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9 Oct 2007 : Column 269

Helicopters, including the number that we need and the so-called shortfall, have been mentioned several times in the debate. We acknowledge that we need to do more. We have referred to the decision to purchase six Danish Merlins. We are currently converting eight Chinook mark 3 helicopters, the first of which will be available for operations in 2009. We are investing £4.5 billion in helicopters in the next 10 years, a considerable proportion of which will be used to enhance current fleets, such as the Puma and the Sea King, and to increase the flying hours for the Chinook and the attack helicopter in Afghanistan. We therefore expect further improvements in logistical support. We are making important improvements, not simply sitting around and accepting the situation. Making improvements is part of our overall strategy.

Dr. Fox: I am grateful for the Minister’s admission that the Government must do more. However, why, with two conflicts raging, did they cut the future rotorcraft capability budget in 2004, thereby removing £1.4 billion of funding for future helicopter improvement?

Derek Twigg: When I say that we must do more, we are clear about the need for that. We have always considered ways of improving matters for our front-line service personnel and we will continue to do that. We do not rest on our laurels and simply say, “Everything’s okay today.” We are always looking to improve our capability.

The future rapid effect system—FRES—has been mentioned several times. We announced the acquisition strategy at the end of last year when we committed ourselves to holding utility vehicle trials this summer. They have taken place and it is planned to announce the result next month. Last week, we made an announcement about the system of systems integrator—SOSI—two months early. FRES is at the heart of procuring the Army’s equipment, as the hon. Member for Reigate mentioned, and will underpin the development of the capable and highly deployable medium-weight force. FRES will deliver armoured vehicles with enhanced survivability and improved deployability, and grow potential for the future. We selected the vehicles that are participating in trials with the FRES utility design and, on 5 October, we announced the preferred bidder for the SOSI role. That is a clear sign of the Ministry’s commitment to driving the FRES programme forward. The Ministry is also running a competition to select the company for the utility vehicle integration work.

The right hon. Member for Fylde mentioned Typhoon.

Mr. Blunt: When will the Army get FRES? In 2003, we were told that the Army would get it in 2009; in 2007, we appear to be getting it in 2017. Things are going backwards, yet the Army relies on the vehicle coming into service.

Derek Twigg: The hon. Gentleman made that point in his speech. We are determined to press on and we will make an announcement at the appropriate time.

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I confirm that we have entered into discussions with our partner nations and the industry about tranche 3 of Typhoon. The purpose of the discussions is to obtain and exchange the information that we will need to make decisions in due course. They are at an early stage and will continue throughout 2007 and 2008. We will keep the House informed about that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford made some good points.

Mr. Benyon: I am grateful for the Under-Secretary’s kind comments about me earlier. However, he has not tackled the points that my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) and for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) and I made about the Defence Export Services Organisation. We asked specific questions. Will he answer them and explain, if he has been told, why the decision was made?

Derek Twigg: Let me complete the point that I wanted to make. My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford made some important points. The Conservative party expresses much criticism of what we do or do not do and the resources that we invest. There has been a massive increase in resources and improvements in equipment and support for our armed forces. Those improvements have occurred not only in equipment but in welfare and elsewhere. The key point is that Conservative Members will not say what they would reduce, where they would put extra money or where they would find it. They continue to say that they are not the Government. They have no credibility. As my hon. Friend said, when he asked such questions, they did not comment about where they would spend more money. That simply did not happen; they did not have such a debate. Their comments are therefore about making cheap political shots, not having a debate about increasing support for our armed forces.

Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury (Claire Ward): I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


Tunstall (Road Calming)

9.45 pm

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): There is a rat run in my constituency, between the A249 Stockbury roundabout and Tunstall village, which is a lovely old Saxon village. Some years ago, I think that the Daleks ordered a softening of the road system, but not in the most difficult part of the village. The residents of Tunstall, the church and the school have a pretty tough time. What we want is a proper road-calming system for the village of Tunstall. The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

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Anti-doping in Sport

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Claire Ward.]

9.46 pm

Mrs. Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): This is the second time that there has been a debate on the Floor of the House about the case of my constituent Mr. Paul Edwards. The previous debate was held in May 2002 by my predecessor, Mr. Andrew Hunter. In that debate, Mr. Hunter most precisely and eloquently put forward to the then Minister for Sport, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), the case of my constituent Mr. Edwards, who was banned from competing in athletics for the rest of his life as a result of a drugs test in June 1997.

In that debate Mr. Hunter detailed deep concerns about the validity of the tests that had been undertaken. In his response, the then Minister came forward with some practical and helpful suggestions about procedures that my constituent could follow to have his case reviewed and try to ensure a satisfactory outcome. The fact that we are here again, some five years on from that debate, suggests that the course of action put forward by the then Minister has not brought the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. However, I hope that the Minister today will follow in his predecessor’s footsteps, by responding positively to the debate and again offering some practical advice and support for my constituent, so that we can end almost a decade of uncertainty surrounding the case.

I asked for this debate because in September 2005 new and critical information was obtained by my constituent under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. When examined by six independent toxicological experts, that information confirmed that there were clear grounds to call for a re-examination of the 1997 decision to ban Paul Edwards from competing in athletics. This newly disclosed evidence was never considered as part of the original disciplinary hearings, or of the appeal. I wrote to the then Minister asking him to outline the procedure that my constituent should follow in the United Kingdom to ensure that the new evidence could be assessed, so that a view could be taken based on the strength of the evidence as to whether the case could be reopened.

In his letter of 9 May 2006, the then Minister said that I should write on my constituent’s behalf to the International Association of Athletics Federations—the IAAF—to ask for an appeal. Indeed, the Minister indicated that he understood that the case was already under review. I followed his advice and duly wrote to the IAAF. Some time later—I have to say that it took about three months—I received a reply from Mr. Pierre Weiss, the general secretary of the IAAF, stating that there were no provisions under IAAF rules to allow for the reopening of Mr. Edwards’ case, even though there was the potential for important new evidence to be presented.

I was somewhat surprised by that response, given that the then Minister had clearly stated that the procedure for seeking such an appeal was to write directly to the IAAF. I therefore wrote to him again, but I did not receive an explanation of why the initial guidance from the Department appeared to be incorrect. This time,
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however, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that I contact the World Anti-Doping Agency—the organisation responsible for monitoring the appeals processes of international federations, including the IAAF—which I duly did. The reply that I received from the agency stated that issues such as this were simply not within its jurisdiction.

So I contacted the then Minister’s office for a third time, explaining that his new suggestion, too, had proved somewhat unfruitful. Again, I did not really get an explanation of why it had not worked, but it was suggested that I contact the Court of Arbitration for Sport to ask whether it might review the case. Dutifully, I did so, and in February this year—about a year and four months after my constituent had uncovered important, previously undisclosed evidence—I received a reply stating that the court was not in a position to review its own decisions, and that the only entity entitled to review the case and possibly reduce the sanction was, yes, the IAAF, the organisation that had stated that it had no provision in its rules to reopen cases that it viewed as closed, even when there was new evidence.

After almost two years of correspondence—and, some might say, going round in circles—I have come to the House today simply to ask the Minister to clarify once and for all the UK procedures for dealing with cases such as my constituent’s, in which compelling new evidence is available that might call into question previous decisions to ban sportsmen and women from taking part in competition.

The Minister who is here today, in his role at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is responsible for ensuring that we have a workable anti-doping policy for the UK, and within that, the disciplinary procedures and appeals processes that are an important part of the process set out in the world anti-doping code and set out locally in the UK national anti-doping policy adopted in May 2005. Although the implementation and management of that policy is, rightly, delegated to UK Sport, the responsibility to ensure that UK athletes and other sportsmen and women have fair and transparent access to drugs monitoring, enforcement and disciplinary procedure rests with the Government.

My constituent Mr. Edwards has had the freedom to compete in athletics taken away from him for the rest of his life. Competing in sport was the centre of his life, and receiving a lifetime ban has had a profound effect on both him and his family. The new evidence that he obtained in September 2005 has never been reviewed by a sporting body or considered by any tribunal, although it has been carefully scrutinised by six independent toxicology experts. All six agree that the information provides firm grounds to require the 1997 decision to ban Paul Edwards from competing in athletics for life to be reconsidered.

It is not for me, or for this House, to judge the merits of that evidence, but it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that a fair, transparent and equitable appeals process is available to athletes such as Paul Edwards. I am therefore hoping that the Minister will outline the procedure that should be open to Mr. Edwards to ensure that this new evidence can be fully considered. Perhaps the Minister will tell us how best to proceed on this matter. What can the Minister
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take to our representatives on the International Association of Athletics Federations to help review the way in which these procedures affect UK athletes?

The UK will be hosting the Olympic games in less than 60 months’ time, so the Government have a duty to ensure that we have in place an open and workable procedure for dealing with drugs and doping in sport, including a transparent appeals process. It would appear that European bodies such as the IAAF, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Court of Arbitration for Sport do not operate as the Minister’s office and his Department think they do. If that is the case, can the Minister be really sure that the UK system is as fair to athletes like Paul Edwards as I am sure he wants it to be?

9.56 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller) on securing the debate. I also congratulate her on her steadfastness in representing her constituent, Mr. Edwards, which she has done to a very great extent. I want to assure her from the start that I have looked into the case in great detail. As she said, there is a lot of correspondence and many issues have been raised previously. I shall discuss the Government’s overall position on doping in sport. Tonight provides a great opportunity to consider it in detail. I will come to the particular case of Mr. Edwards at the end.

Doping undermines the integrity of sport. To those watching sport and to the young people seeking to emulate them, athletes are seen as role models. It is very important to me that those people believe that their role models are competing in an event, race or game free from the spectre of drugs.

The anti-doping movement is entering a particularly important time, with the coming months pivotal in the development of the future landscape of anti-doping internationally. November will see the culmination of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s wholesale review of its world anti-doping code at the world conference on doping in sport. I look forward to representing the UK Government there in Madrid. That conference will draw to a close 18 months of intensive consultation during which WADA has—successfully, in my opinion—sought the views of Governments, anti-doping organisations, international federations covering all of the Olympic and Paralympic sports and the majority of professional sports from all around the world.

That has been no mean feat. I know that a huge amount of work went on here in the UK to ensure that the views of this Government, UK Sport and our national governing bodies were listened to by WADA, and I am pleased to say that, on a number of issues, it has done that. I pay tribute to UK Sport’s hard work in consulting all the governing bodies. We have come a long way in a short time, and the House should remember that WADA came into being only eight years ago in November 1999. The importance of this review cannot be underestimated.

The first world anti-doping code was introduced back in 2004 and, at that time, it represented a watershed in the fight against those who would seek to cheat by
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doping. This review gives us the opportunity significantly to improve the code, based on the knowledge that sports’ governing bodies and anti-doping organisations have developed after three years of practical implementation.

Alongside the code, a number of other significant developments are worthy of mention. The first is the ratification and coming into force of the UNESCO convention against doping in sport. The genesis of the convention was the Copenhagen declaration, signed by Governments at the last world conference on doping in sport in 2003, signalling their support for the measures being taken to harmonise the approach to doping in sport through the code. The UK is signatory to the Copenhagen declaration and was one of the first countries formally to ratify the UNESCO convention in April 2006. This was a legally binding document, mandating Governments to take action to fight doping. The convention came into effect in record time, again showing the priority afforded to anti-doping by this Government and other Governments around the world. The United Kingdom is already compliant with the convention, but, as the hon. Lady said, our important role as host nation for the London 2012 games requires us to be sure that we are doing all we can to stop athletes from doping, and to be seen as a world leader.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Claire Ward.]

Mr. Sutcliffe: I have met ministerial colleagues at the Home Office to discuss ways of strengthening our approach across government. I look forward to a further meeting on 7 November with a range of colleagues to seek ways of making further progress.

Anti-doping has been the subject of two Select Committee inquiries—by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2004 and by the Science and Technology Committee in 2006. The Government welcome the valuable contributions that those Committees have made to consideration of the UK’s approach to doping in sport.

Let me return to the subject of the code. That brings us to the athlete’s right to a fair and transparent hearing, and the right of that athlete to appeal. Those rights are clearly embodied in the code and, to my mind, that is absolutely as it should be. The code and the supporting international standards provide a blueprint setting out the roles and responsibilities of the various agencies involved when an athlete is found to have committed a doping offence. It is within that framework that the United Kingdom’s national anti-doping policy has been developed by UK Sport, supported by a set of model rules that stipulate the clear process under which athletes who are found to have taken a doping substance can expect their cases to progress.

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