to see how dramatically Britain’s sporting success has increased across the spectrum. To a large extent that is about funding, as well as the enthusiasm of the various sporting organisations. I hope it will be possible for those responsible for funding basketball to realise that mass participation is part of the Olympic legacy for our young people.

8.41 pm

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley) on initiating this debate, which is timely and important for basketball in this country.

I should declare several interests, none of which is remunerated. First, I am a trustee of the British Basketball League Foundation, which the hon. Gentleman chairs. Secondly, I am a member of the all-party basketball group, which my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) chairs. Thirdly, I am a supporter of the Mersey Tigers—which was a great thing to do two seasons ago, as they won every bit

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of silverware in sight. Sadly, they have since been less successful, mainly as a result of financial difficulties. Last but by no means least, my grandson Luke plays basketball for his school and for a non-school side in the area. In fact, he played earlier this evening—unfortunately I have no idea what the outcome of the game was, because he has not sent me a text. I therefore have a number of reasons, both personal and to do with my involvement with various bodies, to support basketball.

I want to make three points—I will try to be brief. The first is a general point—it has been made by several hon. Friends, as well as the hon. Member for City of Chester—about the impact that the sport can have on specific communities. Basketball is a very inclusive sport. People do not have to have a lot of expensive equipment to play basketball or be associated with a club that might have difficult membership requirements; nor does it require massive support—it does require support, but not massive support—at the grass-roots level.

A further point that has been made is that young participants, male and female, gain great health benefits from their involvement in the sport, no matter what level they play at. A number of health authorities of one kind or another have recognised that and have supported clubs that have been successful in building up grass-roots support. If we are to be successful in basketball nationally and internationally, the first requirement will be to build up that grass-roots support. Nothing comes from nothing, and we will succeed at elite level only if we can get youngsters from the ages of eight, nine and 10 onwards to participate in the sport. That model has worked well in other sports, and it is no different for basketball, except that basketball reaches parts of the community that other sports might not.

That is not just my opinion as a Member of Parliament or as a grandfather with an involvement in the sport. If we look at the successful clubs—particularly Leicester and Newcastle, but also the Cheshire Jets—we see that they are sustained by the activity that takes place at grass-roots level, especially among young people. That is particularly important, and I am sure that the Minister will agree that that is the kind of successful model that we want to build.

Stephen Mosley: The right hon. Gentleman will probably be aware of the problems that the Cheshire Jets had, and of the launch of a new club, Cheshire Phoenix, in November. The new club has real community support: it is community owned and community based, and it took a real team effort from the entire city and county to get it going. It is a brand new club with huge aspirations and a huge amount of support. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the support that those other clubs have, but Cheshire Phoenix has it as well.

Mr Howarth: I must inadvertently have referred to the team as the Cheshire Jets, because I was aware of the developments that had taken place. I wish the Mersey Tigers well, but I hope that Cheshire Phoenix does well too. We are all from more or less the same part of the world.

The successful clubs demonstrate the fact that, with vibrant grass-roots support, it is possible to build a successful professional club and that, beyond that, we can build a successful national sport and perform well internationally. That brings me to my point about the

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decision, based on the estimate of our Olympic prospects in Brazil, which I think was wrong. I do not intend to labour the point, but I hope that those responsible will revisit the subject, because if they do, they will recognise that the route to qualifying for Brazil includes European qualification, and that there is a demonstrably strong chance that the UK team could qualify by going down that route. The team’s potential for qualification has been underestimated. I understand that the issue of governance has also been raised, but I have yet to receive any explanation of why that might be the case. The Minister and I had a brief discussion about this last week, and I hope that we will be able to find out more about what is at issue. There might have been a misreading of the true situation in the sport.

I know that the Minister cares passionately about sport, and that he is a fair-minded man. I also know—because he told me so—that his powers of intervention are limited in these matters. I accept that, but he does have considerable influence and I hope that he will use that to question the basis on which some of those decisions have been made. I also hope that, in a quiet and unassuming but effective way, he will be able to encourage those responsible to reconsider their decision as a matter of urgency.

8.50 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley) on securing the debate and on the manner in which he presented his case. This was actually going to be the third thing I intended to say, but it is probably worth saying it now. I shall proceed with certain amount of caution tonight. The appeal is due in front of the UK Sport board—on Wednesday, I believe—but that, in any event, is not the end of the process, as there are a number of further hurdles over which progress could be made. If the terms of the appeal are right—many points made tonight will, I suspect, form part of the appeal—it strikes me that there will be a case that will provoke some further thought. Let me go no further than that. Tonight’s debate does come at a slightly delicate moment.

I have a couple of other points to frame my remarks before I answer some of the specific questions raised. First, it is important—I hope hon. Members will forgive me for making this point—to frame this debate against the fact that this system works. This country’s elite performance system is the envy of almost every other Olympic system in the world. Back in Sydney, we were 10th in the medal table with 28 medals; here we are in London, 12 years later, third with 65 medals. The Australians would kill for this sort of system, as would many others. People in this country are looking at how we did it and trying to work out the processes we adopted. I know from talking to many Australians that they feel they will have to be much tougher and come far closer to our no-compromise approach if they are to catch up some of the ground they feel they have lost.

I was talking to a forum of performance directors this morning. Knowing that I would be responding to this Adjournment debate, I said, “Let me road test this on you. Have we got this right? Have we gone too far, and do we need to crank it back?” They said, “Absolutely

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not.” They felt that the way the funding awards were made this year was the fairest and most robust method they had been put through. These were performance directors who had done this for a number of years, and they had nothing but praise for the way in which they had been guided through the system by UK Sport and the results that had been reached. I absolutely understand the passion expressed about a sport for which many Members care deeply, but that needs to be balanced with the fact that the performance system for a country of our size has just produced 65 medals and third place in the Olympic medal table. That is an extraordinary success by anybody’s standards.

Let me deal quickly with a couple of other points. The right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) is absolutely correct: I can set the overall strategy for UK Sport, and indeed I do, but it is not up to me to make individual funding decisions within that, because about two thirds of the money that goes to any of these funding awards is lottery money. As anyone who has been in this House for any length of time will know, that is not for Ministers to direct.

My other point is that funding, although I would wish it otherwise in this area, is not inexhaustible. We have done very well to increase the overall budget for Olympic and Paralympic sport by 11%—the only host nation ever to achieve that—and for the Rio cycle, but that does not mean that we can avoid taking tough decisions. This has been one of them. Having been through the decision-making process with UK Sport—it took me through it and Sport England was there, too, so we could look at both funding settlements together—I know it has a chart, and the question is about the point at which we slice up and down the funding pole. That is done by UK Sport on the basis of medal success in Rio.

Let me run through the various issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester. He asked whether I had met UK Sport, and indeed Sport England. I see both chief executives every month, and I spent close to three hours with both organisations going through the two funding awards.

Although I take on board the comments that have been made, UK Sport made the decision on the basis that basketball had failed to demonstrate a realistic chance of qualifying for Rio 2016, or medal potential for 2020. Basketball may be on a fast improving pathway, but the men’s and women’s teams won only one of the 10 games that they contested at the London Olympics, which is not a great performance record.

How are such decisions made? GB Basketball puts a submission forward that goes to UK Sport, and it is then considered by a performance panel with independents on it. Each and every aspect is considered. Other performance directors I spoke to today said that was the best iteration they had been through in a number of cycles. The process is incredibly detailed, and considers not only medal potential for Rio but for 2020. For Rio, the line was drawn at a point where the basketball team needed to medal, which might explain the slight discrepancy in relation to qualification.

On the governance structure, it might be easier to nail down the issues in writing. I have been involved in sport as a politician since 2004 when the Conservative party was in opposition. Throughout that time, basketball has been a frustration because it has obvious and enormous potential, as many of the contributions to this debate

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have acknowledged. It is a sport that can reach into communities in a way that some other sports cannot, yet it somehow fails to catch alight. That may be because people who play basketball do not always respond to the active people survey, so participation levels are underplayed. There may also have been weaknesses in the structure of the sport.

Netball is a fantastic example of a sport that, from difficult beginnings, has increased its participation base extraordinarily. I have visited schemes run for school- gate mothers in places such as Leicester, to try to get more young women back into the sport. As a result, netball has been rewarded with a considerable increase in funding.

The key question is: what does basketball need to do? I have not yet met him, but I am told that there is a very good new independent chairman. A huge amount of fuss and bother is what impresses people least, so the best thing he can do is take a long, hard, clinical look at the sport of basketball—I hope that many of the hon. Members who have shown enthusiasm for the sport in the debate tonight will play a part—and look at team sports that have tackled this situation successfully. He should look at how cycling has put half a million people on its performance base, and at what netball, a team sport, has done. There must be some transferable lessons from netball to basketball. There is enormous performance-based expertise, which has driven this country from 10th in the medal table to third, so he should make use of the experts in academia and UK Sport, and turn the sport inside out.

There is this hope: although the initial funding decisions have been made and announced, there is an appeal process, and if basketball presents the right case, it will have a perfectly good chance of securing funding. This is not the end of the story, and if the basketball team starts to perform and show that it is likely to qualify, and has the chance of a medal in 2016 or 2020, wherever that turns out to be after the IOC decision this summer, there will be the opportunity to fund it.

I leave the House with the story of gymnastics. I have seen representatives of that sport recently. Its funding was cut—almost completely removed—after a disastrous Olympics in Athens, where the competitors were basically washed out. Gymnastics is a different sport from basketball, but its position is not entirely different. Those people went back and engaged in a long “dig-out” to discover what was required to ensure that the young athletes whom we all see in gyms in our constituencies could turn into Olympic medal-winners in the future. They turned the sport inside out, and established a really

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tough performance-based culture. The result was plain to see in London, where gymnastics was not only one of the great successes, but arguably one of the most unexpected.

As for the social aspect, I entirely accept the point about basketball’s social reach. However, we do not confine our funding to sports that have a reach of that kind, such as athletics, cycling and, in particular, boxing, which was one of the great successes of London 2012 and which has a huge reach into deprived communities in inner cities. I can reassure Members that UK Sport makes its decisions on the basis of performance.

Mr George Howarth: I have been involved—not as a politician—in amateur boxing for a number of years in my constituency. In many ways the comparison made by the Minister is a good one, but the difference between amateur boxing and basketball is that most local clubs are long-established and have a lengthy tradition on which to draw, whereas basketball is in the process of getting there, but is not there yet.

Hugh Robertson: That is a fair point. I suspect that it backs up the one I made earlier about the need to take a long hard look at the structure and get it absolutely right. Incidentally, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman’s grandson won his game, and that, if he did, the right hon. Gentleman will convey all our best wishes to him.

Let me end where I started. I thank the hon. Member for City of Chester on initiating the debate, and congratulate him on his speech. I also congratulate all the other Members who have spoken.

I want sport in this country to be successful, and I want basketball to be as successful as rowing, cycling, sailing or of any of the other more obviously successful Olympic sports. It would probably be overdoing it to be say that basketball has had a troubled past, but the fact that it has not taken off has been a source of great frustration to all of us who are involved in it. However, it occurs to me that this may be a moment of opportunity. I am sure that if the new chairman is really prepared to take on the task of sorting out the governance of the sport and ensuring that there are people who understand participation and the performance expertise that drives success at the top end, and if he can take that case to UK Sport and prove that we have a good chance of medalling in basketball in Rio or in the 2020 games, UK Sport will reconsider its decision.

Question put and agreed to.

9.3 pm

House adjourned.