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Lord Whitty: I have never said that we do not have sympathy with the people of Gibraltar in their aspirations for a vote for the European Parliament. What I have said is that the negotiating situation looks impossible. I should like to ask the noble Lord why, if he is now so concerned about this issue, since this has been the case since European elections first started in 1979, did the previous government not ever take this up with our partners within the European Union. I assume it was for the very same reason, that they knew that Spain would veto it. I am just stating the reality. It is unfortunate, but that is where we are.

Lord Moynihan: I have never heard a government Minister, on either side of this House, say that they regard it as impossible to make progress on this issue. We have a very clear statement from the Government. It makes this particular set of amendments even more

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important for the people of Gibraltar that it was debated this evening. We shall be able to reflect on it and certainly we will be coming back to the Minister. I do not see it as impossible; I see it as a vitally important issue for government, a vitally important policy issue. I regret the position that the Foreign Office now take.

Against that background and against the exchanges this evening, I am grateful to the Minister for the other comments he made and to the noble Lords who participated, and I beg leave t withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 43B not moved.]

Lord Moynihan moved Amendment No. 43C:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Amateur Sport

(" . Within six months of the passing of this Act a Minister of the Crown shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on the particular characteristics of amateur sport mentioned in Declaration 29 (on Sport) appended to the Treaty of Amsterdam.").

The noble Lord said: At this point I have pleasure in moving the amendment standing in my name. I understand that there will be a change in the ministerial team at this point. It is always welcome to come back into the world of sport with the noble Lord and to debate issues of importance in that context. I do so because this is the first time that the European Community has formed a declaration regarding sport. I simply rise to welcome the interest expressed by the Community in sport, to raise one or two potential concerns but specifically to encourage the Minister to give the House a clear indication of how he sees the interpretation of the declaration which states:

    "The conference emphasises the social significance of sport, in particular its role in forging identity and bringing people together. The Conference therefore calls on the bodies of the European Union to listen to sports associations when important questions affecting sport are at issue. In this connection, special consideration should be given to the particular characteristics of amateur sport".

The sports sector has operated for a long time within Directorate General X of the European Commission and it has been responsible for much good work ensuring intra-Commission and inter-institutional co-operation on sports issues and facilitating co-operation with the sports world. It manages two major programmes for the funding of sports activities and has launched an information service called Sport Info Europe.

The sports sector organises the annual meeting of the European Sports Forum and the annual meeting of international sports federations with the Commission. What it has done, which I believe will be important for the future, is to recognise the importance and indeed the pre-eminence of national governing bodies in various countries and the international sporting federations without at any stage intending to become a government of sport in its own right. I urge the Minister to underpin the importance that must be attached to the role of the European Union in supporting national governing bodies and international federations and in recognising their pre-eminence.

I speak with an element of trepidation as when I was a junior Minister in another place I entered this Chamber for the first time to hear the Minister and others express

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a less than favourable view on the important work I was attempting to do with regard to the football spectators' Bill. Unbeknown to the Minister I was standing at the Bar listening to the most damning indictment that I had heard in my career of any House of Commons Minister. That must have occurred well over 11 years ago. This is the first occasion since then that the Minister will respond to my comments on a sporting matter on a face to face basis. I know that the comments he made 11 years ago were deeply felt. Lord Howell sparred with me on this subject on many occasions. I deeply regret his passing, as does the Committee. I hope that the Minister will examine this subject which is close to my heart and that he will bear in mind that the European Commission has started to take an active interest in football and motor sport.

I refer to the European Court of Justice ruling--after a case brought by Jean Marc Bosman--that clubs have no right to buy and sell players at the expiry of their contracts. The law now demands that in both the United Kingdom and Europe no transfer fees should be paid for that kind of deal. The Bosman ruling dates back to December 1995. For some time there was confusion as to whether or not it applied to the United Kingdom. I am sure the Minister will accept that it led to something of a legal farce because it was possible to buy and sell a player within the United Kingdom by transferring him to a European team for 24 hours in between in order to avoid paying the UK transfer fee.

As I say, the Commission is studying this issue. However, I am anxious about the position of the smaller clubs in this regard. Although the larger clubs maintain that the new system has brought down barriers and provided more freedom for players, they are likely to say that because they can afford to buy expensive foreign players and are now doing so for far less money than used to be the case. People criticise some clubs for being swamped by foreign talent. That does not encourage British clubs to bring on promising young UK players when an unproven talent in a lower division can be bought from abroad at a much cheaper price. As I said, that does not encourage domestic players. Smaller clubs are missing out on the transfer fees which once helped them to survive. I regret to say that some of them, although not all, are becoming less keen to take on youth players who are expensive to train and who might leave them.

As regards motor sport, the main issue is whether or not the European Parliament can, as it intends, legally ban tobacco advertising for sport. It would be inappropriate to go into detail on that extremely complex and emotive case. Suffice it to say that I am trying to make a point about the importance of the European Commission seeking an accord with the governing bodies, looking to the international federations which set the rules and regulations for those sports and working with them in a supporting role, rather than trying to dictate to the world of sport how best to operate.

It is against that background that I look forward to hearing from the Minister--as I said, with a great deal of trepidation after what I went through 11 years ago. At least I have not done myself the discourtesy,

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especially if he believes that those words were accurate, of introducing the personal references which are on the record of my contribution at that time on what was an extremely difficult measure. At least in this debate we are celebrating what should be an important step forward in sport rather than the somewhat more difficult job of introducing a football spectators' Bill, which I recall well, and for one particular reason.

Perhaps I might briefly remind the Committee that I had the difficult job of introducing that Bill. Nicholas Ridley took an intervention during the Second Reading debate, and was asked pointedly, before a full House, when he had last attended a football match--to which he replied, without a moment's hesitation, "At Eton, under duress". My christening was worse. I rose to wind up the debate, totally terrified. There was that moment's pause, as ever. The House of Commons was full to overflowing when it came to matters of sport. During that moment's pause before I started speaking, the noise from the Front Bench opposite came from Dennis Skinner, who said: "It's all right for 'im, 'e can get in under the turnstiles". With those memories fresh in my mind, I am grateful to give way to the noble Lord the Minister to hear his comments on matters sporting.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Renton: We have all enjoyed my noble friend's remarks. They are based on valuable personal experience. I find this a rather vague declaration. Perhaps it is just as well that it is vague. I should not think it right for one of the "bodies", whatever a body may be in this context, of the European Union to start organising international sport. What are the bodies going to do, having listened to a sports association, when important questions affecting sport are at issue? It is all very vague. Nevertheless, we might as well support the proposal.

The most important matter in relation to sport is that it should be part of education. It should be taught in schools to make young people fit, to give them the right sort of instincts and to give them some pleasure and provide relief from their devoted studies. But there is no mention of that. I do not think that the European Union should exist for that sort of provision; however, I hope that member states will encourage each other to encourage sport in schools to the greatest possible extent.

My only reminiscence that might interest your Lordships is this. When I was at school, I was very keen on cricket but not very good at football. Once, when I became frightfully bored while watching a school football match, instead of standing at the front and cheering our side on, I went to the back of the other boys and started reading a newspaper. For that, as happened in those days, I received corporal punishment.

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