Human Rights: Sportswashing - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 4:14 pm ar 21 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) 4:14, 21 Mawrth 2024

I have not seen the video, and I do not want to defend words I have not heard. I have set out how His Majesty’s ambassador and all Crown servants overseas follow the policies of His Majesty’s Government and are rightly held to account for what they say publicly—but my colleagues at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office are perhaps better placed to discuss that.

It is important that we continue to have direct conversations on human rights and other important matters. The UK continues to show global leadership in encouraging all states to uphold international rights obligations and to ensure that those who violate human rights are held to account. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, mentioned the World Cup in Qatar, where I hope he saw that my right honourable friend Stuart Andrew—the Minister for Sport and the Minister for Equality—made the point directly by wearing the OneLove rainbow armband when he attended. By doing so, he showed that we do not shy away from these conversations and gestures. Following the tournament, we continue to engage with Qatar, which has moved forward on labour rights, as noted by noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Moynihan, who pointed to the independent monitoring done by the International Labour Organization.

The benefits of inward investment are key in international sport. In the last decade, there has been an unprecedented level of interest and a flow of private capital investment into the sports sector globally, particularly from international institutional investors. Like others, I think my noble friend Lord Hayward did us a great service in this debate by touching on the importance of sponsors. The Government have consistently supported the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, which are widely regarded as the authoritative international framework to steer practical action by both Governments and businesses across the world in this important area.

The last decade has seen growth in a number of areas across sport, with significant levels of new and innovative investment, particularly in women’s sport. The Government have outlined the important role of inward investment in our sports sector through their recently published sports strategy, which works to encourage investment in our sport system in a sustainable manner. We will work across government departments and with external partners to highlight best practice and opportunities for inward investment in our domestic sport, including women’s sport.

In July, the Government hosted the inaugural investment in sport symposium, bringing people from the sector together with investors and other associated organisations to discuss the opportunities that are available. We have also launched a new women’s sport investment accelerator pilot scheme, which brings UK-based women’s sports rights holders who are seeking investment together with industry experts and investors. We believe there are further opportunities within the sector, in the form of viable investment propositions for the right investors who are committed to the long-term growth and health of the sport.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for what has been a timely debate and a chance to look ahead to the debates we will have on the independent football regulator, but also a powerful opportunity to remind us of the importance of how the Government engage with countries around the world through sport and in other ways, to the benefit of the UK, our sportsmen and sportswomen, and the millions of people across the country who enjoy sport in all its forms.

I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said. There is a powerful lesson in the example of Lloyd George, whose comments about the impression he formed at the 1936 Olympic Games are difficult to hear, not just for the noble Lord and his colleagues on the Liberal Benches but for us all. But I am glad that, as we look back on those Olympics, it is the figure of Jesse Owens, with his impressive four gold medals, that looms larger in the historical imagination, underlining the importance of seizing the opportunity of sporting events to advance important conversations on matters of human rights and politics, which, as noble Lords have rightly said, are often intertwined.