§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I scarcely need to remind the House that in January last year a Bill of the same title was read a Second time. That Bill duly completed the Committee stage but was lost when Parliament was dissolved in February 1974. A similar Bill was introduced in another place last July, but did not proceed further as a dissolution again intervened. The provisions of the present Bill are substantially the same as those of its predecessors, although it naturally incorporates improvements made by this House and in another place, as well as some drafting changes.
It follows that the House will be familiar with the Bill and, indeed, I apologise for intervening in the rather cosy familiarity that there will be between those who will take part in this debate, because the Bill is not primarily my departmental responsibility. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is primarily responsible for it but unfortunately she is not here.
The purpose of the Bill is to implement the main recommendations contained in the Report of the Inquiry into Crowd Safety at Sports Grounds. This report was prepared by Lord Wheatley who undertook his inquiry, at the then Government's request, following the tragedy at Ibrox Park football ground in January, 1971, when 66 people died and over 140 were injured.
Lord Wheatley had no doubt that present controls over safety at football grounds were inadequate. He found that the existing voluntary system of certification of grounds introduced by the Football Association some years ago laid down no requirements as to the competence of persons who carry out the annual inspections of grounds, and there were no guidelines to assist those persons in their assessment of safety standards.
1744 Moreover, a review of the statutory provisions relevant to the safety of spectators at football grounds convinced Lord Wheatley that the law also fell short of providing proper and effective control over football grounds as a whole. The building regulations, for example, provide for the basic structural safety of new buildings within a football ground, but they do not apply to existing buildings, except where alterations are to be carried out. Nor do they apply to a ground as a whole. In any case, most football grounds were built before national building regulations were introduced.
Lord Wheatley, therefore, concluded that only a specially devised statutory scheme could ensure comprehensive controls at football grounds in the interests of safety. He recommended a statutory licensing control administered by the "top tier" of local authorities. He proposed that these controls should be introduced by stages, the larger or more important grounds, broadly speaking, being dealt with first. Lord Wheatley also recommended that there should be a right of appeal for the clubs concerned against any decision of the licensing authority.
What is quite clear throughout the report is Lord Wheatley's awareness of the need to reconcile the paramount aim of ensuring the safety of spectators with what is reasonable and practicable for the clubs. It is that important principle which animates the Bill.
Lord Wheatley also provided, as a technical appendix to his report, guidelines to safety standards at football grounds resigned to assist the local authorities in their task of enforcement.
When the report was published, those bodies mainly concerned, including the local authority associations and the football authorities, were consulted about Lord Wheatley's proposals. The football authorities made it clear that they were apprehensive at the financial implications for the clubs, but there was general agreement with the proposals themselves. Detailed consultations were held on the guidelines contained in the technical appendix to the report and these, duly amended, were finally published by the Home Department in November 1973 as 1745 a special booklet, "Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds".
The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds has no statutory force. Its primary purpose is to set out principles or guidelines which the local authorities will no doubt wish to keep in mind in enforcing the Bill. The guide, therefore, deals with matters such as the provision of adequate entrances and exits, means of escape, the slope of terracing, the strength and siting of crush barriers, the construction of staircases, and measures to ensure the safe movement of spectators both under normal and emergency conditions.
However, I emphasise that the guide is not a set of requirements to be rigidly applied, regardless of individual circumstances. This has most important implications for the clubs and the financial consequences of implementing the Bill.
As Lord Wheatley recognised, it is important to maintain the maximum flexibility in any system of control so as to take account of the differing circumstances at individual grounds—factors such as age, size and mode of construction differ widely from ground to ground. All these factors would have to be taken into account by the local authority when it issued its safety certificate and set out the conditions on which the certificate would be issued.
Although the basic principle set out in the guide are relevant to all sports stadia, modifications may well be necessary where sports other than football are involved. These could be discussed with the appropriate authorities at the time.
Lord Wheatley recommended that the introduction of any system of control should be phased so that the more important grounds, regularly attracting the larger attendances, should be dealt with first. It is intended, accordingly, that only those grounds in Lord Wheatley's category 1, which are mentioned on page 14 of the report, should be dealt with first, that is to say, the international grounds, the English First and Second Divisions and the Scottish First Division Clubs, which in all amount to fewer than 70. Indeed, with the proposed introduction of a Premier Division of 10 teams in the Scottish League, the total number of grounds affected will be about 60, as only 1746 the Premier Division will be covered in the first designating order so far as Scotland is concerned.
Grounds in Lord Wheatley's categories 2 and 3 will be dealt with later as the need arises. But the full system of control under the Bill will not apply to Lord Wheatley's category 4, namely, grounds with accommodation for fewer than 10,000 spectators. The intention is that safety at these grounds should be secured largely by voluntary action on the part of the club concerned in consultation with the local authority.
The main instrument of control under the Bill is the safety certificate issued by the local authority. A safety certificate will be needed in respect of every stadium which is the subject of a designation order made by the Secretary of State. The certificate will enable the local authority to impose such terms and conditions as are necessary to ensure a reasonable standard of safety at the ground in question having regard to the circumstances.
The Bill has been designed with football stadia chiefly in view. But other stadia, if necessary, can be brought within the system of local authority control as well as places such as racecourses where large numbers of spectators may be crowded together in stands. Nothing would be done, however, without full and prior consultation with those concerned.
I therefore, turn to describe the main provisions of the Bill in a little more detail, and I shall mention the principal changes which have been made since the House considered the previous Bill. The first five clauses establish the main system of control under the Bill, that is to say, the safety certificate, issued by the local authority, which will be required for every sports stadium designated for that purpose by order of the Secretary of State. The House will probably have noticed that, although the substance is unchanged, the relevant clauses of the earlier Bill have been rearranged and reshaped in the interests of clarity.
Clause 1 empowers the Secretary of State by order to designate any sports stadium having accommodation for more than 10,000 spectators as requiring a safety certificate. A safety certificate is 1747 issued by the local authority for the area in which the stadium is situated, that is to say, the county council in England and Wales and the appropriate regional or islands council in Scotland. Safety certificates are to be of two kinds, general and special. A general safety certificate will be the main continuing form of control and will be issued for an indefinite period in respect of a specified activity or activities regularly taking place at the stadium.
A special safety certificate may be issued at the discretion of the local authority for a special event or other circumstances not covered by the general safety certificate. Such an event might be an evangelistic rally which might call for special arrangements if, for example, seating were provided for the congregation on the playing area. I have in mind what happens at Twickenham when a certain evangelical sect uses it each year.
The contents of safety certificates are dealt with in Clause 2. The local authority is empowered to include in the certificate such terms and conditions as are necessary to secure, at the stadium in question, a reasonable degree of safety. Without prejudice to this general power, the clause requires certificates to contain terms and conditions relating to major matters such as entrances and exits, means of escape in an emergency, the number, strength and situation of crush barriers, and the maximum number of spectators who may be admitted to the stadium or any part of it. To remove any possibility of doubt, a new subsection in the clause makes it clear that a certificate may include a condition relating to the keeping of records relating to attendance and the maintenance of safety.
In imposing conditions, local authorities will doubtless follow the principles set out in the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, although, as I have already explained, this document has no statutory force. We envisage that there will be a good deal of consultation between the local authority and the club in the process of drawing up the certificate conditions.
For example, if a ground is rarely filled to capacity, the local authority is free in such a case to base its requirements on an attendance figure lower than the maximum the stadium would hold. On the rare occasions that a capacity crowd was 1748 expected, the procedure of the special safety certificate could be invoked so that more than the normal permitted number of spectators might be admitted subject to special additional safeguards such as more attendants, admission by ticket only, and so on.
Again, if a stand were found to be structurally weak, the local authority might restrict admission to it until it had been strengthened. But the club would have the choice whether to have the necessary remedial works carried out, so that the restriction could be removed, or to accept the restriction indefinitely.
I emphasise this point because in earlier discussions of the Bill my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) chilled the house with the cost of implementing the Bill for one of the Sheffield clubs. However, on inspection of the estimate he was using, it was found that the estimate included replacing a wooden stand by a brand new structure, and that the stand could well be equipped to meet the provisos of the guide without in any way being replaced as a whole. Thus it was found that the cost was very much less than had been suggested by the consultants who put together the estimate. Therefore, the point is well worth stressing in relation to the fears of the clubs.
The earlier Bill limited the terms and conditions imposed under a safety certificate to what was necessary to secure a reasonable degree of safety for members of the public. There was some difficulty over this term because it might have excluded, for example, members of supporters' clubs. This particular problem has been met by the definition of "spectator" in Clause 16, that is to say, any person occupying accommodation provided for spectators. On the other hand, it seems right that all the people present on the occasion of a match or other activity for which a ground has a certificate should be taken into account for the purposes of the safety certificate—for example, people using a squash court or other facilities at the ground.
Accordingly, the general power of the local authority under Clause 2(1) to include in a safety certificate such terms or conditions as are necessary omits any reference to people and speaks only of securing "reasonable safety at the stadium", although the term "safety", 1749 as defined in Clause 16, does not include danger arising from participation in a sport. In these days of aggressive football, perhaps that is just as well.
Certain provisions must, however, be specifically linked with spectators who are, after all, the people the Bill is mainly designed to protect and who will be greatly in the majority. Thus Clause 2(2) requires the certificate to state the maximum number of spectators who may be admitted, and it is a serious offence, under Clause 12(1)(a) or (c) for spectators to be admitted to a designated stadium where no safety certificate is in operation.
Clause 3 sets out the broad procedure to be followed when a local authority receives an application for a safety certificate. It requires them to determine first whether an applicant is, in their opinion, a qualified person, that is to say, a person likely to be in a position to prevent contravention of the terms and conditions imposed in the certificate.
In this respect, the general safety certificate is different from the fire certificate issued under the Fire Precautions Act 1971. The latter is issued only after necessary safety works have been completed. The safety certificate under this Bill will be issued almost from the outset and will be an instrument of continuing control. The issue of a special safety certificate, however, is left to the discretion of the local authority, as I have already explained, because only the authority can judge whether it is appropriate to issue it for the special occasion in question.
The local authority is required to send a copy of any application for a certificate to the police and to the building authority, and must consult them about the terms and conditions to be included in the certificate. The need for such consultation is, I think, self-evident. There must be close co-ordination of the interests of the different authorities directly concerned with different aspects of safety at football grounds.
The original Bill, and this Bill when introduced in another place, required the local authority also to consult the fire authority. This reference survived from the period before the reorganisation of local government when there were one or two combined fire authorities. There are now no combined fire authorities, 1750 and as the local authorities under the Bill will themselves be the fire authorities, the reference to the fire authority is superfluous.
Clause 4 provides for the amendment, replacement, transfer, surrender and cancellation of safety certificates.
Clause 5 provides for appeals by interested parties against decisions or requirements of the local authority in connection with safety certificates. Appeals will lie to the Secretary of State. In this respect, we have departed from Lord Wheatley's proposal that appeals should be heard by a specially constituted tribunal. But apart from the need to avoid creating more special tribunals than necessary, most appeals are likely to be on technical matters and it therefore seems appropriate for appeals to be heard by the Minister. In any case, he will have power to set up a formal inquiry along the lines recommended by Lord Wheatley, should the need arise.
Clause 7 provides for some supplementary matters on determinations and appeals.
The holder of a general safety certificate is required by Clause 8 to notify the local authority of any proposed alteration or extension of a stadium.
Clause 9 provides for the harmonisation of the Bill with other legislation which may affect sports stadia.
Clause 10 is an important emergency power. Should a magistrates' court, or the sheriff court in Scotland, on the application of a local authority, consider that the risk to spectators at any sports ground is so great that their admission should be prohibited or restricted until remedial action has been taken, the court may make an order accordingly. This power applies to any sports ground whether or not it is required to have a safety certificate. In practice, it is not expected that the power will often need to be exercised. In the case of a small football stadium, for example, not subject to the designation order procedure, consultations between the local authority and the club concerned are expected to secure the provision of a reasonable standard of safety on a voluntary basis. This clause is differently drafted from the analogous clause in the original Bill, chiefly in the interests of clarity, but the substance is unchanged.
1751 Clause 11 confers rights of entry and inspection on persons appointed by the local authority. Clause 12 deals with offences and penalties.
The Secretary of State is empowered by Clause 14 to extend to classes of sports grounds other than sports stadia such provisions of the Bill as are not already expressed to apply to them. For example, it enables the Secretary of State by order to extend the safety certificate procedure to such places as race-courses.
Clause 15 applies the Bill, with necessary modifications, to the Crown. Clause 16 deals with interpretation.
Clause 17 is the order-making power.
A good deal of concern has been expressed about the ability of the football clubs to meet the costs of essential improvements likely to be required under the Bill. I understand that this was the major source of contention on earlier discussions about the Bill. The Government are well aware of the financial difficulties faced by most, if not all, professional clubs and have therefore been giving most careful thought to this problem.
It is a long-established principle that those who in the course of a commercial enterprise put the public at risk should themselves bear the cost of any statutory safety measures which thus become necessary. The Government see no reason to depart from this principle in the present case. No grants or loans from public funds will therefore be made to the football clubs. The Government have, however, been considering whether there are other ways in which help may be contrived.
The financial difficulties of the clubs were kept fully in mind in the course of preparing the safety provisions of the Bill. For example, power has been taken to implement the Bill by stages, as Lord Wheatley recommended, so that only the senior clubs and international grounds will be affected by the first designation order.
The total costs cannot be determined in advance because the state of each ground will be different, but those clubs which have been following the longstanding recommendations of the Football Association on safety precautions at football grounds may be faced with comparatively little expenditure. Local 1752 authorities, in any case, may require only what is reasonable in the circumstances of each case, and have discretion to allow any necessary work to be completed by stages subject to compensating safeguards meanwhile—for example, limitation on numbers, extra stewards and so on. In this way the costs could be spread over a considerable period. Finally, there will be a right of appeal to the Secretary of State against any requirements of the local authority which are thought to be unreasonable and, in considering such appeals, the Secretary of State will certainly take the question of costs into account.
Taxation relief should also be of some help to the clubs. The total expenditure on fixed plant and machinery may be offset against taxable income in the first year. This would cover such items as sprinklers, fire alarm systems, floodlighting, removable seating and so on. Moreover, following a Government amendment at the Report stage of the last Finance Bill designed to give tax relief in respect of expenditure on structural fire precautions required by fire authorities under Section 5(4) of the Fire Precautions Act 1971, the Government announced their intention to provide a similar type of relief in respect of expenditure under the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill. The current Finance (No. 2) Bill provides accordingly in Clause 46.
Furthermore, the Government have had the football clubs very much in mind in introducing the Lotteries Bill. The proposed increases in the present limits on turnover and prize money will enable the clubs to run lotteries on a scale—yielding an estimated extra £2 million to £3 million a year—which should go a long way towards meeting any expenditure on safety precautions made necessary by the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill. It should be possible, very soon after the Lotteries Bill becomes law, for clubs to promote lotteries with a turnover of £5,000 and a maximum prize of £1,000 as against the present limits of £750 and £100 respectively. When regulations have been made and the new Bill is fully in operation, a turnover of £10,000 will be possible for lotteries run weekly.
I am aware that there is strong support for a levy on the football pools as a 1753 means of helping the football clubs generally. But the idea of such a levy raises a number of problems—for example, the question whether other sports, including other levels of football, should benefit, whether the hypothecation involved would be acceptable and justifiable on fiscal and resource allocation grounds, and whether it is socially desirable to give the beneficiaries a vested interest in maintaining a high level of gambling. These matters need to be considered in a much wider context than the need to provide for expenditure by the clubs concerned on safety improvements made necessary by the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill.
Meanwhile, there is an urgent need for the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill, an essential safety measure, to be enacted as soon as possible. As for expenditure on safety measures to which the football clubs may thus be committed, the Lotteries Bill, in the Government's view, should provide a substantial measure of assistance. When he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport will have further information for the House.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I refer to one other matter at this stage, namely, civil liability. The Bill like its predecessors, does not mention civil liability, but it seems right that it should declare itself on this issue so as to remove any possible doubts. We propose accordingly to table an amendment for consideration at a later stage the purpose of which will be to make clear that, while nothing in the Bill itself will confer a right of action in civil proceedings for a breach of safety requirements imposed under it, existing rights of action already available to any spectator injured at a sports ground through the negligence of the occupier will remain wholly unaffected.
I hope that I have explained adequately the main provisions in the Bill. These reflect the Government's desire that the scheme of control which is envisaged should operate flexibly and reasonably having regard to the circumstances of individual clubs, while achieving a degree of safety which will considerably reduce the risk of another disaster of the kind that occurred at Ibrox Park. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I welcome the Minister of State, Home Office to our sporting deliberations and thank him for explainng the Bill so carefully and helpfully. As he said, this is the third time that a Bill of this nature has come before the House. I hope that it will be third time lucky. I welcome the reappearance of the Bill which nearly became an Act of Parliament just over a year ago. It is sad that it has not been possible to push the Bill through earlier because we have now lost a summer for building improvements and there is escalation in costs.
At the outset, I emphasise, as did the Minister, that the purpose of the Bill is to improve crowd safety and not to deal with crowd behaviour, although the two are inevitably interrelated. There is little change in the Bill, and I welcome the improvements which have resulted from the consultations held by the Minister and the Minister responsible for sport, and from the Working Party on Crowd Control which he set up some time ago. A valuable addition has been made to the Bill because of the work the Minister has put into it. There are still a few amendments I should like to be incorporated, but I assure the Government that I want to see the Bill go through all its stages as soon as possible.
I believe that all the main objectives of the Wheatley Report, which followed upon the Ibrox tragedy, are included in the Bill. There is no radical departure. The more one reads the report the greater is the realisation that this great Scotsman, judge, and football enthusiast—I do not know which priority he would prefer—was absolutely right in what he recommended. His premise was simple. Previous controls, whether formal or informal, were inadequate, the law was ineffective, and this had to be put right. We are all most grateful to Lord Wheatley for the wise recommendations he made.
As the Bill has been debated before, I shall touch only on a few points. Lord Wheatley was emphatic that the licensing authorities should be the top tier—namely, the counties in England and the regions in Scotland. I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes)—is present, as I want to. 1755 make a specific Scottish point. I do so as I am a little apprehensive about the workings of the Bill as it stands. Lord Wheatley felt it important—he emphasised this in his report—that we should keep licensing decisions remote from local influence. In the past, that has not been as clear-cut as we would have wished. The Bill, in various sections, makes reference to consultation with the building authority. In the major regions that will be the district authority, the lower tier. Although there must be that important consultation, I want to be assured that the driving force and the technical advice will come from the top tier.
I do not want to think that this legislation will conflict with Wheatley. I do not want to see the regions delegate their responsibility to the districts, which until recently were the cities. That is a point that I have mentioned in some detail, and it was conclusively brought out by the Minister in the letters that he wrote in February to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton). His letters referred to the level of local authority responsibility for sports stadia. The Bill makes it clear that after local government reorganisation in Scotland it will be the regional councils and not the district councils which will exercise that function. I raise this matter only because I have some apprehension that already the district officials are involved in this type of work when I believe that the regions should be entirely responsible.
I know that in Committee the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will table amendments to tidy up the Bill. The references to reorganisation no longer apply.
Much of our discussion today, and much of our discussion in Committee, will revolve around the guide to safety at sports grounds, which has already been mentioned by the Minister of State, Home Office. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is not a statutory document; it is merely a guide. However, it is rapidly becoming a Bible. I am already hearing of disputes between engineers and architects as to its implementation. That applies particularly to fire precautions. I am glad to have heard the Minister suggest that the guide must not be taken by the local authorities as a rigid document to be fulfilled at all costs.
1756 As the Minister responsible for sport knows, every ground has its own characteristic. Most of our grounds were built over 50 years ago, before there were motor cars and buses to bring the spectators. The emphasis that has been placed on flexibility is most important. we must be flexible in the early stages, or the local authorities will cause immense problems for football. I would be grateful if the Minister responsible for sport would consider writing specifically to each licensing authority to emphasise that it must be flexible in its approach in the first few years. That was our intention had we been in a position to put forward such a project.
The Minister of State has spoken, rightly, about designation. The hon. Gentleman indicated the grounds that were involved. I congratulate the Government on their decision that in Scotland the first period of designation will cover only the Scottish Premier League. That will concern only the 10 senior clubs in. Scotland, allowing for promotion and relegation each year. I hope that it will not be necessary to designate the first or second division for a considerable time. Unless I misheard him, the Minister did not give any indication as to when the first designation order will be made. I realise that the clubs will want the maximum amount of time to carry out improvements. Are the Government thinking in terms of the season after next rather than the coming season, so that at least the clubs will have the next summer to make some of the essential improvements?
One observation that I make as a point of interest rather than a point of substance is that, I am told, there are 161 foootball grounds in England alone that are capable of holding over 10,000 spectators. That shows what could be done if we designated more grounds than absolutely necessary. I suppose about 80 per cent. of those clubs would be very excited if they had 10,000 spectators once in a generation.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I would not encourage the hon. Gentleman to walk that path too firmly. Knowing the game as well as I do, the hon. Gentleman must keep in mind that some of the clubs which have maximum gates of 1,000 or 2,000 1757 could have a lucky draw in the Cup and expect a crowd of 20,000, 25,000, or even 30,000.
§ Mr. Monro
Indeed, that is why we have the special certificate. The police and the local authorities, even at short notice, will be able to make arrangements to cover such circumstances. It is one of the exciting things in football when a lowly club has a visit from a team in the First division. We do not want to see that prevented in any way. It is right to put it on the record for confirmation, when the Minister responsible for sport makes his winding-up speech, that the Rugby League, the NGRC, and the speedway interests will not be in the first designation order.
I was glad that the Minister of State mentioned appeals. This is the only difference from Wheatley. I believe that the Government are right, as were the previous Conservative Government, in providing that appeals should go to the Secretary of State. I hope that there will be few appeals. There will be only a few if local authorities realise that they must require only what is reasonable, bearing in mind the cost and practicability of improvements. There is, of course, any amount of advice available from the CCPR, the Sports Council, and many other sporting bodies.
The Minister of State referred to costs. This has been a contentious matter among many football clubs. Over the years, many prudent clubs have made improvements which will stand them in good stead in the future, but others have waited. Their costs will be substantially higher. However, if there is the flexibility that we are all calling for they will be able to overcome that problem.
There is no question about it; we must have the Bill. In saying that, I think it right also to say that some clubs will take a good deal longer than others to fulfil the requirements that we intend to lay down in legislation, being guided by the Green Paper. We must see no slackening off in progress. We must see steady progress towards a standard that we all expect. Some grounds are well below standard. I do not want to list them today. However, it is an appropriate moment to say a few words about Hampden Park. The 1758 effect of the Bill makes a decision on Hampden Park imperative. The Bill will probably have a greater impact on that ground than on any other major ground that we are considering in Wheatley's first category. It is our national stadium and it has a great history, but it is long out of date, despite the efforts of Queen's Park Football Club. I doubt whether it would be possible, as it now stands, for Hampden Park to pass the requirements of the Bill.
We have had an exceptional report from the Chairman of the Scottish Sports Council, Mr. Liddell, assisted by the Glasgow Corporation and the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Football League and Queen's Park Football Club. It is essential reading for everybody involved in future sports ground developments. There is now a unique chance of a new stadium, plus facilities for sports halls, and so on, in Glasgow, where those facilities are particularly required. I am totally in favour of the maxi scheme of the three alternative proposals. Anything else would be a third or fourth choice.
I appreciate that at present there are extreme restrictions on Government expenditure. The scheme will mean expenditure of the order of £16 million. Planning discussions and development of the project will be bound to take two or three years, but during that period there will be little expense. Surely this is the moment to take the right decision to bring everybody together and move towards providing this great facility of which we shall all be proud. If not, it will be an admission that the Government are concerned not only about our immediate economic situation but about the likely economic situation in two or three years' time. I believe that we must begin to plan for construction by about 1978.
I personally reaffirm my party's approach. We should play our part in providing our share of resources, together with the local authorities and football interests. Let there be no delay.
I urge Ministers to get cracking on administrative details and to follow the able lead of Mr. Siddell. Only in this way can we expect to hold world and European finals again in Glasgow. If not, I can see Scotland becoming a desert for spectators of world football.
1759 The Minister rightly spoke about the financing of improvements. I cannot resist poking a small piece of fun at the Minister responsible for sport. In his Second Reading of the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill on 18th January 1974, he insisted that we should have to find out how much the costs would be. He said:A few weeks ago I asked the Minister whether the Government … had made any estimate of the costs that would be involved. I wanted to know whether they had made any calculation of the costs to football, rugby league or rugby union."—[Official Report, 18th January 1974; Vol. 867, c. 1096–7.]I tabled a Question last December, when the Bill went to another place. I asked the Minister whether he could give me the information, but the Question was transferred to the Home Office. Consequently, the answer was given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, to the effect that no precise estimate was possible. She said that much would depend on the state of each ground and on the decision of local authorities, in consultation with the clubs concerned, about safety requirements which were reasonable in all the circumstances. It was not possible to give any firm indication of what the cost would be.
Since the Second Reading of that legislation in January last year we have had to face a deterioration in our economic situation and an enormous escalation in building costs, which will have a dramatic effect on clubs' estimates of improvements—over and above other costs such as rates and normal club expenses, which are not my concern today.
I am glad that the Government have made a concession in Clause 46 of the Finance Bill. At one point I wondered whether the Minister would consider back-dating some of the improvements, but I realise that that would not be possible. The effect of Clause 46 will be dramatic only if football clubs have profits to set against these provisions. The effects of the clause will have no immediate impact, nor am I as optimistic as the Minister on the question of lotteries. In an early morning debate on the Lotteries Bill I asked the Minister what the impact would be on football. She replied:We have received word that many sports clubs welcome the Bill and feel that it will be 1760 of great help to them. The Football League clubs have estimated that they will get an additional income of £2 million a year."—[Official Report, 30th April 1975; Vol. 891, c. 666.]I find it hard to substantiate that figure and should like to know how much of it can be translated into improvements at sports grounds. However, it may be a step in the right direction.
Lord Harris, speaking in another place on 19th November—as reported in the Official Report, House of Lords, in column 987—gave a hint of a levy on football pools. I appreciate the difficulties and I understand the Minister's remarks today, but the Minister also hinted that his hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport had one or two more goodies up his sleeve for the reply. It would assist us to know whether further substantial help is on the way.
I understand that in the circumstances it would be wrong to expect other financial concessions than those which the Minister has announced today.
I conclude by saying a few words on the interrelated question of crowd behaviour. It is not often that many of us become personally involved in these matters. In January I travelled on a train that had been completely vandalised by football supporters a day or two earlier. Their motive for inflicting that damage was difficult to understand. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane), who has wide experience of sport, will discuss the general problem in a little more detail if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye a little later. Throughout my time as Shadow Minister of Sport I advocated the strongest possible action by magistrates to back up the police. Where this fails we must accept that however serious and unfortunate it may be for certain clubs, they will have to face national and international sanctions until the small minority of their supporters see reason. It is for the clubs to face these responsibilities.
In the last six months—particularly in the last week, with the Prudential Cup—in both cricket and rugby matches we have seen enormous emotional excitement, and yet the crowds have been well-behaved and have not run into the sort of difficulties which we have seen in certain football grounds. That is a standard to 1761 which we must try to aspire in all our sports. grounds in Britain.
In my comments on football problems I do not hesitate to say that the attitude of players on and off the field certainly has an influence. It is always easy to find excuses for players, but the game is far bigger than the players. I hope that the House will call for and hope to see a marked trend for the better. If most clubs set an admirable standard, it should be possible for all.
Finally, I should like to say a word or two about the police. It would be wrong not to pay them a high tribute for all they do in sport. They are employed on, and, indeed, paid for, work inside the grounds to maintain law and order. This has stood the test of time. Their duties do not supplement or replace those of stewards employed by the club for general arrangement within the ground. That is the responsibility of management. The police are responsible for crowd safety, while the club is responsible for crowd behaviour. No report over the past 30 years has suggested otherwise. I am glad that the police will be closely involved with the advice to local authorities about licences and special certificates.
I have had a great deal of correspondence with the National Union of Supporters Clubs. Obviously it has put a great deal of work into its advocacy of a system of identity cards. The Minister will know the issues. I believe that the system would be too complicated to work quickly enough before a match starts and would produce congestion at the turnstiles. I should be interested to know the view of the Minister on the policy proposed by the association.
The Opposition will have few points to raise in Committee. All in all, this is a good and essential Bill. It is one on which we wish to co-operate. We must ensure that the local authorities do their part and act in a sensible, reasonable and flexible way.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I join the Minister of State and the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) in supporting this Bill. I share their concern about the control of crowds, where tip to 70,000 1762 people may be involved at soccer and rugby matches. I am worried about the control of hooliganism. Before we press those two points too hard, and thus, to some degree, devalue a tremendously important part of our sporting life, this much must be said. Both sports—I would not care to say which comes first and which comes second—give tremendous enjoyment to many millions of people.
When we speak about crowd control and the element of hooliganism which is unfortunately associated with it, we should not forget the other aspect, namely, the delight that these sports bring to millions of people throughout the world. Appreciation of soccer is beginning to be made manifest in the United States, where the world famous footballer, Pele, will play football for three years. I hope that the American nation will take up this sport, which is better than their so-called national sport of baseball. I shall be grateful if the Minister will make some reference to the basic social value of these games in the life of the nation.
If the Government want to see this sport develop and prosper, when the implications of the Bill are known, they should look into the question of the finance which is available. It is all very well for Members of Parliament to talk about putting these reforms into effect. The hon. Member for Dumfries said that building costs were growing. Indeed, they are astronomically high. Only a few clubs in England and Wales are paying their way. The consequence is that the means to put these desirable reforms into effect may not be forthcoming. The Minister, who has been actively engaged in this sport and has an association with the chairmen of various clubs, must know that as well as I do. As a consequence, I support the provisions of the Bill on the basis that it is necessary to effect ground control at clubs such as Burnden Park, Bolton and Ibrox.
Thousands of people are deterred from viewing these sports, especially soccer, because they are nauseated by the element of hooliganism which is associated with them. The police have an almost impossible task in trying to stop these fracas, when they cannot reach the people who start them. If the police can get to those people they will be able to nip 1763 the trouble in the bud. However, that presupposes that the grounds are sectionalised, so that access is possible. However desirable and effective that might be, it must be paid for. That is the nub of the whole matter. I shall come to the question of payment. Sometimes I am annoyed. The most grandiloquent schemes are put forward, but no thought is given to the question who will pay for them. Unless we can settle that matter it would be better not to start the schemes at all.
The Bill says that the cost to the Government is estimated at £20,000 per annum. With inflation at its present rate, that will not be enough to pay the players, never mind effecting ground improvements. I believe that that matter should be considered.
I speak about the clubs from a practical point of view. I am a soccer enthusiast. Soccer affords me a tremendous amount of recreation. It is the one time when I can watch a game in my constituency, Burnley, and forget all my political problems and shout and bawl in the hope that Burnley will win.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)
I hope that my hon. Friend does not shout at the referee.
§ Mr. Jones
There have been occasions when I have shouted at him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame"] All right, it is a shame. But I cannot pursue that point.
I speak from a practical point of view. I know of many small clubs. It is no good talking about the elite clubs in the First Division. They could not survive without the clubs in the Second, Third and Fourth divisions and the non-league clubs, because the elite clubs obtain their players from the other clubs. Consequently, consideration must be given to the clubs in the lower divisions. Some clubs have gates totalling only 2,000 persons. When they have got through the preliminary rounds of the FA Cup they may participate in a game where the gate could be anything from 25,000 to 30.000. However, we must consider these clubs. I suggest that these people must live.
I asked who would pay. References were made to the Lotteries Bill, which is now being considered in the other place. I am not unaware of the effects 1764 of that Bill. I have questioned the commercial managers of various clubs about the way in which they would be affected if that Bill returned to this House from the other place and became law substantially unaltered. Those managers would be reasonably satisfied. I hope that that Bill will not be substantially altered, as it could provide the means of helping the clubs to which I have referred.
I make this appeal now, and I hope that when the Bill returns to the Commons for the consideration of the Lords Amendments I shall be able to repeat it. It will be no good hon. Members wanting the reforms that the Bill we are discussing will provide and then depriving the sport of the means by which it can derive the necessary finances.
In order to illustrate the problems which exist among clubs I shall quote the example of the team in my constituency. The Minister has had an association with the club. It has been a successful team in post-war years, with gates of between 20,000 and 24,000. It takes young players, it trains them, and it supplies them to any club in the country which chooses to buy them. The club is the best training arena in the country. Even managers who want their sons to make a name in football send them to Burnley to get them trained. Having trained them to be stars of international repute we have then to sell them to survive. Survival is one thing, but survival with success is another, and the club naturally has to take account of the feelings of the spectators. They cannot be expected cheerfully to accept the fact that the stars are creamed off from our team to be sold, especially since that reduces the chances of success for the club.
Therefore, Burnley and a substantial number of similar clubs, which are perhaps not quite so successful, adopted this method of earning money. Training a youngster to become a "class" player and then getting £150,000 or £300,000 for him is a means of survival, but I do not believe it is necessarily good for the sport.
What can be done by Government agencies to help the clubs? How should a top-class sport such as football be treated? Take the example of horse-racing. I believe that soccer and rugby 1765 are of far greater benefit to the youth of the country, bearing in mind that the youth are presenting us with very serious problems, but horse-racing is probably better supported.
What recommendations have the Government made to the Football League for improving grounds? How many clubs have implemented those recommendations, and have they been anything like a success? What account have the Government taken of the criticism of the green code? What direct help can clubs expect from the Government, notwithstanding the present economic crisis? It would be unfair and biased against soccer and rugby simply to say that they present a social problem to the authorities. The truth is that they provide a tremendous amount of entertainment for millions of people.
What has been done to encourage clubs to make their facilities generally available to the community? The question of community use of the facilities of professional clubs is very suspect. It is common knowledge that groundsmen are employed by the clubs to tend the pitch. If the public were allowed to use the facilities before the Saturday afternoon game I can imagine that this would create many difficulties. I am therefore extremely sceptical about anything that the Minister may have to say on that score. If I were a club chairman I am not sure that I would want the community to use my ground during the week.
Soccer affords a tremendous amount of therapeutic treatment for our young people, and although we complain, quite properly, about the degree of hooliganism amongst them, I fear that if this sport were to decline or were allowed to drift away through lack of financial support those problems would grow. I believe that we must have the reforms in the Bill, and all responsible people must help to give effect to them.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
This Bill is the culmination of a long saga. I remember in January 1974, along with the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), participating in the proceedings in the Standing Committee which was examining a Bill similar to that now 1766 before us. At that time the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) called a General Election and the Bill fell by the wayside.
This Bill and its predecessor are the result of what we now glibly call the Ibrox disaster. The awesome nature of that tragedy can be gauged by the fact that no fewer than 66 people were killed and more than 140 were injured. There was a steep staircase by which people were leaving the ground. An exciting last-minute goal prompted many of the spectators suddenly to flood back in down the staircase causing this terrible tragedy. Subsequently the Wheatley Committee was established—and the hon. Member for Dumfries has spoken most eloquently about Lord Wheatley and his interest in sport, particularly soccer. His investigation started in 1971 and he reported in May 1972. He recommended a code of standards of safety which included improvements to grounds, for it was generally accepted that public safety could not be supported by voluntary action alone but needed to be backed by statutory licensing controls. The Government now accept this principle, and the Opposition accept it as well, as, 1 am sure, do the administrators of soccer and supporters generally. In that sense, therefore, I feel that some progress has been made.
The building regulations were of limited value. They tended to be patchy and outdated. Some grounds were badly out of date—relics of the Industrial Revolution and what might be called Victoriana.
In his opening remarks the Minister of State referred to the representations which had been made at one stage by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who has taken a great interest in this question of safety in sport. Referring to the stand, the wooden structure, in Sheffield, my hon. Friend envisaged its replacement. When we think of the thousands of people attending that ground, even the fire hazard alone makes one think seriously that the wooden stand should be replaced, as my hon. Friend has suggested. I do not think that the Minister of State should have dismissed it quite as lightly as he apparently did.
In football grounds and sports stadia generally the public expects better standards, and many of our grounds will need 1767 bringing up to date in this respect. The Government are proposing a statutory licensing control. These powers would be exercised by the local authorities, the county councils, in respect of England and Wales, in consultation with the club and with the police authorities.
Perhaps the lines of demarcation have not been laid down here quite clearly enough. One could envisage disputes between these various bodies—the local authorities, the administrators of the clubs, and the police. Perhaps the Minister of State, when he replies, would let us have some further details in this respect.
The guidelines will be laid down in what has become known as the green code. This would be essentially a voluntary code, as opposed to what one could call rigid standards. But, again, I feel that there is some anomaly here concerning the interpretation of this code. To what extent is it voluntary? This could lead to a certain element of dispute. The overall objective is to bring grounds up to a decent standard.
The Minister of State has suggested this evening that any appeals procedure could be dealt with by the Minister. The significant matter here is the obvious point of delay. The existing appeals procedure in regard to the various activities of local authorities has tended to be put off for a very long time, and one would not wish the same thing to happen in respect of the appeals procedure laid down in this Bill. There might be some other authority of an independent nature that could be brought into being, outside municipal control.
The main instrument is the safety certificate which would be issued by the local authority. There would also be a special certificate for special occasions. In my own case, I would envisage, perhaps, a third round FA cup-tie in which Newport County were drawn to play against Arsenal. Another special feature—we are "bilingual", so to speak, in Newport—might be Newport rugby team playing the All Blacks. It is for this sort of reason that the special certificate would be issued.
Clause 1 refers to certificates for stadia catering for over 10,000 people. The special certificate to which I refer, for matches such as these 1768 very keen cup-ties, where there is a lot of excitement, would be a sort of second tier. But what about the temporary stands? With the growth of the game of golf at the present time, and the putting up of stands almost overnight, I would have thought that standards of safety there are just as necessary. The same would apply to motor shows of one kind or another. Could the Minister, when he replies, tell us what sort of regulations will apply in such cases?
When considering crowd behaviour and the safety factor, Lord Wheatley, in his report spoke about undivided areas of steep terracing and inadequate and constricted exists. These features, one could say, tend to encourage misbehaviour among sporting crowds, making the task of the police force particularly difficult.
There was a certain amount of hooliganism in the season of 1973–74, and in the spring of 1974 the Minister of State brought out a report to try to deal with this situation. One of his recommendations was for so-called dry moats between the terrace and the football pitch. A second recommendation was for gates which could be used by the police or in particular emergencies. He also spoke of the erection of more crash barriers. These, one is pleased to point out, are all recommended in the green code.
One could say, then, that the clubs should get on with it. There is certainly in this respect a need for the Bill. But then we come to the jackpot question—money. The question could be posed, what help can clubs and sporting organisations expect from the Government?
I did not think that the contribution of the Minister of State was very helpful in that respect. To speak of a measure of this kind without putting forward concrete proposals is to speak of Hamlet without the Prince. I speak as Chairman of the Sports Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party. On 29th January, I led a delegation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A few days earlier, I had taken a delegation to the Home Office for the same reason—which was to urge that the Government should look into the financing of sport. The main proposal put by the delegation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer was for a levy on the football pools. This we feel to be the basic need of sport. The proceeds 1769 could be distributed to sports generally and not confined to one sport. There could also be an independant board to administer the finance.
It so happens that in March of this year I wrote to the Prime Minister, and in his reply he said that these matters were receiving serious consideration. I feel that this is the way ahead. I do not know whether it is necessary to urge my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport—I feel sure that he is already doing it—to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer in any way that he can to bring about a measure of this kind.
For evidence of the parlous state of sport, we need only turn to the game of rugby, at which we in Wales are so good. I have a cutting from the Western Mail of Monday of this week. It is headed:Taxman slashes rugby profits. Great year ends just about even'.The article is by J. B. G. Thomas, the rugby editor of the Western Mail. He writes:Although the Welsh Rugby Union's income from matches, television fees and other sources amounted to more than £150,000 for 1974–75, profit on the year's working was less than £1,000, which indicates the growing plight of successful amateur sport. Profits would normally have exceeded £20,000, but the new Corporation Tax swallows up most of this amount.This is the situation. The article goes on:One expects treasurer Kenneth Harris to tell club delegates how inflation is holding up the Cardiff Arms Park national ground scheme.That is a considerable indictment of the Government's attitude to sport. The article concludes:Welsh rugby is in a healthy state. All it needs is for some fairy godmother to present it with £2 million to enable it to finish its Cardiff Arms Park facelift.This is the state of a successful sport in the area of the country with which I am connected. I can well visualise the trouble that other clubs and sporting organisations are in, with all the financial and economic problems that they face.
For the Second, Third and Fourth Division clubs in the English Football League, is there any timescale laid down about when they should implement the provisions of the Bill? What about the other principal centres of sport in the country? The hon. Member for Dumfries 1770 spoke about Hampden Park. Then there are Wimbledon, Lords, the Oval and various major race courses thoughout the country. What is the position in this Bill about those centres of sport? How do they come within its provisions? When can they expect to be affected by the Bill?
The Government could do far more than they are doing today. They should set their mind to the task of introducing a levy on football pools to put sport on a firm footing. I can assure the Minister that all the members of the group of which I am chairman are most keen that this scheme should be introduced. We shall continue to pursue it.
The Government have introduced minor tax concessions in the Finance Bill for spending on the provisions of this Bill. How far will they be backdated, bearing in mind that many clubs started to engage in activities on the provisions in this Bill when legislaton was first mooted back in 1972. Will those who engaged in efforts to improve their grounds at that early stage get these concessions?
I accept the provisions of the Bill, but I feel that the Government must do more about the financing of sport.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Jim Callaghan (Middleton and Prestwich)
I want to echo the words of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), who hoped that this Bill would be third time lucky. As a keen football and sports enthusiast, I have taken a great interest in safety on sports grounds over many years.
I was astonished some years ago when a Spanish friend showed me what a new stadium was like. It was the stadium in Barcelona which can seat 120,000 people. I could not help contrasting it with some of the stadia which surround me in the Lancashire area.
It is remarkable that major disasters on sports grounds in the United Kingdom have been so few in the last 70 years, because too many of our football grounds were built in the last century, unlike that in Barcelona. They are hemmed in by tight streets. In Manchester alone, around the Manchester City football ground there are serious parking problems and safety problems which give the city council and the police quite a headache.
1771 Many of our grounds are bottlenecks for disaster. Unfortunately, disasters occur on our sports grounds from time to time, and all too often has the finger of fate touched the ground of Glasgow Rangers. Perhaps I might give a catalogue of the disasters which have occurred. It will show the necessity for this Bill.
In 1902, Ibrox Park provided the first example of disaster on our sports grounds. The terracing collapsed during a match between Scotland and England, resulting in the death of no fewer than 25 people. In 1961, on the same ground, two people were killed when a staircase collapsed. In 1969, again on the same ground, 24 people were injured when a handrail collapsed on the same staircase. For a moment in January 1971 a stairway at that same ground, Ibrox, became virtually a tunnel of death in which 66 people were killed and 145 injured—and that has resulted in our having a fresh look at safety precautions in our grounds.
But it is not only at this one stadium that disasters have occurred. I can well remember the Bolton disaster of 1946 because I had contemplated going to that game myself. I am glad that I did not, because 33 people were killed and over 500 injured.
The Wembley Cup Final disaster of 28th April 1923 saw the invasion of the ground by 200,000 people. There is the moral that if we fence in the ground, that may prevent access to a safe area of ground in case of trouble or fire. Miraculously at that Wembley Cup Final there were no fatalities. This led to the Report of the Departmental Committee on Crowds, recommending the principle of tickets for all FA Cup games.
Again, disaster almost struck at Newcastle in 1969 in a match between Glasgow Rangers and Newcastle, when supporters forced their way into the ground, nearly causing another disaster. As a result the Lang Committee on Hooliganism, which has been referred to by other hon. Members this evening, made recommendations to make crowd control much easier. But during a football match in Nottingham the stand caught fire, and although disaster was averted, the emergency highlighted the difficulties of restricted access and of crowd dispersal 1772 where crowds of thousands of people were affected.
Parliament lays down very stringent safety regulations affecting areas of our life where crowds meet—for instance, in cinemas, theatres and, more recently, in hotels, and Parliament gives statutory backing to the police and the fire officers in their inspections. After the Ibrox disaster of 1971, Parliament must lay down similar stringent regulations for all our football grounds.
Obviously, initially Parliament must concern itself with First Division grounds where there are large crowds. The nature of the problem is crowd movement. When there are 40,000 or 50,000 people assembling over a period of two hours and expecting to leave the ground in 10 minutes flat when the game is over, the result very often is herd hysteria and hooliganism, which often flows across from the ground into neighbouring streets, When 100 tons of closely packed people are moving only at moderate speed, such a crowd takes some stopping.
Penning and seating are in my opinion most relevant proposals. As yet, no club in Great Britain has come remotely close to providing full seating capacity, unlike the beautiful stadium in Barcelona which can accommodate 120,000 seated people. Seating may be expensive, but it discourages movement until the match is over and slows down movement even then. Penning also restricts the number entering or leaving by any one entrance, and also movement from one side of the ground to the other, particularly by supporters who want to see their team score goals.
In my opinion the building of pens and the creation of more entrances and exits, together with the development of seating, are the chief needs. Incidentally, it is time for catering and sanitary arrangements to be included, particularly on the terracing sides of the ground.
The noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, had no doubt that the present controls over safety at sports grounds were inadequate. This was a result of his report after the last Ibrox disaster. He found that the existing voluntary system of certification of grounds, introduced by the Football Association, laid down no requirements as to the competence of persons who carried out their annual inspection of grounds, nor were there any guidelines 1773 to assist those persons in their assessment of safety standards. He also thought that there was a risk that those engaged in such inspections might be influenced in the standards they applied by their knowledge of the financial state of the clubs concerned.
In addition, Lord Wheatley was convinced that the law also fell short of providing proper and effective controls over football grounds as a whole rather than over a football ground singly. To take only one example, the building regulations provide for control over stands and structures at football grounds but do not relate to open terraces, which is normally where I stand, although it is in these areas that safety measures are most clearly needed.
There is, however, another element which is reducing safety—the hooliganism that breaks out on terraces and also on the grounds themselves. At one local Derby game a few years ago I was trapped in a tunnel between two rival sets of supporters. I could not get in or get out and the two rival groups were hurling half-bricks, broken bottles and sharpened pennies. A friend who was with me, who happened to be over 6 feet tall, was struck on the head by one of these missiles. He had done nothing wrong. He was not a hooligan, but he was trapped. This kind of thing gives great cause for alarm. I can assure the House that I have never been to another Derby match since.
I urge the Government to impose tougher penalties on those found guilty of crimes of violence of the kind I have enumerated. Among the main problems that continue to afflict professional football in England and Scotland are those of declining attendance and hooliganism, and there is a link between them. Lord Wheatley accordingly concluded that only a specially-devised statutory scheme could ensure comprehensive controls at football grounds in the interests of safety. He recommended statutory licensing control administered by the top tier of local authorities. He proposed that these controls should be introduced by stages, which I believe is important, the larger or more important grounds being dealt with first because obviously that is where there is danger.
1774 The football authorities were in agreement with the proposals but made it clear that they were apprehensive about the financial implications for clubs. This Bill intends that only those grounds in Lord Wheatley's category No. 1 should be dealt with first. These include the international grounds, the English First and Second Division and Scottish First Division clubs, a total of 68 grounds. It will not apply to those grounds with accommodation for fewer than 10,000 spectators although such grounds are not altogether exempt from control.
This brings us to the question of finance. The financial difficulties faced by many professional clubs will undoubtedly be considerable. It is the long-established principle that those who in the course of a commercial enterprise put the public at risk should bear the cost of any statutory safety measures which become necessary. The financial difficulties of the clubs must obviously be kept in mind. We must be flexible about this.
Those clubs which have been following the long-standing recommendations of the Football Association on safety precautions at football grounds may be faced with comparatively little expenditure. The local authorities may require only what is reasonable in the circumstances of each case and they have discretion to allow any necessary work to be completed by stages, subject to compensating safeguards meanwhile. For example, there may be a limitation on the numbers allowed to attend a specific game. Extra stewards may be required, and so on. In this way the costs can be spread over a number of years. Taxation relief should also be of some help to clubs, covering such items as fire sprinklers, fire alarms, systems of flood lighting and seating. VAT could be reduced.
The Lotteries Bill could be used to make it easier for clubs to raise funds to meet the costs of necessary improvements. Another possibility is that of a levy on the football pools. The main provisions in this Bill reflect the Government's desire that the envisaged scheme of control should operate flexibly and reasonably having regard to the circumstances of individual clubs, while achieving a degree of safety which will considerably reduce the risk of another 1775 disaster such as that which occurred at Ibrox Park. We are all extremely anxious to avoid a repetition of that tragedy. It must not happen again.
I recognise that there will be difficulties for the football authorities in making a number of changes to grounds which are necessary to ensure the safety of spectators. However, I feel sure that, despite those problems and difficulties, we all want to see the Bill go forward as rapidly as possible, so that we can guarantee to those who attend football grounds on a Saturday afternoon the degree of safety to which they are entitled.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John Watkinson (Gloucestershire, West)
I intervene briefly in this debate as a lover of soccer and, I hope, as a friend of the greatest sport in this country. In my early days it was a simple pleasure to enjoy myself on the terraces, watching soccer matches on Saturday afternoons. It has increasingly become an exercise in masochism, both in terms of what has to be watched on the pitches and what takes place on the terraces of the great football clubs.
I regard the Bill as timely because of the developments which have occurred in the behaviour pattern of spectators on the terraces of our football clubs. Anyone who has watched a big football match on television will have noticed that when goals are scored, or there are near-goals, there are tidal movements down the terraces. Those who have been involved in such tidal movements know the risks and dangers involved.
I vividly rememoer, at a cup tie, being carried 20 yards or 30 yards without my feet touching the ground, as a result of such a movement. It is incumbent upon clubs to provide adequate protection on their terracing to prevent such things happening. We have always had tidal movements at football clubs, but now much greater safety is required because of the nature and behaviour of the spectators.
Anyone who goes to the popular end of a football club knows that the pre-match rituals consist not so much in singing songs while waiting for the teams to come out as in open warfare between two armies of spectators. Clubs must take action to prevent these armies coming into conflict. The popular end of 1776 some of our leading football grounds is a "no man's land", where there are no spectators; only a few stricken, fallen bodies. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) about the necessity to introduce a penning system at the popular end of football clubs. It is in the nature of spectators now to behave in the way that I have described. All those who watched the European Cup Final saw the disgraceful way in which spectators from this country behaved abroad. That behaviour is common on our own football grounds. There must be adequate protection on the terraces, otherwise there may well be a very serious disaster, just from a crowd point of view.
I remember the grip that the 1966 World Cup had on the people of this country. It was claimed that this was a sport that could attract the whole family, but any man who took his wife or girl friend to see a football match in this country, would be endangering that woman if he took her on to the terraces, such is the state of behaviour and hooliganism that we have to endure.
I echo my hon. Friend's remarks about hooliganism. I well remember going to a football match and standing at the popular end. The grandstand came over the popular end, and before the match began, the crowd amused itself by throwing bottles on to the roof and watching the broken glass spray over the crowd. That was their form of amusement.
The police should be given further powers to control and search crowds. Indeed, I go along with those who say that magistrates should not be frighteened to impose penalties in the circumstances that I have described. Only by doing that may we deter some of the people who give this country such a disgraceful name on the Continent. I echo everything that my hon. Friend has said on that matter.
It is vital that there should be improved methods of barricading to control crowds both entering and leaving grounds, because the Ibrox Park disaster occurred when some of the crowd were leaving and some were trying to get back.
Anyone who has been on the terraces of our major football grounds will know the steepness of some of the exits and 1777 the inevitability of an accident occurring at some time. Therefore, it is vital that we take action.
I give my whole-hearted support to the Bill. I want increased safety in our football grounds, both on the terraces and in the stands. It may be that the Bill will provide the mechanism whereby some of our clubs and their directors drag themselves into the entertainment business of 1975 and realise that people want to see sport in some degree of safety but, at the same time in some degree of comfort.
I echo the words of my hon. Friend and say that what clubs require is seating accommodation. If seating is available it is likely that we shall be better able to control our hooligans and enjoy the sport. The Bill may assist clubs to provide that necessary safety and comfort to our people.
The matter of finance has been raised. In my view the burden should be placed on the clubs, for the reasons set out by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who introduced the Bill. The clubs expose the public to the risk, and they should be expected to bear the burden. When we see the inflated sums that are paid in transfer fees, it comes a bit hard to hear that clubs cannot afford to improve the safety of their grounds for the benefit of spectators. I noticed that the fee offered only this week by a German club for a well-known British player was £180,000. I am told that in Germany—a much richer country than ours—that figure was regarded as astronomical, and way beyond the normal fee. In this country £250,000 is not uncommon. In those circumstances, can clubs really say that they cannot afford to find the money to provide safety for people who come to watch and enjoy soccer?
I agree with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who hoped that the Lotteries Bill would be used by football clubs to provide added finance to meet these safety requirements. Like some of my hon. Friends, I have a great deal of sympathy with the idea that the football pools, which take so much out of soccer, should be asked to contribute something more directly than they do.
But of one thing I am sure—that we should not allow ourselves to be bogged 1778 down by considerations of finance. I do not think that we shall. The first consideration must be the safety of people who go to watch soccer and other sporting entertainments. One Ibrox is disaster enough. It would be intolerable if any of us were prepared to support a situation in which another Ibrox disaster could occur. For that reason, I give my wholehearted support to the Bill.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
In the early hours of this morning I had the strange experience of sitting in the Library and seeing my name appear on the annunciator screen. I immediately came into the Chamber to hear what I had to say. Tonight I got here first. I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the debate but, like many hon. Members, I was unfortunately engaged in a Standing Committee.
I declare my interest straight away. I am, and for 30 years have been, a supporter of Luton Town Football Club, and a regular attender at Kenilworth Road. The Bill is concerned with safety in sports grounds, but I am thinking of it particularly in the context of safety in football grounds. Although I realise that it is not confined to them, it is clearly primarily concerned with them.
That safety, in a sense, has two aspects. The first is the protection of life and limb from what might be called genuine accidents, or at least accidents caused primarily by inadequate or faulty physical amenities and physical provisions in sports grounds. The second is that concerned with the protection of people from what I might call deliberate malice on the part of others. There are these two separate and distinct aspects of safety. The Bill is presumably aimed primarily at the first.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) rightly pointed out, we have had a number of tragedies at football grounds and sports stadia. It is amazing that we have not had more. There is a football ground not an hour's walk from this Chamber where three years ago I stood on the terrace along the side of the ground and saw that the terracing was crumbling very badly. There were few crush barriers, and those were badly placed. Fortunately, that club does not have particularly large 1779 gates, and no tragedy has occurred there. But I should not be surprised if one did occur, unless the club has improved its facilities considerably since then. The answer to the first aspect of safety is fairly clear. We need proper terracing, better crush barriers, proper stairways and all the rest.
However, it is the second aspect of safety, the protection of people from deliberate malice by other spectators, which is the far more difficult and intractable problem. A number of hon. Members have spoken about the problems of hooliganism. I have been concerned with hooliganism, particularly during the last season in Luton. The worst problem is, in a sense, outside the grounds. I realise that the Bill does not cover that aspect of the problem.
I should like to cite one match which took place in Luton last season when we "entertained"—if that is the right word—Chelsea. During the ten minute walk back to the railway station in Luton after the match the Chelsea supporters went on a carnage through the streets. I shall mention two instances. An iron bar was thrown through someone's window and a heavy foundry brick was thrown through another window, narrowly and miraculously missing a baby in a cot. However, I must not stray into that area because, strictly speaking, it is outside the scope of the Bill.
What about hooliganism inside football grounds and the deliberate pushing down of terraces? The pushing down of terraces can be a natural and spontaneous reaction to a particularly exciting piece of play at one end of the ground. However, on a number of occasions I have observed a deliberate pushing down of terraces. To a certain extent this can be prevented by the proper placing of crush barriers.
As the Minister knows, Luton has a small football ground and even the large terrace at the popular end is small by comparison with many other grounds. It is a terrace which is now covered in crush barriers. It probably has more crush barriers per square yard than almost any other ground in the country. Yet even that small and well-covered terrace can be pushed down. I have seen comparatively young boys at that ground literally crying in terror when this has happened.
1780 It has been suggested that there should be seats at football grounds. This would be an extremely expensive proposition. As one who likes to watch football while standing, I am not sure that I should like to see all-seated stadia. There is something to be said for the viewpoint that football is, by its nature, a game which should be seen from a standing position. I cannot afford to go in the stands. To my knowledge the Leeds spectators who were observing the European Cup Final in Paris were seated, but that did not prevent some extremely ugly scenes of hooliganism taking place. Therefore, to sit people down would not, in itself, prevent hooliganism.
Safety should be seen very much in the context of the second category—the protection of people from deliberate malice by other spectators—as well as in the more obvious first category, that of protecting people from genuine accidents.
The subject of finance has been raised by some hon. Members. Football clubs are businesses. To my knowledge all but one of the member clubs of the Football League are limited liability companies. I am not sure whether Nottingham Forest is still a club, but it always has been and is, to my knowledge, not yet a limited liability company. However, if clubs are limited liability companies, commercial enterprises, and if they cannot pay their way, should they be propped up like lame ducks? The answer from most of us would be that we would not want to see them go to the wall and would like to see them continue, because they are more than commercial enterprises. They are clubs. In some sense they represent the communities in which they are set.
But we on the Government side of the House have in recent times strongly maintained the proposition that if we put money into private industry we should take some measure of ownership and control with that money. If we put money into commercial sport, we should expect something in return. We should expect that clubs would become more genuinely clubs and not merely commercial enterprises—clubs which are representative of their communities and which truly serve them.
Like other hon. Members, I welcome the Bill. However, I would plead that 1781 we need to do far more thinking about how we can control the hooliganism which is blighting and ruining what to me is the greatest game that man has ever invented. I also plead that clubs should become more representative of and more responsive to the communities in which they are set.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)
I am sure that I echo the feelings of my Opposition colleagues when I say that the Opposition wish the Bill swift progress and add that we wish to do nothing to hinder its progress on to the statute book. It is to be wholly welcomed. I echo the thoughts of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) at the outset of the debate—that it will indeed be third time lucky. I can only assume that the absence of my Opposition colleagues is because of their total satisfaction with the Bill and because of a plethora of activity in Standing Committees.
There are several aspects of the Bill with which I want to deal and several questions with which I hope the Minister will deal. We have heard from the speeches of Labour Members of their anxieties and concern about the situation in which we find ourselves in this country. But there is much to be welcomed in the Bill, and the report of the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, is a most comprehensive survey of the problems which have affected spectators at sports grounds and sports stadia in this country for a very long time. It is perhaps sad that three and a half years have elapsed since this report was presented to the Home Secretary, but that is perhaps the fault of our electoral processes and democratic system, which have caused at least a further 16 months to be added.
We heard from the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) that the problems of crowd safety have been with us for many years. He gave a graphic description of the many disasters which have occurred in Britain, culminating in the very sad tragedy at Ibrox Park in 1971 which prompted the report on which the Bill is based.
Many people have lost their lives at mass gatherings. This has not been con- 1782 fined solely, of course, to football crowds. The growth of pop concerts in sports stadia has also presented tragedies and enormous problems for the police and local authorities. It is clearly long overdue for this illustrious House to legislate.
I hope that this Bill goes far enough. But I was concerned when I read the technical report upon which the bill is based, under Appendix A on page 20 of the report. That is where the noble Lord lists the three types of safety problem which are to be considered within a football ground and its immediate surroundings. I shall not go into too much detail. The first of his concerns highlights the hazards to individuals which cause tripping, slipping and falling. The guidelines for general constructional features of a ground are laid out later in the report.
The technical report states that the second type of safety problem is:far more important and more specific to safety at football grounds. When large crowds are present and densities are high the pressures build up within the crowd either through motion or swaying which make it difficult, if indeed possible, for individuals to control their own movements.The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) described his experience of that. Lord Wheatley goes on to say that this type of danger arises from crowd pressures. A most important aspect of the report is where Lord Wheatley says:The third type of safety problem cannot be divorced from the second and in some ways is an extreme version of it. The danger arises from emergency situations which can develop following an outbreak of fire or even hooliganism.He concludes:This type of problem is not specifically dealt with in this report.We have heard from Government supporters and from my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries about the problems of hooliganism, which are a cause of wide concern. It is a pity, but understandable, that this subject is not dealt with in the report. In November 1969, Sir John Lang produced a report for the Minister responsible for sport on crowd behaviour at football matches. The working party was set up in May 1968. A great deal has happened in our society in the past seven years to warrant a closer look at an extreme—as Lord Wheatley's report says—but 1783 highly probable outbreak of hooliganism which could start off a further disaster and a further tragedy.
When structural alterations are made to grounds to comply with the forthcoming code, other measures should be taken to make them hooligan-proof. The safety of spectators will not begin and end with the Bill. If mass spectator gatherings are to be made fully safe, more will be required than just this Bill.
There is, first, the question of the effectiveness of the law. Hon. Members on the Labour benches highlighted the difficulties here. If hooliganism, both inside and outside sports grounds, is to be eliminated, I earnestly hope that the Lord Chancellor will encourage magistrates to use their full powers with the full majesty of the law behind them. How often do we hear of the lout who attacks officials, policemen, spectators, and private citizens being fined the maximum £400? Never. The average fine is about £40, and there might be an occasional fine of £100. I cannot help recalling the occasion when Manchester United football fans went to Belgium two or three years ago and indulged in several hours of mayhem in the streets and were arrested. On their release they were all discovered to be aged between 17 and 20 and to have brought with them for their 24-hour football furlough £150 each. One might well ask where the money came from.
§ Mr. Clemitson
Would it not make sense to devise a punishment to prevent the offenders from attending football matches for a considerable period of time?
§ Mr. Macfarlane
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point which I shall come to in a moment. There must be scope for hitting the persistent hooligan very sharply through his wallet.
When a magistrate wishes to send a hooligan to a remand centre or detention centre, as we know from experience in our constituents, he finds that there is a lack of accommodation. Frequently, much time is spent on the telephone, trying to find a detention centre in which the hooligan can be put, all to no avail.
Such problems cause much disquiet to police and magistrates alike. I know that the police are concerned that sports 1784 ground disasters can still occur if hooliganism gets out of hand. I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) when he advocates a lengthy period of detention to be served on consecutive Saturday afternoons and perhaps on mid-week occasions when there is an evening game at home.
Recent scenes at the Leeds football match in Paris highlighted the kind of spark that can set alight a major disaster if effective control is lost. In this country we are privileged to have a police force which has adapted superbly to handling the restlessness at mass gatherings in sports arenas. I was recently privileged to visit Wembley on the first Saturday of the referendum campaign to watch the England-Scotland soccer match. I am sorry to have to remind my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries of that ignominious afternoon for the Scottish football team. I was able to see at first hand how effectively the police liaised with the football authorities.
The Minister responsible for sport knows better than anyone else in the Chamber what enormous problems that sort of scene can create. If ever a scene were set for confrontation, given the invasion, as it were, of the Scottish hordes, that was the time for it to take place. I pay tribute to the Minister for the difficult 48 hours or 72 hours which he must have had before the match began. He had to face the problems of the strike in addition to everything else. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the way in which he handled the situation. When I saw the Minister on television late on Friday afternoon and in the evening I thought that he summed up the situation most admirably when he said, in response to the many requests to cancel the match, that he would not spoil the enjoyment of 99.9 per cent. of the football loving population of this country for the 0.1 per cent. lunatic fringe which, as the hon. Member for Luton, East has said, has malice written right across it.
There was a moment when the match hung on the reaction of one solitary policeman. As the teams were about to commence playing a Scottish supporter ran on to the pitch and did something which was the repeated fairly frequently throughout the afternoon—he kicked the ball past the Scottish goal area. This 1785 was the forerunner of the steady stream of such action that we saw during the match. In other countries it is true to say that several policemen might well have hurtled into the luckless goal-scoring Scot. There were only one or two players that afternoon who achieved that strike. If the police had rained blows on the supporter's head in using their batons that would have been the signal for 40 or 50 of his supporters to join in the fray. Instead of that, the policeman quietly beckoned him to leave. He opened the gate for him, shaking his hand and embracing him. An ugly incident was averted. It was interesting to see that the conduct of the police was of an amicable nature that afternoon. Their work with the football clubs is of paramount importance.
The police pay tribute to the vast majority of clubs which co-operate fully with the local police force. Unquestionably the Lang Report has had much to do with the overall improvement in ground facilities and the greater understanding between the police and sports ground management. Facilities for the police within the grounds are now generally satisfactory. In that respect some are excellent but others are not so good.
No doubt we can discuss in Committee the development of closed-circuit television, which Sir John Lang recommended in 1969 as being of enormous benefit to the police. It is something which has not generally been developed in this country and it would remove the problem which the police have at the large grounds in winkling out the troublemakers swiftly. When I was talking to the commissioner responsible for crowd control in the metropolitan area the other day, he made it clear that many of the grounds have policemen stationed at certain points equipped with binoculars. They are looking into the crowd continually. I hope that we shall make provision to encourage football clubs to install closed-circuit television.
It is recognised by the police that many sports ground managements have excellent systems for dealing with troublemakers. Some clubs write to the parents of the trouble-making youths if they invade the pitch. They do so in order to 1786 enlist parental involvement. That must be right. The parents might well be asked to make a greater contribution when the magistrates consider what fine to levy on the under-l7-year-old. All too often parents are not involved sufficiently fully. I believe that if the fathers were invited by the magistrates to pay the fines on behalf of their wayward sons we would have a great deal of success in enlisting more parental involvement.
I have put forward several factors which must work smoothly if sports grounds are to be made safe. None will work effectively if sportsmen who appear in front of crowds are guilty of setting a violent example. Modern society provides large financial rewards for successful football teams and, to a lesser extent, successful cricket teams. In the heat of the moment tempers lost on the field of play can only excite emotional reactions on the terraces and in the stands. The need for restraint among players is strong, yet at the present time I doubt whether their conduct on the field of play is satisfactory. Indeed, I suggest that governing bodies and clubs have a clear duty to look at themselves to see whether the sentences on wayward players are adequate. I doubt whether they are at present. If we look at top-class international players who are household names, we know that many young players are guilty of offensive gestures and dissent on the field. Perhaps if they persistently offend they should be banned from playing for a whole season.
There is no doubt that effective crowd control linked to the recommendations in the Wheatley Report will be responsible for averting sports ground tragedies. I hope that next year there will be a decline in the kind of statistic with which the Metropolitan Police has had to deal in the past three seasons. In 1972–73, 3,900 fans were ejected from football grounds in the Metropolitan area. In 1973–74 the figure had dropped to 3,800. But in the last year, 1974–75, the figure rose to over 5,500. That is the current trend.
Paradoxically, in 1972–73, 460 people were arrested within football grounds. In 1973–74 the figure had risen to over 500, and last year, in 1974–75, the figure was static at 500. Of the figure of 500, 270 were arrested in sports stadia, 216 were 1787 adults and 56 were juveniles. It is significant that this happened in the metropolitan area. No doubt the Home Office can draw on countrywide figures and establish trends. However, the figures have not risen very sharply in the metropolitan area in the past three years. I should be interested to learn at some time how the figures have moved throughout England and Scotland.
The debate has rightly concentrated on the safety aspects of football grounds. This is understandable because no other sport enjoys such a massive and intensive following or attracts such mass gatherings. But we should not concentrate solely on football grounds, because in this legislation we are envisaging grounds with a capacity in excess of 10,000. I disagree with one or two hon. Members who said that football was the greatest game man had invented. I prefer to differ marginally and say that perhaps cricket should be awarded that accolade. Cricket has developed in the last 10 years, there have been larger financial rewards, and that is to be welcomed. Grounds are seeing crowds of over 10,000. This does not apply everywhere but certainly it is the case at the Oval, Lords, Headingley, Birmingham, Trent Bridge and Manchester. Crowds of over 10,000 are attracted to one-day cricket matches such as the Gillette Cup and the Benson and Hedges event.
I hope that if the Minister responsible for sport has some financial "goody" up his sleeve, he will feel that the cricket authorities are worthy of his consideration. Their financial situation on a comparable basis with that of top football teams is not so good, but last week-end during the Australia-West Indies one-day match there was an attendance of 20,000 spectators in a ground capable of holding between 15,000 and 16,000 people.
Rugby is another sport which regularly, in both League and Rugby Union matches, attracts crowds of over 10,000—not as frequently as soccer games, but it happens quite often. Therefore, I hope that any help will not be devoted wholly to the game of football. I hope that consideration will be given to other sports of a permanent or temporary nature which attract crowds of over 10,000.
1788 The Opposition hope that the Bill will proceed quickly to the statute book. I emphasise that the Bill will be far from foolproof if it does not go hand in hand with urgent action from many quarters. Magistrates have a duty to provide an effective deterrent to the habitual hooligan. The rôle of the police is always of crucial importance. Clubs must cooperate and give the police the facilities they seek. That will cost money.
However, I take the view that if the sports ground management committees provide the entertainment, they must provide the safety. Parents must be brought into the club arena. They must accept that they must act responsibly and become involved. The players and their governing bodies are an integral part in the process of providing for the safety of the spectators.
The Home Office principally, and the Department of the Environment to a lesser though important extent, must understand that although the Bill goes a long way towards rationalising sports ground problems, it will not solve them overnight. Those aspects worry the authorities. The last measure we want to see in this country is the introduction of identity cards for football fans. We do not want to see moats and large areas of reinforced netting around the pitches such as we see in South America.
If additional firm action is taken in conjunction with this Bill, further tragedies will be averted. The Opposition will do nothing to hinder this worthy Bill.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) for his kind appreciation of my efforts on the occasion of the England-Scotland match, as well as for the general welcome given by all other speakers to the Government's proposals. Whilst I am glad to receive the tribute of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam, I am sorry that my efforts did not bear fruit and that the trains did not run. It would be wrong for us not to acknowledge the fact that, on the whole, the large numbers of people who came from Scotland behaved extremely well. One should pay tribute to them. In those harrowing circumstances they were able 1789 to enjoy themselves and behave themselves at the same time. I mention that because that seems to me to be the essence of much of our policies. Those two types of behaviour are compatible. There is no reason why people should not both enjoy themselves and behave themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) gave a long catalogue of the history of disasters which have afflicted football over the years. I am grateful to him for doing so, first, because it saves me from having to do the same. I cannot think of anything which he has left out. I am grateful, secondly, because it is very important that the House should be reminded of the reason for the Bill. Our friends who are concerned in football should also remind themselves of the reasons for the Bill. I refer to the collective responsibility which we must all share to prevent these terrible disasters from re-occurring.
I am glad to take this opportunity of joining the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) in a tribute to Lord Wheatley and the police. Lord Wheatley studied these problems with great thoroughness. Both Conservative and Labour Governments have had cause to appreciate that report. I pay a tribute to my predecessors in office. This is their Bill, although we have added to it, tidied it up and addressed ourselves to matters of detail.
There is a widespread agreement on both sides of the House, which is a tribute to Lord Wheatley. The football authorities will appreciate that the House is united about the pre-eminent importance of guaranteeing the safety of spectators attending sports grounds and football matches. Everything else pales into insignificance compared with that basic principle.
The same applies to hooliganism. Again, the responsibility of the clubs and the football authorities is paramount in this respect. I shall have cause in a moment to issue one or two words of concern on this aspect, but I am sure that we would all agree that there is no excuse for clubs not dealing immediately with the problems of their grounds if they are seeking to attract the public.
I am grateful to pay my tribute to Lord Wheatley, as I do to the police. 1790 I suppose that I visit football grounds more than any other hon. Member does, and I see what is happening on Saturday afternoons. I am able to assess the situation and talk to the police officers after the game. This nation has good cause to be thankful for its police force. When I go abroad and see how the police forces elsewhere deal with these troubles I realise that the self-discipline and tolerance of the British policeman is unmatched anywhere in the world. Some of our worst offenders have good cause to thank the tolerance of the British policeman, even though it is running a bit short these days, and they might stop to consider that aspect of the matter.
I do not want to go into the details of the Bill, clause by clause, because that has already been done. Since the recommendations of the Wheatley Committee became known other aspects of public safety arising from so-called football hooliganism have added to our problem. It is interesting to note that every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate has thought it right to refer to hooliganism as well as to the issues of safety which originally gave rise to the report and the inquiry by Lord Wheatley. The hon. Member for Dumfries complained a little about our delay in bringing forward the Bill. One of the reasons for that was that we had to make quite sure that our consultations were full and we were particularly concerned about the financial situation, as were the Conservatives when they were in power.
I was interested in the contributions by my hon. Friends the Members for Burnley (Mr. Jones), Newport (Mr. Hughes). Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan), Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) and Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson). I seem to have refereed games in each of their constituencies, which must be something of a record, and I have had some interesting experiences there, with which I shall not weary the House now. Whenever I refereed at Newport the drains seemed to be stopped up. On one occasion I was told, "You cannot play here today, there is too much mud". I replied that I never put off a game because of mud, since it reduced the players to my speed. I remember refereeing the magic match at Burnley, when they played Tottenham Hotspur. It was a tremendous delight. I am sorry 1791 about Luton. That team has been relegated, but if its Member is anything to go by, with his devotion to it, I am sure that we shall be seeing the team back in the First Division. It almost escaped relegation, but it left its recovery a little too late in the day. That is a lesson for this and any other Government.
§ Mr. Dan Jones
When my hon. Friend refers to the Burnley-Tottenham game he should remember that Burnley was four goals behind and then drew even, which shows character as well as skill.
§ Mr. Howell
I think that the team's chairman, who is well known to us, was about to leave his seat in the front row of the stand and come on to the field as the twelfth man. I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the Burnley team has character.
In March 1974 I established a working party to keep all aspects of this problem under continual review. As the House will know, I decided to chair this working party myself, in order to demonstrate the Government's view of the seriousness of the situation. The membership consists of representatives of the appropriate Government Departments, the Football Association, the Football League, the Sports Council, and the Association of Football League Secretaries and Managers. We have met many times, and I am most grateful to all those gentlemen for their continuing attention to our problems in football.
We met about three weeks ago, when reviewing this season's work, and will be meeting again next week or the week after. It is a continuing process. I mention this because when some people comment on us they seem to think that Members of this House, or Governments, or football authorities can wave a magic wand and make all our problems disappear. That is not so. We shall only get on top of the difficulty by a continuing application to the problem. I assure the House that that is what we intend to do.
From time to time we have issued advice on a whole range of matters concerning this subject, and we shall shortly be consolidating and revising this advice in the light of this seasons developments. On the whole, we believe that there has been some improvement in crowd 1792 behaviour inside grounds, although I agree with the hon. Gentleman who said earlier that there is some evidence that our problems are rather greater outside grounds, especially in respect of the transportation of spectators around the country. That gives rise to considerable concern.
In this Bill, as the hon. Member for Luton, East said, we are concerned only with the situation inside sports grounds.
In company with my working party, I visited more than 20 First and Second Division football grounds. Other members have visited other grounds. There are six First Division grounds not yet visited, which we intend to visit in the very near future. Apart from these visits, all clubs have been constantly informed of our recommendations. The Secretary of the working party has asked the First and Second Division clubs to inform us of the steps they have taken to implement the various recommendations of the working party.
I thought I ought to report to the House what has been happening about the implementation of our various recommendations. I cannot pretend that progress in this respect has been as fast or as satisfactory as I believe the situation warrants, or, indeed, as I think hon. Members from all sides have demanded. Some clubs have fully implemented our recommendations, and I am grateful to them for their proper sense of public responsibility. Others informed us, some time ago, that they intend to carry out the work in the close season, and we shall certainly monitor the position very carefully to ensure that they do so.
I regret that a minority of clubs have not provided us with answers to our inquiries or given us details of the way in which they intend to give the maximum protection to their public. This is intolerable from a public safety standpoint, as well as being unacceptable to my working party and. I believe, to the House as a whole.
§ Mr. Howell
I do not wish to name these clubs at the moment, because I am seeking their cooperation. I shall say shortly what I intend to do about 1793 clubs which continue to ignore our advice.
The House may like to have a rough breakdown of the statistics in the First and Second Divisions. Sixteen clubs have told us that they are implementing or have implemented the various recommendations of my working party. I regret that we have not yet had satisfactory responses from another 16. The remaining 12 clubs in the First and Second Divisions have told us that they will be hoping to implement them in the close season or are considering how to do so. That is the breakdown in the First and Second Divisions. Only 16 can give a clean sheet of health. I am profoundly disappointed with another 16, and I am glad to say that the remaining 12 are showing signs of tackling the matter.
It is because of these facts that the Government intend to consider how the proposals of the working party, to the extent that they are concerned with public safety inside our grounds, can be formally included in the green code—the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds—which is a code of practice to which local authorities will have regard as the licensing authorities for the issuing of certificates for the public use of football grounds. In other words, we are serving notice now that when we make amendments to the code we expect local authorities to have regard to the advice that we have given and to consider, when they issue safety certificates, how far the clubs have carried out those recommendations. I hope that I carry the House with me in suggesting amendments to the green code.
§ Mr. Jim Callaghan
Will my hon. Friend review the situation prior to the start of the season? If he has not had satisfaction from 16 clubs, should they not be named, so that spectators who go to these grounds are aware that they do not meet the safety regulations?
§ Mr. Howell
I have a great deal of sympathy with that approach. We are in the middle of reviewing the progress, or lack of it, from last season. We intend to write to all the clubs again before the end of the close season, demanding to know from those which have not given satisfactory assurances what they intend to do about the matter, and I hope that our 1794 exchanges tonight will bring some of them to a more lively sense of their public responsibility than they have shown so far. At that moment, it may become right to allow the public the fullest information on this matter, but for the present, I hope for the co-operation of the clubs and, to be fair, some of their main difficulties are in the realm of finance, to which I now want to turn.
§ Mr. Freud
Surely it is up to us to tell the clubs what to do, and not for the Minister to write to them yet again. Is there not also a duty on the part of pools promoters, who are getting vast sums of money out of football, to help those clubs which are unable to afford the full implementation of the provisions of this Bill, so that they may have the necessary money?
§ Mr. Howell
We are proceeding to tell the clubs what to do. The difficulty is that without a statute behind us we cannot insist on people carrying out what we tell them they should be doing. We shall be in a very different situation once this measure is on the statute book. That is why I couched what I had to say in the terms I did.
My hon. Friends the Members for Burnley and Newport drew attention to the financial obligations upon football and sport in general. When this Bill was previously before Parliament we, as the then Opposition, were critical of the lack of financial assistance available to the clubs which had to implement it. Therefore, the Government have given a great deal of attention to the considerable financial problems of football clubs.
In the present economic situation facing the country, I must stress that it is not possible to provide more financial assistance from public funds. It is also important to remember—I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West for making the point—that nothing can be done to undermine the principle that organisations which seek to attract the public in large numbers for sporting occasions have a responsibility for their safety. The responsibility is theirs.
The Government have therefore concentrated on means of helping sport, especially football, other than by direct Government subvention. Two important proposals have been announced already, 1795 as the Minister of State told the House earlier. Expenditure on fixed plant and machinery, including safety equipment, floodlighting, removable seating, and so on, already qualify for tax relief. We have also announced that in the Finance Bill at present before the House we are making further proposals, in Clause 46, which will help the clubs. I do not pretend that this is an answer to the financial problems of sports clubs, but it will be a help.
One of my hon. Friends was a little sceptical about the help which would come from lotteries. The proposals of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary are very important, and they have been welcomed in football circles. The new Lotteries Bill substantially raises the turnover and the prizes of small lotteries, so that it will become legal to conduct a small lottery up to a turnover of £10,000 a week. Most football clubs already have pools organised by supporters' organisations or by themselves and should be able to take early advantage of this new opportunity. Certainly, for myself I hope they are now preparing their arrangements to take advantage of the new situation. I can tell the hon. Member for Dumfries that we have calculated that this should at least double the income of small lotteries from the pool, and if our expectation is right and they take the full commercial opportunity, this will yield an extra £2 million or £3 million a year for football, which will be very important.
I have news of another proposal which I am sure the House will welcome and which will be very helpful in implementing this Bill. At the instigation of the Pools Promoters' Association and the Football League it has been agreed that a new contribution will be made by the PPA in respect of the "Spotting the Ball" competition which it organises and which at the moment makes no contribution at all to football. The Pools Promoters' Association has voluntarily submitted details of its "Spotting the Ball" competition to Sir Stanley Raymond, the Chairman of the Gaming Board for Great Britain, which was very wise on its part, especially in view of one or two controversial comments about that competition which we have noted.
I am glad to tell the House that after full investigations Sir Stanley is fully satis- 1796 fied as to the fairness with which the PPA competition is run and the proceeds distributed. This is an unofficial arrangement, not involving the Government, but I can say from what we have learnt of this particular competition, and are told by Sir Stanley—and we accept it—that it is most scrupulously conducted. In any case, I am sure the Football League would not have contemplated an arrangement with the association had it been otherwise.
As a consequence of that investigation by Sir Stanley Raymond, the PPA has informed me that it will in future pay 10 per cent. of the stake money from its "Spotting the Ball" competition into a trust to be operated for the good of football. It is estimated that the trust, to be know as the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, will have an initial income of about £650,000 a year. There will be three objects of the new trust—to bring Football League grounds up to the required safety standards, to improve their grounds for spectators and players, and to develop sports complexes or other recreational facilities as part of their grounds. I attach great importance to the third object.
Whilst the first two objects—public safety and putting football grounds in order—must be the priority in the early years of the new trust, I am especially grateful both to the PPA and the Football League for their agreement to ensure that as far as possible any necessary work should be designed to have regard to the need for additional sports facilities, and for including the third, longer-term objective, which I believe will be of great help in providing additional sports facilities at all our football grounds. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley that we are talking not about making additional use of the pitch but about designing stands so that they can be used for other sports in the day time, putting down squash courts and turning football grounds into sports clubs for the whole of the community for some of the time. This is an extremely welcome development, and I am delighted to be able to announce details to the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich also drew attention to the fact that many of these grounds are in older industrialised parts of the 1797 country. He was using that fact to illustrate the difficulties of safety provision. I agree with him about that, but I am sure he will agree with me that because all of our grounds are the products of the Industrial Revolution and are in centres of urban population, they also provide us with wonderful opportunities to open them up to ordinary working people. That is the Government's aim in many of their proposals and I am glad that they are now embraced by the Pools Pro-motors' Association and the Football League. In the longer term we can look forward to achieving success in that respect.
I am also glad to report that two members of the original Chester Committee, which reported to me on the state of football when I was last in office, have been invited to become trustees of the new trust—Sir Norman Chester as its chairman and Mr. Clifford Barclay who was on the Chester Committee and specialised in financial matters. I am hopeful that they will agree to accept office. I would like to express my appreciation to the PPA and the Football League—especially to Mr. Cecil Moores and Mr. Alan Hardaker, with whom I have been discussing these arrangements—for their initiatives and for the attention they have given to the proposals which has brought them to such a successful conclusion. I am sure that the House will join me in wishing the new trust every success in the belief that it will provide invaluable help to football and to sport as a whole.
§ Mr. Monro
May I say "Well done"? The Minister has made an important statement, which will be welcomed by everyone in the House. May we say "Thank you" to the pool promoters and to the League for achieving this breakthrough? It is probably too early for the Minister to give any more details, but does he envisage that in the early years much of the £650,000 income will go to the category I clubs that have to secure a licence from the authorities, or does he hope to spread it over the whole gamut, including the recreational centres?
§ Mr. Howell
In the first instance, the money will go to those clubs which are designated category 1 by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. We hope 1798 that in designing and constructing stands regard will be had to the third obpective of the trust. We shall move on from priority to priority.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
I am sure that all hon. Members will be impressed by my hon. Friend's statement, which represents an important step forward. There is one point upon which he can perhaps elaborate. At what stage will the Sports Council and the local authority leisure committees be brought into the discussions about the use of funds from this trust in the development of recreational and other facilities? Is it for them now to start thinking in terms of planning?
§ Mr. Howell
Mr. Alan Hardaker, the Football League Secretary, will be closely concerned with this trust. He is a member of the Sports Council. I appointed him some time ago specifically to improve relationships between the council and the Football League authorities.
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Beeston)
While welcoming what the Minister has said and supporting what my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) has said about the accolade that should go to cricket, may I ask the Minister to pay tribute to what has happened at Trent Bridge cricket ground, where the same facilities, in terms of a sports centre, have been developed without the assistance that has been created here?
§ Mr. Freud
There are two aspects about which I would like to ask questions. The Minister will remember that the early "Spotting the Ball" competition was ruled illegal by the High Court because it did not contain any element of skill. The House would like to know to what extent the new competition is more skilful. The Minister will remember that the previous competition was the antithesis of skill. The more unlikely the place in which the ball found itself the fewer the winners and the greater the success of the competition. The House will want to know how it has changed, not only so that justice can be seen to be done but so that people will realise that this is not a blackmail attempt or a bribe on the 1799 part of the pools promoters to carve out a profitable new competition for themselves, or the payment of what to them is a not very substantial sum to a charitable fund.
May I turn now to the percentage of the profit which will be concerned with this 10 per cent? Will the pools promoters have to announce, as they do now, how much money is distributed to the winners and how much is retained for profit, for tax, and for this new fund?
§ Mr. Howell
I am surprised that the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) sounded so churlish when people who, as far as I know, are conducting a lawful enterprise make an offer of this sort. It is quite true that there has been some doubt about the legality of the "Spotting the Ball" competitions, and that one of them, some time ago, was declared to be illegal. However, we are dealing here with a competition that has gone on for a long time since then, and which took account, I understand, of the High Court judgment. I assume that this competition is continuing lawfully. If anybody thinks that it is not he will no doubt take the appropriate action in the courts. However, for the moment the assumption must be that the organisers are carrying out, like every other business, a satisfactory enterprise.
Law, or the enforcement of law, is nothing to do with me. I am grateful that the offer has been forthcoming and that it has been accepted. It should be sufficient guarantee to the House that Sir Stanley Raymond, who was appointed Chairman of the Gaming Board by the Secretary of State, has spent several weeks—this is one of the many reasons for the delay in introducing the Bill—investigating the pools promoters' "Spotting the Ball" competition. He has given the competition a clean bill of health and said that it is scrupulously conducted and that what the pools promoters take out is reasonable. He is satisfied on all these counts, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be.
I turn to one or two matters to which I attach importance in the Guide to Safety in Sports Grounds. I shall refer to two in particular, because they are matters which have given me concern. I know that other hon. Members have referred to other aspects of the guide, but 1800 one major aspect is the pitch perimeter fence and wall. One of the problems—which I saw at the match in Paris—is that on the Continent neither clubs nor police will allow anybody to go on to the pitch. In this country there has been an increasing tendency for people to go on to it. The time has come when we must stop that practice. If our habits differ from those in Europe, there is likely to be the sort of confrontation which we have recently experienced. There have now been five incidents when five different clubs have gone into Europe. It is a disgrace, which must be brought to an end. All of us are ashamed that these difficulties continue. No one was more humiliated than I was at having to apologise to the French Prime Minister for the behaviour of so-called football supporters. They were behaving like louts. This is what we have been concentrating upon in recent months. We must stop people misbehaving inside the grounds and getting on to the pitches.
In paragraph 7 of the guide we have made very clear the nature of the arrangements we wish to have. I invented the phrase "security walkways", but that became known as "dry moats". I do not object to that. Where the clubs have put the dry moats in with two walls, one bounding the pitch and the other a yard or two further back, separating the spectators and allowing the police and other people to walk in between, they have been universally successful. We attach great importance to having gaps or manned gates in the walls, because access into and exit from the ground is of tremendous importance.
One of the main troubles at the Leeds United match in Paris was that the police could not get into the crowd, because in Europe they do not want to. They have a different approach from ours. They put all the spectators together, pen them up and say, in effect, "It is up to you. We are not coming in." That is not our approach. We attach great importance to the ability of the police to get in and out of the terraces when they want to. I should like to emphasise that point.
The second thing that I should like to emphasise comes under the headine of paragraph 17—Communications. Many of our sports clubs, particularly football clubs, have much to learn about means 1801 of communications at grounds. When some of our largest grounds are full it is almost impossible to hear a simple loudspeaker announcement. We shall expect clubs to have regular consultations with the police and, secondly, to install metering systems to control the numbers of people going into any one part of a ground. Most important, we shall expect an adequate public address system to be installed—one which is effective against the loud noise on sporting occasions.
There has been a suggestion from EUFA that we should have sliding gates at pitches. EUFA also wants fences round the pitches. We are not very attracted by fences. We much prefer the dry moat system, but if we are to have fences, because EUFA insists, we must insist that any fences should at least have sliding gates or, preferably gaps, manned by the police, and that at all times the right of access into and exit from the crowd be maintained for the police and security services.
The hon. Member for Dumfries wanted to know whether these powers would still be exercised by the top-tier authorities in Scotland. The answer is "Yes". He also wanted to know when the Bill would be implemented. The answer is "As soon as it is on the statute book". We first have to consult and then to make an order. Wise clubs will immediately proceed to get on with the work, because we do not intend to have any delay.
I was asked whether there would be flexibility in the arrangements. We want the maximum flexibility, subject always to the over-riding consideration of public safety, which must come first.
The hon. Gentleman asked me about the proposed identity card issued by the National Association of Supporters' Clubs. I got my colleagues on the working party to consider the matter. The clubs do not like it, because of delay in examining the cards at the turnstiles. They feel that it would be impracticable. Nevertheless, we are considering, particularly for away matches, how travel tickets, grounds tickets, and such matters can be limited to genuine supporters—shareholders, season ticket holders or members of supporters' clubs. That sort of development would be a great help.
1802 I should like to say a word about Hampden Park. The hon. Gentleman will know, because my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland gave him an answer yesterday, that we have had the report on Hampden Park for only four weeks. There is a grave financial crisis facing the country, as the hon. Gentleman recognised. When the hon. Gentleman demands immediate implementation of the report at a cost of £15 million, he must be consistent, in terms of the restrictions on public expenditure that he and his right hon. Friends are urging on the Government from time to time.
§ Mr. Howell
The economic crisis is serious, and it would be a foolhardy person who suggested a time when we might expect to be out of it. I agree that this difficult time is the moment to do our thinking and planning.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary hopes to consult all the authorities concerned in the autumn. That is rather speedy action. In any case, local authorities have to find some of the money, and the Government are in no position to insist on local authorities spending their own money.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport asked whether there would be a delay over the Secretary of State's dealing with any appeals. The answer is "No". If we were to set up an independent inquiry, it would probably take more time. This is not a planning matter. It is a straightforward appeal for the Secretary of State to decide the facts and determine the matter. This is easily the best arrangement.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich, who dealt with matters of crowd movement and pressures, and with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West about penalties. I urge the courts to award the maximum penalties for these offences. That is essential. I went round the country and met all the police forces. One of the things they told me was that 1803 they do not want any more powers—that their powers are adequate—but they want the courts to enforce their powers and award maximum sentences.
The hon. Member for Dumfries will be surprised to know that many detention centres are now half empty because magistrates are not committing offenders to them. However, we must not confuse detention centres with attendance centres—another aspect with which we have to deal. First, we want to section our grounds and get on to all-seating later, but that will depend on the money available to us.
We have had an interesting and constructive debate. I know that we can examine many of the matters of detail in Committee. I am heartened by the fact that all hon. Members have understood the serious nature of the problem and that the whole House is determined to assist the football authorities and the police conquer the problem and make football, a great sport, once again safe for any man to take his wife and family to see.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).