To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the planned independent anti-doping agency will be operational by October 2009.
My Lords, the department continues to work closely with UK Sport in determining the final structure and functions of the new national anti-doping organisation. The vesting date for the new organisation will be agreed as part of these discussions.
My Lords, it is vital for our hosting of the 2012 Olympics that we have the new independent anti-doping agency in place, yet there appears to be a problem with the Government agreeing a budget and a set of start-up costs for the new agency. The Government are clearly dragging their heels. Why is not the Treasury agreeing with UK Sport, the Sports Minister and the DCMS on the budget for the new agency?
My Lords, we have not agreed the figures. The position is straightforward: we have in place a robust organisation that deals with the question of drugs and athletes. We want to produce an improved organisation that has closer links with the law-enforcing bodies, and we are therefore working with UK Sport towards that end. We have time to reach these objectives well in advance of the Olympic Games, and in any case we have a robust structure in place to operate even if we did not reach agreement. However, we are aiming towards that agreement in the near future.
My Lords, for any interests that I may have to declare I refer noble Lords to the Red Book. The Minister may remember that in the Conservative Party's 2005 manifesto we pledged to set up a separate organisation for anti-doping management. The Labour Party has continued over this period to oppose that, led by a number of good friends of mine but none the less including the Labour Party Secretary of State for Sport. I would like to know why the funding for setting up this new agency has been deferred and deferred. It is my belief that DCMS and UK Sport do not like the idea of losing control of this vital body. The issue is directly related not to 2012 but to athletes of international standing throughout the nation, every day of their lives. It is high time this was put right. Does the Minister agree?
My Lords, I agree that it is easier to write a manifesto for Opposition than to act in Government. The reason for the delays over this is that there are increased funding costs involved. We anticipated there would be—no one is denying that. Setting up a new national organisation with closer links with the law enforcement bodies will improve the position, although it does involve additional costs. Some of those costs are being partially met, or potentially partially met, by increased funds for UK Sport which we are diverting from the education department for the training scheme for outstanding athletes.
There are many complications with regard to the budget, but the Government are intent upon this objective. We will reach this objective, and in plenty of time for the Olympic Games.
My Lords, as the Minister has told us on several occasions that the Treasury is now taking overall responsibility for sport, why has there been a problem setting this budget?
My Lords, the Treasury believes that it takes responsibility for everything, as the noble Lord will appreciate. In this case, however, the issue relates to the DCMS budget and the budget for UK Sport and there are additional costs involved. The way in which UK Sport proposed to devote the resources it operates for the present structure to the new one is not to the Government's satisfaction and we will continue negotiations while giving an earnest of our intentions by diverting some resources towards this objective. No one in this House thinks that Governments can idly throw money about, particularly in these straitened times, but this is a desirable objective and we intend to reach it.
No, my Lords, it indicates the possibility of improvement. We have one of the best anti-doping organisations in the world and it is highly respected, but at least two other countries have shown that, if the organisation has close links with the law enforcement agencies, there are improvements in performance. Customs and Excise and the police have a lot of information at their disposal which helps with the accessibility of the drugs which athletes might be suborned into using. Because we want to forge those links, there are additional costs, for which we have not yet settled the budget.