HC Deb 17 February 1982 vol 18 cc270-1
6. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement about his last meeting with the football authorities to discuss the arrangements for the World Cup.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 11 February to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway)—[Vol. 17, c. 462.]

Mr. Canavan

As well as concerning himself with the conduct of fans, will the Minister concern himself with the related matter of the conduct of some of the travel agent sharks, who are trying to exploit some of the football fans with questionable standards of travel and accommodation for the World Cup in Spain? In view of the recent advertisement in the Spurs programme, proposing to herd the fans into camps with four in a tent at £275 each, does the Minister honestly think that that kind of exploitation is conducive to good crowd control and good behaviour?

Mr. Macfarlane

As this is such an important subject, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make sure that any such information reaches my office, because I should like to know more about it. At this stage it is too early to know how these arrangements will shape over the next few months. My officials will watch the matter closely. As I said in the House a few weeks ago, a committee is now reviewing all aspects of the matter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will let me have any information that he has.

Sir Hector Monro

Is my hon. Friend aware that we are glad that he went to Spain recently and met officials there? Did he visit the grounds where the preliminary rounds are to be played by the three home countries? If so, did he feel that the standing spectator accommodation was adequate for crowd control, as it is in this country?

Mr. Macfarlane

My officials visited all five centres where the three United Kingdom teams will play their first phase matches. They have also had discussions with all the relevant authorities in those five centres. We have discussed crowd segregation and the elimination of the provision of alcohol, as well as many other aspects. There are still other matters that I want to discuss with all the various authorities over the next few months.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the Minister aware that all right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House support his efforts to ensure that British travellers to the World Cup behave in a sensible and civilised manner? However, does he realise that there is likely to be considerable difficulty because of the intense holiday trade and traffic which will be going on quite legitimately at the same time? Does he agree that the key to the matter is to ensure the use of passports and immigration control to make certain that at the point of sale of tickets for matches, transport and hotels only genuine supporters receive such facilities?

Mr. Macfarlane

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. I take note of what he said. There are many issues that we have yet to discuss with all the interested parties. Four million people from this country go to Spain every year and enjoy the hospitality that is offered to them. I can only hope that the good relations and co-operation that currently exist will be maintained over the next few months.

With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said about ticket distribution, I urge all those who go to Spain to watch any of the first phase matches to make certain that they have accommodation and tickets before they set off.

Mr. John Carlisle

When my hon. Friend was in Madrid, was he satisfied that the Spanish authorities realised what a vicious, ugly and unpleasant animal the British football hooligan is? Is he satisfied that the Spanish police will be able to cope with this particular type of hooligan, if he offends?

Mr. Macfarlane

We must be careful to retain a sense of balance, because 99. 9 per cent. of British spectators at football matches behave themselves thoroughly competently. However, I am concerned about the hooligan minority. I can only hope that the Spanish football authorities and all those who are responsible will take note of the requirements of spectators. I am confident that they will do that, judging by the dialogue that has taken place so far. Behaviour off the field and away from the arena is a matter for the Spanish authorities.