HC Deb 31 March 1977 vol 929 cc560-2
11. Mr. Walter Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has for dealing with football hooliganism; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

This is a subject to which I and my colleagues have given a good deal of recent attention together with representatives of chief constables and the football organisations. I propose to hold a further meeting soon to review the position. However, it would be unrealistic not to accept that there are clear limits to what can be done nationally. What really matters is effective operational co-operation at local level. Here the necessary measures to deal with hooliganism are being taken by police forces with the fullest co-operation of football clubs and organisations, supporters' organisations and transport undertakings.

In addition, substantial increases in the maximum fines and amounts of compensation which offenders may be ordered to pay on summary conviction of offences associated with hooliganism are proposed in the Criminal Law Bill.

Mr. Johnson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the position is getting steadily worse on match days and that my constituents have to barricade doors and windows, keep the young and old off the streets and make good the damage that these louts leave behind? It is no good pussyfooting around. Fines will not do. A tougher line must be taken by magistrates. I ask my right hon. Friend to advise them accordingly.

Mr. Rees

Magistrates must make up their own minds. I think that getting involved with the magistrates in the way suggested would be a bad thing. Perhaps the House in general will not know of the problems that my hon. Friend brought to my notice through a delegation the other day. I thought that I had seen a great deal of this problem, but around the Derby County ground there has taken place the most incredible hooliganism. The chief constable is concerned about it and is trying to do something about it.

Mr. Carlisle

Is not one proposal that the Home Secretary should extend the number of attendance centres that are available, so that those who behave in this way can in future be required to spend their Saturday afternoons at an attendance centre rather than a football match?

Mr. Rees

I think that is right. We have 60 junior attendance centres. I think that that is the way to proceed. Some of the cases that have been brought to my notice by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Johnson) deserve far more than an attendance centre. What has happened in one small part around the Derby County ground is quite incredible.

Mr. Bidwell

Many of us have been keen followers of the sport of football over many years. Does my right hon. Friend agree that on football hooliganism there are indications of mistaken thinking, especially relating to the possibility of the flogging of offenders and the possibility of mistaken identity, which cannot help the situation in any way whatsoever? Is not this seriously a matter not only for the police and club officials but for soccer enthusiasts as a whole? The encaging of youngsters in football grounds is an absurd situation into which we are running, yet that goes on in the present setting. The bulk of supporters do not lend a proper hand.

Mr. Rees

The problem of mistaken identity could arise anywhere, but there has been a change in hooliganism at football matches over the years and it is extremely worrying to ordinary people who attend matches.

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