Kate Hoey: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. No special derogation was requested. We asked only for the special nature of sport to be recognised. There seems to be deadlock over the transfer issue. Several players are involved: UEFA, FIFA, the Commission and the players' unions. If sporting authorities want to be seen as responsible for everyone in and affected by the sport, they must speak with one voice. In this country, our football authorities do speak with one voice and they have made their position clear.
Discussions are going on and compromises will have to be made. The bottom line for our football authorities is that whatever transfer system is finally agreed, it must allow money to pass through to the lower end of the game, and it must protect the assets invested in players so that clubs do not lose them. Despite the existence of a contract, some clubs sometimes sell a player who does not want to move. The issue is complicated because the rights of individual sportsmen must be balanced against the overall good of the sport.
It is first and foremost for the football authorities to get their act together, but we all know that FIFA took a long time to respond to the sensible requests put to it. The Commission was asked to examine a particular legal case, but FIFA responded very late in the day. Unfortunately, hype and media can be exploited to put across individual bodies' cases. In this country, the football authorities and the Government have been clear in their approach, and all hon. Members are likely to share our desire to maintain the best elements of the transfer system. We shall continue to work closely with all interested parties to secure that.
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): It is always a pleasure to welcome my parliamentary neighbour to the Chair, Mr. Gale.
Doping in sport is reprehensible, but many of the compounds used for that purpose are legal and ethical in other contexts. Members of the Committee may be taking cold cures that would break the rules if they were used by sportsmen during a sporting event. That is why it is left to sporting associations to regulate such matters.
Can my hon. Friend assure me that nothing in the regulations will encourage the European Union and its Commissioners to try to proscribe the use of compounds? They have no right to proscribe them, because they are legal in other contexts.
Kate Hoey: WADA's responsibilities will be more about the co-ordination of regulatory measures and the sharing of information, such as how countries can learn from each other how the anti-doping system works, the testing methods used and so on. Although WADA is a European Union-based agency, we will not fight doping in sport by seeing it only as a European Union issue. We must take a wider view; that is why the Council of Europe is so important. Many of the problems involving doping and drugs in sport exist outside the European Union. We should not get the idea that members of the European Union, by agreeing one way of doing something, will somehow affect the rest of the world; that is why WADAan international bodywas set up. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that sport itself must take the lead. It is not a simple matter of producing lists that will affect all sports, because all sports are different.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): The confusing pile of documents sent to members of the Committee emanates from the European Scrutiny Committee. Its commentary on the matter in paragraph 6.9 states:
As there is a relationship in the documents between policy on sport and, for example, competition law, can the Minister tell me whether there are any plans to investigate the stranglehold on formula one motor racing in the Community, as exhibited by FISA and Mr. Bernie Ecclestone?
Kate Hoey: It is a matter for the European Commission legal paraphernalia, if I may so describe it. The Commission is looking at competition problems, especially those relating to the motor racing industry.
Mr. Jack: So that I may understand with greater clarity, will the Minister say how the Community proposes to develop its uncertain position on sport? How exactly will it pursue the questions asked about FISA's monopolistic practices in formula one?
Kate Hoey: I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman wants me to say. Clearly, whether a particular practice within a sport or the way in which a sport organises its commercial functions is contrary to the Commission's regulations, is a matter for the Commission.
Mr. Greenway: The best way forward for the Minister, for me and for the Committee would be to return to the transfer issue during the debate.
I welcome the hon. Lady's commentif I understood her correctlythat the Government believe that the European Commission is not the right body to deal with the doping issue. The Minister appeared to say that the representatives of the new institutions on WADA will be restricted to considering only those matters that impinge on Community law and competence. I shall be grateful if the hon. Lady will confirm that my understanding of what she said is correct.
Will the hon. Lady also confirm that it remains the Government's position that there should be no funding of WADA through European Union institutions, because of the lack of Euro-competence? Will she therefore reaffirm her support for United Kingdom anti-doping programmes?
The Helsinki report refers to the different anti-doping legislation of member states as a barrier to free movement. Does the Minister share my scepticism about that and does she agree that it can hardly be a barrier to free movement of athletes, for example, when they represent their country of birththey can represent only their own country in national teamsand do not, as in professional football, swap from one country to another?
Kate Hoey: This is getting a little difficult; the hon. Member and I are agreeing on practically everything. I confirm what he has just said. I also repeat that we will accept Commission involvement in WADA only where there is clearly a legal competencywhich is very restricted at the moment. I see no reason why that would change. Any funding of WADA by the Commission must have a sound legal base and should never be at the expense of diverting funds from other priority areas. The funding of WADA is primarily a matter for member states. If the costs of WADA were divided between all the countries of the worldaccepting that some are not as well off as otherseach country would need to pay only a tiny amount. If we cannot collectively find that money to fight doping in sport, that says something about our attitude to sport. I do not believe that we will take that attitude.
Dr. Ladyman: As my hon. Friend the Minister and the Opposition spokesman are agreeing, I shall take the opportunity of the Whip's absence to introduce a controversial matter. The fifth framework programme on research is meant to encourage medical research and research into high-energy physics to encourage EU industries to be competitive in those areas. Is my hon. Friend happy that the report suggests that some of the resources for that programme be diverted into such areas as doping and doping detection? Does she think that that is an appropriate use of the fifth framework programme? Does she not think that we should encourage sport rather than the European Union to undertake that research?
Kate Hoey: My hon. Friend is right; sport has its role to play. Sporting bodies in this country already pay indirectly for anti-doping measures. The priority given to anti-doping measures within EU funding must be considered in the research to which my hon. Friend referred. The research that is undertaken must be broadly accepted by all member states. Provided the funding is within the framework of research, development and education, I see no reason why EU money should not be used for that.
Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): The Community support plan to combat doping in sport states that the differences in anti-doping legislation between member states may constitute a barrier to the free movement of professional and amateur sports people. Is the Minister aware of any evidence to support that statement in regard to UK sports and sports people?
Kate Hoey: No, I have not seen any such evidence, but someone obviously thinks that it exists. I will make it my business to find out what the evidence is. I would be interested in it.
Mr. Jack: In her opening remarks, the Minister questioned, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), the competency of the Commission to act in this area. Paragraph 10 of her Department's explanatory memorandum on the Helsinki report on sport says that
Will the Minister explain the apparent paradox between her Department's assertion that there is no competency and the Commission's assertion that article 152 gives it comfort in this area?
Kate Hoey: No one is suggesting that there is no legal base for co-operation on aspects of anti-doping. That is different from the Commission making decisions on how the fight against doping will be fought. The two are not contradictory. Article 152 is, first and foremost, about public health, which is different from anti-doping. It could be argued that the health of people who take drugs might be affected in the long term, but the fight against drugs in sport is not, fundamentally, a public health issue.
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