Racism in Cricket

– in the House of Commons at 1:08 pm on 9th November 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Navendu Mishra Navendu Mishra Labour, Stockport 1:08 pm, 9th November 2021

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport if she will make a statement on reports regarding racism in cricket.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I am appearing here this afternoon in place of the Minister for Sport—the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston—who is in Geneva having meetings with football officials.

I will start by being very clear about something on which I know the whole House will agree: there is no place for racism in sport. Indeed, there is no place for racism anywhere in society. It must be confronted, it must be eradicated and it should never be written off as just “banter”.

The Government are extremely concerned by the reports of racism at Yorkshire county cricket club. Quite simply, the situation faced by Azeem Rafiq was unacceptable. It should never have been allowed to happen in the first place, and it should have been dealt with properly during the initial investigation. We have made it clear to the England and Wales Cricket Board that this requires a full, transparent investigation, both of the incidents involving Azeem Rafiq and of the wider cultural issues at Yorkshire county cricket club. The ECB is now investigating the matter fully. It took action against the Yorkshire club on Friday, stripping it of the right to host international matches, and has suspended a player.

There have been a number of resignations from the Yorkshire board—quite rightly—including that of its chairman. Lord Patel of Bradford has taken over as chairman, and has set out the approach that he will be taking to tackle the issue at Yorkshire. Crucially, he has started by apologising to Azeem Rafiq, but we know that that will not undo the pain that Azeem feels. More action is needed, and we have called on Lord Patel and the ECB to investigate fully, to eradicate racism where it exists, and to tackle the culture that can support it. In addition, the ECB is now undertaking a regulatory process. It must take strong action where it is necessary, and that action must be transparent and swift, for the benefit of cricket.

The ECB has also launched the independent commission for equity in cricket to look at wider issues that go beyond Yorkshire. It is chaired by Cindy Butts, a highly respected anti-racism campaigner. She is a board member of the Kick It Out campaign in football and is also, as you know, Mr Speaker, a lay member of your Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. I have great confidence in her independence and her phenomenal track record in this area. This terrible case—the awful case of the abuse that Azeem Rafiq should never have suffered, but did suffer—shows how much more needs to be done to stamp out racism in the game, and I urge anyone who has experienced discrimination in cricket to approach Cindy Butts’s commission and report what they have experienced. I understand that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has requested information about this incident. That is quite right, and I encourage the EHRC in its work.

Sport should be for everyone, and it should not take cases such as this to bring that to life. The Government applaud Azeem Rafiq’s courage in speaking out, and encourage anyone who has been similarly affected to do the same. This must be a watershed moment for cricket. The Government will closely scrutinise the actions taken by the ECB—the Minister for Sport met the board last week to discuss this topic—and by Yorkshire county cricket club in response to these damning allegations. The investigations to which I have referred must be thorough, transparent and public. That is necessary to restore the public’s faith in cricket in Yorkshire and beyond. Parliament is watching, the Government are watching and the country is watching. We expect real action, and the Government stand ready to step in and act if those involved do not put their own house in order.

Photo of Navendu Mishra Navendu Mishra Labour, Stockport

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

The leaked racism report from Yorkshire county cricket club has exposed the extent to which serious allegations of discrimination have been mishandled, covered up and sadly, it seems, entirely ignored over a long period. Players and former board members of the club have since come forward expressing their regret, but it is too little, too late. The question of how to address this should not be solely concerned with what to do next; rather, we should ask how the club arrived at such a low point. Why were players not properly investigated, why were no processes in place to address these allegations, and why did it take the leaking of the report to kick the club into action?

Members on both sides of the House have spoken publicly about how appalled they are, so I hope that the Minister will tell us today what concrete action the Government intend to take to tackle racism in sport. I know that my good and hon. Friend Alex Sobel wrote to Mr Mark Arthur, but unfortunately he has not received a response to his letter. The news over the past week has focused on cricket because of this report, but we know that it is not in cricket alone that racism and discrimination fester. The Government’s intervention on this particular issue must be a model for the way in which other sports address racism.

I want to express my solidarity with Mr Azeem Rafiq—who has shown great bravery in the face of this injustice—and with all who have been discriminated against in cricket and other sports. Sport should be for everyone. No one should be excluded or belittled because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or disability, and I hope that today will be a landmark in the addressing of these serious issues.

In the light of the leaked racism report—which I hope will be published in full this week—1 hope that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will investigate Yorkshire county cricket club and publish a full set of recommendations for how it will tackle racism in future. We must not forget that it was only when there were financial repercussions and corporate pressure that Yorkshire actually acted; that is simply unacceptable. We also know that, although nearly a third of all cricket players at grassroots level in the UK are from ethnic minority backgrounds, the figure drops to only 4% among cricketers with professional contracts. That too is shocking. I hope that today the Government will set out how they intend to work with the England and Wales Cricket Board to ensure there is independent scrutiny of the sport, so that incidents such as this never happen again and the sport is diversified at all levels.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I shall try to respond briefly to those further questions from the hon. Gentleman.

I entirely agree that the conduct of Yorkshire county cricket club in trying to brush this matter under the carpet and ignore it was completely unacceptable, and it is right that the chairman and others have resigned. The club’s conduct has no justification whatsoever: it is disgraceful, and we condemn it unreservedly. The point about the transparency of these inquiries is important: they need to take place in public, they need to be open, and the country and Parliament need to be able to scrutinise them fully.

I also agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the need for wider action in cricket. Clause 10 of the ECB’s own county partnership agreement requires it to increase ethnic minority representation, and we need to hold it to account to deliver that. As for the question of independent oversight of what Yorkshire and the ECB are doing, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is obviously independent, and is now rightly asking questions. The Government fully support that process, and, like Members of this House, will be following and scrutinising it extremely carefully.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

I stand in solidarity with Navendu Mishra, and thank him for bringing this issue to the House today. Let me recognise both his constituency and yours, Mr Speaker, by pointing out that the Lancashire league was the first to show that it was possible to have teams that were inclusive and could show an example to the rest of the country.

The issue raised by Matthew Syed in an article in The Times today was “What is the minimum test of credibility?” It is clear that this club has failed that test, but I do not think we should point the finger at just one club. We should be asking where discrimination, inequality and barriers to access exist in other sports and in other parts of life.

I say here, on the Floor of the House, that when we discovered that one of our local councillors in Worthing had posted unacceptable comments on the Patriotic Alternative white supremacist website, we suspended him. There will now be a by-election, and we have a south Asian candidate who is longing to be a Tory councillor. That shows that action can be taken, and whatever our party politics, we need to stand together on this.

The final point that I want to put to my hon. Friend the Minister is this: if we are going to ask the EHRC to take on this particular role in greater depth, it will need extra funding. I suggest that the Government talk to the EHRC to establish how much extra funding it needs and then add it on, so that this does not push aside other parts of the EHRC’s important work.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I associate myself with the characteristically wise words of my hon. Friend the Father of the House. I agree that we need to stand together, across the whole House, in combating and fighting racism wherever it occurs in our society. The local example given by my hon. Friend was a good illustration of that. The EHRC is of course independent and will make its own decisions about what to investigate, but I think it is clear that the House is encouraging it in its work. It did, I believe, receive a funding uplift not long ago, but its funding arrangements remain under continual review.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my hon. Friend Navendu Mishra for securing the urgent question. I too want to pay tribute to the bravery and persistence of Azeem Rafiq. He has already given others the courage to come forward, and I am sure that more will do so.

Racism destroys lives, and that is why allegations must be properly, fairly and transparently investigated. The handling of this case is a textbook example of what should not happen. A legal investigation team was second-guessed by the club’s panel, there was a failure to apply the legal tests correctly to the evidence gathered, and Yorkshire even changed the inquiry’s terms of reference part-way through, preventing the investigation team from drawing conclusions about institutional racism. One has to wonder whether it was taking lessons from the Prime Minister on that. Yesterday, Lord Patel took the first steps to begin to right these wrongs. The next step must be that the rest of the board leave their posts. Their role in this shameful fiasco gives them no right to continue to hold positions of power in the club. I, too, hope that the EHRC will formally investigate what has occurred.

Racism has no place in cricket or any other sport, and Michael Holding has said of this case:

“Each sport or industry can try to and put their house in order, but the message has to reach society at large or no real meaningful change can take place.”

Society at large includes all of us here, and it of course includes the Prime Minister. His well-publicised comments in the past have helped to enforce a culture where racism is seen as banter, so it was good to hear the strong words from the Minister today about committing to stamping out racism, but the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State need to understand that words alone are not enough. They must lead by example. Failing to do so gives credence and encouragement to racists.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I think we should avoid making party political points on an occasion such as this. We should be standing together, as we have been doing, to resolutely condemn racism and to tackle it wherever it is found. That means ensuring that the ECB investigation is independent and transparent, it means supporting the work of the independent commission chaired by Cindy Butts, and it means supporting the EHRC in any work that it does. I agree with the shadow Secretary of State’s remarks about the board of the cricket club. They bear collective responsibility and I do not see how they can continue.

Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation, Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation

I wish to thank Navendu Mishra for bringing this urgent question to the House. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Like many cricket lovers in this country, I feel a fool. I thought my sport was more colour-blind than most, but it most certainly is not. At Yorkshire, it is clearly institutionally racist, and Lord Patel has the mother of all jobs in turning that once venerable club around. I would like to chide the club about the report, because, despite publicly promising to issue it to myself and to the Government, it has not yet done so. That report needs to be in our hands today.

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is more than a Yorkshire problem, and that it is a national problem within cricket? Although I agree that the likes of the ECB must now have a permanent place on the board at Yorkshire to ensure that it is guided to a better place, I think that we also need substantially better whistleblowing procedures in the sport. We also need the likes of Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding, who are an inspiration not just to cricket but to wider sports and to our society, to be front and centre in cricket’s battle against racism. It is going to be a tough fight, but I truly believe that the whole House will agree that it is one that must be won, out in the open so that we can all see exactly what is going on.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I wholeheartedly agree with the Select Committee Chairman’s comments. On the question of the report, the Government have also requested to see it. As of about an hour ago, when I was last briefed on this, we had not received it. I would like to make it clear that the Select Committee and the Government should receive copies of the report and that it should be put into the public domain. I want to make it very clear today from the Dispatch Box that Yorkshire County Cricket Club should do that immediately. My hon. Friend made the rest of his remarks with great eloquence and power, and I agree entirely with every word that he said.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I certainly agree with all that has been said thus far, including what you have said from the Chair, Mr Speaker. Racism has no place in cricket, in sport or in society, period. This shocking episode has come out during the T20 world cup at a time when we should be celebrating all that is good in the game. That being said, Scotland might not have had the results we would have liked in the world cup, but the performance in qualifying was exemplary.

Turning to the important matters at hand, Azeem Rafiq must be commended for his bravery in coming forward and speaking out on Yorkshire’s shameful racist treatment of him. Conversely, Yorkshire’s actions have been disgraceful almost from start to finish. As we have just been hearing, their report remains unpublished. They have been forced into publishing a summary and only then sent a heavily redacted version to Mr Rafiq—a further sign that all was not right. The credibility of some of the report’s findings must also be questioned, with a racist term that was used against Mr Rafiq having been deemed to be “friendly and good-natured banter”. It is clear that Yorkshire have a lot of work to do, but does the Minister have confidence that the ECB is the right body to oversee a culture change in cricket, given that it has been repeatedly warned about this issue for years? Moreover, does he agree with the Health Secretary’s suggestion that if the ECB does not take strong action as a result of these events, it is not fit for purpose?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I broadly agree with many of the sentiments that the hon. Gentleman has just expressed. I agree that racist abuse of the kind suffered by Azeem Rafiq is certainly not banter. It is racist abuse, and it should be called out and action should be taken whenever and wherever it occurs. In relation to the ECB, I have a high level of confidence in the independent commission for equity in cricket, which is being chaired by Cindy Butts. As I have said, she is a highly respected anti-racism campaigner. The eyes of the country and of Parliament are upon these inquiries, and the EHRC is looking into this as well. We expect them to do their duty.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

I thank Navendu Mishra for bringing forward this important urgent question. As somebody who has played cricket in Yorkshire for the best part of 40 years—sadly not for Yorkshire, but in Yorkshire—I have to say that I have not heard that term expressed on a cricket field or in a dressing room for many decades. Nevertheless, this reflects very badly on the whole of Yorkshire cricket. When we get to the bottom of all this, may I urge my hon. Friend to ensure that those who are responsible for this kind of language are sanctioned, and that the people who have described this language as “banter” also face sanctions?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. That language is clearly not banter. Those who used it should face consequences, and those who tolerated it, condoned it and even covered it up and hid it should face sanctions as well.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections)

Can I first join others in condemning the vile language directed at Azeem Rafiq and the blatant culture of racism that has been exposed? It is shocking that, even after all this, this House has requested a copy of the full report and been denied it. The language faced by Azeem was not friendly banter, as has rightly been pointed out. It was racism, plain and simple, and the failure of Yorkshire cricket to recognise it taking place under its nose is just the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger problem. That problem is the normalisation of racism in so many sports such as cricket and football. You only have to ask any young person in Bradford who has ever picked up a bat or a ball about the obstacles they face on a daily basis because of this normalisation. I have listened to the Minister, but the reality remains that we cannot tackle the racism present in many sports if we change only the boards and not the culture. What the Minister needs to do today is to commit to a top-to-bottom review of professional sporting bodies to directly challenge the normalisation of racism.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I agree that the normalisation of racism is something that we all have to fight. Each and every one of us has a duty and an ability to do that. As far as cricket is concerned, as I have said, I have enormous confidence in Cindy Butts—a highly respected anti-racism campaigner—to lead the independent commission for equity in cricket and sort out the problems that evidently exist there. Across society more widely the Government have a hate crime strategy, we have done a race disparity audit and we have a race disparity unit. We will shortly be bringing forward an online safety Bill, which is designed to clean up the sewer online where so much of that hatred is often spread.

Photo of Naseem Shah Naseem Shah Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank my hon. Friend Navendu Mishra for securing this question and I thank Azeem Rafiq for his bravery. Not only was he exposed to racism and suffered from that, but he was denied an inquiry, and only yesterday was it acknowledged that what he did was whistleblowing. Much of the racism he faced at Yorkshire county cricket club was blatant racism and Islamophobia, and he has said as much. I recognise that the Minister and other members of the Government have stood in solidarity with colleagues across party in challenging the racism in this specific case, and I welcome the appointment of my fellow Bradfordian Lord Kamlesh Patel, but it cannot be left to him to fix this culture on his own.

I appreciate that the essence of this debate is about cross-party unity, but the truth is that for two and a half years we have been waiting for a definition of Islamophobia. No Government advisers have been appointed in two and a half years and the definition provided by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, which the Muslim community stood behind, has been denied by the Government. Given the collegiate nature of this debate, will the Minister and the Government meet with the all-party parliamentary group so that we can reach a definition of Islamophobia? Without that, how do we understand that Islamophobia is rooted in racism, and what do we do to address it?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I repeat my admiration for Azeem Rafiq’s courage in standing up to the appalling racism he suffered at Yorkshire county cricket club. I understand that that is by no means an isolated example. Root and branch change is needed at that club; I hope that the recent appointment of Lord Patel of Bradford is an important first step, but it is only a first step. Root and branch change is needed. Across cricket more widely, the independent commission for equity in cricket, chaired by Cindy Butts, has that mission in mind.

On the more general question, of course we need to create a culture in this country where racism is fought at every step and every stage. That is why we have a race disparity unit. That is why we have a hate crime strategy. That is why we are bringing forward the online safety Bill. In relation to the hon. Lady’s particular question about the definition, the Minister for Equalities, my hon. Friend Kemi Badenoch, is working on that. I will convey the question to my hon. Friend and ask her to make contact urgently with the hon. Lady to discuss that issue.

Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley

Yorkshire county cricket club is supposed to represent each and every person of our great county, but these reports show that it has failed our entire Yorkshire community and the whole sporting community. It is right that the board members at Yorkshire who turned a blind eye to racist accusations have resigned, but does my hon. Friend agree that the ECB must now take responsibility for neglecting racism in cricket and that individuals there must also consider their positions?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I agree with my hon. Friend that the failings at Yorkshire county cricket club are deep and have been long lasting. Of the people responsible, I think some have resigned already, but there are others who, as the shadow Minister and I said earlier, should now consider their position and do the same. My colleague the sport Minister met the ECB last week to raise exactly those issues, to hold it to account and to make clear that the expectation of Parliament and the public is that it takes responsibility for fixing the problems that it has allowed to occur on its watch. We are scrutinising its actions. The public are watching and Parliament is watching; we now expect them to act.

Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall

Let me first congratulate my dear hon. Friend Navendu Mishra and thank him for securing this urgent question. We are talking about structural racism and institutional inequality in society. Does the Minister agree that community sports projects run in the community, which bring people of different faiths and backgrounds together, are key to breaking racism in sport? Will he agree to meet successful teams in my constituency to understand the challenges they face?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman is quite right to point to grassroots sport as the place where everything starts and the place where culture is set. I think the person he should meet is the sport Minister, my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston; he is in Geneva today, but I will certainly pass on that request and I am certain he will readily agree.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

This appalling case follows several high-profile examples of racism in other sports this year. The efforts to address racism in football, for example, through taking the knee have sadly met with a mixed reaction from fans. Although it is clear that we need a new anti-racism strategy across all sports, it is important that that strategy brings everybody with it. What steps have the Government taken to develop such an initiative across all sports?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

In relation specifically to football, in response to what happened last summer, the scope of football banning orders was extended to cover not just racist abuse happening in football grounds, but racist abuse perpetrated by fans online. Quick and decisive action was taken there. The online safety Bill is designed to address racist abuse online more widely, and the hate crimes strategy and the race disparity unit are designed to fight racism in sport and across society as a whole.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I associate myself and my party with remarks already made in this place. Racism is absolutely unacceptable anywhere. In Scotland we have a useful expression, “We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns,”—we are all John Thomson’s children—meaning that we are all the same. We are all human beings.

I served for 12 years in the Scottish Parliament. For a long time, sectarianism has been a scar on the face of Scottish sport, but I give credit where it is due: the Scottish Government have recognised that and are working hard to tackle it. Some would say perhaps not successfully, some would say successfully, but never mind—the intention is there. May I recommend to Her Majesty’s Government that they talk to the Scottish Government about what has been done north of the border, as it may well help to stamp out the evil of racism in the rest of the UK?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

We always talk to Administrations around the whole United Kingdom, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that this Government’s commitment to stamping out racism in cricket, in sport and anywhere we find it is absolute.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I too am grateful to my hon. Friend Navendu Mishra for raising the important question of racism in cricket in the House. Just yesterday, I met Cricket Wales and heard about the work it is doing in my constituency with the brilliant Miskin Manor Cricket Club to tackle misogyny and inequality at grassroots level. Racism and discrimination in any form is utterly unacceptable, and it cannot be that cricket is allowed to continue as a sport for only the most privileged communities. I ask the Minister exactly what steps his Department will be taking to break that cycle and encourage true diversity in sport. We need deeds, not words.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Diversity and inclusion run through the entire ethos of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s interaction with sporting bodies and the way it funds sport, from grassroots levels, which Mr Sharma mentioned a moment ago, right up to the top. It touches every element of the way we fund and work with sport. On the question of cricket in particular, Cindy Butts’s independent commission for equity in cricket is designed to address exactly the questions Alex Davies-Jones rightly just raised.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Labour, Battersea

I start by congratulating my hon. Friend Navendu Mishra on securing this important urgent question. I agree with the remarks that have already been made this afternoon. Racism in all its forms, whether in sport or society, is wrong and needs to be stamped out. We all saw what happened last summer, when the racist attacks on our black England football players took place, and the lack of leadership, as many would describe it, from the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister when they failed to condemn it. To tackle racism requires leadership. If the Minister is going to bring his words to life, he needs to commit today to implementing a proper race equality strategy that will seek to tackle institutional and structural racism across society, including in sport, the labour market and our education system.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

When we saw the racist abuse suffered by those footballers in the final of the European championships at Wembley back in the summer, there was universal condemnation of it. It was universal condemnation followed by action, in the form of the extension of those football banning orders to include online racist abuse, which previously was not covered and is a matter that will be further addressed in the Online Safety Bill in the very near future. On the wider questions, we had the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities give its initial report and the Government will be coming forward with a further plan in that area, which my colleague the Minister for Equalities will be leading.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

May I strongly associate myself with the praise for the courage of Azeem Rafiq, the condemnation of institutional racism at Yorkshire cricket club more generally and the concerns raised by my hon. Friend Naz Shah about the lack of a Government-backed definition of Islamophobia? There are two other specific things the Minister should focus on. First, last year Sport England found a 14-point gap between the percentage of white British people participating in sport and of British Asians taking part in sport. So it would be good to know what the Minister is going to do to put a target in place to bring that gap down quickly. Secondly, members of Yorkshire cricket club were raising concerns about what was going on, but the governance structures at Yorkshire clearly did not allow those concerns to get to the very top and have an impact. There is, rightly, a campaign for fans to have a seat on the board of football clubs. Is it not time for consideration to be given to fans having a place on the board of cricket clubs as well?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The question about encouraging participation is a good one. My colleague the sports Minister, who deals with this on a day-to-day basis, in his dealings with various representative sports bodies and in the way he constructs funding arrangements, is resolutely focused on increasing participation in sports across all backgrounds in this country, both ethnic and social; there are other metrics and dimensions besides just ethnicity. That is an important piece of work that he is taking forward. On representation on boards, that is exactly the kind of question Cindy Butts’s review will be addressing. I hope she is listening to today’s proceedings and will take that as an idea for her review to carry forward, because I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there were catastrophic failings of governance over many years at Yorkshire county cricket club. That is why it is right that the chairman resigned and if anyone is left from that regime, they should resign as well.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Labour, Luton South

In my constituency, children are flourishing when playing local, grassroots, community cricket, through excellent programmes led by organisations such as Wicketz, which focuses on community cohesion. It is clear, however, that structural inequalities, particularly associated with race and class—as have been writ large by the issues and allegations at Yorkshire county cricket club—will place huge barriers in their way if they want to pursue their dreams and make it as professionals in cricket. What actions is the Minister taking to stamp out discrimination, in all its forms, within cricket and sport in the UK?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As I set out already, the independent commission for equity in cricket, chaired by a highly respected anti-racism campaigner, is going into exactly those issues and I am sure it will be making concrete recommendations, which the ECB and the Government will be taking very seriously. In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is asking questions, as I have said. If the ECB, in its work, does not do what this House expects, the Government are prepared to act.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

More than 50 years ago, Asian cricketers set up their own leagues and tournaments in Yorkshire because they were not getting the recognition in the sport that they deserved for their talent, and they certainly were not being picked up by the head of the sport in their county, which is Yorkshire cricket club. This problem has existed in broad daylight for generations and the ECB has done precious little to deal with it. If we are going to deal with this issue, we cannot look only at Yorkshire cricket club; we need to look beyond it and talk to people about what has been going on in Yorkshire for a very long time—perhaps even look beyond Yorkshire and at other areas where this sort of institutional racism takes place. We need a root-and-branch investigation into what has been going on.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct, and that is precisely what the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, chaired by Cindy Butts, is going to be doing. It will be asking exactly those questions that he just posed, not just of Yorkshire county cricket club, which clearly has the most appalling, very long-standing problems—from what he said, it sounds as though they are multi-decade—but across cricket more widely. It is essential that that work happens. Let me just take this opportunity to say to anyone in cricket—Members of Parliament, members of the public, players, coaching staff or parents—who has experienced the kind of appalling and unacceptable racism we have heard about to make sure that they give evidence to this independent commission, so that their voice is heard, their story is heard and action can be taken.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I, too, thank the Minister for his helpful response. Does he agree that the sport of cricket embodies the very sense of multiculturalism and that those who are caught in racist-speak or in racist acts should not have the privilege to don the whites or even to watch the wonderful play? What steps can and will he take not just to reduce racism but to implement a zero tolerance policy on it?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that where players are found to have committed acts of racism, they should suffer consequences; a mere slap on the wrist or admonishment is clearly not enough. In that spirit, I understand that the ECB has already suspended from eligibility for England selection one of the players at Yorkshire county cricket club who was guilty of racially abusing Azeem Rafiq. I hope that county cricket clubs, the ECB, cricket clubs more generally and sporting clubs more generally take exactly that kind of action whenever they find examples of this kind of unacceptable behaviour. Let us say as a House today that that is what we expect them to do.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I ask your advice, as I believe the Minister has just inadvertently misled the House on two occasions in his responses to questions? In July, the Prime Minister accepted Labour’s request to extend football banning orders to online racist abuse. I raised the fact that nothing had been done about that in oral questions to the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 16 September. She was not able to answer the question and said that she would write to me. She has actually done so today, some two months on, saying, in effect, that nothing has been done yet because it will require primary legislation to extend football banning orders. So these orders are clearly not in force and action has not been taken. I wonder whether you might advise me as to how the record could be corrected.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank the shadow Secretary of State for her point of order. As I said at the beginning, I am covering today’s debate for the sports Minister, and the hon. Lady is quite right to say that it is a commitment—a clear and affirmed one. The Department is currently working on ways to implement it as quickly as possible. I will make sure that my colleagues the sports Minister and the Secretary of State deliver this commitment as expeditiously as they possibly can.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Well, that was speedily done, was it not? Thank you very much, Minister, for responding to the urgent question today. May I ask Members who are leaving to do so in a covid-friendly way? Appropriately enough, we are moving on to a statement by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the covid-19 update.