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Policing and Crime Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 8:15 pm, 7th December 2016

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred to Her Majesty’s Opposition. I make it clear to him that he continues to have our full support in his objectives and in the amendment that he has tabled. There is certainly no change on that score. As he said, prohibited substances are taken to gain an advantage in sport over fellow competitors. They are taken to produce a false result that is not determined purely and solely by the unaided skill and effort of each competitor but one that will, at the very least, be influenced or, at worst, determined by the taking of a substance which improves performance and creates one unrelated to the skill or effort of the competitor concerned. It is a form of fraud. It is cheating not just fellow competitors but the public, who pay to come to watch the sporting event in the belief that they will see a fair competition with competitors competing on a level playing field. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out, in recent years many countries have criminalised the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport or enacted legislation that criminalises the trafficking of such drugs.

I am curtailing what I had intended to say, but I want to refer briefly to the Government’s response in Committee. The Minister said that,

“the Government believe that rather than tackling this through legislation, it should be a matter for sports bodies”.

That statement appears to indicate that the Government would never favour making a criminal offence, as provided for in this amendment. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said in Committee, one cannot say that leaving this to sports bodies has exactly been a staggering success up to now. It is precisely because it has not been a staggering success that we have the problem we do. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out, a number of other nations have legislated. As he also pointed out, he has taken the example of the Germans, the Italians and the Dutch, who have focused on the fact—this is crucial—that it is not just the athlete but the entourage who need to be criminalised. It is the entourage we have to make sure we—to put it bluntly—get at because they are at the heart of the problem at least as much as the athlete. The noble Lord also indicated that the deterrent effect in those countries of putting legislation on the statute book has already been effective.

That is why I come back to the response that we got from the Government in Committee. We got a clear statement that,

“the Government believe that rather than tackling this through legislation, it should be a matter for sports bodies”.

Having said that, the Minister went on to say:

“In order to have that evidence base, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is currently conducting a cross-government review of the existing anti-doping legislative framework and assessing whether stronger criminal sanctions are required”.—[Official Report, 9/11/16; col. 1240.]

If you want to give a clear indication of the direction in which you wish to go, how can you say at one moment that the Government believe that, rather than tackling this through legislation, it should be a matter for sports bodies and then, a little later in the same speech, say that a review is taking place to assess whether stronger criminal sanctions are required and that the review is expected to be published before the end of the year?

In giving their response, I hope that the Government will at least clarify whether they believe this is a matter that should be left to sports bodies or whether they accept that there may well be a need for criminal sanctions and going down the road of criminal offences, which is a key part of the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has tabled. There is not much point in talking about a review if the Government have already made up their mind—as one could interpret from the speech in Committee—that this is a matter for the sports bodies and not the law. I hope, however, that the Government will make clear that they accept that criminal sanctions and the creation of new criminal offences may well be needed to address this problem, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said in his comments on his amendment.