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Column 292

Duncan-Smith, Iain

Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)

Fatchett, Derek

Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)

Gale, Roger

Gardiner, Sir George

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gorst, John

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hawkins, Nick

Heald, Oliver

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)

Illsley, Eric

Ingram, Adam

Jenkin, Bernard

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)

Knight, Greg (Derby N)

Knox, Sir David

Kynoch, George (Kincardine)

Lait, Mrs Jacqui

Lidington, David

Lilley, Rt Hon Peter

Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)

McAllion, John

MacGregor, Rt Hon John

McKelvey, William

Marshall, John (Hendon S)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Merchant, Piers

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Monro, Sir Hector

Moonie, Dr Lewis

Nelson, Anthony

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

O'Neill, Martin

Patnick, Irvine

Pickles, Eric

Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)

Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)

Rathbone, Tim

Richards, Rod

Riddick, Graham

Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn

Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Ryder, Rt Hon Richard

Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Sims, Roger

Spencer, Sir Derek

Sproat, Iain

Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steen, Anthony

Strang, Dr. Gavin

Sykes, John

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Thomason, Roy

Thurnham, Peter

Waller, Gary

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Waterson, Nigel

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Whittingdale, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Sir Jerry

Wood, Timothy

Worthington, Tony

Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Bill Walker and

Mr. John Maxton.

Question accordingly negatived.

Further consideration adjourned.--[ Mr. Nicholas Baker. ] Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered this day.



That the provisions of paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 84 (Constitution of standing committees), paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 86 (Nomination of standing committees) and Standing Order No. 101 (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.) shall apply to the Special Grant Report (Metropolitan Railway Grant) (House of Commons Paper No. 370) as if it were a statutory instrument ; and that the said Report be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

Column 293

Boxing (Brain Injuries)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

12.33 am

Mr. Jim Callaghan (Heywood and Middleton) : As a young sports teacher, many years ago, I had serious doubts about the merits of boxing. As a result of those doubts I refused to organise boxing activities in the school. I have never regretted that decision. I well remember, too, the answer given to me by the son of a former world champion when I asked him whether he would follow in the footsteps of his father and go into boxing. He replied, "Have you seen my father recently ?" I had to admit that I had. That boy took up football and became a good soccer player.

Only when my attention was drawn to the present plight of Muhammad Ali was I totally converted with regard to the terrible hazards and tragedies connected with professional boxing. Muhammad Ali was known as "The Greatest" ; in my view he is the greatest advertisement for the necessity to investigate the safety of boxing. One look at his condition is enough to register the insidious effect of a life spent absorbing blows to the head. His legs are leaden and his hands tremble. It is said that he has Parkinson's syndrome and that his condition is not due to boxing. However, I have video tapes of his later fights, which would suggest otherwise and that he took one punch too many. A former boxing fan said of him :

"I stood talking to Ali, embarrassed by his inarticulateness and deeply ashamed, as it was not his own superb body that had done this terrible thing. I had done it, too, as part of the crowd urging him on, applauding the blood.

I have not watched a boxing match since."

Subsequently, because of the impact that that left on me, on 25 September 1991 I asked the then Minister for Sport for his views and the intentions of his Department regarding professional boxing, given the then medical condition of a professional boxer, Mike Watson, following a contest between him and Chris Eubank. The Minister replied on 30 October 1991 and I shall paraphrase his answer. He said that the Government did not control boxing or any other sport in the country and, in the case cited, the responsibility lay with the British Boxing Board of Control. He went on to say that injuries occur in many sports where physical exertion is excessive, that what is paramount is that the risk is controllable and containable and that the medical safeguards in British boxing are among the most rigorous in the world.

He therefore did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to justify the initiation of an inquiry into the future of amateur or professional boxing. Nevertheless, he said that he took a serious view of what had happened and that he had asked the BBBC to provide him with a full account of the events and its conclusions about what action, if any, it regarded as necessary, including the need for a BBBC inquiry.

The Minister said that he would study what the board had to say very carefully and would encourage it to listen to practical suggestions from other experts as to how safety standards may be improved. He said that I might have known that, on 16 October, he chaired a meeting with the BBBC and a number of eminent medical specialists to discuss safety in boxing.

On 23 June 1993, I asked the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he had received a copy of the British

Column 294

Medical Association's report into the risks associated with boxing and if he intended to set up an independent inquiry into those risks. He replied that his Department had obtained a copy of the report on its publication, but did not believe that the risks associated with boxing were sufficient to justify an inquiry. I have also asked the Prime Minister, at Prime Minister's Question Time, if he and his Government intended to ban boxing. The Prime Minister replied that they had no intention to ban boxing.

Last year and earlier this year, I tried to obtain a debate on the subject, but without any success. Tonight, I have been successful. I mention that because it may be thought that I called for the debate because of the recent death of another boxer. That is not so, as I have been trying for some time.

There have been several deaths in boxing over the years. They include those of Steve Watt, Johnny Owen and the Nigerian Young Ali. The most recent death in boxing in Britain occurred when Bradley Stone, aged 23, died after being stopped in the 10th round. It was Bradley Stone's second stoppage in the space of only 53 days. Where are the controls ? In the past month, Michael Bentt has collapsed after losing his World Boxing Organisation crown. The grim toll of death and injury in boxing make it unworthy of being called a sport. The British Medical Association has revealed that, since 1984, eight boxers have died and six have survived only after surgery, three with long-term brain damage, and that since 1945, 361 deaths have been recorded worldwide. As a result, professional boxing has been banned in Sweden, Ireland and Norway. The BMA wants it banned in this country and because of its medical research into boxing injuries, it has become a leading authority on the hazards of boxing. In 1982, a resolution was passed at the annual representatives meeting, which stated :

"That in view of the proven ocular and brain damage resulting from professional boxing, the Association should campaign for its abolition."

In response to the resolution, the board of science and education of the BMA set up a working party to review the evidence on brain and eye damage as a result of boxing injuries and to publish a report of its findings. In the final report published in 1984, it was concluded that damage occurred to the eye and the brain in both amateur and professional boxers. The report attracted strong opposition to a total ban from a number of sources, including the British Boxing Board of Control, the Amateur Boxing Association and the National Association of Boys' Clubs.

A further resolution was passed at the 1987 meeting. It stated : "In view of the continuing serious ill effects on the health of boxers, this meeting requests the BMA to pursue the Government with renewed vigour until there is a ban on boxing and, until such time as this is achieved, believes that the TV coverage should include a statement of the damage which may result from boxing."

Since then, the BMA and individual members have continued to promulgate the evidence of harm caused by boxing. In 1992, the BMA set up a boxing steering group to review evidence on boxing published since 1984 and to make use of recent advances in methods of early detection of brain damage from head injuries. It again called for a total ban on all boxing.

In June 1993, the BMA produced a book called "The Boxing Debate", which I recommend anyone to read. It reviewed the existing evidence relating to boxing. The book analyses the mechanisms by which injury occurs to

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