HC Deb 01 December 1983 vol 49 cc982-3
16. Mr. Allan McKay

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied that magistrates have sufficient powers to deal with offences arising from football hooliganism.

Mr. Mellor

The penalties available for all the main offences associated with football hooliganism are substantial, and include custodial sentences. For the more serious offences, magistrates may commit the defendant to the Crown court for trial or sentence.

Mr. McKay

Has the Minister seen an article in The Guardian today which reports the chairman of the Football Association as saying that, if the Government do not introduce legislation to help with the problem of known hooligans going abroad, there is little that the Football Association can do about what happens at away matches? Will the Minister consider introducing a system such as that employed by the Amateur Athletics Association, which has a register of supporters? Does he agree that people's names could then be withdrawn from such a register by magistrates in the event of hooliganism?

Mr. Mellor

I and my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about the disgraceful behaviour of a small minority of British sports fans when British clubs or the national team play overseas. It would be a major step to do what the chairman of the Football Association has asked. My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport is considering these matters during his regular contact with the football authorities and Ministers with responsibility for sport in other European countries.

Mr. John Carlisle

In the light of the meeting that my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport had with his counterparts in Rotterdam recently and the success of that meeting, will my hon. Friend consider meeting his European counterparts to persuade them to ensure that their magistrates come down hard on the British thugs who are bringing the good name of football into disrepute?

Mr. Mellor

My hon. Friend has raised an important point. My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport has already taken it up. Sometimes, alleged hooligans who are arrested and confined overnight do not have charges brought against them. That is most unsatisfactory from all points of view.