|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Bob Spink: Will the hon. Gentleman join me in deploring the fact that the Liberal Benches have been
Mr. Banks: There is a down side, but there is also an up side: that means that there are more opportunities for us to get in, so we should encourage the Liberals to stay away from our proceedings for the day.
I shall raise two issues, both of which are close to my heart. The first concerns animal welfare; the second, sport.
On 11 July I secured a debate in Westminster Hall on the subject of whaling. In my speech I described what I called the barbarous process involved in the slaughter of the great whalesthose wonderful warm-blooded social creatures that we admire so much, but have so often killed in the past. I alerted the House to the current practice adopted by the Japanese of effectively bribing smaller, less well-developed countries with tied aid to use their votes in the International Whaling Commission to support the Japanese in their attempts to restore commercial whaling. As a reference point for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, whom I am so glad to see on the Front Bench, those countries were Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and the Grenadines.
Following that debate a press release was issued by Lehmann Communications, a City-based public relations agency, which was headed "Japan accuses pressure group funded MPs of misleading the House during whaling debate". It stated:
Mr. Banks: I am glad to have been able to give my hon. Friend that opportunity. In effect I, along with my two colleagues, was accused of lying to the House and having financial links with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which were not declared prior to the debate andfar more seriously, had that been the casewere not included in the Register of Members' Interests. I make it clear that I do not tell lies in the House and, like my hon. Friend, I have no financial links whatever with IFAW. Such allegations are intolerable and unacceptable,
It is a serious matter to accuse Members of Parliament of lying and of having interests that they do not declare. I am not being pious or righteous, but I feel extremely angry about this. Such accusations might pertain to other legislatures around the world but never, I hope, to this House. Through the House, I inform Mr. Komatsu, who I understand is in London attending the IWC meetings in Hammersmith, that he should not judge hon. Members by his own corrupt standards. Bribing members of international organisations might be okay in Japan's book, but it is not acceptable here.
The same Mr. Komatsu said on 18 July in Canberra:
It is true that Japan is a great and powerful nation, but that does not give it the right to dispose of the world's living creatures as though they belonged to the Japanese alone. The moratorium on commercial whaling was effected to prevent countries such as Japan and Norway from driving the great whales into extinction. Having saved them from that fate, it would be criminal madness to resume the process of commercial whaling now. Commercial whaling must never be allowed to re-commence, and we should move further to end the practice of scientific whaling used by the Japanese and the Norwegians to get round the moratorium on commercial whaling.
Mr. Komatsu went on to say that he believed that the whales were killing too many fish. It is over-fishing by industrial fishing methods that is causing the serious depletion of the world's fishing stocks. It is stupid to describe the great whales or the seals as being responsible for something for which we alone are responsibleover-exploitation of the world's resources.
The Japanese commissioner to the IWC also linked whaling with the rights and cultural heritage of Japan and asked us to respect them. Of course we respect other people's cultural heritage and their rights, but butchery can never be part of any country's right or cultural heritage. In the past, the United Kingdom and the United States of America slaughtered far more great whales than the Japanese ever did, but we would not use a plea of cultural heritage or rights as a justification for resuming commercial whaling. History shows that we have far more rights in that respect, although others would say, as would I, that what we did was a crime rather than a defence of our rights. We cannot allow some spurious claim by the Japanese that it is part of their cultural heritage as the basis for them to resume commercial whaling. I trust that at the IWC the Government will support those who are trying to defend and maintain whales, a great species that has a right to live with us in peace and not be slaughtered, as they have been in the past and, regrettably, as they are at present.
On the Olympic games and Wembley, I offered on behalf of the House of Commons congratulations to Jacques Rogge, the new president of the International
The critical eyes of the world will be on China and the issue of human rights for the next seven years. Once the process has started, it will be difficult for the Chinese to reverse it and we should support them. We should be critical and warn them that if there are any more human rights excesses such as another Tiananmen square, God forbid, the games will be boycotted. The Chinese understand that and we must give them a chance to improve their human rights record.
The decision to take the Olympic games to Beijing means, effectively, that London comes into the frame as a possible host for the 2012 games. I support the call for London to make that bid, but we must learn from our errors. We cannot drift into a bid; that would be the worst thing to do. There must be the widest possible debate. There are arguments for and against any city hosting the massive event that is the Olympic games. In the end, we must be certain that our decision was the right one, based on the fullest debate and consultation.
The role of the Government is critical. A bid would involve billions of pounds of expenditure. We do not want the Government just to say that it would be a good idea for London to bid. London can bid only if the Government are prepared to stand fully behind the capital city in making that bid. That means not just moral support, but financial support; without that, the bid will not work. That is how it has worked successfully in other countries, most gloriously in Sydney in 2000, where the games had enormous support from the state and federal Government. That is how it will work in Athens in 2004, because I know how closely the Greek Government are involved in the process. If we bid and are successful in the selection process, a Cabinet Minister must be appointed to oversee the arrangements.
Clearly, there are questions about where the event should be hosted. Wembley, as the site of the national stadium, is the obvious choice, although other locations have been discussed such as Stratford in my constituency or the dome site. When I was a Minister, I went to see both Ministers who were in charge of the dome to say that it would be the perfect legacy for the dome if the site were to be used for the Olympic games. Unfortunately, I received no support but we could still come back to this arrangement in future.
I believe that the national stadium ought to be at Wembley and that athletics ought to be included in the national stadium. The delay over constructing the new stadium is a perfect example of how not to do something. We have had Government interference, but no Government money, over a number of years, which means that the project has still not even commenced.
When I stood down as Minister in July 1999, I thought that we had a done deal over Wembley. I thought that we had a national stadium incorporating the design potential for athletics with the deck proposals. We all thought that was the answer. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member
My right hon. Friend is a close personal friend of mine. I warned him throughout the process that people were whispering in his ear and behind his back and that they were misleading him in respect of Wembley and the potential for athletics. They said that the design was unsatisfactory for athletics: it was not. It remains satisfactory and I suspect that we will come back to it again, and all we will have done is to waste two years.
The people who were whispering in my right hon. Friend's ear and behind his back had their own agenda and they are responsible for something that is now approaching a scandal in respect of the national stadium at Wembley. I believe that Picketts Lock will not happen and that we will return to the plan for a national stadium at Wembley, having lost two years. That is a terrible thing, but at least if we get the process started we can forget the errors of the past and produce something that is fitting for the great national game of football and provide the potential for hosting the Olympic games in London.
The process of selecting a city for the Olympic games is invidious. We saw corruption over Salt Lake City and all sorts of dodgy practices. It is not satisfactory and has dragged the great Olympic movement into the mud. I hope that Jacques Rogge can restore the image of the Olympic games, which are an inspiration to the whole world and have been ever since the modern games were started at the end of the 19th century.
We should consider adopting a different method for issues such as human rights and whether a city can afford the games, bearing in mind that only the richest cities in the world can afford to host the games. My preference is to establish a permanent Olympic site that all the countries of the Olympic family can endow. The site should obviously be in Athens. That would link the ancient and modern games in a way that would restore the image of the Olympic movement and avoid the excess, commercialism and corruption that so often now pervade that great movement. I hope that it is possible to get support for this idea from the Government and we could perhaps send back the Parthenon marbles as our seal of approval.