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Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I rise to address Amendment No. 2, which is standing in my name on the Marshalled List. Like high hedges, this is a new subject, but one I think exceptionally fitting and appropriate as regards Clause 1.
The anti-social nature of drugs in sport; the lessons from the FA handling of the Rio Ferdinand case; the current status of the UK anti-doping regime and the urgent need for government action led me to table the amendment. I congratulate Michele Verroken and her team at the Doping in Sport Directorate of UK Sport for their longstanding commitment. As Minister for Sport I had the privilege to publish a report in 1987 that asserted at government level for the first time that the sports councils condemned the misuse of drugs in sport and that we needed to take action there and then. She has ensured by her actions and dedication that the UK has been at the forefront of the global campaign against doping abuse in sport.
However, we have seen many changes in the intervening 16 years, and the time is overdue for Government to respond to the changes in the current structure. The key issues that should be borne in mind are: first, that UK Sport is now a distributor of the lottery funds established by the Conservative Party and a significant and important funder of athletes and governing bodies. It also plays an important role in representing the Government in the international sports arena, particularly as we bid to host the 2012
The discomfort of being perceived by some, however unfairly, as gamekeeper and poacher requires the Minister for Sport to ensure that the agency for doping control is granted independence of UK Sport as a matter of urgency. With independence it should be directly accountable to the Minister and hence to Parliament. In parenthesis that should lead to a reorganisation of the valuable remaining work of UK Sport, which should be redirected to other agencies.
Secondly, the world anti-doping code has now been published. The Government and the International Olympic Committee have accepted the new anti-doping code, which encompasses all the elements in order to ensure optimal harmonisation and best practice in international and national anti-doping programmes, including the code, international standards and models of best practice. The code places new and more onerous responsibilities on both the national anti-doping agency and the British Olympic Association. It needs to be implemented fully and urgently.
Thirdly, athletes will, when tested positive, often challenge in court the resultant sanctions process. All too often governing bodies have found their own rules and processes wanting; the relationships they have with their member clubs at the very least uncomfortable; and the financial burden of fighting such cases onerous. The process can and has brought a governing body to its knees. It is time to give greater powers backed by legislation to a UK independent agency for doping control. It is unacceptable that governing bodies vary significantly in the way that they deal with doping infractions and sanctions, yet there is no recourse if they fail to meet their obligations.
We need a comprehensive system and a fairer and more transparent structurewhich is why I have tabled this probing amendmenta system that speeds up disciplinary processes and ensures independent commissions with appropriate powers. Even if the Government do not take the opportunity provided by my amendment and return to the House with their own proposals, they should at least provide a national framework or code against which all governing bodies deal with cases under the umbrella of recognition of eligibility for funding. Independent sampling officers, for example, should be present throughout every testing process. Confidentiality should be protected, and club doctors and administrators facing clear potential conflicts of interest should be removed from the process immediately.
In coming to these conclusions, the House will note that we are now beginning to lag behind some of the more recent developments in national anti-doping policy for sport around the world. The future is with an independent agency reporting to the Minister. As part of signing the international standards for doping control, the Government have stated objectives to have internationally consistent anti-doping policies
Yet they are not acting. As anti-doping becomes increasingly complex, involving medicine, pharmacology, toxicology, social issues and human rights, the issues arising from doping are too complex for individual governing bodies of sport and make them timid in this area. There is a need to be robust and consistent. The consequences are enormous for sportsmen and sportswomen and clubs both amateur and professional. An independent statutory authority with consistent powers should be the response to this probing amendment, for there is nothing more anti-social than drug abuse in sport. If kids in schools believe that the only path to the top is to take drugs and cheat, we will see more deaths and lifetime injuries from the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs, which all too easily can turn competition between sportsmen into competition between chemists' laboratories.
This legislation gives the Government an opportunity. Now is the time for action. If the Government are not ready to act by Third Reading, I hope for a commitment that within six months the Secretary of State will come forward in both Houses of Parliament with proposals to establish a new UK independent agency for doping control in sport and to strengthen the existing agencies for dealing with doping cases in a robust, consistent and fair way, under a unified system to cover all governing bodies.
Lord Addington: My Lords, Amendment No. 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, attracts my interest. I am not sure whether there is a doorway in the Bill to view the supply of such drugs as a nuisance. However, he raised the significant point that drugs in sportboth illegal and performance-enhancingare getting beyond the grip of the sporting bodies in this country. Many were set up in a different era when the amateur sportsman took part. They are struggling with the ramifications of greater professionalisation. Virtually all sports are going through that process.
The Government should give some help and guidance. If that means taking this area of responsibility away from the sports bodies that is probably the only way forward. They will always be lagging behind. Will the Government give me some idea of their thinking? That would be a great help. Unless we have government enhancement we will always have catch-up areas and the odd embarrassment to sportsmen, as is currently breaking in the news. Then there is the idea: "Don't worry, your chemists are that little bit better than the part-timers that the enforcing body can employ". We do not want an Olympics where chemists and lumps of meat take part and individuals take part in another competition. The Government should think long and hard about stating whether they have any long-term ambitions over the role.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, it may be convenient if I deal with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, first and come back to that of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, because it is nearing time.
I share the noble Lord's abhorrence of the misuse of drugs by sportspeople to enhance their performance and thereby gain unfair advantage over those who act with propriety. I do not know whether the Bill is the appropriate place to introduce such provisions, but I understand why, bearing in mind what has happened, the noble Lord chose the opportunity to explore the issues. I acknowledge that he said fairly that it is a probing amendment.
We do not see that there is any case for extending the powers in the Bill. This Bill was, of course, designed to deal with specific problems caused by class A drugs, and class A drugs and performance enhancing drugs are very different. So while the use of drugs in sport is to be deplored, performance enhancing drugs are not associated at the moment with serious nuisance and do not cause the type of problem that these powers are intended to address. I can certainly assure the noble Lord that we believe that adequate and appropriate measures are currently available to the sports governing bodies to handle athletes who misuse drugs. However, I hear what he said. There appears to be an inherent conflict in being poacher and gamekeeper at the same time.
There may be much merit in looking at this issue in greater depth. However, at this stage it is not an issue that we think should divert police resources from where we think they should be directed on the anti-social behaviour issue. If sports grounds, for example, are associated with class A drug use and there is serious nuisance or disorder, they would meet the criteria for the use of the powers as currently drafted. I can understand why the noble Lord, Lord Addington, adds his voice to that of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I shall certainly take away those remarks and share them with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
On Amendment No. 1, I do not think that it is desirable for us to allow closure simply on the basis of the use of drugs or nuisance rather than the use and serious nuisance. I am grateful to the noble Lord for indicating that he now agrees with that position. However, other powers do exist and can be used effectively to manage the anti-social behaviour of non-drug users. The application of these powers to non-drug related nuisance is therefore, in our view, unnecessary. I understand that a letter has been sent to the noble Lord by e-mail, but I am awaiting further clarification on it. Had I known that he wanted to raise precisely this issue I would have ensured that it was available to him. I can certainly undertake to try to get it to him today.
The Bill sets out that the notice must give information on housing support and other help. Any person made homeless has the right to seek re-housing from the local authority, but only those who meet the criterion set out in the law will be re-housed. In other settings, those who do not have a primary homelessness need under the law will not be given access to re-housing. We think that there is no reason why that should apply here. That is in relation to Amendment No. 3.
I am glad that that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said that Amendment No. 3 was probing. We think that the amendment would prevent the effective use of the powers, and the noble Lord clearly does not intend that. The closure notice already contains advice for those affected on how to contact legal and housing services. Therefore, if a person is entitled to re-housing, his application will be considered by the local authority on a case-by-case basis. Nothing in the Bill will adversely impinge on any of the other rights and duties in the Bill. So if an individual who has been made homeless falls within the current categories, he will be able to pursue his right.
I turn to Amendment No. 4. When a premises is in multi-occupation, it is possible for only a self-contained part of the building to be closed by the closure order. Consequently, communal areas can quite easily be excluded from the closure order by the court. Where vulnerable persons are involved, they will be advised of sources of help. I hope that that helps to clarify the position.
Returning to the noble Lord's letter, I shall not only seek it for him, I shall send him a further letter of apology for not having had it earlier.
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