International Organisations Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:05 pm on 16th December 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Shadow Minister (Sport), Home Affairs 12:05 pm, 16th December 2004

My Lords, having listened to the Minister, the International Organisations Bill is clearly worthy of broad support. It is important that the United Kingdom is able to meet its international commitments in relation to international organisations and bodies.

The world is becoming a smaller place, and our national laws and responsibilities now often have an impact on the international community. If, therefore, we are not to alienate international activities, we must take account of the measures within our domestic law. That is precisely what we are attempting to do today. I commend the Minister on that objective.

This is an interesting and useful Bill for another reason. Its Long Title particularly interests me, for it makes,

"provision about privileges, immunities and facilities in connection with certain international organisations".

The issue of how to treat certain international sports federations has been particularly prominent in recent times. It is on that point that I wish to concentrate today. I must admit that on my first reading of the Bill I was rather heartened because I thought that in Clause 6 the ICC accurately reflected exactly what it should have stood for—the International Cricket Council. However, I hope that there will be opportunity in Committee to amend the Bill accordingly because today I shall refer to the ongoing saga of the International Cricket Council, the members of which, I deeply regret to say, are apparently beginning to pack their suitcases as they prepare to leave Lords and head abroad. They do not want to leave Lords—it is their home and the spiritual home of cricket itself. Nor do they want to leave England for, after India, England is the world's biggest market for cricket.

However, the ICC feels that it is being forced out by the Government and in particular by the Chancellor's swingeing system of corporation tax, which currently requires the ICC to pay full tax in England for every penny it has earned around the world. Bearing in mind that the ICC exists primarily to promote the sport of cricket around the world, it appears to the world of sport to be unreasonable to penalise it in this way.

We are led to believe that UK Sport has intervened in the situation and has proposed a new tax regime for the ICC—a regime which might offer certain specific exemptions for international sporting federations. This proposal had been approved by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but was effectively ruled out of consideration by the Treasury team in another place an hour ago in Treasury Questions.

Today, I call on the Chancellor and the Government to think again, and to take urgent and decisive action. The Government must do whatever they can to keep the International Cricket Council where it belongs and where it wants to be. This is very important indeed. In recent times, the International Rugby Board has decamped to Dublin; the International Amateur Athletics Federation has gone to Monaco; the Table Tennis Federation has gone to Switzerland; and the International Badminton Federation is in the process of relocating to Kuala Lumpur. This is a terrible state of affairs, not only for the loss of business and the loss of prestige associated with international sporting federations, but because of what it says about the United Kingdom as a sporting nation.

This country's level of influence on the world stage of sport is pitifully low. As a nation we are under-represented on the committees and the boards of too many major sports. Our use of sport as a tool of international development is minimal, and our record of bidding for and staging international events is frankly unacceptable. As things stand, the ICC is one of the jewels in the UK's sporting crown. The Government should be drawing the ICC closer to them; championing it and by association championing this country as an international hub of sporting activity and excellence. Instead, they appear bent on driving it away with their blind refusal to compromise. This Bill provides your Lordships with the opportunity to reverse this trend.

The consequences will go still wider. Consider, if you will, how the ICC's departure from Lord's would play out among the 123 members of the International Olympic Committee who are charged with deciding whether London should host the Olympic Games in 2012. Consider also that in its initial report on candidate cities the IOC criticised London for its lack of experience of staging international events and for a perceived lack of government support for the bid.

I should not think that the sight of a blue riband international federation being unceremoniously shoved off to the Far East would do much to enhance London's chances. In fact, I fear that this display of obstinacy from government could go some way towards undermining all the outstanding work being done by the 2012 bid committee led by my noble friend Lord Coe, work which has our absolute, unstinting and full support. The Government have been using the Olympic bid like the sword of Damocles, telling politicians and journalists alike that if they speak or act out of turn they will threaten the bid's success. Yet, it is the ministerial team responsible for sport that has constantly failed to deliver.