HC Deb 20 November 1969 vol 791 cc1485-7
5. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further steps he proposes to take to curb violence at football matches.

53. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he proposes to take to deal with vandalism and violence before and after football matches.

Mr. Callaghan

The arrangements for the quick exchange of information between police forces about hooliganism among football supporters on trains have been strengthened; a code of practice designed to encourage good behaviour by supporters has been circulated by the Football Association to all League clubs; and clubs are being encouraged to provide stewards to travel on football trains.

Mr. Price

May I tell the Home Secretary, as one who frequently watches football matches from behind the goal, that there are serious riots on the way and that the effect on football will be disastrous? Will he do two things: first, ask clubs to keep rival supporters apart in the ground, and, second, tell magistrates that some of the punishments being imposed are totally inadequate?

Mr. Callaghan

While I do not wish to avoid responsibility, neither of those matters happens to be my responsibility. The police are concerned with what happens outside the ground and not with what happens behind the goal. As for magistrates, there is a lot to be said for a general expression of opinion from the House if that is desired, but it is not for me to instruct them—indeed it would be resented if I were to try to do so—in the kind of sentences they should impose.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Would the Home Secretary, nevertheless, encourage the courts to strengthen the penalties and to suspend some of the young attenders at football matches who create disturbances for the same number of weeks as some players are suspended so that they cannot attend matches but have to turn up at police stations?

Mr. Callaghan

The new liaison arrangements undertaken by the police have the effect, in certain appropriate circumstances, of requiring young people to report at police stations and at other places for work and other beneficial duties on a Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Fred Evans

Would the Home Secretary accept that everybody in Wales shares the perturbation expressed in the House about incidents at the Swansea-Springbok game? Will his inquiry embrace methods of recruitment of stewards by clubs and the instructions issued to them? Will he also read carefully the depositions which I have sent to him today concerning detailed circumstantial evidence of violence at that particular game?

Mr. Callaghan

If allegations are made against the police in relation to that particular game, I think I should hold myself free to consider the matter at a later time when I might have to come in in my capacity as an appellate authority. I would not want now to prejudge that issue. If complaints are made against stewards, then the complainants have their remedies in the courts if they can identify the persons who assaulted them. If they cannot identify them, I do not think that I can.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Why is it that when demonstrators attack the police it is described as crowd violence, but when the police use necessary force in the enforcement of law and order it is described as police brutality? Will the right hon. Gentleman rectify an omission the other day, when great concern was expressed in the House about the damage done to demonstrators but no one drew attention to the fact that we have every reason to regret the attack on a police sergeant which injured him severely?

Mr. Callaghan

Vandalism is vandalism, whoever indulges in it. Violence is violence, by whoever it is practised. I hope that the House condemns both vandalism and violence, whoever is responsible. My experience shows that the police are extremely self-controlled in the manner in which they respond to a great deal of provocation. That is not to say that the occasional policeman does not lose his temper. He would be less than human if he did not. But, in his quieter moments, that is frowned upon by him and by his colleagues. That is a standard that we want to maintain.