§ Order for Second reading read.3.39 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Leon Brittan)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This House has had only too much cause in recent times to express its dismay and disgust about what has been happening to the game of football in this country. Innocent people far too often have been put in fear by rampaging young thugs who have deliberately come for a fight, and not to see the game at all. English supporters abroad have acquired the reputation of thugs and hooligans — so much so that as a result of what occurred in Brussels English clubs have been banned from competing overseas. Trouble inside grounds deters peaceful, genuine supporters, especially families, from going to matches. The series of appalling and shameful events in the second half of last season—at Luton, at Birmingham and of course in Brussels, and elsewhere — has shaken the whole nation.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear in the House on 3 June that the Government intend to take urgent action on a number of fronts to restore the good name of British football and to make football grounds safe places for decent people. This Bill is one such measure. It cannot solve the whole problem, but it can make an important contribution to doing so. It is concerned with the control of drink and drunkenness. There is widespread agreement that alcohol is a major contributory factor in violent and disorderly behaviour in football grounds, and it is this aspect of the problem that the Bill deals with. I have discussed its main provisions with the Opposition and the alliance parties, and readily recognise that they, and indeed the whole House, are as determined as the Government to do everything possible to ensure speedy and effective action. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and the hon. Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) for their helpful comments and for the valuable contributions they have made to working out these proposals. I much appreciate their support and the fact that as a result we are able to approach this problem on a non-partisan basis.
The time scale in which the House is invited to approve the Bill is, I recognise, shorter than the House would normally expect. I regret that that should be necessary. The Government's intention is that the Bill's provisions should be in force before the start of the next football season. Time is therefore short, but I trust that the House will agree that action is needed now. We must take urgent action to do what is in our power to prevent the repetition of the disgraceful and tragic events of last season.
The Bill is broadly based on part V of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. It varies from it in some respects, the most important of which I shall deal with shortly. The Scottish provisions have proved their value. The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has 334 said that it regards the 1980 Act as a major step towards improving football spectator behaviour. The Scottish Football Association and the Scottish League have said that, since the introduction of the Act, the atmosphere inside grounds has improved beyond measure.
Let us be under no illusions: the Bill will not solve all the problems of hooliganism. That requires other action as well, and not only by the. Government. But I am convinced, in the light of the Scottish experience, that it will make an important contribution to securing a real improvement in the standard Of crowd behaviour.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Without wishing to hold up the Scots as paragons, does the Home Secretary recollect that there is a special problem in Scotland? The clubs that have made major alterations, namely, Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen, in the light of the Ibrox disaster have a great deal of money compared with the other, smaller clubs. Where will the money for all this come from? The Scottish clubs that made the necessary improvements were the big and the rich clubs.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman's question relates very much more to the safety requirements than to the problems covered by the Bill. Nevertheless, I accept that an element of financial restraint and limitation is involved.
The Bill applies to sports grounds and sporting events designated by the Secretary of State. My immediate intention is to designate only soccer grounds and matches. I intend to designate the grounds of all football league clubs, Wembley and any other stadium which might be used for international fixtures. I intend also to designate non-league grounds when they are used for matches with football league clubs—for example, in the FA Cup. At present hooliganism associated with other sports is not on a scale which makes the tough measures in this Bill necessary. Everything possible must be done to ensure that that remains the case. Nevertheless, it is right now to take powers which can be extended to other sports if the need arises. This is what has been done in the Scottish legislation.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Is the Home Secretary aware that the big difference between the Scottish legislation and what he is proposing now is that. every club in Scotland, with the exception of Clydebank, was dry and had no licensed facilities, whereas England and Wales have lived relatively happily with licensed clubs for many years?
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
Is there not a major loophole in that, when the Home Secretary designates a ground, it must have a capacity of more than 10,000? If a club reduces its capacity to less than 10,000 by closing two sides of the ground, for example, would it not escape designation?
§ Mr. Brittan
I am glad to be able to clarify the matter. That is the case under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, but not with this legislation. There is a separate process of designation governed by separate definitions.
Some of the worst problems associated with drinking and drunkenness occur on "football specials"—coaches and trains taking supporters to and from matches—and at the entrances to grounds. Indeed, the Association of Chief Police Officers considers that this is where the main 335 problem lies. Supporters drink on the way to grounds and arrive there already under the influence of alcohol. The Bill contains tough measures to deal with this — it prohibits the possession of alcohol and drunkenness on special trains and coaches. Moreover, transport operators, hirers and their employees will commit offences if they permit the carriage of alcohol on such trains and coaches. Further offences are created in respect of the possession of alcohol, or drunkenness, when entering or trying to enter a ground. I regard these new controls on transport and on entry to grounds as perhaps the most important part of the Bill, since they should reduce the likelihood of supporters arriving at the ground already under the influence of alcohol.
I said earlier that there are some differences between our proposals and the Scottish Act. The significant ones relate to the sale and possession of alcohol in grounds. The Scottish Act bans the possession—and therefore the sale —of alcohol in any public area of a designated ground, but it permits possession, although not sale, in places within the ground which are not open to the public and not within sight of the pitch. The effect of this Bill is that, at the start of the new season, the sale of alcohol will similarly be prohibited in football grounds in England and Wales. It will also be an offence to possess alcohol at any place from which the match can be viewed, as in Scotland. In addition, it is proposed that subsequently, under tightly controlled conditions, clubs with a good record of safety and orderly conduct may be permitted, on application twice a season to a magistrates court, to sell alcohol, but only at approved places out of sight of the pitch. I should make it clear that this requirement will apply to all sales, whether to directors, supporters' clubs, social clubs or members of the public. In each case, applications to the court will be needed, and in each case there will be stringent provisions to stop the sale whenever that is necessary.
There are two main reasons for the variations from the Scottish provision. The first is largely historical. Scottish football clubs were "dry" before the 1980 Act because they were not licensed to sell alcohol. The main impact of the Scottish Act was therefore on people arriving drunk at grounds and on people taking in drink which they had bought outside. English clubs have a somewhat different tradition. Indeed, for some, sale of drink has been a source of considerable revenue, often use for ground improvements. So we are starting from a different point from our Scottish colleagues in 1980.
But that would not of course be anything like sufficient justification for shrinking from a total ban if that were necessary to deal with the problem effectively. These clubs would just have to forgo the revenue. But the fact is that the Association of Chief Police Officers, with its members' extensive experience of policing the grounds of major league clubs, has told us clearly that it does not favour a total ban. In its view, strictly controlled drinking inside grounds is easier to police than increased and more dispersed drinking in pubs and in the streets away from the ground.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Would it be a fair assumption to suggest that the Home Secretary is putting it to the House that some people will be boozing inside football grounds? If one has enough money to have a little 336 box with a little fridge, one can drink as much as one likes. Is it not also worthy of consideration that on a Wednesday afternoon we are talking about stopping people drinking on the terraces at football matches when at the same time on the terrace here at the House of Commons, where I was a few minutes ago, about 30 Members were boozing who will probably booze all day until the Vote at 10 o'clock tonight?
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has completely misunderstood the impact of the legislation. Whereas drinking on the House of Commons terrace may enable the hon. Gentleman to make a cheap point, he knows perfectly well that we are dealing with a particular problem that has brought shame on the country and requires urgent action. As for his last point, had the hon. Gentleman listened to my explanation, he would know that application can be made to the magistrates court for an exemption enabling bars to be opened to members of the public so long as they are not within sight of the pitch. I shall now continue with my explanation of the matter.
In view of the considerations to which I have referred, the Bill makes it possible for magistrates to issue an order permitting the sale of alcohol in certain areas of the ground if they are satisfied that this would not be detrimental to the orderly conduct and safety of spectators. That is a paramount requirement. The courts are asked to have regard, in particular, to the arrangements for the admission of spectators and for regulating their conduct, but it will not be possible for an order to apply to an area from which the pitch can be viewed directly. This is because the Bill contains an overriding offence banning the possession of alcohol in such areas. In any case, the police will, of course, be able to put to the court objections to the issue of an order. The net effect of these changes is that, if, and only if, the magistrates authorise it, alcohol will be able to be sold to members of the public but only in areas out of sight of the pitch—for example, in the behind-stands bars which exist in many grounds. In no circumstances will drink be permissible on the terraces or stands.
Moreover, the police will be able to apply for a revocation or variation of an exemption order and if there is no time to apply to the court, a police inspector will himself be able to revoke the order temporarily. In addition to all that, if disorder none the less arises, any bar can be closed by the police forthwith at the match itself. The limited element of flexibility that I have described will make it possible to recognise the good record of some clubs and to provide an incentive for others to do better. Nevertheless, as compared with the current position in England and Wales, the proposals in the Bill embody a system of rigorous controls which will have an impact on all clubs and, in some cases, may lead to a considerable loss of revenue. In particular, the Bill will ban the possession and sale of alcohol in private boxes and restaurants from which the pitch can be viewed.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
The Home Secretary has already told the House that many people arrive at football grounds in an alcoholic stupor. Should he not therefore ensure that more authorities can implement the existing power to ban alcohol in areas around the grounds? Will he also tell the House that, when the opportunity for international matches returns, duty-free liquor will be banned from sale on ferries to and from matches?
§ Mr. Brittan
That matter will have to be considered at the appropriate time. On the first point, the hon. Member is right in the sense that it is open to the police to apply to the courts for a suspension of licensing provisions relating to public houses in the vicinity of grounds, if they anticipate disorder. It is also open to them to make a similar application in relation to off licences. I am glad the hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity to draw that to the attention of the House.
I understand the concern of clubs, some with a good record of crowd behaviour, about the prospect of a considerable loss of revenue, but the need to do everything we can to minimise the risk of disorder must prevail. The proposals in the Bill for the control of alcohol inside grounds are tough, but I believe that they are fair, and that they strike the right balance between the need to prevent disorder and our desire not to penalise good clubs and respectable spectators.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
The Home Secretary has just said, properly, that he understands some of the financial implications for clubs. If we are considering the future of football and if this is a Bill for all time, it is important to understand the financial effects of the proposals on football clubs. Does the Home Secretary dispute the figure given to me by the football league that this amounts in essence to a fine of £4 million? We will deal with that in Committee later, but how does the Home Secretary expect clubs to make up the £4 million that they need to run the clubs and to carry out community sports policy on football grounds?
§ Mr. Brittan
If the right hon. Gentleman asks a question, I assume that he wants an answer and if he is prepared to listen, he will have it. I do not accept the figure he gave, for two reasons. First, that figure is based on an estimate of the number of people who will give up private boxes. That assumption is dependent upon the impossibility of converting those boxes into such a form as to comply with the law. It is also dependent upon an assumption that the only interest of the people who take those boxes is to drink rather than to watch football.
Secondly, I do not accept the estimate that the right hon. Gentleman has given because that estimate fails to take account of the other factor — that, if we make football something that can be watched safely, revenue will increase because far more people will be prepared to go to football matches. In particular, families who were driven away by the spectacle of violence will return to football matches. I have no doubt that it is because the right hon. Gentleman accepts the necessity to take these measures that he has been so helpful in assisting the Government to come forward with proposals, the support of which by the Opposition I very much welcome.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
The Home Secretary may know that I was in contact with Department last week to ask what the impact of the Bill would be on Bradford City football club which in the coming season will be playing its matches on a rugby ground. If he cannot give me the information now, could he arrange for his hon. Friend to give it when he contributes to the debate? Secondly, before the Home 338 Secretary sits down, can he say when a progress report will be given to the House by the working party on safety? Can he give an assurance that we will get a statement before the House goes into recess?
§ Mr. Brittan
The last point that the hon. Gentleman raised does not relate to the Bill, but it is the intention of Mr. Justice Popplewell to give an interim report at an early date, as I have said he was most welcome to do. On the particular Bradford point, I will seek to get a response to the hon. Gentleman shortly.
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)
Before he leaves that point of drinking out of sight in the sponsor's box, I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will accept that this is going to make a very serious difference to many clubs, particularly those which are proposing to build new boxes. I take his point that, under the new proposals, those boxes must be built in such a way that drinking will not be seen. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins) has said, in some of the places where football is being watched, alcohol is necessary because the football on the pitch is so bad. He must understand and not underestimate the fact that this brings a very large revenue into the clubs and that there will be a considerable cost to clubs, particularly to the club of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), in installing one-way glass.
§ Mr. Brittan
I accept there is a potential loss of revenue for those clubs that wish to set up the kind of boxes from which the pitch can be viewed. As my hon. Friend has fairly pointed out, the clubs concerned can adapt their arrangements and make them comply with the Bill so that the drinking does not take place within sight of the pitch. As the House will be aware from the competing interventions, we are talking about a balance. It would be possible simply to say, "No drink at all, in any circumstances." That would be too damaging to those football clubs which derive an income from drink and where it can be controlled safely. On the other hand, to say that we will allow drinking to take place within sight of the pitch would go too far in the opposite direction. This balance is the right one. I shall now go through the main provisions of the Bill.
Clause 1 concerns travel to and from matches on coaches, minibuses and football special trains. It creates three new offences: first, it is an offence to possess alcohol on the vehicle or train; secondly, it is an offence for the hirer or operator or his servant or agent knowingly to cause or permit alcohol to be carried; and thirdly, it is an offence for a passenger to be drunk. The clause will catch travel in England and Wales, not only to English and Welsh grounds, but also — this is important — to designated matches abroad and to matches in Scotland which have been designated under the 1980 Scottish Act.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
Is the Home Secretary aware that there is a growing practice among the unofficial supporters' clubs, like the Inter-City Firm, for example —no doubt he knows quite a lot about such organisations—to privately hire mini-vans and coaches and drive themselves to football grounds? I assume they will take their alcohol with them. Is that covered in his Bill?
§ Mr. Brittan
Yes, if it requires to be licensed, but it is not possible to cover what is the equivalent of a private car.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)
Clause 1 relates to those operating trains. The Home Secretary made the important point that it will catch supporters and the staff on the trains travelling to matches in Scotland. Clause 10 is the relevant clause relating to Scotland and does not cover the staff. I am not in favour of the staff on trains being liable under this legislation. What will happen when the train is not travelling from England to Scotland, but from Scotland to England? When the train is in Scotland it is covered by the Scottish legislation, which does not deal with the staff on the train. When the train is in England it is covered by the English legislation, which does deal with the staff. Is this not confusing?
§ Mr. Brittan
I am aware of the point and I should like to look into it, because it may be a matter which requires clarification. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.
Clause 2 concerns behaviour in the ground or on entry to it. It is an offence to be drunk while entering or trying to enter the ground, or any part of it. We have gone somewhat further than our Scottish colleagues in this respect—the hon. Gentleman may be interested in that —in that under the 1980 Act the offence of drunkenness can be committed only in public areas of the ground and areas from which the game can be viewed. We propose no such limitation. It is also an offence to possess alcohol or a controlled container on entry to the ground or in any part of the ground from which the game can be directly viewed. The throwing of missiles, especially bottles and cans, is all too common and can cause serious injury to innocent people. This provision in effect bans all bottles and cans from the stands and terraces.
§ Mr. Ashton
Can the Home Secretary tell us why this applies just to football? Is he aware that, at a championship boxing match two years ago, people were urinating in empty lager cans and throwing them at the ring and causing a lot of damage? There was mayhem on that night. Why is he not covering boxing in the same way as football?
§ Mr. Brittan
The fact that the hon. Gentleman refers to a single example two years ago illustrates the point well. If, sadly, the sort of scenes one has seen so frequently in football matches became prevalent in any other sport, one would have to consider the extension of the legislation to cover that. Although the hon. Gentleman can give an important example, violence of the kind we have seen on the football grounds is not habitual elsewhere.
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
On the question of consuming alcohol in an area from which the pitch can be seen, is the Home Secretary aware that, at West Bromwich Albion's ground there are 57 executive boxes? Would it be possible under this legislation for someone to sit in one of those boxes in full view of the pitch and consume Coca-Cola or even Perrier water? Would that not be likely to inflame people in other parts of the ground who will not know from a distance whether or not someone is consuming alcohol?
§ Mr. Brittan
That is not a real problem. They will certainly be able to drink Perrier water if that is what they wish.
§ Mr. Brittan
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister points out, they might be wiser to choose a similar sparkling English product.
§ Mr. Brittan
Claret will be caught out. The hon. Gentleman's concern is fully met, and I am able to assure him that the ban on claret drinking in sight of the pitch is one that has the full acquiescence of all parties in the House. Perhaps I could proceed.
Clause 3 to 5 and the schedule concern the sale of alcohol in licensed or registered club premises inside the ground when a match is being played. That includes a period of two hours before the start of the match and one hour after the final whistle. During that time, no alcohol may be sold unless the magistrates court has granted an exemption order. I have explained how that works. As I have said, the court must be satisfied in granting an order about the likely consequences for public safety and orderly behaviour. The order may be revoked or varied by the court, either generally or for a particular match. There is power for a police inspector to suspend an order at short notice for a particular match. This would provide for the situation in which, for example, the police received information on a Saturday morning that troublesome supporters of the away team were on the their way to the afternoon's match.
Clause 4 provides that the normal duration of an exemption order is five months. The relevance of that—I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Gorton for assisting us in coming to that period—is that this means that clubs will need to apply for an order and thereby satisfy the court about its arrangements for ensuring safety and good order at least twice every season. Clause 4 and the schedule lay down procedures for making applications for orders, which include in every case the notification of the chief officer of police and the local authority.
Before leaving this part of the Bill, I should say that while clubs will be able to apply for exemption orders as soon as the Bill comes into force, it will take some time for applications to be dealt with. Therefore, there will be a period after commencement during which no club whose ground has been designated will be able to sell alcohol at a match.
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)
Leicester City football club sent me a telex message today about this. It feels that it will no longer be able to serve alcohol in its executive boxes. They are screened from the public, but they overlook the pitch. Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that the club will be able to appeal, or does it have nothing to worry about? If it must appeal, how long will it have to wait?
§ Mr. Brittan
If the pitch can be seen from the boxes, I am afraid that the club will have to reconstruct its boxes for the possession of alcohol to be permissible. However, if the boxes are not covered by that absolute ban, it will be open to the club to apply to the magistrates court for an exemption order. But, as I have explained, for a short time at the beginning of the next football season all league club games and international fixtures will be dry.
It is not possible to say exactly how long it will take for an exemption order to be issued in any particular case, but it cannot be less than 28 days, which is the minimum period laid down in the Bill, between the application to the 341 court and the hearing of the case. Therefore, it is likely to be September before any sale of drink at designated grounds can be resumed. This will mean — it is a positive advantage and not just an administrative consequence of the procedures — that in considering applications courts will be able to take account of each club's track record in the opening weeks of the season.
Clause 5 provides a right of appeal to the Crown court against a decision by a magistrates court in connection with an order. Clause 6 empowers a constable in uniform to close bars in a ground if trouble breaks out or is threatened during the period of a match. Clause 7 gives the police the necessary powers to enforce the Bill's provisions. Clause 8 prescribes penalties, and clause 9 sets out the definitions. Clause 10 amends part V of the Scottish Act.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins (South Ribble)
What will be the position of Berwick Rangers, whose ground is situated in an English town but which plays in the Scottish league? To which legislation will it be subject?
§ Mr. Brittan
Its ground will be subject to the English legislation.
Clause 10 amends part V of the Scottish Act. It extends controls under the Act to trains, which are not caught at present under the 1980 Act, as well as public service vehicles. It enables the Secretary of State for Scotland to designate matches overseas, and it applies the Act to matches designated under the present Bill so that travel in Scotland en route to designated matches in England and Wales and abroad will be caught.
It is a matter of deep regret that we should have to be considering such measures today. I believe that the whole House and the whole country would infinitely prefer it if they were not necessary, but there is no doubt that they are necessary. Football is a great national game which gives pleasure to millions. We cannot tolerate the mindless violence and hooliganism that now disfigure it. I believe that the measures that we are discussing today are in the interests of law-abiding supporters, the clubs themselves and everybody who wants to be able to walk freely about his town on a Saturday without fear or hindrance.
§ Mr. John Carlisle
Can my right hon. and learned Friend emphasise one very important point? Nowhere in the Bill is the word "football" mentioned. Will he confirm that the Bill is intended for designated football clubs and football alone? Perhaps he will explain that should he or any successor of his decide that such measures are necessary for other sports such as cricket or rugby, he will have to come back to the House and seek approval for such sports to be designated—or will they be covered under this Bill's provisions?
§ Mr. Brittan
I said earlier that at the moment it was the Government's intention to apply it to football and not to other sports. However, the Bill provides for the procedure to apply to other sports.
Our objective must be to make football grounds safe places for peaceful citizens to go and take their families to enjoy a great sport. The Bill will not in itself and alone secure that objective, but I believe that in dealing with the problem of alcohol in relation to football it will take us one important step towards that aim.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his acknowledgement of the co-operation of the Opposition in this legislation and for the consultation which took place. I think we all agree that it would have been more satisfactory if there had been additional time for such consultation. Nevertheless, it was genuine and I appreciate the substantial concessions which the Government have made to our point of view—concessions which are included in the published Bill, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has named one of them.
Naturally, there are parts of the Bill with which the Opposition are still dissatisfied, and I have no doubt that that dissatisfaction will be voiced during the debate. However, the Opposition will assist in the early enactment of the legislation.
The Bill stems from the interest which the Prime Minister began to show four months ago in the problem of hooliganism at football matches. I say "hooliganism at football matches" rather than "football holiganism" because I believe that this kind of hooliganism exists in our society quite independently of football. Its manifestation at football grounds arouses special concern because such disturbances are highly visible through being concentrated in one place, and a place, moreover, which is very likely to be the location of television cameras on a day and time of the week that are known in advance.
As we know, the Prime Minister first took an interest in this problem after the disgraceful scenes at the Millwall— Luton match in March. She saw those scenes on the television screen and decided that something must be done about them. The Sunday Telegraph reported after that eventA 'tougher and abrasive' atmosphere is reported in Downing Street.There was a flurry of action after that event. Meetings were held with representatives of the sport. A group of senior Ministers, described in some quarters as a task force, was set up and appears to have met several times.
At the beginning of April the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the Minister with responsibility for sport, issued a list of priorities, and that list seemed to turn into the Government's policy on this problem. The Prime Minister has repeated it in the House, and the Minister with responsibility for sport himself reiterated it in its entirety less than three months ago.
There has been all this bustle of activity, but, four months after we first heard of the concern of the Prime Minister, all that the Government have to show is this Bill. We must hope that the Bill will do some good. For that reason, the Opposition sought to improve it and will do nothing to prevent or to delay its passage.
§ Mr. Brittan
The right hon. Gentleman has just made an inadvertent mistake in saying that the Government have done nothing else. It is not for me to give the House a list of the actions, but a specific one is the setting in hand of the procedure of designation of third and fourth division clubs under the 1975 Act. It is extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should allow himself to say that this legislation is all that has been done.
§ Mr. Kaufman
We have seen the designation of the grounds, but I was under the impression that that designation came about following the disaster at Bradford 343 and was intended to deal primarily with the dreadful questions of ground safety that arose as a result of the Bradford disaster.
§ Mr. Brittan
The right hon. Gentleman is not right in that respect, as was said publicly at the time.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I accept what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, but I shall deal with some of the other matters to which we have referred. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not be too sensitive when I say that this piece of legislation is the only item that has come before the House to deal with the matter. There is a list of other matters, to which the Government have referred. I had hoped that the Home Secretary would give us a progress report on them.
§ Mr. Madden
When I intervened in the Home Secretary's speech I referred to the working party under the Minister with responsibility for sport which is considering safety, and asked whether the Government would make a financial contribution to clubs to improve safety. Does my right hon. Friend agree that before the recess there needs to be a statement on the recommendations of the working party and, more important, what financial contribution the Government will make to enable clubs to make their grounds safe?
§ Mr. Kaufman
My hon. Friend has consistently advanced that case since the disaster that took place in his city, and I shall deal with the question of financial assistance before I sit down.
I am sure that I am right and not misattributing anything to the Home Secretary in saying that even the Bill's sponsors are not completely satisfied with it, which is why the Home Secretary has stated his willingness to reexamine it and, if necessary, to change it after its operation has been monitored and before further legislation is introduced.
I, like the Government, have been in touch with both the football interests and the police. The football interests argue, and the Football Association has argued most recently in a letter which I received this morning, that the legislation's implications have been ill thought out. The financial implications for some clubs are undeniably serious. When I visited the Tottenham Hotspur ground yesterday, the club told me that implementation of the Bill could cost it about £600,000. If the Home Secretary disagrees with the £4 million figure suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), perhaps the Minister of State will offer us an alternative estimate when he replies to the debate.
I am sure that the impact of the legislation on individual clubs has not been considered. The Government will not deny that the Bill will undoubtedly cause difficulties for clubs by adding to their burdens of stewarding. The exclusions in the Bill will impose a great burden on stewards, as one realises if one considers the nature of voluntary stewards at football grounds. The police, who have been good enough to give me their views on the matter, agree that the Bill will cause problems for them. However, we have only the Bill to tackle the problem, and we must hope that it will be successful, in the interests of the country and of the sport.
I shall now deal with other items on the Government's list. From the Prime Minister's comments in the House and 344 press briefings, we know that she is keen on the extension of closed circuit television to more grounds. This could undoubtedly be of assistance in crowd control. A month ago, after the Brussels disaster, the Prime Minister said in her statement that agreement had been reached on the acceleration of the installation of closed circuit television, but today the Home Secretary said nothing about its progress. As the new season is only six weeks away, it would be helpful if the Government would tell us what progress is being made in the installation of closed circuit television.
In the same statement the Prime Minister said that the proposals in the public order White Paper could be of assistance. She said of the White Paper:The proposals on assemblies in the open air will considerably strengthen the powers available to the police to guard against the risks of disorder.There are two problems with that. First, we have no idea when the legislation will be introduced, let alone passed, and most, if not all, of the next football season may elapse before it is available for use by the police. Secondly, the proposals in the White Paper are profoundly disturbing to many people because of their limitations on free speech and peaceful and orderly public assembly. When the legislation is drafted, a careful distinction must be drawn between action against hooliganism, which action we all support, and attempted and unacceptable restrictions on open-air public meetings if it is to have a chance of being publicly acceptable. The Prime Minister also said:I shall be discussing urgently with the football authorities proposals for the introduction of a practical scheme of membership schemes, either on a club or national basis, proposals for far more all-ticket matches and stricter controls or, in some cases, a ban on visiting spectators." — [Official Report. 3 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 22.]Chelsea football club has sent me a copy of a letter which it has sent to the Metropolitan police, in which it insists that all-ticket matches are impracticable. Have the Government examined that further, and do they accept the views of Chelsea football club and others on that issue? The letter states:We strongly believe that all-ticket matches are impractical, especially in the case of derby games. Firstly, it is impossible to distinguish between the respective supporters and secondly because ticket touts 'make a killing' and do not care to whom they sell tickets. This defeats the whole object of the exercise.
§ Mr. Ashton
Is it not a fact that the trouble occurred at the Luton-Millwall match because it was a replay? No one knows when a first game will end in a draw and a replay, or any number of them, will have to be fitted in during the following four or five days. On those occasions, printing and distributing tickets is impossible.
§ Mr. Kaufman
On such a matter, the problem for most Members of Parliament and Home Office civil servants as distinct from specialists, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath and others, is that the complexities which affect football clubs are not easily apparent to them. I am not denigrating Home Office civil servants, with whom I soon hope to be working closely. I visited Manchester City football ground last Saturday, Tottenham Hotspur's ground yesterday, and I have had discussions with others. If one visits the grounds and sees the extraordinary complexities involved in the admission of fans, policing, turnstiles, the administration of closed circuit television and the availability and printing of tickets, one realises that there are no easy answers. That 345 is why I quoted Chelsea football club's point, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) reinforces that.
In reply to an Adjournment debate, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). the Minister with responsibility for sport told the House that he had asked football authorities to report back to him within six weeks on a practical scheme for membership cards.
That six weeks' limit elapsed more than a month ago. May we be told what has been achieved in terms of working out what the Minister said — and what the Prime Minister repeated, using his words—was needed, namely, a practical scheme for membership cards? So far we have heard nothing more from the Government on the subject, though we have heard from the clubs and the police. They do not believe that such a scheme can work.
A conference of chief constables was held recently under the chairmanship of the chief constable of Greater Manchester, Mr. Jim Anderton, which rejected the idea of an identity card scheme for football supporters. Mr. Anderton said that clubs which tried to exclude people without cards would be entering a legal minefield.
I do not know whether the Home Secretary has received an excellent paper produced by Chelsea football club entitled, "Hooliganism, Football and Society". He must have seen it. because it is dated within the period since the Prime Minister first intervened. It is a brief but admirable document, which, talking about the identity card system introduced by Chelsea — which applies, in any case, only to the 11,000 members of Chelsea's supporters club —says:It has taken over two years for people to accept the idea and for the club to iron out teething problems.If a prosperous and efficient club such as Chelsea takes two years to iron out such a scheme, it is asking a great deal of the other 90-odd clubs to introduce such a scheme within the six weeks between now and the opening of the football season.
§ Mr. John Carlisle
The right hon. Gentleman has berated the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister for not, in effect, putting forward more measures at this time. While I have sympathy with some of what he has been saying, is he aware—in relation to the various schemes which he has outlined in his attempt to get some political capital out of a Bill which has been well accepted by the House—that such matters as identity cards, all-ticket games, and membership cards are complex issues which, surely, are not for this House to decide? If, heaven forbid, the right hon. Gentleman was in the position of the Home Secretary in government, would he and the Labour party introduce legislation to make it illegal for people to enter grounds without identity cards or for there to be all-ticket games and so on? He must appreciate the complexity of the legislation that would be needed to achieve those ends, if indeed such legislation were necessary.
§ Mr. Kaufman
On Second Reading we debate what is and what should be in a Bill—[Interruption.]—and I am surprised that the Government believe that it is somehow inappropriate for the House to consider a number of matters relating to hooliganism at football grounds rather than simply this small Bill, which we are facilitating and which we hope will succeed. Rather than debate only a small measure which, the Minister will agree, is fragmentary and only marginally—
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am doing my best to deal with the various issues. The Government have been considering this matter for nearly four months. The Minister with responsibility for sport, who, curiously, is not to speak in the debate, said in April that the Government had asked those involved in the sport to bring forward within six weeks — a time limit which he, not I, imposed — a scheme for membership cards. It does not become Conservative Members to ask me to be more practical than the Government whom they are supporting.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I shall not give commitments about legislation before being able to examine the matter further. [Interruption.] It is all very well for Conservative Members to giggle. The Minister with responsibility for sport is on record as saying that he wanted a scheme introduced within six weeks of 19 April. That period elapsed a month ago, and nothing has been brought forward. It ill becomes Conservative Members therefore to ask me, in opposition, to do what the Government said they would do and have not done.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)
Listening to the right hon. Gentleman is similar to listening to a prophet of doom. One would not think that people were being terrorised on trains and buses and outside football grounds, that shops were being smashed in and families frightened to death. The right hon. Gentleman criticises the Government for taking four months to deal with the matter. In that period, Ministers have been concerned with other legislation, with having meetings and with preparing the Bill which we are considering. For 20 years the country has been waiting for a Government to do something about the football problem in the United Kingdom. At last we have a Prime Minister with the guts to do something about it, and I am delighted that she is sitting on the Front Bench listening to the debate.
§ Mr. Kaufman
If the hon. Gentleman can remain long enough, his knighthood is now not in doubt, and I congratulate him. He is right, of course, to refer to the problems of hooliganism, vandalism and safety. They are profoundly important issues to society and I undertake to deal with them in some detail before concluding my remarks.
The official working party which the Minister with responsibility for sport set up said of membership cards:The idea of limiting admission to football grounds to supporters club members has been discussed before and rejected on the grounds of practicability, in particular that the delay in verifying membership cards at the turnstiles would itself lead to frustration and possibly violence, especially if ticket holders were refused admission.The working party went on to argue that computerisation would help to solve some of the difficulties, but anyone who has examined the problems knows of the sheer complexity of dealing with the challenge of crowd control at football grounds, and the Chelsea paper makes that clear.
Yesterday I saw at White Hart Lane, as other hon. Members have seen at their football grounds, the enormous expense to which Tottenham Hotspur has gone 347 to try to deal with these matters. Even Tottenham, a professional, well organised club, would not claim that it has been able to solve the problems.
The Minister with responsibility for sport returned recently from an international conference at Strasbourg with an agreement in his pocket. May we be told the practical effect of that agreement and to what extent the Government can deliver what the hon. Gentleman agreed at Strasbourg? These are matters with which the Popplewell inquiry is supposed to be dealing. There are three weeks to the parliamentary recess and six weeks to the start of the football season, yet we have no knowledge of when even an interim report from Mr. Justice Popplewell can be expected. The Home Secretary simply said that the report would be brought forward at an early date.
When the Prime Minister addressed the House a month ago, she said that Mr. Justice Popplewell hoped to submit an interim report before the beginning of next season. There is not much time left for that, and it is difficult to see how the recommendations of such a report, if brought forward, could possibly be implemented in time for the season, even if the report were made available quickly.
In any event, some matters are not included in the Popplewell inquiry's terms of reference. One, which is of crucial importance to the clubs, is finance. All of the proposals that the Government have made, whether or not they are practicable, involve considerable extra expense, and there is no doubt that the proposals in the Bill will be financially damaging to clubs, often severely so. That factor must be borne in mind in the context of the Bill, and it cannot be denied, but the Government seem impervious to the financial needs of the clubs.
The implication of the Prime Minister's statement is that the only help forthcoming must be from the Football Grounds Improvement Trust. It has to be said that, helpful though that trust undoubtedly is, the sums of money available from it, considering that more than 90 league clubs are involved, are insufficient to finance the structural costs of the changes that will be needed. Opposition Members believe that serious consideration must be given to the establishment of a football levy board comparable to that for horse racing. The Government obtain hundreds of millions of pounds annually in taxation from football, and the arguments of the sport for a return of at any rate part of that money are persuasive.
The Government are still silent on the subject of the responsibility of Fascist groupings for at any rate some of the violence. The existence of racist elements among the hooligans is not in doubt. The Chelsea club paper on hooliganism admits:There is still a certain amount of racist chanting at Stamford Bridge directed at the visiting players".It goes on to say:This is no worse than at other clubs".I do not regard that as a comfort.
Anybody who has seen copies of Bulldog, the National Front youth magazine, must be profoundly disturbed by what he has read. The magazine regularly contains a special section entitled "On the football front". It provides photographs of members of the National Front at football grounds and it boasts, whether truthfully or not, of increasing sales of this detestable publication at football grounds. The magazine, in this section, features details of 348 racist clubs in special league tables. One issue which I have seen congratulates Newcastle on being top of the racist league. It even shows a girl modelling a special Chelsea National Front T-shirt, and West Ham, I understand, is similarly polluted by the National Front.
Leicester university published a study last year which stated:It seems rather more than coincidental … that the identification of an active British Movement component in the support of Leeds United in the early 1980s should have prefaced some of the worst violence and vandalism by Leeds fans, certainly since the 1970s.A report in The Times last month after the Brussels disaster stated:Opponents who monitor NF activities say that the extremists are interested in football violence as a means of destabilising society and winning publicity for themselves. This, they say, adds a new, menacing perspective to the extremists' longstanding campaign to exploit the tribal instincts and underprivileged circumstances among football's younger supporters." I put it very strongly to the Government that they must take this Fascist connection much more seriously, and they ought to come to the House and announce exactly what is to be done about it.I do not, of course, claim that Fascists are the only cause. The Chelsea paper points this out by saying:There is good reason to believe that much of the trouble is premeditated and well organised, with matches carefully chosen in advance. There was trouble at Southampton earlier in the season, and yet the same numbers were well behaved at Coventry. When Chelsea played Arsenal, with an attendance of nearly 35,000 there was little or no trouble and yet against Sunderland with a similar attendance there was serious disorder. Recent events show that the same people appear where trouble occurs.There are even deeper causes of violence in society — causes which the Fascists are exploiting and which apply not only to football. The violent invasion of the pitch at the Headingley test match last month is only the latest of a series of warnings that violence can spread to cricket and to other sports. After all, what is the nature of what takes place at football grounds and at other large gatherings? What we have is a riot looking for somewhere to happen.
The report by our great and much lamented friend, Frank McElhone, put it like this in 1977:A hooligan is a hooligan no matter where he operates and the fact that his behaviour is conspicuous at a football match has very often nothing to do with the game itself. To many hooligans football grounds provide the theatres where they can indulge in exhibitionist violence and be sure of an audience. A football ground is a convenient site for the activities of hooligans because of the comparative safety from possible detection which a large crowd provides.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins
If I may move to an area which features largely in the discussion about this issue, can the right hon. Gentleman help by giving his views on why this should affect football in inner city areas while it does not affect, for example, Rugby League, a particularly working-class sport in the north, to an extent Rugby Union, and still, thankfully, the great game of cricket? This needs examination. Would the right hon. Gentleman care to pursue the problem?
§ Mr. Kaufman
I have done my best to look into authorities on this matter, and I have several things to say about it. If we really knew the answers to the hon. Gentleman's questions, we would be debating today not the Bill but a measure which could deal with the problem much more comprehensively.
349 Football grounds are chosen most often because, almost uniquely in society, they are the places at which boys and young men gather in their thousands, ready for incitement and exploitation and, when circumstances so contrive, to react spontaneously.
The question is: what is the nature of this violence, what are its causes and what are its compulsions? There have been many investigations and many explanations. The explanations point, for example, to the absence of adults in the areas in which most of the rowdiness originates in the football grounds. Then there is the relative absence of women, whose presence can have a restraining effect in these circumstances.
There are deep social discontents, which have been described, among others, by Mr. David Robins, a writer who specialises in this subject. He said:Unemployment, rejection of authority and lack of facilities in deprived inner cities, undoubtedly play a part in hooliganism. These are people who have got to a point in their lives where they have had enough." He continued:People talk about the two nations in Britain. We know about the North and the South and about the employed and unemployed. But there is a moral order as well. There are two cultures, and one is quite discontented with the other.Unemployment is not of itself the cause of the violence, and most unemployed people certainly do not take part in it, but it may well be that the feelings of frustration and rejection which are caused by unemployment can play their part.
Four months ago, after the Millwall-Luton violence, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked for an analysis of whether unemployment was at any rate a factor. A senior Minister, who was almost certainly the Leader of the House, was reported in the Daily Telegraph as refuting this possibility. The Minister argued:Supporters of Liverpool and Everton, teams in an area of high unemployment, had records of good conduct." So they had, but three months later, whatever its causes, there was the Brussels disaster, which involved Liverpool supporters.It is difficult to obtain any reliable statistics about random violence or—
§ Mr. Ashton
Will my right hon. Friend illustrate the point that heavier sentences and punishment are proving not to be a deterrent? Is it not a fact that, only five days before the Brussels disaster, one fan in Cambridge was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and it had no effect at all?
§ Mr. Kaufman
That was the gang leader — the leader of the pack, as I believe he was called.
There are deep-seated causes of whose nature none of us is aware. That is why I make a proposal—
§ Mr. Kaufman
As the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) will observe, many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. It would be wrong of me to give way any further.
It is difficult to obtain any reliable statistics about random violence, vandalism or hooliganism in society because the criminal offences involved are not easily or clearly defined. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders has made an effort to get together some facts about vandalism by examining the 350 statistics which are available for the offence of criminal damage. The association finds that this offence has been steadily increasing and that over a five-year period it had risen by more than one third. The report examined the figures for convictions and cautions for criminal damage and found that almost all of those involved—between 93 and 95 per cent. — were males and that the preponderant majority were aged under 21. For mirror offences, nearly 90 per cent. were aged under 17.
While most youths and young men, whether employed or unemployed, are law abiding, it is disturbing that a substantial minority are prey to the temptations and exploitations that are manifested in violence at sporting events, especially football matches.
The Chelsea paper warns:Soccer has merely reflected the decline of society in general.It demands that the lead in dealing with the situationmust come from Government who came to power on a law and order platform.The Labour party believes that there must be an urgent and expert examination of the causes of the growing violence in our society—violence which has now grown to alarming levels. Old people fear it and hide from it behind the lace curtains of their homes. Young people are often the main victims of it. The nation is sick at heart as it reads of it and watches its most dramatic outbursts on television screens.
We cannot afford simply to tinker with the problem. We cannot afford simply to denounce it. Strong or even strident words have never solved any problem. We must find out what it is, why it has arisen and not only how it can be stamped out, but how its causes can be dealt with and, if possible, removed. The people of this country yearn to feel safe, not only when they attend football matches, but in their villages, towns and cities, in their neighbourhoods and homes. It is the duty of this House to do everything in its power to bring about in Britain an orderly, free and peaceful society, and to that objective we in the Labour party firmly dedicate ourselves.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)
I welcome the Bill and commend the Government for taking swift action to combat football violence following the tragedy in Brussels. I also heartily support the warm tribute that my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) paid to our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I would judge that the personal interest that she has shown has played a part in getting this measure so quickly before the House. Even so, it is a great pity that 38 people had to be killed and 200 people injured in Brussels before this House had the opportunity to study such a measure.
I have some criticism of the Bill, but I wish to make it plain that it is not directed solely at the Government. Unlike the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), I do not believe that the rot began with the advent of the present Administration. For some years now, successive Governments have presided over a gradual deterioration in social behaviour. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have warned time after time that that is linked with a marked increase in alcohol consumption.
The right hon. Gentleman may be right in his analysis of what is going wrong with a growing section of British 351 society, but there is still a failure to look at the problem in the round. Throughout the 1970s and since, Governments have been constantly advised by social and medical authorities, by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and by their own advisory commitee on alcoholism — which was disbanded five years ago — of the need to tackle the growing social and health problems arising from alcohol consumption.
The measures taken in Scotland in 1981 to tackle the problem should have been extended to the remainder of the United Kingdom. They were not extended because no one at that time was prepared — and I am beginning to doubt whether anyone is now — to see the problem in the round.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not overlooking the fact that in January 1981 a number of hon. Members from all parts of the House presented a Bill that would have achieved the purposes of this Bill. It was led by the then Member of Parliament, William Whitlock, and supported by Mr. Jack Dunnett, Mr. Tom Bradley and the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr). The Government blocked that Bill.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I am not overlooking anything of the kind. I paid a special tribute to hon. Members in all parties who, over the years, have directed their attention to the problem. However, the powerful interests involved have prevented timely action being taken. Even now I am not sure that the full implications of alcohol abuse—of which football violence is only one manifestation—have been grasped.
The one common denominator in violence, not only on football terraces but in other sports too, is alcoholic drink. I was shocked by some of the levity shown earlier in the debate. We are debating an extremely serious subject. I recall that when I was chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism, I repeatedly told the House that the common denominator in most crime, in marital break-ups, in fatal accidents on the road — especially among the young — in non-accidental injuries to children, in football violence, and in hooliganism was drink. That is a fact that is reported by chief constables year after year. What is more, Select Committees of this House have reported that fact. My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) shakes his head, but he has not been in the House long enough to know that Select Committees have repeatedly drawn attention to the problem. Until the Government recognise the need to curb alcohol consumption, we shall continue to experience more and more social disruption, of which football violence is only one manifestation.
§ Mr. Ewing
The right hon. Gentleman is pursuing an important and interesting point. Has it occurred to him that immediately before the Government introduced legislation in Scotland to deal with alcohol at football matches, we had reformed our licensing laws and considerably extended the hours during the day when people could drink? We in Scotland would argue that we have made drinking a much more relaxing pastime than it was previously. Is the right hon. Gentleman in favour of that? The Erroll report has been on some shelf in the Home Office for about 10 years. Is the right hon. Gentleman in 352 favour of reforming licensing laws in England and Wales in an attempt to alleviate the problem that he is highlighting?
§ Sir Bernard Braine
If I went too far down that road, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you might feel that I was straying from the purpose of the Bill. However, the hon. Gentleman has made a perfectly valid point, and I shall touch briefly upon it later in my speech.
The right hon. Member for Gorton made an interesting speech, and he referred to factors such as unemployment, the disillusionment of the young and their disaffection with authority as being major reasons for anti-social behaviour. I do not necessarily dissent from that. However, it is interesting to note that during a comparable period of unemployment in the 1930s, there were no reported cases of football violence such as we have today. Might that not be due to the fact that alcohol consumption then was at its lowest point in the history of our country? Today, consumption per head of the population is five times higher than it was in the 1930s. It is now nearly as high as at the turn of the century when Governments were obliged to take measures to curb the endemic disorder of alcohol abuse.
It is for that reason that we must view the Bill against the backcloth of the Government's alcohol policy — or, to be more precise, their lack of policy. If we demand action from the Football Association and from football clubs, the Government must take similar decisive action that complements rather than complicates their responsibilities. Indeed, it is the lack of a national alcohol control policy that exacerbates the problems facing football clubs.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is rather odd for the House to be discussing this subject and for him to be using the language that he is using when licensing hours in the House of Commons are non-existent? Are we saying that others should be controlled, but we can have total licence?
§ Sir Bernard Braine
"Odd" is perhaps an odd word to use. I have never agreed with such licence, but I would not presume to lecture my colleagues on that matter. That surely is a matter for the House to put right if it has the will.
The problem has not come upon us suddenly. When reviewing the failure of the 1967 drink-driving legislation, the Blennerhassett committee made the following observation:We feel it must be recognised that the growing abuse of alcohol is a major factor in the declining effectiveness of the 1967 Act.We should therefore consider the Bill against a background that is worse now than that contemplated by the Blennerhassett committee.
The evidence is clear that alcohol consumption among the young is now a matter of great concern and is likely to get worse. I understand that a recent survey carried out by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, which is not yet published, will confirm that. If we are seeking an explanation of the increased drinking among the young, how can we ignore factors such as advertising and the promotion of alcohol? I am appalled that the Football Association and the football clubs openly seek sponsorship from the manufacturers of the products that Parliament is now being asked to prohibit from the terraces.
Those of us who have worked on the problem of alcohol abuse have long deplored the efforts of the drink industry 353 to sponsor football teams both nationally and locally. In 1979, the England team chose a most inappropriate time to reach a commercial agreement with a leading national brewery. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) might like to know that, ironically, at the moment when that agreement was being sought, the Football Association was demanding tough measures from the Government against soccer hooliganism. The Government were responding by introducing the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. At the very time when Parliament was attempting to alleviate the problem of violence on football terraces in Scotland, the England team was willing to enter into drink sponsorship.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
My hon. Friend has intervened several times. When I finish making my point, I shall give way.
I said at that time, in my capacity as chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism, that such sponsorship was untimely, unwelcome and unhelpful and showed gross social irresponsibility and a complete neglect of social reality.
§ Mr. John Carlisle
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has referred to social responsibility. Many people in the drink industry would totally refute his remarks. Although some money goes into the sponsorship of major clubs, a vast amount of money from the drink industry goes to youth clubs and to those who are trying to promote the young in sporting activities. My right hon. Friend must acknowledge, that although some of the money goes into senior clubs where such problems might occur, much of it is being used for training the young in sporting activities.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
It would have been better if my hon. Friend had not intervened if his line of argument is that, because evil is being done in one area, the pill may be sweetened by making a contribution to some worthy cause. That is a frightening argument, and I reject it.
However — this will interest my hon. Friend — after discovering that the same brewery was negotiating a renewal of the contract to which I referred, the Institute of Alcohol Studies wrote to Mr. Ted Croker of the Football Association — well before the Brussels tragedy -requesting that the sponsorship contract should not be renewed. Mr. Croker did not reply. Instead, a reply came from the association's press officer, who informed the institute that the renewal of the contract was not a matter for the association, because the contract was with the team, so the letter had been passed to the players' pool. Two months later the institute has still not received any reply.
I am informed that, in conversation with a journalist, a representative of the brewery to which I have referred claimed that it did not accept that alcohol was the cause of the violence. Sponsorship of football clubs by drink companies is clearly designed to associate the consumption of alcohol with youth, glamour and sporting success, though every first-rate sportsman knows perfectly well that it is death to achievement on the sports field to consume alcohol in excess — [Interruption.] Indeed I would remind my hon. Friends that such associations are forbidden by the Independent Broadcasting Authority's code of advertising standards and practice. However hollow those associations now appear in the wake of the 354 tragic events at Brussels, in my view, the continuation of that form of promotion displays both a cynical disregard for truth and irresponsibility of an advanced order. It seems that that which is prohibited on the terraces can be emblazoned on the field.
There are other voices that the House and the country should heed. Addressing itself last week to the promotion and advertising of alcohol, the British Medical Association — the advice of which I prefer to accept on this matter than that of the drink industry — gave us a clear, concise and courageous lead. It is a pity that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has not incorporated that advice into the Bill.
Thus, with regard to the linkage of football violence with the consumption of alcohol, I am bound to say that, in my opinion, the Bill does not go far enough.
One particular point has been raised by other hon. Members in interventions, but I should like to make it again. It is both absurd and socially offensive to allow loopholes whereby drink is barred from the terraces but not from the directors' boxes. Nothing is more ridiculous, unfair or divisive than that a special category of people should be exempted from the general rule, which, quite properly, is to be applied in future in and around football grounds. The directors and managers of football clubs should be required to set an example.
The Bill genuflects — I troubled myself over that word — to the power of vested interests. I have to assume that its less than even-handed approach reflects the views of the drink industry and its determination to enhance its profits by encouraging more consumption—
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I am being consistent. I have said that in the House year after year, and have had a great deal of support from hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The clubs appear to be no better. Instead of some of them parading their grievances before the High Court, feeling that they are being treated unfairly by bans, justifiably imposed, the club directors concerned should have displayed their willingness to take the lead and set an example by banning alcohol from their boxes. I fully recognise the point being made by several hon. Members about how much clubs fear they will lose financially by a uniform ban. No doubt the leasing of private boxes where business firms can entertain their guests and ply them with alcohol is a lucrative source of finance. I am told that there are top league clubs that derive incomes of £200,000 a year from such leasings. Yet I am not convinced that such clubs would lose out by banning alcohol. If they did, then the leaders of business and football need to question the example that they are setting the young.
Once upon a time, whole families used to go to football matches. I am glad to see that I carry the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) with me. They went to watch the game and to enjoy the skills of the players. In one sense, it was an alternative to drinking. The joy and exhilaration of the football match itself was an alternative to becoming sodden in drink. Now it appears that drink is replacing football for some who attend. One wonders which is the ancillary activity. Perhaps the hon. Member for Newham, North-West can enlighten me. It is a prime example of the way in which alcohol permeates and controls our social life. Some football clubs seem to be as dependent on alcohol as any alcoholic.
355 I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to think again about this exemption. It is wrong. I ask him to stop dilly-dallying. I ask him to stop tying a bandage when what is needed is a tourniquet.
Those of us who have sat in several Parliaments — and there are some of us who have been here for a good many years — have heard Ministers of both parties expressing their commitment to addressing the problem of alcohol abuse, but know that no firm, direct or decisive action has followed. Over the past 20 years we have in the House permitted, almost in a fit of absence of mind, a gradual relaxation of restrictions on the availability of alcohol. Reference has been made by one hon. Member to the point of sale as being pubs and clubs. No mention has been made of supermarkets. At a single stroke, it is possible for people, who never enter a pub or an off-licence, on impulse to buy off the shelves in supermarkets.
We have encouraged the proliferation of such outlets, and are still doing so. Alcohol has actually become cheaper in real terms. What other commodity in our lives has become cheaper in real terms over the past 10 to 15 years? Throughout this period, the drinks industry has spent massive sums, not only on doing the good works mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), but on advertising in the press, on radio, on television and on the sports field. We have colluded with its message of manliness and glamour, its indispensability to the good life and material success. Should we be surprised that the chickens are now coming home to roost? I pose a serious question. What point does alcohol abuse have to reach before we are prepared to curb consumption? Must we reach the appalling level that has already been reached in the Soviet Union and France? Some 20 per cent. of all beds in National Health Service hospitals are occupied by people suffering from alcohol-related disease. The comparable figure in France is 40 per cent. Are we to move down the league to match France? This country was once famed for its sobriety and our licensing laws were considered by many overseas who were worried about alcoholism to be a model. This is no longer so.
It would be churlish not to thank the Government for recognising the need to control the availability of alcohol at least in one place—on the football terrace. However, I must warn them that only when they have the courage to accept the need to work out a national control policy on alcohol consumption and availability will they solve a problem that is growing in economic cost, health harm and social misery.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
I recognise that, given the current climate surrounding football, hooliganism and violence, it is right for this or any Government to take this problem seriously and to act responsibly and positively to combat it. The trouble is that this Bill will not do much about the problem. The law-abiding public — that means the genuine, law-abiding football public — will not find much comfort in this Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) made a convincing case for not supporting some aspects of the Bill, although he is facilitating it, and I understand his reasons for doing that. However, he does 356 not carry me with him on certain parts of the Bill. I shall explain why, and I am sure that some of my hon. Friends will agree with me.
I recognise and welcome the fact that the Government, at long last, are waking up to the problem that many of us have seen for many years. Many of us have argued for action to be taken in this sector in the past three years or so. However, we have not advocated the course of action set out in the Bill. If we had been listened to, football would have been in a more healthy state than it is today.
We have just been reminded by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) that Mr. Jack Dunnett, the current president of the football league, when he was a Member of the House, supported a measure with many of the provisions which are contained in the Bill, but it was blocked by the Government of the time. That shows that those responsible for football have for many years tried to take the Government with them in trying to solve this problem. Therefore, the Government must recognise that these problems have been with us for some time. The Government are a late riser, looking at this problem like a drunk through the haze. They are over-reacting and are not seeing the position clearly. The result is this legislation.
We can exaggerate the problems in football, and the Government are doing so. In the debate we must have clearly at the back of our minds the fact that it is the violent minority within the community that it is attaching itself to football and causing the problems in that game. The reasons are fairly obvious. Football is our national game, it attracts a great deal of media coverage and these hooligans do not need to spend a great deal of time on a Saturday afternoon to cause havoc. Equally, they have little chance of being detected at the moment.
I emphasise that violence at soccer games is caused not by football but by society and by a number of factors, some of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton spelled out. The overwhelming majority of football clubs had little or no problem with hooliganism or violence. Some 2,500 league and cup games are played every year, and most occur without serious incident. We have recently been reminded that only eight games last year had to go to the FA for inquiry. Therefore, we have to see the Bill in the proper context of football and not over-react to it.
Nobody would ever condone — this is why I understand why my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton has been able to assist the Government in this — the activities that have gone on in certain grounds in this country and abroad. We were all appalled at what happened at Birmingham, Luton and Brussels. We must do something about the matter, but we must consider it in its proper context.
I must declare an interest. As is probably obvious, I am a soccer buff. I am a shareholder — my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) would be falling down at this stage — of Hyde United football club. Perhaps even worse in some eyes, I am a shareholder in Derby County football club. I am chairman of the parliamentary Labour party sports committee and the all-party football committee. Hon. Members may not think that I speak with an expert voice, but I speak with a passionate voice. Members of the all-party football committee are worried. Some of them are present, such as the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Bassetlaw (Mr. 357 Ashton), and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens). My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) has temporarily left us.
§ Mr. Pendry
We have some sharp wits on our committee. For many years we have been worried about the effects of the Scottish legislation spilling over into England and Wales. Unlike the hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), we were so worried about the matter that we saw the Home Secretary in 1981, Viscount Whitelaw. It was the easiest deputation that I have ever experienced. It was like pushing at an open door. Indeed, some of the choice things that Lord Whitelaw said about Scottish Ministers cannot be repeated. He saw clearly that the legislation would not be relevant in England and Wales. He believed that Scotland was a different case from that which we are discussing today — urprise, surprise.
After our meeting with Lord Whitelaw, we heard some mutterings from the Minister with responsibility for sport, who was a little worried that the Government had changed their mind. We give him credit for that. We wrote to the present Home Secretary in 1983. I am sure that he will not mind if I quote from a letter that he wrote to me in June 1984:I can assure you that the views you expressed when you met Willie Whitelaw in March 1981 to discuss this question were conveyed to Neil MacFarlane and I believe that the current Government policy reflects the common-sense view which you put to Willie then of the degree to which alcohol consumption is a contributory factor to football hooliganism. The guidelines issued by the Liaison Group, to which Neil's letter refers, suggest to clubs how best the sale of alcohol might be controlled if it is a problem for particular clubs and I am sure it is right that such advice should be available. Equally I should agree that it would he wrong to introduce legislation banning alcohol entirely unless it can be demonstrated that such a step was warranted by evidence of large scale alcohol-related hooliganism. In this respect I am particularly mindful of the different patterns of alcohol consumption as between Scotland, where legislation was deemed appropriate, and England and Wales where, on the whole, the alcohol problem is less.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
As an historic footnote, immediately before and immediately after the hon. Gentleman's deputation to Lord Whitelaw, the Police Federation and I saw the Home Secretary and said precisely the opposite. We said that it was time to introduce such legislation. The hon. Gentleman and his team prevailed and my team lost, but in the event we have been proved right.
§ Mr. Pendry
I should like to show that the Home Secretary was right and that the hon. Gentleman — as generally the case—was wrong. However, in his letter, the Home Secretary implied that legislation would not be introduced unless something changed. The big change since that time has been the Prime Minister's involvement. The Prime Minister is responsible for the reaction of her puppets on the Front Bench. Of course, her deep, longstanding interest in football problems is well known. She is wielding the big stick on this occasion.
Every member of our committee and I am sure most hon. Members recognise that there is a relationship between alcohol and hooliganism. We have agreed on that all along. In many ways, we wish to make the Bill tougher. We recognise that alcohol is responsible for the mindless acts that took place at those much-quoted games and at many others. Anyone who has studied the matter in depth 358 knows that consumption of alcohol at the ground is not the problem. Anyone who gets more than two pints of beer at a ground is lucky and deserves a star.
The Bill is not tough enough. I criticise my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton for not telling the Government that. However, I agree with my right hon. Friend that the Bill does not deal with the problem. Much of the problem stems from the sale and consumption of alcohol outside the ground. We should concentrate on that and try to eliminate it. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have joined me in trying to toughen the Bill with amendments.
A central weakness of the Bill is that it loses the flexibility exercised by football clubs, the police and magistrates at sensitive games. I have received a letter from Manchester United, stating:The police have on several occasions asked that alcohol should not be served in certain parts of the ground, and this has been done without question.For many years, the police, magistrates and clubs have acted sensibly to ensure that we did not have problems similar to those in Scotland. The difference in Scotland was clear. The grounds were dry, and spectators who wanted to drink were fored to go there with alcohol on their persons. After they had drunk from bottles, they would throw them away, which caused many problems. They have now been almost eliminated, but we remember the problems at recent games between Hibs and other clubs. But the legislation has helped. Until now, we have relied on the good sense of the police, magistrates and clubs to close bars during sensitive matches. Now that the Prime Minister has left the Chamber, perhaps the Minister who will reply to the debate can talk more freely about the problem.
I should like the prohibition in clause 1 to be extended beyond trains and buses to aircraft, ferries—we wish to have clarification of this point when the Minister replies — mini-coaches and hired vans. We hope that parts of the Bill can be toughened and other parts removed.
Central to the concept of the Bill is that the consumption of alcohol at football grounds is responsible for hooliganism. All the evidence gathered by the all-party football committee and those who have considered the matter shows that that is not the case. We must tell the Prime Minister that, when this part of the Bill fails, as it must, it will be her responsibility. She will have to bear the brunt of the criticism that will come as a result of failing to meet this challenge, while at the same time crucifying many football clubs.
It is ironic that many of the clubs which are doing all the things that the Prime Minister asks of them, such as improving policing and safety, installing closed circuit television and issuing membership cards — there are a number of views about that — will be hammered most by the Bill. We must ask the Prime Minister to think again.
The Home Secretary named three games which spurred the Government into action — the Birmingham-Leeds game, the Luton-Millwall game and the infamous Liverpool-Juventus game. It is ironic that all the grounds at which those matches were played were dry. No alcohol was purchased in any of them. There are many other such grounds. The Government should tune in to that fact. We have this rushed legislation because the Government are convinced that alcohol consumption at grounds was a main 359 cause of the trouble at those games. Clearly, it was not. That is a well-known fact, and I hope that the Minister will refer to it.
The Prime Minister, for all her talk about delegating responsibility, is usurping the powers of the police, the magistrates and the clubs to do what is sensible and flexible. I hope to nail the myth that the Scottish experiment is well tried and that drinking at grounds is a contributory factor. In Scotland only one ground — Clydebank — had a problem connected with drinking at the ground. That club got round the problem by putting blinds round its social club. I am told that the legislation will not cover executive boxes. An Opposition amendment has been tabled to deal with that. Poor Clydebank will be caught out.
A salutary fact is that on cup final day on 18 May this year two games of note took place. One was at Hampden Park — a dry ground — and the other at Wembley — a wet ground. About 80,000 people were at Hampden Park and 100,000 at Wembley. More arrests took place at Hampden Park, proportionately, than at Wembley. If the Government are not convinced that part of their Bill is nonsense, I hope that that will make them think again.
I ask the Minister of State to clarify one or two matters. It might be flippant, but I must ask the House to consider what will happen at an executive club house with a menu consisting of such fare as lobster bisque with brandy, coq au yin, sherry trifle, gaelic coffee and brandy snaps. It is obvious that people will be able to get round the regulations. I ask the Government to think about that.
The Home Secretary talked about readjusting boxes so that they do not overlook the ground. Can the Minister of State clarify that, because it does not seem to be logical, or even possible? The Home Secretary talked about the difference between being out of sight of the pitch and having a direct view of the event. What did he mean by that? Is one-way glass a serious proposition? It is possible that 19 clubs will be penalised. Possibly more than £4 million is involved and many of the clubs are doing everything that has been asked of them. The Government are rushing through the legislation and the Lords are due to examine it tomorrow. Many hon. Members know something about football and have not been rushed into forming an opinion. They have been talking to the clubs and the football authorities for many years. I hope that the Government will listen to them. I hope that the Bill will be amended so that it is more sensible.
We do not wish to give the impression that we are opposed to some of the good provisions in the Bill. I am making a short speech and can deal only with contentious matters and with how the Government have gone wrong. I hope that the Government will pay attention to hon. Members on both sides who have a genuine interest in our national game.
Millions of our constituents go to football games. We have a duty to ensure that the law-abiding, genuine football fan is not prohibited from seeing good games in good conditions. I want the Government to take on board the genuine cross-party feeling on the subject before the legislation is passed.
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
The House will have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) with interest, knowing his knowledge of football, and accepting his experience as joint chairman of the all-party football committee and his declared interest in two football clubs. His speech might be regarded as being a little like the dance of the seven veils. He seemed fundamentally to be in favour of the Bill, with the reservation that if it were not tough enough the Home Secretary would have to introduce further measures. I applaud that view. However, the hon. Gentleman seemed one by one to throw away his criticisms of the Bill. At heart I believe that we are at one, but I appreciate that because of the hon. Gentleman's vested interests he concludes that all the evils in football occur outside the ground rather than inside.
I have an interest to declare as parliamentary adviser to the National Union of Licensed Victuallers, which represents the proprietors of public houses in England and Wales, both tenanted and free. I am also a licensee. My pub is called the "Cricketers Arms", not the "Footballers Arms". I am glad to see that the only other licensee in the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), is in the Chamber.
With authority I can say that licensees welcome the Bill. We think that it is long overdue. For the last 14 years, since the Erroll committee reported, we have dithered over the introduction of more flexible drinking hours. Our present licensing laws are ridiculous and not only damage our licensed and tourist trades but aggravate the problem which the Bill is designed to stamp out.
The debate on flexible hours is coming to an end. Scotland blazed the trail with flexible hours some years ago and I hope that England and Wales will follow. The licensed trade therefore needs a bad press now like it needs a hole in the cellar. Yet today alcohol gets a very bad press. The papers say that it is an aphrodisiac of violence and that it is common knowledge that soccer hooligans get even nastier after a few cans of beer.
§ Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind reference to me earlier in his speech. I have an unashamed vested interest, as I have the licence of a public house within half a mile of Stamford bridge, Chelsea's football ground. I should like to nail the lie that licensees look forward to football games with keen anticipation, hoping to make a killing once a week. They do not. They look forward with hatred and loathing to those days. They have to care for their regular customers in their public houses, and many of them, like my manager at Fulham, have to stand by a locked door and allow in their regular customers.
I was hurt by the words of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who called for pubs to be closed on match days. Licensees do not want football hooligans in their pubs. They take a responsible attitude and recognise that magistrates have powers to close public houses when particularly sensitive matches are staged.
§ Mr. Colvin
I thank my hon. Friend for his valuable intervention. Both he and the manager of his pub would agree that we need a reduction in the ever-increasing number of unsupervised outlets where people can buy liquor. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), as always, over-egged the pudding a little.
361 No one could call his speech a trifle — there was certainly no sherry in it — but he made the extremely valid point that it is now easy for young people to get alcohol from unsupervised outlets.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
The intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) and the points which my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) is making are valuable contributions to the debate. They emphasise the sharp distinction which should be made between the public house, which is one of the glories of an English tradition and national life, where drinking is conducted under controlled conditions and where the licensee knows that he is in danger of losing his licence if his house is not an orderly one, and the ease with which successive Governments have permitted alcohol to be sold in less controlled conditions.
§ Mr. Colvin
At this rate, my right hon. Friend may be invited to address the next annual conference of the National Union of Licensed Victuallers.
The licensing trade supports the Bill and tougher sentences for football thugs, but it feels that prevention is far better than cure. I shall make four suggestions which will help to prevent further drunken football thuggery.
First, over the 10 years from 1970 to 1980 there has been an enormous increase in the number of off-licences, to which hon. Members have already referred. That figure has risen by a full third over that period by 11,000 to 42,000. These outlets do not just include supermarkets. The ordinary corner shop now sells drink, and even garages are retailing alcohol. We would like to see fewer off-licences, but the trend still continues upwards. That is where much of the drink problem lies. If the number of off-licences was reduced, football violence would be reduced also. That is a matter for the licensing magistrates, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary should give guidance along the lines that I have suggested.
Secondly, the time when coaches and football specials arrive in towns should be closer to match kick-off. At present, crowds begin assembling far too early, sometimes even the night before a match. The neighbourhood around the football ground becomes terrorised, even with opposing supporters setting up no-go areas. That is a matter for my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport to rectify.
Thirdly, I should like to see the closure of all off-licence outlets on match days, especially during the morning. Such a policy need not apply to public houses, because licensees are proud of their professional approach to selling drink and uphold the law. They can already refuse to supply potential hooligans, but would wish to continue to sell drink to their regular and responsible customers. If the closure of pubs near football grounds is contemplated, licensees who enjoy a close relationship with their local police force feel that there should be discussions with them beforehand. That is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. I hope that he will give guidance to both magistrates and police forces.
Fourthly, our dotty licensing laws are also partly to blame for the problem of football hooliganism. Spectators tank up before a match because too often the pubs and shops are shut after the game is over. They may tank up to a greater extent if alcohol is banned on the terraces. The 362 time to enjoy a drink is while relaxing afterwards, either to celebrate a victory or to drown the sorrows of defeat, but our present drinking hours may prevent that. I look forward to a future Bill which will revise our licensing hours.
In conclusion, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister declared that we should put our house in order through persuasion, prevention and punishment — three Ps, to which I would add a fourth, the publicans. They will back the Prime Minister fully in this task. That is why I support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
When he opened the debate the Home Secretary said that this was one of a series of Government measures to tackle the disturbing and unacceptable trend of hooliganism both in football grounds and spilling over after football matches into the public domain.
I begin by expressing my appreciation of the Home Secretary's courtesy in offering my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) the opportunity of some foreknowledge of the Bill and consultation on its contents. The Bill is necessary, though perhaps not ideal. It is necessary because the connection between excessive alcohol consumption at football grounds and violence both in the grounds and in their vicinity is obvious.
I do not entirely understand the point made by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) about the difference between the position in Scotland and that in England and Wales. It is true that no alcohol was sold at football grounds in Scotland, but it is also true that large quantities of alcohol were consumed at Scottish grounds. A great deal of alcohol used to be consumed by people not only before they went into football grounds but from cans and containers that were taken into the grounds. That made it imperative to introduce legislation in Scotland. It was observed by the committee chaired by the late Frank McElhone that it was the presence of alcohol at Scottish football grounds that made it necessary to ban the consumption of alcohol there. The fact that alcohol was not on sale was a secondary consideration.
§ Mr. Ewing
Memories are short. The background to the setting up of the McElhone committee was a match played not in Scotland but in England. It was a Rangers-Birmingham game, which was played in Birmingham, where there was exactly the same trouble as occurred during the Luton-Millwall game. It was during the week following the Rangers-Birmingham game that my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millar') decided to set up the working party.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I do not dissent from the hon. Gentleman's correct statement about the provenance of the committee, but in considering what the law should be I am more impressed by the report of Frank McElhone and his committee, which said:Nearly all those who gave evidence were firmly of the view that a strong relationship exists between alcohol and violence and that a good deal of the disturbances associated with football is due to the amount of alcohol consumed before, during and after matches.The report contained no reference to alcohol not being available for sale. It was the consumption of alcohol that made it necessary to legislate. It was correct to do so and 363 the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 has been a success. Its success has been commented upon by chief constables — notably by the chief constable of Strathclyde in his 1983 report. This was before the current round of violence, which has given rise to great anxiety and led to the introduction of the Bill.
When he introduced the Bill, the Secretary of State for the Home Department did not place it sufficiently in context. It is partly for that reason that its provisions are less welcome to some of those who will be directly affected financially than it would have been had he been able to spell out his attitude towards the financial consequences.
I differ from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who implied that the Government should not have legislated at this time. I do not believe that it would have been possible for the Government to conclude precisely what all the financial consequences would be, stemming from the need to take account of the findings of the Popplewell inquiry, never mind the problems associated with drink. These matters should not be separated. It would have been unreasonable to expect the Government to come forward with a proposal in the round relating to the future of football which had been dreamed up in the last four months. I am not greatly impressed by those who now call for that kind of overall disposition, because in the past they had the opportunity to move in the direction which they now advocate.
It is right, however, to try to set the proposals contained in the Bill in the kind of framework in which the sport of football ought to be set if this is to be a better regulated and financially healthy sport which is not only open to all who wish to watch football with pleasure but which causes no disturbance to the neighbouring communities.
My view is that it would be appropriate to establish for the football industry a new licensing board, created by statute, and that it should be set up with the purpose of licensing outdoor sports grounds. It would take over the powers currently exercised by the county councils, and regional councils in Scotland, relating to ground safety. It would also have extensive powers to impose conditions on football grounds for crowd control. The board would be empowered to call on existing experts, including the police and the Health and Safety Executive, to inspect the grounds and to report to it.
In addition, a national board is needed now that the Greater London council and the metropolitan county councils are to be abolished and their powers over sports ground safety transferred to joint boards. District and borough councils are unable properly to regulate sports grounds. They would probably come under considerable and perhaps irresistible pressure not to impose conditions upon popular local sports clubs which might threaten their financial viability.
Furthermore, a national body has the advantage of being able to build up a body of experience which it can apply in particular cases. The board would have to be satisfied in each case that the safety standards were adequate and that each ground had taken all reasonable steps to contain hooliganism. The board would have the responsibility of requiring particular measures to be taken which were appropriate to the circumstances within each ground before issuing a licence, and where a serious disorder occurred the board would have the power to 364 remove the licence for a specified period. Such a system would result in greater flexibility than is possible under a general provision of law of the kind that we are considering today, which will operate across the board and with very little local option. It would also take account of the record of clubs where there has been no trouble.
Although there have been about 4,000 arrests and prosecutions each year, perhaps half of them arising in England and Wales from incidents inside the ground, and about half of them from incidents outside the ground, attendances at football matches run into many millions — about 16 million, although the number has declined rapidly in recent years. The number will decline more rapidly unless hooliganism and the other problems that afflict the sport are tackled.
I hope that when the Government receive the report of the Popplewell inquiry they will examine the financial future of the industry and recognise that it is insufficient to expect the consequences of the necessary measures to promote safety and avoid hooliganism, which have a financial impact, to be dealt with by recourse to the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, which has wholly inadequate resources for the purpose. The financial resources that are available to it are suitable only to tide over the sport until a better financial basis is made available.
A great deal of money is taken from the football industry — about £200 million in football betting dues and a substantial amount in value added tax. Some of that money will have to be forgone by the Treasury if the sport is to be put in order. The right hon. Member for Gorton referred to the introduction of a levy system comparable to that in horse racing, but a further direct imposition on the sport would add to its problems, not ameliorate them.
§ Mr. Ashton
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in 1972 I introduced, as a ten-minute Bill, the Football Betting Levy Bill and that at long last it is coming to pass?
§ Mr. Maclennan
We have not heard from the Government whether they are sympathetic to this proposition, though I acknowledge the long-standing consistency of the hon. Gentleman in putting this forward.
I think that we need some explanation of why the Government did a volte face on the merits of this proposal. As I mentioned in an intervention, a Bill containing provisions comparable to these was presented to the House by William Whitlock, supported by Jack Dunnett, Tom Bradley and the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Fan), in 1981, but it was blocked by the Government without any explanation. It would he helpful if the Government would explain how they have come to stand on their head on this issue. Only last year, they commended the findings of the working party which recommended against the introduction of a ban on the sale of alcohol and on the possession of alcohol inside sports grounds.
I am always delighted when the Government do a U-turn into the direction along which I have been travelling for some time. I hope that we can take them in our wake on many other issues concerning the prospects of football. The Government did a remarkable about turn, but their complete conversion was not explained at all. We are forced to read between the lines. It would seem that it was 365 simply the appalling events at Birmingham, the Luton-Millwall match and at Brussels which jogged the Government into taking the action which I have long considered necessary and desirable.
The Bill will be considered in detail shortly and I do not propose at this stage to make detailed criticisms. I simply assure the Government that my right hon. and hon. Friends are glad that they have made this move, which we support.
§ 6.1 pm
§ Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)
I welcome the Bill. There is no doubt whatever about the effects that alcohol has on football crowds—sad though it may be. One has only to see the vandalism on football trains to realise that. Vandalism also occurs at smaller — non-league — matches. It was amazing to see the effect of alcohol on an amateur game in my constituency — the semi-final between Exmouth and Fleetwood. Two sets of supporters at one end of the ground did not watch the match for 20 minutes; they were more interested in having a go at one another. Those who claim that alcohol in grounds is really of no consequence cannot be living in the present.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
Will the hon. Gentleman help us by stating how much alcohol was available inside the Exmouth football ground and whether those people had bought it inside the ground or whether they arrived at the ground in that condition?
§ Sir Peter Emery
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his interruption as I like to keep him properly informed. A special tent was set up so that alcohol could be provided at the ground. In addition, however, there is no doubt that the party of supporters who came in coaches to the match were well tanked up.
The main issue which seems to have escaped attention today is the role of directors and managers and their responsibility within the sport. Hooliganism has turned the watching of Association football on a Saturday afternoon from an enjoyable and reasonable event to which a person of any age could go—possibly as a family outing — into a drunken brawl. If people suggest that football has never been a family outing, I can tell them that I used to attend Highbury with my father and mother. They had two season tickets, and I was very lucky when my mother did not go because I did not have to go and stand in the ninepennies or the one-and-threepennies. A whole host of children went, and there was no fear about it. There were very large crowds — they were much larger in those prewar days than today. There was never any sign of the problems at football matches today.
§ Mr. Colin Moynihan (Lewisham, East)
Is my hon. Friend aware that many clubs are taking considerable initiatives, such as family stands and areas for families, to attract them to games? Watford is a classic example, with its new family stand.
§ Sir Peter Emery
Yes, indeed, and I greatly welcome that. Although some supporters are open to considerable condemnation, some managements of Association football clubs are open to much more criticism. Directors and managers of football clubs tend to escape criticism, and have done so again today.
I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to consider two reasons why I level that criticism. One is the excessive financial demands made in the sport and the large sums of money involved, and the second is the excessive trend to 366 "professionalism" — to the cost of the sport. By "professionalism", I mean the acceptance by players, managers and the media of what can now be called the "professional" foul. I am sorry, but a foul is a foul, and is to be condemned equally at all times. A foul is not acceptable because it might prevent a goal being scored. We must all condemn the practice of radio commentators talking of the professional foul as though it is acceptable.
§ Sir Peter Emery
The right hon. Gentleman is right. it is cheating. It is time that management and directors got to grips with the problem, and perhaps with the rules. Perhaps the number of fouls should be totted up, so that when a team had three recorded against it the opposing team automatically got a goal. Management would soon get to grips with fouling if that happened.
Mr. Eric S. Hafer (Liverpool, Walton)
That is a revolutionary idea.
§ Sir Peter Emery
It might be a revolutionary idea, but we should consider whether there are methods by which we can stop players behaving in that way and therefore suggesting that such behaviour is acceptable. In those circumstances, is it any wonder that supporters follow suit?
§ Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, South)
Does my hon. Friend agree that, when radio and television commentators accept fouls or changes in the rules, they are quickly accepted by the nation? For example, there was once a time when players appealed only in cricket, but players now appeal for corners and throw-ins because commentators accept the terminology and practice.
§ Sir Peter Emery
I do not disagree. The modern rush of players to celebrate the scoring of a goal, which leads to a major demonstration and the raising of arms to supporters, must encourage the atmosphere of frenzy among ardent supporters. I am glad that they have stopped the kissing though. Players are now willing to act against the rules of the game and to play with physical violence, which has never been encouraged in sport.
The drive to win at nearly any price, particularly in a major game, seems to be more important than the sport itself. It is not the slightest bit surprising that if those inclined to hooliganism follow this bad example as a basic rejection of authority in the ground, they can reject it once they leave the ground. Directors and managers could stop all this by positive leadership and control if they really set out to do so. The problem is that they have not, which is a major shame. It is spoiling a game for which I have great respect and from which I receive great pleasure.
The second difficulty is not dealt with by the Bill — the vast sums of money now involved in the sport. Many of the smaller clubs have great difficulty keeping their heads above water. With the vast sums of money earned by certain players, clubs need to win, winning being rather more important than any other aspect of the game. This has frequently led to a growth of supporters' clubs which often help to increase attendance and make a financial contribution to clubs to help them keep their heads above water. But in so doing, the supporters' clubs are contributing to the problem. A xenophobic feeling is often created by supporters' attitudes, the sales of favours and song sheets, parties to away games and their view that they are the greatest. It is not surprising when two sets of 367 supporters come head on shouting, "We are the greatest," that a conflict ensues. The Bill will never control such situations, and will lead to further conflict with potential hooligans.
Although the Bill will deal with part of the problem — that of alcohol abuse — it is only part. The Government cannot legislate for the action of directors and managers in the day-to-day control of an approach to the game of Association football. Positive leadership by clubs to put their house in order would, along with the Bill, make soccer a better game. It would be a positive step to benefit soccer and would increase attendances and income for the clubs. It is important for clubs to get back the right type of supporters. If they can do that, they will receive the support not of hooligans but of ordinary decent people who will contribute major financial benefits to the clubs. This action will benefit the Government, football supporters and managers and directors. That is what we should be after.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I have two of the greatest football teams in my constituency. I mean, of course, Everton — I say Everton first — and Liverpool. The greatest problem over the years — I have represented my constituency for 21 years — has not been hooliganism or the sale of alcohol but complaints from people living around the grounds about the parking of vehicles during a football match. This has caused me, local councillors, local authorities and the police a great deal of trouble. The hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) mentioned the phrase "We are the greatest". The supporters of Liverpool who come from Liverpool and the supporters of Everton who come from Everton or Liverpool and around that district all say that their team is the greatest and they make it quite clear in song and in chant. Those two football teams and their supporters have travelled to games all over the country and there has been so little trouble from supporters that it has hardly been noticed.
When Liverpool and Everton have played against each other, the red scarves and blue scarves have travelled on the same motor coaches, the same trains and the same cars, and have been in the same pubs, without any trouble whatsoever. For 21 years, the Liverpool team has played all over Europe, and when have we seen hooliganism among Liverpool supporters at any of those matches? My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) was at the Rotterdam match only a few weeks ago where Everton was playing and there was no trouble whatsoever from the Everson supporters.
I believe that we reacted a little too quickly — as it appeared to us in Liverpool — in putting the entire blame for the problems that have been created on the people of Liverpool. I was saddened. I happen to know Italians. I have had Italian friends since the end of the war. This watch was given to me— I have said this before — by an Italian partisan with whom I have been associated since the end of the war and I wear it with pride. I am not anti-Italian, but the idea that football hooligans come only from our country is absolutely untrue. I want to put that on record.
Nobody could condone such a terrible tragedy as a result of which people died. Those of us who watched the 368 match on television saw Juventas fans hold up a banner reading "Reds are animals". The average Juventas fan who does not understand English could not write such a banner. That was written by people who knew precisely what they were doing. Those who had scarves across their faces were wearing the emblem of certain Right-wing organisations in Italy. People on both sides at that match obviously wanted to use the situation politically.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who rightly said that we need to look at the deeper causes. I do not deny for one moment that alcohol played a part in the Brussels tragedy. UEFA has a responsibility and the local authorities in Belgium have a responsibility as well as ourselves. The Greater London council sent its deputy structural engineer, Mr. Jan Korff, to Brussels on 30 May, almost immediately after the tragedy, to examine the condition of the stadium. He reported:The stadium is 50 years old and all the safety installations in section Z appear to be of the same age. There is no evidence of any recent repairs to the barriers, walls, fence or terraces. The general impression is that of long-term neglect, with the exception perhaps of the pitch perimeter fence which appears to be fairly new. Under our legislation, the stadium would not have been allowed to operate.The last sentence is very important:It appears that whilst the attack by Liverpool supporters caused the panic and the resulting stampede, the main direct cause of the deaths was the collapse of the safety barriers near the bottom of the terraces.I want to get that on the record because I do not believe that even the Right-wing element had gone there with the deliberate intention of killing anyone. People died in tragic circumstances, but we must remember that some years ago 88 people died at Ibrox Park. Did anybody set out to kill 88 people there? Of course they did not, but certain circumstances caused those deaths.
The report by the Liverpool city building surveyor, who went there on 7 or 8 June, says much the same in relation to crowd segregation barriers:This composite construction, whilst forming a physical barrier, would not withstand the normal loadings or force exerted by the sideways movements of a packed crowd on a terrace." In the summary, the following point is made:The Stadium is generally 50 years old, and there appears to have been no major improvement to the level of safety standards at the Stadium, more particularly to the terraced area over that time … If the criterion of the 'Guide to the Safety of Sports Grounds (Football)' Code were to be applied to this particular Stadium, it is doubtful that the City Building Surveyor would be able to recommend a grant of a 'Safety Certificate' issued pursuant to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act, 1975".I want to get that on the record, because up to now it has not been stressed enough.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
My hon. Friend has made an important point on the Liverpool match and the responsibility of UEFA. The Minister responsible for sport very properly complained after that great disaster that UEFA had totally ignored the advice and representations he had made and his apprehensions about the Belgian match. I have said that when I was the Minister responsible for sport I issued the same warnings to the secretary of UEFA, Mr. Bangeter, and wrote letters to him in 1979 saying that unless UEFA implemented our arrangements for crowd control, he would carry a heavy personal responsibility. I am sure my hon. Friend will accept that the very fact that UEFA put everybody in the dock — English football, Liverpool and everyone else — and has now said that no match will be played in Belgium for the 369 next 10 years is an admission that UEFA itself should not have placed that match in Belgium. UEFA stands condemned as much as anyone else. That body is trying to put itself in a white sheet, although it bears a heavy responsibility.
§ Mr. Heffer
I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. I was about to make the point that the New Civil Engineer of 6 June said:The match should never have been played at the Heysel stadium. The arena breaks all European footballing safety rules and ignores entirely the lessons of Ibrox Park, Scotland, where 66 people" —I thought it was 88—died in very similar circumstances in 1971 … Investigations by NCE have shown complete confusion over who, if anybody, was responsible for checking structural safety at the Belgian stadium.I do not support anyone who got involved in violence. I do not support the people who charged across the barrier. I do not condone any of that, but if that had happened in a stadiurn in this country it would have been controlled and there would have been a different outcome. There would not have been the terrible loss of life that happened in the Belgian stadium.
I asked people in Liverpool who had been at that match to write to me. I did not want people who had not been there to express opinions. The Liverpool Echo published 120 letters that it received and I got 30 or 40, or perhaps 50. I went through those letters carefully. Practically all of them pointed out that, before the match, there had been a carnival atmosphere. Certainly there was drinking. Supporters were drinking together and were exchanging scarves, favours and so on, as they would have done at a match in Liverpool between Everton and Liverpool.
I was told in the letters that there was a spirit of friendship. We must remember that some Liverpool supporters might have been a little hard-pressed to show friendship because, when they went to Rome, two of my constituents were stabbed after the match and were in hospital for some time. I had to intervene with the Italian authorities so that they could get their families there; the Italian authorities were excellent and helped my constituents a great deal. The average football supporter from Liverpool or Everton might have said, "Okay. Fair do's. It was a few nutters who did that. They did not represent the majority of Juventus or Italian supporters." Italians might say the same about any nutters who went from Britain.
There was a carnival atmosphere before the match. But then I am told that many people got into the match without tickets. A policeman from Manchester, a Liverpool supporter, told me in his letter that he saw the police disappearing immediately. He said that there were not enough police, and that the English police would have dealt with the situation differently. Let us get it on the record that what happened was not the fault just of the people who charged across the barrier but that there were other factors involved.
Segregation is something that the chairman of Liverpool football club understands very well. Liverpool has carried out segregation for years and has avoided problems with teams coming from outside Liverpool. I sent a memorandum based upon those letters to the Belgian authorities, who tell me that it will go before their parliamentary and judicial inquiry. I also sent copies to the Minister responsible for sport and to the spokesman on our 370 side of the House. I sent a copy too to the Popplewell inquiry, from whom I had a letter only today saying that the memorandum, and the evidence I had sent, would be considered carefully.
We have to consider this matter on the basis of the underlying factors. What is happening to football? Why are our young people getting involved in violence? What is the reason for it? It is not just a matter of the sale of alcohol. I am not against the Government's proposals, but do not let us believe that the Bill will solve the problem. To a large extent it will be irrelevant in dealing with the real problem.
There must be better policing at matches. Football grounds must be suitable. That means that money will have to be spent on the stadiums. I have been talking to many friends who used to go to matches in Liverpool before and just after the war. They have said that there was no segregation in those days. They mixed at every match.
Something has gone wrong and we need to look at that a little more closely, rather than merely saying it is a question of alcohol. We have io look at the point made by Mr. Smith, the chairman of Liverpool FC, when he talked about the role of the Right-wing National Front and other forces of that kind. There should be no cover-up of anyone, and that includes UEFA, the Brussels police and the Belgian authorities. There needs to be a better, more balanced assessment of what went on. Some of our press and the Italian press were appalling in talking about the "animals from Liverpool", the "brutal people" who went armed with weapons to batter people down. That is not true. In the television films, where does one see people with weapons in their hands battering people down? Let us get it in proper perspective. It was a great tragedy and no genuine Liverpool or Juventus fans went there to cause touble of that kind. Let us not have a whitewash. We must go into it much more deeply than we have done up to the present. I support this Bill, but only as one minor step towards dealing with a very serious problem that is a reflection of the crisis in our society. That is the important thing. We have to analyse that crisis and then begin to deal with it.
In many respects there is a political solution. I would not expect right hon. and hon. Members opposite to accept the political solution I have in mind, but I argue that if we thought in terms of the brotherhood of man and cooperation rather than individual competition, that might lead to a better society.
§ Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on what has become a major issue in our national life. While I am prepared to accept that the control of alcohol at sporting events and the use, if they can be properly organised, of security arrangements such as identity cards may help control hooliganism, we must all accept that we face an epidemic in our society which will not be cured, or possibly even adequately controlled, by measures of that kind.
We call them football hooligans but what can we call them at cricket matches — cricket hooligans? What happens if they move on to other sports? Will they be called tennis hooligans or rugby hooligans? The common denominator is the word "hooligan", and while I do not absolve from blame football clubs which perhaps should have done more in the past, many other sectors of society 371 are to some extent to blame for allowing this kind of marauding thuggery to develop and create havoc and death at events designed for pleasure and relaxation. We must all share the blame — football clubs, players for their attitudes on the field, and the media to a great extent. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) dealt admirably with that aspect of sportsmanship.
But politicians, parents, police, social workers and magistrates must also take some responsibility. As politicians, we should have seen the situation developing and should have acted much more swiftly. Parents should exercise proper control over their children. Social workers should stop excusing behaviour for which there is no excuse under any circumstances, and our police should be allowed to take stronger action earlier and to use their powers of arrest to the full. Magistrates should be stricter in their sentencing, since only firm sentencing will deter.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)
Is not that a bit specious? Is it not the truth that those who act as hooligans are themselves responsible? Simply by spreading the blame, are we not relieving them of a portion of the blame for which they are utterly responsible?
§ Mr. Lord
I take the point made by my hon. Friend, but we are also to blame for not dealing with those hooligans as they should be dealt with. That is the point I am trying to make. In recent years, a change has come over our policing policies and also over the pattern of sentences given to offenders. Those two things together have contributed enormously to the present outbreak of violence and vandalism, and unless corrective measures are taken without delay, no amount of other measures, such as those proposed in this Bill, will stem the tide.
For many years now, accelerated by the riots in Brixton and Toxteth, and influenced by reports such as that of Lord Scarman on these events, policing policy in this country has changed. It has become the accepted and adopted policy that police no longer arrest automatically those they see committing a crime.
We ask the police — in my view quite wrongly — to make various subjective judgments as to whether apprehending a law-breaker is likely to lead to even more disturbance and law-breaking. In the aftermath of riots such as those at Brixton, perhaps sparked off by the arrest of a law-breaker and the subsequent arrival on the scene of many of his friends, this policy may have seemed sensible and plausible. But the end result is that criminals go unpunished, they teal their friends that times have changed and crime is easier, and the problem grows.
Similarly, in the control of mass picketing where there is violence, or of large crowds at football matches, the prime concern of the police — again understandably — is to contain violence, to control it, to disperse it and get it, as it were, "off their patch". The need to catch, arrest and convict individual law-breakers has become greatly subordinate to this policy of shepherding. Although in certain circumstances there may be good reasons for this kind of operation, it has the same effect on the law-breaker as it has on the person found stealing who is allowed to go unpunished. These people are able to return to their friends and their local pub to tell the story and to repeat the process, and the problem grows.
What deters most people who are considering a criminal act is the fear of arrest, conviction, prison and 372 disgrace. If people are able to go to football matches to cause trouble, injury and even death, feeling reasonably secure in the knowledge that they will not be caught and convicted, then clearly the problem will grow rapidly, as it has done.
I do not underestimate the difficulties which our police face, and they do a magnificent job. However, unless they are prepared, with our support, to carry out arrests at a much earlier stage, these problems will grow. There is also perhaps an even greater responsibility on our magistrates and judges. Bail is frequently too easily granted, and sentences too light. The net result is that the miscreant is too often quickly back home amongst his friends relatively unscathed.
If the hooligan who travels from London to Leeds or Liverpool to cause trouble at a football match is arrested and convicted and serves a prison sentence, however short, in Leeds or Liverpool, he will have a very different tale to tell his friends on his release, and this will be a very real deterrent and would help to reduce the problem. For far too long we have been too tolerant of public misbehaviour. There is a point, which we have long since passed, at which tolerance is read by certain people as weakness.
People in public life, such as politicians, are sometimes afraid of being firm on these issues in case they are thought to be harsh and uncaring. In reality, to be weak with the bullies and thugs is to be uncaring about the gentle and law-abiding people whose enjoyment and not infrequently lives may be ruined. It is the responsibility of this House to protect such people.
As I said earlier, I welcome these and any measures which may help in a difficult situation. But without sterner measures such as those I have outlined which will instill real respect for the law, I am afraid we are fighting this problem with one arm tied behind our back.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)
I have only one comment to make about the remarks of the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord), and I make it in the kindest possible way.
It is rather simplistic to believe that all that is necessary to solve the problem is to lock up people. We in Scotland have youngsters running about wearing as a badge of honour the fact that they have been locked up under the Government's short, sharp shock treatment, and it is significant that 80 per cent. of them return, not once or twice, but in some cases three times, to receive further doses of what the hon. Gentleman seeks to dispense. That is not the answer to the problem.
I know that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), is waiting desperately to hear me declare my interest in this matter. I am perhaps the only hon. Member who is a director of a senior football club. I am a director of Cowdenbeath football club — [HON. MEMBERS: "Senior?"] We had an instance of some trouble towards the end of last season, when a young man was caught climbing a boundary wall during a match. He was made to come back in to watch the rest of the game.
We are dealing with a minority problem. In that respect, and perhaps only in that respect, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry). Unfortunately, we cannot legislate for a minority without damaging the majority. The House must accept 373 that if we introduce this legislation we cannot apply it only to a minority. It applies to everyone, and in that process we damage the majority. We have to do that knowing what we are doing. We cannot deceive ourselves into believing otherwise.
The legislation is based on part V of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, and we have heard repeated references to the McElhone report. Frank McElhone was a close and dear friend of mine, and I pay tribute to the report that Frank produced. I say that because what I am about to say may not be so acceptable. Far too much is being claimed for part V of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act. I do not believe that the McElhone report on its own would have solved the problem or would even have contributed to its solution in the way in which we have been able to deal with it in Scotland.
It is important just for a moment to paint in the background to the McElhone report. It was not the result of a build-up over a number of years of people drinking at football grounds in Scotland. It was a direct result of a match in Birmingham between Birmingham City and Glasgow Rangers. My right hon. and hon. Friends who represent Birmingham constituencies will remember the terrible riot that occurred. I. too, have cause to remember it. I speak about it with some feeling, and I come back to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said about political elements.
The match took place on a Thursday night. I went on Scottish television with Alec Cameron, now sports writer for the Daily Record, who then worked for STV. I said on the Sunday that one of the problems in Scotland was the way in which we were conducting our politics. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will remember that at the time we in Scotland were going through a phase where everything bad that happened was the fault of the English, and we Scottish politicians had given that impression. Of course, if one of our football teams was defeated by an English team, it did not help matters.
In a sense, the McElhone report was our instant response to the Birmingham incident. This Bill is the Government's instant reaction to what happened at Millwall, Leeds and, unfortunately, Heysel stadium, which we all regret.
I repeat that far too much is being claimed for part V of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, and that is one of the reasons why I intervened in an earlier speech about how in 1976–77 we reformed the licensing laws in Scotland. In my view, that was a very important contributory factor in dealing with crowd problems at Scottish football matches. We reformed the licensing laws, and we built into the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 a provision whereby the police could if they wished ask the licensing board to close licensed premises two hours before a match and for a period of one hour after the match. I am not aware that that power has ever been exercised, but that was one piece of legislation.
Another piece of legislation was the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, with its designation and its powers to give the police the right to limit the numbers attending a game at a ground which had not yet been brought up to proper safety standards.
We have to add to that the McElhone report, which eventually became part V of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act.
374 In addition, it was decided that all offences arising from violence at football matches would be sent, not to the lower court, which in Scotland is the district court, but to the sheriff court, where the fines imposed are likely to be much heavier.
It is a combination of all those circumstances which has brought us in Scotland to the position that we see today.
It is important that I pay tribute to such Scottish football clubs as Aberdeen, Rangers, Celtic and Dundee United, and to some of the clubs in the lower divisions, such as Forfar Athletic and my own club, Cowdenbeath. I accept that Cowdenbeath is not a prominent club. It is a small club, but we have spent £250,000 inside the ground modernising it, rebuilding the terracing and making it safer. That is the story of a number of clubs in Scotland, which have made superhuman efforts to make sure that their grounds are safer and that those going to see matches may do so in relative safety.
I make one comment about the clubs, and I take my full share of the responsibility. It is time that the clubs exercised their right to refuse admission far more. There are fair numbers of people attending matches who should not be allowed into the grounds. That is not a matter for the police. Just as dance halls, theatres, and other places of entertainment do, football clubs have the right to refuse admission. Only if a person refused admission commits another offence does it become a matter for the police to deal with. It is time that the clubs accepted their responsibilities.
In my old constituency of Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth I had three senior clubs—Stirling Albion. Falkirk and East Stirlingshire. I was at the Falkirk ground on one occasion when a spectator, having watched one half of the game, began to make a nuisance of himself at the beginning of the second half. The chairman of the board instructed the secretary to give him back his money, and he was ejected from the ground. I pay tribute to clubs such as Falkirk which are strong enough to take that kind of action. I am talking about a club which does not get just a handful of spectators. It gets a fair number of people coming to see matches. It was not as though the trouble maker was isolated on the terracing. He had to be picked out of the crowd. He was picked out, given back his admission money and thrown cut of the ground. I suspect that he has never got back in to this day.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
Speaking with his undoubted authority, will the hon. Gentleman go as far as to say that it should be made a condition of entry by football clubs that fans agree voluntarily to be searched for weapons or alcohol? It is very important that there should be that agreement to voluntary search, because frequently the police powers can operate only in certain specific and restricted areas.
§ Mr. Ewing
The powers in Scotland would have to be relaxed, if fans were to submit themselves to a voluntary search. Under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 the police have powers of compulsory stop and search, and fans do not have the right to refuse to be searched when they go into football grounds. My right hon. and hon. Friends who represent English constituencies would not accept the compulsory stop and search powers that prevail in Scotland.
I do not wish to speak for too long, because many of my colleagues have sat through the debate and are anxious to participate.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I do not want my hon. Friend—and I know that he does not want this—to leave the impression that the McElhone report was simply about banning drink. There was a lot more to it than that. It suggested, for example, that there should be all-seat stadiums. The Labour Government promised money to make Hampden park an all-seat stadium, but the Conservative Government withdrew that money.
§ Mr. Ewing
My hon. Friend, who has Hampden park in the heart of his constituency, is right in saying that one of the recommendations was all-seat stadiums. That is why I paid tribute to Glasgow Rangers, Aberdeen, Celtic and other clubs, which have all-seat stadiums, which have helped with the problem.
I shall now make a technical point, to which I hope the Minister will listen. As the Bill stands, clause 1 relates to clause 10 and makes the Bill inoperable. Clause 1 makes the staff on British Rail trains which travel only through England liable for prosecution. The staff should not be liable. It is nonsense to hold a driver, guard or ticket collector responsible for what happens on up to 15 coaches. Moreover, what happens when the train crosses the border? At that point, Scottish legislation applies. A train which travels from Scotland to England is covered by one piece of legislation while it is in Scotland, under which none of the British Rail staff on the train are responsible for any alcohol on the train—which is as it should be—but immediately it crosses the bridge at Berwick-on-Tweed it is covered by different legislation under which the staff all become liable for any alcohol on the train. That is nonsense and it is unworkable. The Minister had better turn his mind to that.
§ Mr. Ewing
I shall not give way, because I am anxious to conclude my speech.
It is not simple to extend the provision in part V of the Criminal Justice Act to trains and planes. It is not possible to do that, because we have no sanctions. The sanction available against public service vehicles in Scotland is that the driver is prosecuted, and if he is found guilty he is fined and loses his public service vehicle licence. The owner of the vehicle is reported to the traffic commissioners and can lose his operator's licence. Those are genuine sanctions. However, we cannot impose a sanction against British Rail by withdrawing its operator's licence to operate trains. Clause 1 in relation to clause 10 is unworkable.
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)
The House will have welcomed the words of the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing), who has brought a deep knowledge of the workings of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 to the House. We are grateful for what he said in such a lucid and helpful way.
I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who is chairman of the all-party football committee. I hope that he will forgive me for reminding him that I was in the Chamber when he spoke about membership of that committee. Members of the committee are privileged to serve under his chairmanship and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester).
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) is absent, because I should like 376 to address some remarks to him. He made some relevant points about alcohol. Perhaps when he sees my name on the screen he will creep back, but obviously not from one of the bars of the House.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have rightly welcomed the Bill. On the whole, it has received a welcome from those involved in football, and in the administration of the football league and the Football Association. However, it is right to express some concern that the House is being asked to pass the measure with such speed. I understand the Government's anxiety to get the measure on the statute book, but the subject is so important that to steamroller the Bill through the House in such a short period, when there is other important business to follow, is unfortunate. Having said that, I see no reason to panic.
The Government were right to react to the terrible scenes that some of us, including me, experienced personally, and that the majority saw on television. Certainly, the Prime Minister's intervention is welcome. I share the regret of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) that my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport cannot contribute to the debate. Such are the workings of the Government. Nevertheless, the efforts of my hon. Friend and his Department are being discussed, and they bring a sense of reality to our debate. Some of their proposals have received a great deal of criticism, especially those proposed in August. However, his wise words and the wise counsel of his Department have been well used by the Government.
It would be easy to make a speech, as some hon. Members have, in reaction to the events that I witnessed at the Luton-Millwall game in March, to express anger, as my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) did, and to suggest remedies in that spirit. Those events were a harrowing experience for those who were present. Since then, many other people have suffered even more harrowing experiences both in the United Kingdom and abroad.
The House is right to pay attention to those events, which we hope never again to see at a football ground. They caused great fear and distress to my constituents and to those in surrounding areas on that terrible evening. The events can almost be described as terrorist in their nature. I take the point that on that evening some elements in the crowd had deep political convictions, which would have no place in our arguments in the House.
We must ask ourselves whether the Bill provides an answer. I note that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary described the Bill as "one such measure" that might be taken to counteract the problem of football hooliganism. He will understand that the Government must not rest on this laurel, which we shall presumably pass this evening, but pay attention to the various existing Acts and the penalties and deterrents available to the courts and magistrates for the offence of football hooliganism.
Hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), will recall that soon after the Chelsea-Sunderland game about 80 arrests were made. Some people were arrested only on the basis of a breach of public order. In many cases, the police did not have the legislation necessary to bring those particular criminals to justice. What was even more telling was a comment made by one of those arrested. A so-called 377 Crystal Palace fan, Mr. Donald Barratt, who was arrested and got away with a light sentence, laughed at it and almost said that he would do the same again.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would greatly assist control inside football grounds if it was made a criminal offence to invade the pitch?
§ Mr. Carlisle
Yes; and if anybody who set foot on a pitch was liable to prosecution, perhaps on a charge of trespass, that would be of considerable value. Perhaps the same could apply to cricket pitches. If cricket is to survive unfenced, as we hope it will, such measures may be necessary to counteract such scenes as we saw at Headingley a few days ago.
I agree with those who say that there is a link between hooliganism and unemployment. After the Luton game, several £1 coins were found in the opposition goalmouth. Like many, I do not like the new £1 coin. If hooligans are in such a state that they chuck them at the goalkeeper, then, while I agree that there probably is a link with unemployment, it may be considered to be tenuous.
Since the Luton game there have been the tragedies of Bradford and Brussels. Indeed, we seem to have talked about nothing but football in what should have been the cricket season. I welcome the Bill and this opportunity to air some of the varied views about its provisions that exist on both sides of the House.
The Bill is basically in two parts and confronts two problems—alcohol inside and outside grounds. There is no doubt that the measures proposed by the Government that will apply outside football grounds to avoid so-called fans and supporters arriving for games in a drunken condition are absolutely right. On that sad night at Luton, 99 per cent. of the fans who rioted, ran on to the pitch and caused such damage were drunk. The members of the Red Cross reported that virtually every so-called supporter whom they tended was drunk.
Trainloads of supporters left St. Pancras that afternoon drunk, and when they got to Luton and went through the town that afternoon, and were joined by others from their localities, the majority of them were drunk. The damage that they caused to the town and within the ground would not have been caused by sober people. They were drunk-crazed, and the drink gave them courage to act in a way that they would not otherwise have behaved.
§ Mr. Moynihan
I support my hon. Friend in making that point, but, as ever, being cautious about making international comparisons and drawing conclusions, is he aware that there has been a substantial increase in hooliganism in America in baseball, its national sport? An assessment of that hooliganism, including cases of death, has resulted in reports, not least from New York city, showing that 99 per cent. of all cases of hooliganism were related directly to alcohol. Further conclusions there resulted in the statement that the banning of alcohol was equally important inside and outside stadiums. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a vital consideration to bear in mind?
§ Mr. Carlisle
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is interesting to note, in an international context, that the experience of others bears out some of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point.
I welcome the proposal to refuse entry to, and to prosecute, those who arrive drunk. I also welcome the 378 measures that will be applied to public transport. Those with experience of these matters have all too frequently seen fans coming off coaches and trains armed with containers of drink, and of course the containers themselves become missiles. The measures are welcomed by many, especially the police.
The other part of the problem to which I referred — alcohol inside grounds — causes me disquiet in view of some of the measures that the Government are proposing. Those who attend football matches regularly will agree that the availability of drink inside grounds is already extremely restricted. Indeed, drink has not been generally available at Luton since 1979. Many clubs that have followed the McElhone recommendations on a voluntary basis, rather than wait to be obliged to adopt them, have stopped selling drink inside grounds. In other words, the availability of drink inside grounds is a tiny contributory factor to problems that occur inside grounds.
It is clear from a review of the history of football hooliganism in recent years — certainly since the measures introduced by the right hon. Member for Small Heath when he was in office; his measures had the full support of Conservative Members and have resulted in grounds being much safer — that the number of incidents inside grounds is much less than the media might lead us to believe. Most incidents occur outside grounds. As I said, the trouble is that people turn up for games full of drink. The availability of drink inside grounds—even if that were permitted under the Bill — represents a small part of the problem that we face.
We must accept that these measures will hit the revenue of clubs. Many clubs are surviving through the sponsorship of commercial interests and, in many cases, the generosity of certain directors and other members of companies, who tend to want to spend their money supporting their local football clubs rather than on buying, for example, a new Rolls-Royce or having a yacht in the south of France. It is their prerogative. If that is the way in which they want to spend their money, particularly with some of the lesser clubs — I say that reservedly, representing a first division club — good luck to them. Without their help those clubs would die. I sometimes get cross when I hear people criticise football directors who put their money into clubs and then tell the fans, "Frankly, we need your support as well." Much money comes in through the provision of hospitality and other suites at matches. Because that: money is available to clubs and because alcohol is available in those boxes, there is a cross-subsidisation in that money comes in from various sources — from that means and from the entry fees paid by fans. We at Luton accept that our entry fees would be higher if money were not available from commercial activities, which include the sale and dispensing of alcohol at the bars within the ground.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Bill, as drafted, will permit drinking in boxes before and after the match and that, with screening, drinking can continue at half time? Only those sitting at the front parts of boxes will be prevented from drinking. The Bill will do little to affect drinking habits inside football grounds.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The hon. Gentleman is correct, and I appreciate his deep knowledge of the game — 379 [Interruption.] Any supporter of Chelsea must have a deep knowledge of the game of football. I am, nevertheless, worried about the sight of drinking at games.
Will the Minister explain the procedure at, say, a bar under the stand which has drink which is available to the public? If the bar is not within sight of the pitch, will it have to be closed? In many instances, those who go to watch games might prefer to stay in the bar than watch the match, considering some games.
The Minister will be aware that, under the law as it stands, clubs are obliged to renew their licences at regular intervals. We at Luton have to renew our licence every three months. I agree that it must be for the local magistrates and the police to decide whether licences should be renewed.
That leads me to my last three concerns. The Bill appears to indicate that clubs with a good behaviour record will be rewarded by being granted licences by magistrates and the police. It will surely be accepted that in many cases the incidents that take place inside the grounds, as happened in the Luton-Millwall game, are to a small extent only the responsibility of the home side and, indeed, of the away side if one considers football hooliganism to be part of society's sickness. I am concerned that magistrates in the Luton area, having noted the problem that occurred in the Millwall game, which was not of our making, might question the desirability of granting a licence to the Luton Town football club.
My second concern is about revenue. The Government, at a time when football is desperate for funds — and designation, rightly, is to be made to third and fourth division clubs — must accept the necessity to make revenue available. The measures before us will restrict the revenue going to clubs.
My last concern, which I raised earlier in an intervention, is that other sports may well be involved. Because the word "football" does not appear in the Bill, I am concerned that a fairly heavy-handed Home Secretary might be panicked, as the result of an odd instance in one sport on one ground, to include that ground in the provisions of the Bill.
Some of us have enjoyed the cricket at Lords in the last few days. Some 20,000 people daily have watched the cricket over four to five days, making a total of nearly 100,000 people. I read no newspaper reports of arrests as a result of drunkenness, and, having attended the game for three days, I saw no instance of drunkenness. If 100,000 people can enjoy themselves by using bars open in a limited way and bringing alchohol into the ground, as they are perfectly entitled to do, that sport has litle to fear. However, the Bill gives a future Home Secretary power to extend its provisions to such grounds. I hope that the Home Secretary will not be too anxious to act in that way.
§ Mr. Couchman
My hon. Friend may be aware that the authorities who run the Rugby Football Union are apprehensive on this very point.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Having in my younger days enjoyed many drinks at Twickenham when we might have been called rugby hooligans—in the antics we got up to after drinking although, of course, it was never criminal — I understand my hon. Friend's comment. However, rugby's house is in good order.
380 I am glad that the House appears to be about to give the Bill a fair wind. It deserves to be supported not only by hon. Members but by those beyond the House. It is to be hoped that football will be a better game for it.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
The general mood of the House seems to be that the Bill is too little too late, and that attitude is absolutely right. Successive hon. Members have said that drink is not entirely to blame for the violence that takes place and for the incidents that have been mentioned. While there is much that is good about the Bill, there is no doubt that it is so easy to get through the loopholes that it will do little to solve the problem.
Many members of the football group went to White Hart lane at the invitation of Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago. It was interesting to observe that after one match the police asked the supporters to leave the litter in the away supporters' area behind the goal, 80 per cent. of which comprised containers of alcohol which was bought outside the ground. It came from local supermarkets and off-licences. Of the total, 20 per cent. comprised plastic cartons which can be bought with a pint of beer, but the remainder had been bought outside the ground.
The Bill does not state how to prevent the perennial problem of 15 and 16-year-old kids invading off-licences, because that is where the booze comes from. They pile into an off-licence 25-strong. One makes an attempt to buy a packet of crisps or something similar. The rest run in mob-handed and grab bottles of sherry, wine or such-like from the shelves. If these youngsters go into an off-licence, they even buy drink. Four of them chip in 70p each for a bottle of sherry, which is sufficient to get four 15-year-old kids drunk. They get that on the way to the ground. They get it not on a coach, a bus or a train, but when they are walking to the ground. They are often home supporters.
If the police have powers to close every off-licence, they will have to do so over a wide radius in order to close every outlet. It is not necessarily a pub from which supporters get drinks. People who go into pubs, while they may not be experienced boozers, can take one or two pints. They do not go into the pub until 2 o'clock, and the match kicks off at 3 o'clock. The problem occurs with under-age kids of 15 and 16, because of the cheap booze that they are able to get. Nor does the problem of booze arise inside the ground with the football supporters.
I wish to read to the House a letter which has been sent to me—I always believe in listening to experts—from a Mr. Jack Wood of Exeter place, Sheffield, who operated a turnstile at Sheffield Wednesday football ground for many years. He says:It's all right until three o'clock. Until then the coppers check them for beer cans and weapons before they come through. But then what? At kick-off time all the bloody coppers climb over the turnstile and … off to watch the match.I apologise for his colourful language.
Then about 3.15 you can hear them coming, marching out of the pubs, clapping and shouting as the word goes round, they are here! … Looking for trouble, deliberately going in at the wrong end, and not a copper in sight.He then mentions identification cards, by which the hooligans can be singled out. This expert says:Just before the kick-off the turnstiles are packed like the neck of a funnel. If a bloke is jammed in and you refuse to let him through there is no way he can back out because of the pressure of the crowd behind him. There they are. Packed like sardines. They have all had a few and you have GOT to let him through. My mates at a semi-final were offered as much as £20 by Spurs 381 supporters without tickets. What could they do? They simply put their foot on a pedal otherwise there would have been a riot. There are no checks on turnstile figures at an all-ticket match and there are always hundreds of extra fans packed in. You can't shut the sliding gates to stop those without identification cards. It's too jam-packed with fans.There is the voice of experience of somebody who has to work at a ground and face the drunks and the howling mobs.
Let us analyse some of the reasons that the away supporters often go on the rampage. I happen to be a football supporter who does not go exclusively into the directors' box. We have heard the voices of many hon. Members in the debate who sit in the directors' box well away from all the beery belchers, and worse, and all the swearing and punch-ups that happen behind the goal. I wish that a few more Members of Parliament would take the trouble to go to watch their teams away from home. They should pay to go in and see what one has to put up with.
I was at Manchester City's ground on an occasion this season when an empty lager can full of urine sailed past my ear and smashed into the skull of a young lady sitting in front of me. That was the fault not just of the thug who threw it but also of the police because they were round the edge of the ground but none of them were round the back of the stand looking for the idiots who throw that sort of stuff.
I was also at Chelsea's ground with the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). As we were sitting there, we noticed that there was no segregation. Gangs of thugs carrying pints of beer were strutting round the stand threatening anybody who dared to say a word to them. They had bought the booze round the back and carried it in. The problem was twofold: there was no segregation of supporters and there were no police. The police once more were round the edge of the pitch. That is no use. The police must be in the crowd. They must be where the two sets of supporters meet. All too often, the clubs segregate the supporters who stand, but they do not segregate the supporters who sit down. We were very concerned, because elderly people, women and children were with us. The Chelsea club made no attempt to segregate away supporters in seats. We were at the mercy of thugs strutting round, and ultimately that is bound to boil over.
Quite often, there is no proper segregation at Manchester United. I visited Coventry when our supporters climbed over the fence and everyone condemned them for it. But they did it because Coventry sold too many tickets — 2,000 for a ground that holds only 1,000. People were crammed like sardines and they had to climb over the fence.
The same happened at Leicester, where our supporters were ripped off. The club charges more for tickets for away supporters than for home supporters and then sticks the away supporters in an inferior part of the ground, often behind a floodlight pylon where they cannot see the game. At Nottingham Forest we were jammed like sardines looking through wire netting and from behind floodlight pylons, even though there was plenty of room in the remainder of the ground. These clubs do not care, they do not cater for us and they do not take any notice of the problems. The same has happened with Grimsby and Notts County.
382 Supporters who go away to watch a game are often treated like animals. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) should have said that one reason why away supporters ran on the pitch at Luton was that 8,000 fans turned up and Luton tried to cram them into a space large enough for only 5,000. The fans ran on to the pitch to save themselves from being squashed. That is how the riot started. The initial spark is often caused because away fans are treated like animals. They are met at the station and escorted through the streets like prisoners of war. It is not unusual to see a copper give an away fan a cuff because he does not like the look of him or because he has stepped off the pavement.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths), who represents the police in this House, spoke about search. Surely he does not really believe that a football fan would dare to refuse to be searched by a policeman and quote the law to him. Really, the hon. Gentleman should go to a few matches in disguise, get behind the goal and see what happens. If he believed what he said, he would believe anything.
The pent-up resentment and poor facilities, combined with the greed of clubs which rip off away supporters—who they know will turn up only once that season — often cause much of the trouble. If the Office of Fair Trading looked at the deal that away supporters get from clubs, it could present an interesting report.
The Government's attitude towards football is entirely different from their attitude to law and order in general. When there was a problem on the picket lines during the miners' strike, money was no object. No one said that the National Coal Board should pay for the police services. No one said that the NCB should pay to protect property or to provide police escorts for working miners. The Government paid for all that. Yet when it comes to law and order at football matches the attitude is very different.
The Government say that the clubs must pay for policing inside the grounds. The clubs have no say in it, because the chief constable in each area decides how many police should turn up. I have known occasions when the chief constable of south Yorkshire has had more policemen than spectators at matches. I am not. exaggerating. At one match against Southend, that club sent a coachload of 22 supporters but there were 35 policemen standing behind them watching the game. It is nice for the coppers to have a night off to watch the game. I know that Sheffield United has refused to pay a bill for policing, so the police authority is taking that club to court.
The Government's attitude towards law and order in football grounds is quite different from their attitude to law and order in other areas. The Government offer no cash. They do not say that innocent people attending football matches should be protected. They said that working miners had the right to go to work in peace, yet clubs have to pay for policing inside the grounds.
§ Mr. Ashton
The hon. Gentleman may say that, but those people are entitled to protection. I pay my rates and I am entitled to have the police protect me inside a football ground. The police do not do that.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Is he aware that the 11 league clubs in London last season paid £700,000 for policing inside the grounds, yet those clubs also have to pay rates?
§ Mr. Ashton
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government should come up with the means to pay for that.
As I said earlier, in 1972 I introduced a Bill to establish a football betting levy board because football was going through a financial crisis. I still believe that that is the only answer to the problem. In 1968, horse racing was in trouble because people were watching the races on television rather than attending the meetings. They either went to the betting shop to place their bets or telephoned their bookies. The people running the tracks did not have sufficient funds for prize money or to maintain the stands.
The then Labour Government set up the Horserace Betting Levy Board, which takes a slight percentage of every bet. Members of the board include bookies, breeders, track owners, the Jockey Club, and so on. They plough back that cash into the race tracks to provide cheaper admission, to make the tracks safer, for better prize money and for better breeding. That has saved horse racing. If there is a bad winter with snow on the ground for two months and no racing, the sport does not die. That is the answer to the football problem.
The problem of booze is only one aspect — the main problem is safety in the grounds, and that cannot be achieved without segregation, which requires a great deal of cash. It is all very well to talk about the football trust. Without blowing my trumpet too loudly, that was something that emerged from the football crisis in 1968. At that time it was questioned whether the mark-the-ball competitions were legal. I understand that a Member of the House of Lords questioned their legality. I am not saying that a deal was stiched up between certain people, but the word went round that, if no one insisted that the competition was illegal, there would be some return of cash to football. I shall not go into the winks and the nods, but the system has worked well.
The problem is that, to obtain cash from the football trust, a club has to put money up front. It has to pay out all the money and then it gets a percentage back later. The small clubs cannot afford that, because they already live hand to mouth. There is a great deal of money in football. For example, the Spurs sponsored boxes bring in £500,000 a year — that is the club's income.
§ Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)
I am interested in the point that my hon. Friend is making. He has a great deal of experience in these matters, so I hope that he can answer a question. Is it not the case that Association football today is stricken with dire poverty? Is it not true that the number of spectators has shrunk enormously? Yet we still have the same club capacity as we had years ago. Is not the root of the trouble the fact that there are too many clubs offering football on the market?
§ Mr. Ashton
From a market or capitalist viewpoint, I suppose that my hon. Friend could be right, but he should go to Darlington club and say that. He should remember that Darlington is a marginal seat, and it would not be happy if the Government introduced legislation that put the club out of business. The people of Darlington might not go often to the club ground to watch Darlington play, but they do like to hear Darlington's name read out at 5 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon on the football results. Apart from elections, it is the only time that Darlington gets a mention on television. Quite rightly, Darlington is proud of that.
384 Some of the smaller clubs have a wonderful family atmosphere and do not have any trouble. Indeed, if there were two or three hooligans at Darlington the trouble would be catching them — there are so many empty spaces the coppers would have to run fast to catch them. A betting levy provision would save the Darlingtons of this country. Its name appears on the football pools coupons. Without such clubs, we would be reduced to Australian football and there would not be a great deal of interest in that.
There is a provision in the Finance Bill to reduce the tax on football betting and give it to the clubs. I think that we could increase the tax on football betting. The average punter would not care whether it was 43p or 44p in the pound. If the tax on football betting was increased by 1p in the pound, that would bring in about £10 million a year and the punter would hardly notice. That extra cash, providing it went to a statutory board under the Home Office, not a voluntary football trust, with representatives on it of the clubs, the supporters clubs and perhaps the players union, could be used for safety and segregation. That could be the answer to the problem. I hope that the Minister will mention that when he winds up.
Unless something is done about that problem, we shall see the market economy, in which 25 or perhaps 40 clubs go to the wall. From my constituency I can get to Leeds, Huddersfield, Doncaster, Barnsley, Lincoln, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Mansfield, Nottingham Forest and Notts County within half an hour. Those towns love their teams and the only way the teams survive is through the bobs and tanners they get collecting door to door. They are very proud of their team and their status. If I asked some of my hon. Friends which borough was the fourth largest in the country and never had a football team in first-class football, they could not name it. I shall tell them — Croydon. Nobody has ever heard of Croydon in the north. They think it is a little village, but it is nearly as big as Newcastle or Nottingham. If there had been a Croydon United, everybody would have heard of the town. In the north, they hardly know it exists. That is the value of a team to a town.
A great deal of damage has been done to the image of football in this country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) mentioned, when Everton went to Rotterdam, there was not a single arrest and nothing went wrong. To punish, or to suggest punishing, innocent people is something that the House should never condone. Yet all too often, when there is a fault, a crime or a happening at a football match immediately the cry is, "Punish everybody." The supporters of Norwich committed no crime. They were totally innocent. They had a perfect record and had never been in trouble, but immediately after the Liverpool problem in Brussels all English clubs were banned.
Now the good people of Norwich — there are two marginal seats in Norwich, so the Government had better watch what they do—have to see their club forfeit their right to play in Europe next year after having done magnificently and won the league cup. It is the same for Everton. It won the championship for the first time in 20 years. It is not the fault of the club or the supporters, but the innocent are immediately punished. That builds up resentment. They are simple people who go to football matches and they are simple people behind the goal at Norwich. Those people will say, "If we get punished like this for nothing, to hell with it, we might as well do 385 something." It is a natural teenage reaction to say, "If you are going to punish us when we have done nothing wrong, we will damn soon do something wrong to get even."
§ Mr. John Mark Taylor (Solihull)
The hon. Gentleman used the expression "simple people". It is not an expression I would use. Some people have referred to football as working man's opera. The same might also be said of rugby league. Will the hon. Gentleman say why there are no comparable problems in rugby league?
§ Mr. Ashton
Rugby league attracts far fewer people, and it is a far more violent game. Probably, as I said earlier, there is also a surfeit of clubs in a small area. They tend to come from the same background. Rugby league tends to come from mining communities—in fact all the clubs are from mining communities. Most of the thugs in places such as Featherstone, Pontefract and Batley go to watch Leeds United. They know that that is where they will find violence, and they have to go only 5 or 10 miles to get there. Punishing innocent clubs and spectators will rebound in the long run.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) knows a great deal about football. I agree with him on two points. First, the FIFA and UEFA reaction in banning all English clubs indefinitely was excessive. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman is right in seeking financial help for football, particularly for the grounds, from something like the Horserace Betting Levy Board. Representing Newmarket, I know a little about that.
However, when the hon. Gentleman got outside the area of football and into the area of policing, I am afraid that he led the House into error. During the miners' strike the fact is that at no stage were the police taken into the private property of the National Coal Board. They dealt with the pickets' actions on the public highway. In the same way, if there were interference with the lawful right of football fans to go to a football match on the public highway, it would be the duty of the police to prevent that obstruction. They would do it with no charge to any club, for that is the public and criminal law which the police must enforce. But it is an entirely different matter when the police are asked to go inside the private places of the football clubs. In those cases, the clubs should pay.
§ Mr. Ashton
It is not as if the police are asked to go into the ground. They insist, and tell the club how many police constables they will send to the ground.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that he does not know what he is talking about.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
The police will go into a ground, first, if there is reason to believe that some criminal action is taking place in that private place, and, secondly, if they are invited to go in by the clubs to assist in maintaining order.
§ Mr. Ashton
Sheffield United is being taken to court by the police authority because the local police insist on sending more police constables than are needed.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman states that as a hypothesis. I do not know the facts, but my guess is that the police agreed to the request of Sheffield United that 386 they should provide adequate manpower to police the occasion. The police sent the appropriate manpower and then sent the bill, and Sheffield has refused to pay. I suspect that that is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.
§ Mr. Boyes
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will have to concede this point. As the vice-president of Hartlepool, I can assure him that the police determine the number that they think should be in the ground. Recently the police bill was almost as high at the total gate money. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will concede that point.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
I think that when he replies my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office — if he ventures into this area — will confirm that I have correctly stated the law and practice.
I have an interest to declare in the matter, but I suppose only remotely. For four and a half years I was the Minister with responsibility for sport — a small trade union in this House. I failed to find the answers to violence at football matches. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) also failed to find the answers. It may be that my hon. Friend the present Minister with responsibility for sport has failed, too. As a consequence we are confronted with this Bill. It is a disagreeable Bill. I do not particularly like it. But it is a necessity.
I have another interest in that I am a life vice-president of a Manchester United supporters club. That may give the answer to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, who inferred that I had no knowledge of football. I take a keen interest in it.
Thirdly, of course, I have an interest to declare in the police service.
My overall view of the Bill is that it is like many other things we have seen over recent years, in that the Prime Minister saw clearly what needed to be done in the national interest, and got her Cabinet to agree with her, but that subsequently the weevils got at the text. As a result what started out and should have remained a simple, clear Bill banning alcohol at football matches has been turned into a dog's dinner with a whole infrastructure of exemptions, conditions on exemptions, appeals against conditions and police overrides of magistrates' courts' decisions. I shall support the Bill. I have been asking for it for many years. But it lacks the essential simplicity of the Scottish measure, which has the merit of being both intelligible and enforceable. This Bill is less than intelligible in many of its parts. It is exceedingly complicated, it will be difficult for the police service to enforce, as I shall demonstrate, and it will not help the relationship between the police service and football fans.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
What does the hon. Gentleman think would be the view of the police if all football league 387 matches were moved to a 10.30 kick-off on Sunday morning, which would remove the problem of the availability of alcohol?
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
I shall not speculate on that proposition, because it is not the one before the House; but the Police Federation has said, and I support it, that it would like to see more matches taking place when pubs are not open. Therefore, I go some way with the hon. Gentleman, although I am not sure about Sunday mornings. The House will be debating that at a later stage.
As many others have said, the legislation is long overdue. I and the Police Federation asked for it to be introduced 11 years ago, nine years ago, eight years ago and five years ago, and at every annual conference of the Police Federation during that period. Yet at every stage, our pleas were rejected. Now, however, the Bill has been introduced because of the 38 deaths at Brussels, the hundreds of people injured and, in the case of the police, because they have been taking far too many casualties.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
I hope to show, if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and make a contribution to the debate, that the Bill has nothing to do with what went on or goes on in Europe. That is one of its deficiencies. It says nothing about boats or planes and alcohol. It has nothing to do with the deaths in Brussels.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman may be right in his view, but I am saying that one of the factors that propelled the Bill into the House was what happened in Brussels. That is beyond dispute.
I am glad that at last the Home Office, which previously repudiated the judgment of the police service, has come round to the point of view of the police. Yet it is also worth recalling that when the Scottish Act was passed, the police asked that it should be applied to England as well. We found it absurd that the Scottish police should have powers to stop coachloads of football louts travelling south from Glasgow to Newcastle when the English police had no powers to stop them once they were across the border into this country. Once again, however, the Home Office rejected our plea. Although I went along and discussed it, my request to the Home Secretary was turned down.
Tonight we have the opportunity to listen again to the views of the police service. Their advice was rejected before and I am willing to bet that it will be rejected again. The consequence may be similar to those that followed rejection of that advice before—we shall come to rue it.
I welcome the fact that we shall put on the statute book, no doubt in the next two or three weeks, an Act that will help to reduce alcohol-related problems at football matches. But I agree with those who have said that alcohol is not the sole cause of the problem. There is far more to it than that.
I pick out one detail. Why are we to ban alcohol at football matches, but not the taking of glue into football grounds? Glue can be sniffed and cause the same sort of intoxication and dementia as alcohol, but glue is to be ignored. Here is an illustration of what happens when we rush through legislation without thinking carefully about how the problem should be dealt with. As far as the police are concerned, I am anxious about four points. First, there is the unintelligibility of parts of the Bill. Recently, I have been having a look at the police training manuals that arise 388 from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. They stand several feet high off the floor. There will have to be careful instruction of the police on the application of the Bill, adding to that pile, because there are parts of it that simply are not intelligible.
Secondly, I am concerned about the Bill's inconsistency.
Thirdly, I am concerned about the practical enforcement of the Bill. I remind hon. Members who have talked about their experiences of standing there while bottles of urine are thrown past them and about the violence that they have seen that the police have to do that all the time. They cannot argue. They are there and they suffer casualties. Therefore, their advice to the House should be listened to carefully.
Fourthly, I am concerned about the possible effect of the Bill on the relationships between the police and the football clubs and their fans.
Turning then to the question of intelligibility, I regret that the Government have allowed themselves to be talked into the infrastructure of exemptions. I should like to see those clauses out of the Bill completely. Let us ban alcohol simply and clearly. Let us avoid the whole business of building in the ability of clubs to apply for exemptions, and of the magistrates' courts placing conditions on those exemptions, the provision whereby there can be an appeal to the county court if the club does not like the conditions applied to the exemptions, the power of a police officer over the rank of inspector to override the exemption, the power of the individual constable, if he judges that the use of the exemption in practice—the opening of the bar—will lead to drunkenness, to close it. All that is to import into what should be a simple and straightforward Act complications and confusions that do not serve the interests of the game or the police service.
I am indebted to the Government for their courtesy to the House in that Ministers have provided the notes on clauses in the Vote Office — a most helpful procedure when we are trying to get the Bill through all its stages in a single sitting. The notes on clause 3 say:There is also a power for a police inspector … to suspend an exemption order temporarily (thereby prohibiting sales of alcohol), if in his opinion there is a likelihood of trouble developing at a particular match".Similarly, the notes say that clause 6gives a constable in uniform power during a designated sporting event to close any bar or bars if he considers the sale of alcohol from them detrimental to the orderly conduct or safety of spectators.I do not doubt that the police will try to apply those powers in a sensible fashion, but I am doubtful whether it is right in principle to place upon the police officer the onus and the authority to override the decision of a magistrates' court. As far as I am aware, that is a serious innovation in our public law. My hon. Friend the Minister may be able to correct me, but I am not aware that there is any other case in British law in which a police officer has the authority to override the decisions of a magistrates' court in any particular circumstance. That is to ask of the police more than they should be asked to do.
I turn now to the inconsistencies in the Bill. There is the provision that alcohol may not be taken into the grounds unless it is going into the changing rooms, the club rooms, the catering storerooms, the private boxes or the restaurants. How will the police cope with that? Parliament says, "Thou shalt not take alcohol into sports 389 grounds", but it is all right to take it to the changing rooms, the catering storerooms or the private boxes. That imports a complexity which is unhelpful to the law.
Similarly, no alcohol is to be drunk at the ground unless the place where it is consumed is not in direct view of the pitch. I must say to my hon. Friend the Minister that that is absurd. It will be extremely difficult for the police to distinguish between one group of people who are allowed to drink and another group who are not.
Some of my hon. Friends have spoken with some knowledge of the need to provide revenue to the clubs. When I was the Minister with responsibility for sport, I heard and sympathised with the pleas of football clubs that they could not expect to raise large sums of money unless they could offer their sponsors and customers an opportunity to enjoy themselves in private boxes. I understand that point of view. However, we will be creating class distinction in drinking if we allow different treatment for different groups at the same football match. Such an arrangement will be inequitable and unworkable. It will create great difficulties for the police.
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)
At Lord's cricket ground, when the Mound stand bar is closed at certain times of the day, one can always get a drink in the pavilion or the Warner stand. Does my hon. Friend believe that that anomaly should be put right?
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
I am not talking about Lord's; I am discussing the Bill. Of course, the Bill could be extended that far, but that will depend on the Minister's judgment on designation. He will take into account the circumstances at Lord's cricket ground, Twickenham rugby ground or Wigan Rugby League ground.
The Bill is clear. It says, "Thou shalt not drink on the terrace, but thou mayest drink in the directors' box if it is out of sight of the pitch." The police have a lot on their plate. They are short of manpower and over-burdened, yet we ask them to enforce such distinctions between one group of people and another.
I shall support the Bill, but the Minister is asking more of the police service than the police service should reasonably be expected to do. It is inconsistent to create one set of rules for the terrace and another for the private boxes. Indeed the Government have conceded that point. That is why they ruled that, even if directors get an exemption from the local magistrates, they will not be able to drink in direct view of the pitch. Presumably, they will have a screen to hide behind while they down their gins and tonic. That exception gives the game away. The Government are too embarrassed to allow directors to drink in view of the drinkless crowds below them. They know that would lead to trouble. However, it is all right to drink out of sight of the pitch. That is legislative humbug. It will lead to more, not fewer, problems for the police at football matches.
I turn now to enforcement. We are told in the notes on clauses that clause 7 provides the police with the necessary powers to enforce this legislation. These include the power to enter any part of a football ground and to search people entering or inside the ground when an offence is suspected. We have heard from several experienced hon. Members about the pressures at the turnstiles, the enormous crushes that can occur and the great difficulty of stopping people and searching them.
What we have not heard, and what I wish the House to hear, is precisely what a police officer is required by law 390 to do before he undertakes the search that the Government tell us will be adequate to enforce the Bill. The police officer must take account of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which my hon. Friend the Minster and I know almost by heart. The Act states that if a police officer wishes to stop and search someone, he must first state his name and number and then the purpose of the search. He must then ensure, except where there are difficulties, that he can make a record of that stop and search. It is true that the Art provides that, where it is impracticable to make a record, the officer need not do so, and of course that will apply at football matches. I intervened earlier to ask whether there could be an agreement with clubs to make it a condition of entry that fans should submit to voluntary searches precisely to get over that problem. I did so because my hon. Friend the Minister, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels), said:Before making the search the constable must identify himself and give the object and grounds of the search; following the search he must make a written record of the search, unless it is not practicable to do so … Nor does the Act in any way preclude the police or stewards searching those entering football grounds with their consent or because the club makes this a condition of entry."—[Official Report, 2 April 1985; Vol. 76, c. 571.]I suspect that my hon. Friend the Minister will be advising clubs to do what I asked the right hon. Member for Small Heath to accept. There are many reasons for this, but I shall give only one. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act states that a police officer who suspects that someone is carrying an offensive weapon, stolen goods, or, in this case, alcohol into a football ground can require him to remove his overcoat, gloves and jacket, but he cannot require him to remove his hat.
That is one absurdity of the Act, but how much more absurd it will be when one is dealing with a football fan, who need only stick a miniature bottle of alcohol — such as one sees on aeroplanes — under his cap, and the police officer can do nothing about it unless he removes the fan from that public place to a private place in which he can be asked to take off his headgear. My hon. Friend must know that that is how the Act will work in this case.
Somewhere between here and the other place my hon. Friend must ensure that the police are not so inhibited. They must not be required to take to a private place those whom they wish to remove their headgear so that they cart enforce the Bill which my hon. Friend commends to the House. That is only one example of the enforcement difficulties that the police will experience.
The Bill is urgently needed and overdue. But I wish that we had not been compelled to rush through all its stages in one sitting. I appreciate the pressures of the forthcoming football season, but I do not believe that the demands of football clubs, pools companies and television companies should take precedence over the need to consider legislation carefully and to produce a Bill that can be enforced in the long run. We are not going to war; we are simply trying to deal with the problems of football matches. We could have made the Bill more effective, comprehensible and enforceable if we had taken a day or two longer to get it right.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)
I shall make a short contribution to the debate. I declare an interest as vice-president of Ipswich Town supporters club. I have been watching the game for 30 years and I am appalled at the way in which it has degenerated over the years.
The Bill aims to control the possession of alcohol at football grounds. It attempts to limit drunkenness and to control the nature of the crowd before it enters the ground. It tries to control the consumption of alcohol by people travelling to the ground and before entry. The trouble is that the problem has been with us, in all its ugliness, for a long time, yet we have responded in haste. The problem has been with us for a good many years, but the Bill bears all the marks of being drafted in a hurry. It will have a limited impact upon the problem. I do not think that it will work very well and I have major reservations about it.
The assumption behind the legislation is that drunken behaviour contributes to football hooliganism and that controls will help to improve matters. I shall make some preliminary observations and describe a violent incident in Ipswich some time ago. We do not have much trouble at Ipswich, but there have been some ugly scenes. The worst that I have witnessed was three or four years ago, at the opening match of the season, when Ipswich played Newcastle. That morning I had held an advice bureau in the town hall in the centre of town. I was due to see some elderly people, but they did not arrive. When I looked out, I saw that some of the Newcastle fans had arrived early. They were drunk and being sick all over the road. They were tipping liquor about the place, smashing bottles, fighting and indulging in general hooliganism.
When one analyses the causes of that trouble, they boil down to two. The fans were allowed to arrive too early. What were they doing in Ipswich early in the morning when the match was not due to start until 3 o'clock? The fans had time to waste. They were walking round looking for trouble because they had time on their hands. The trouble had nothing to do with drink at the ground, or even in the vicinity of the ground. The fans bought the drink in the supermarket and sprayed it about the streets not 10 yds from where they bought it. That drunkenness at Ipswich occurred away from the ground, and I cannot see anything in the Bill that will control such behaviour. It could occur again in spite of the legislation.
The first part of the Bill deals with transport. The first clause deals with liquor on a public service vehicle on the road or on the railway, but the worst trouble occurs at Ipswich when five or six people hire a beaten-up old van. They arrive in the town with crates of drink in the back. By the time that the jalopy arrives in Ipswich its passengers are as drunk as lords. They fall out of the back and sides of the van. I do not see how the Bill will solve that problem. Such people come in swarms. The Suffolk police do a very good job, but nothing in the Bill will tackle that problem.
Football violence is a complex problem. I accept the Government's explanation that this is a piecemeal approach to a difficult problem, but I wonder how piecemeal it is. I believe that it will be ineffective in tackling the main source of the difficulties. The innocent will be punished with the guilty. I suppose that that is inevitable. Most people can go to a football match, have a bottle of beer, and perhaps even another bottle if they 392 lose the three points, without causing any harm to anybody. However, today we are legislating against the minority whose loutish behaviour disgraces the game.
When I read about the serious trouble in Cambridge some time ago, I realised that some of the people who orchestrate the trouble are very sinister indeed. They are not drunks. Some of the hard men behind the trouble are stone cold sober. In some cases such people organise the violence. I am not arguing to what extent that occurs, but it is a factor.
In one area the Bill is absolutely correct. I refer to clause 9(6), which states:This Act does not apply to any sporting event or proposed sporting event—(a) where all competitors are to take pan otherwise than for reward, and(b) to which all spectators are to be admitted free of charge.The assumption underlying the clause is that money corrupts the game in Britain. The assumption is that it is not a game any more, but a commercial business. Some of the hard people in the game act in the way that people always act when large sums of money are involved. Some aspects of the game fill me with dismay. The game has not only been corrupted by money. It is big business, involving avarice and greed. People are paid—players and managers alike—far beyond what they are worth.
Some of my unemployed constituents—if they can afford to go to a match—looking at the game from the terraces and knowing that the players can be paid as much as £1,000 a week become discontented, and no wonder. They feel that it is easy money, and that has corrupted the game. Think of the transfer fees. For years and years the clubs have taken from the game without thinking of providing decent facilities for the supporter on the terraces. Often supporters are herded off the terraces like cattle. Who cares, so long as they have paid their money? Nobody. Only when the game has reached a crisis do people think about it.
I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) to draw attention to the structure of the game. Basically, what is wrong is that the game is in dire poverty, for one reason—the market has shrunk and dwindled. It will continue to dwindle, but the number of clubs will remain the same. The costs for each club have grown, but their revenues have shrunk. Only when we face that basic problem will we cure that poverty and make the game a decent one for spectators.
The main root of the problem lies elsewhere. We have not faced the basic problems of football violence. The details are complex, but the profile of the problem is simple. There is a hard core of people who are determined to ruin the game through hooliganism. They do not come to watch the game. They come to look for trouble and to fight. We know that those people exist. We need first to identify them, secondly to apprehend them, especially if they are frequent offenders, and thirdly to punish them.
The problem is one of social terrorism by a minority, and the solution requires a parallel with military intelligence. We need to know who these people are and where they go. We must be vigilant and monitor these people so that on any Saturday afternoon we know where the flotsam and jetsam are drifting to make trouble. With that kind of advance intelligence it would almost be possible to plot a graph from the fixture list to discover where trouble is likely to occur. It would be possible to eradicate soccer hooliganism if we were in possession of 393 such intelligence so that the police could mobilise their resources and take action. The problem is not insuperable, but we have not faced it in a strategic way.
In analysing the problem, one should not simply consider the bad areas. It might be better to consider the places where the situation is good and see why it is good. I do not recall much serious trouble in Ipswich in the 10 years during which I have been watching Ipswich Town football club. The reason is that someone has thought through the whole problem strategically.
When the visiting fans alight from their coaches or trains, the police are waiting to escort them to the ground. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw is concerned about the way in which the police treat visiting fans, but the citizens of Ipswich are very glad that visiting fans are met at the railway station and escorted to the ground. When they get to the ground, they are segregated in a big wire cage. In effect, a large crocodile from the train is taken under escort to the turnstiles and then put into a cage. The fans watch the game from inside the cage and when it is over a voice on the Tannoy tells everybody to stand firm, as the visitors will be let out of the ground first. The home supporters remain while the visiting fans are escorted back to the train. One wonders whether it is worth watching a football match if such a process has to be endured, but very little trouble arises, because strategically the crowd is under control.
After reading the Bill I went to see the managing director of Ipswich Town football club and its legal advisers. We went through the Bill clause by clause. There should not be one law for the rich and one law for the poor when it comes to drinking at football grounds. I would not argue that for one moment, but if there has never been trouble from a certain area of the football ground, experience suggests that a different sort of discretion should be exercised there than in another area where trouble may have arisen. When there is bother at Portman road, Ipswich Town's football ground, it always comes from the north stand. Consequently, the police have shut down the bars in that stand. The good clubs in this country have put many of these measures into operation already.
The proposals covering executive boxes at football grounds will be a body blow to Ipswich Town. The boxes are within sight of the Portman road ground, but there is a let-out, because they are not licensed premises and thus do not come within the terms of the Bill, which cover only licensed areas from which one can see the match. I may be wrong, but my legal advice suggests that that is the case. The proposals in clause 3(1)(b), however, will seriously affect Ipswich Town football club, because the drink sold in the executive boxes has to be brought from the licensed premises in other parts of the ground and the off-sales provisions in the Bill will prevent that.
There has never been any trouble in the executive boxes. People come to watch the match, they have a drink and they go home. A magistrate or whoever else looks at this problem should exercise the utmost discretion in such situations. Where there has never been any bother, one should let sleeping dogs lie rather than look for trouble. I sympathise with the police when they are trying to get the fans into the ground as quickly as possible. It will upset the temper of the crowd if that process is impeded while the police search for liquor.
In most cases, the general run of spectators will be penalised by the Bill while those in the executive boxes will not, but in Ipswich the reverse will be the case. The 394 general body of spectators will not be penalised, because they will drink outside the perimeter of the ground, but that will not be wholly effective, because a fan can drink in one of the bars, duck under the open arch and join the body of the crowd, do the same again five minutes later and repeat the process any number of times. One can drink out of sight of the ground, but there will be no effective control, because fans can enter and leave almost at will.
It would be possible to adopt the course suggested by the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) or that proposed by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths). First, alcohol could be banned completely. Secondly, alcohol could continue to be sold. The third solution, the half-way house, is almost bound to fail. There would be too many anomalies. The Bill's provisions will not work in practice. Therefore, I am afraid that the legislation will have a limited impact.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
It is sad that there has not been a general debate on this subject. A year ago I initiated a debate on sport, but although questions have been asked and statements made about football violence and hooliganism, we have not had a general debate on the subject. It would have been very helpful if such a debate had been held before the introduction of the Bill so that we could examine the wider aspects of the problem.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said that he did not know what caused football hooliganism and that therefore he could not provide a solution. It is no use criticising previous Ministers and previous Governments for nor having tackled the problem. It will continue for a long time, and there is no absolute solution to it. The Bill does not seek to provide a complete solution. It deals only with that part of the problem that is attributable to alcohol. To say that football violence is wholly attributable to alcohol is as bad as to say that it is attributable to unemployment. The two do not necessarily go hand in hand.
I am convinced that the violence exists on two levels. I agree with every word in the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch). He dealt fully with organised violence. About 200 followers of Tottenham Hotspur and about 200 followers of Millwall and Derby plan violence. Some, although not all clubs, have followers who get together on the Thursday or Friday before a match to plan how they will "take" the other end. It is territorial. They plan violence not only within football grounds but outside them. Various studies have been undertaken. One very interesting study was undertaken by Leicester university, which is working closely with the Home Office.
Those who meet before matches would not dream of drinking alcohol. They might have an orange juice in a public house, but to drink alcohol would mean that they were not quite so fit and able as they need to be to carry out planned violence. These people are not drunk when they look for their opponents. They recognise each other outside football grounds. They make certain signs to one another, and they dress in certain ways.
If one asked them, they would say, "We can't really say how we recognise each other; it is just that we do." Then they indulge in violence by attacking each other. It never crosses their minds that they are committing an offence. They think that it is wrong that they should be arrested and that their violence should be interfered with. They look 395 upon it more as a prize fight—as consenting youths or adults fighting one another. That is the main cause of violence in the streets and in football grounds.
These people are not to be found in the ranks of the unemployed or in the National Front. They are bright, intelligent and employed. I am not absolutely sure about this, but I believe that the leader of the Tottenham Hotspur group is a factory manager who is about 25. He can marshal his forces very well.
The second level of violence is dealt with in the Bill. The people who are drunk arrive at football matches and are used by those who are not drunk but who are violent. Because they are drunk they react in the wrong way. That leads to the next stage of secondary violence. It is that form of violence with which the Bill attempts to deal. Since these people are drunk, they are prone to violence and are easily aroused. They easily misunderstand the signals that are given by the major groups.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) referred to the Everton supporters who recently went to Holland. I met some of those supporters, and they said how happy a journey it was. Part of the happiness of that journey was attributable to the fact that they were able to drink vast quantities of alcohol and that they were drunk for most of the time. But it did not lead to violence. Reading between the lines, I think that, although they were making a nuisance of themselves, other people were prepared to let them be.
I wonder whether their journey to Holland would have been quite so happy if the police had not laughed at them but had arrested them when they were singing at two o'clock in the morning. That is the kind of borderline that drink creates and it is a problem that we have to examine. We cannot simply say that the Everton match in Holland was a happy event and that everything went well. Many of the people at that match were drunk for most of the time. It could easily have been an unhappy rather than a happy occasion.
I met some of the Liverpool supporters who had been in Brussels. They too said that, before the match, it had been a happy visit, but, again reading between the lines, it is clear that many of them had been in Brussels for three days and that for most of that time they had been in a drunken haze. They spoke about the atmosphere getting tense on the day before the match because of the attempt to segregate them, the interference and the attempt to impose some control which they did not like. When somebody is drunk, the borderline between violence and non-violence is very thin. That illustrates the need for the Bill.
The mounting violence during last season, culminating in the dreadful scenes in Brussels, led to the introduction of the Bill. We have rightly condemned what happened in Brussels, and rightly we as a country have to take responsibility for it. Both I and my hon. Friends have spoken strongly on the subject. It is unfortunate for the innocent that we have had to adopt such a stance. The Bill is another step along that road.
An analysis of what happened at Brussels — we are still waiting for the full report — will show that there was an element indulging in the organised violence to which I have referred. I have also spoken to people in Z, X and Y sections of the stadium who confirm that many people had drunk too much and went along with those who 396 organised the violence. The harrowing pictures of the Turin supporters when they returned and spoke of the English supporters saying, "Birra, birra, birra" —drink, drink, drink—shows the image of the British supporter abroad. It is of a drunken lout who does not go to see a football match, but sees the spectacle through an alcoholic haze. It is a sad image.
As we know, this is not the first time that there has been trouble. The right hon. Member for Gorton has referred to the events in Rome. I remember the events in Turin in 1981 when Juventus met a British team—which again. I think, was Liverpool. There were frightening episodes. They were not too bad in Turin, but along the whole of the Ligurian coast three or four coach loads of British supporters beat up the towns. They started in the town of Celle and moved on to Savona, where the youth of that town met them. The British supporters had been staying in hotels and had been drinking for three days, and most of their weapons were empty wine bottles. It is a sad reflection on British football that such things should happen.
There is a need for better policing. After the incidents at Brussels, why did we not have at least 300 policemen at the ports of entry to the United Kingdom waiting to take the names of those coming back from that football match? The police could have found out where the supporters had been standing or sitting, taken the names and addresses of the supporters and interviewed them later. They could have found out whether the supporters had anything relevant to say which they could have followed up later. The police could then have showed them photographs and asked whether they recognised the people on them. They could have produced a whole dossier of the case and presented it to the Belgians saying, "We can't help you more than this. We have now investigated the case. We have gone ahead with our investigation rather than ask you to come here. Now you can carry on with the proceedings from this evidence. We have given you all the assistance we can." That is what we should have done; it was our duty to do it. However, we left it too late—we left it until the supporters had come back. It is only now that we are trying to identify people. We face the same problems every time. To convict, one needs evidence. We cannot say that we shall convict people generally or a group. Evidence must be found. We should have helped with the evidence immediately. It is getting more difficult to provide it now.
One of the great assets will be video recordings. At least we can then see offences being committed and identify the guilty person — with a good enough picture. Video recordings are a good deterrent. Detection is the deterrent that will succeed in the end. My experience of criminals is that it is fear of detection rather than the sentence which deters them.
The Bill is a good step and I support it, but we must go further. Its ambit might be too wide—I do not like the idea of designation of rugby and cricket grounds being open to the Secretary of State. There should be another Bill for each of those, and they should be debated separately.
Football has proved the need for designation. We are all satisfied of that, but we must all realise that the Bill is only a small step. We must be able to get the evidence of wrongdoing in grounds and outside them. Much of the violence occurs in areas surrounding grounds. Moreover, there is not a great deal of evidence to suggest that all the violence is done by drunk people.
397 Drunkenness is a difficult evidential point. The old offence of being drunk in a public place involves police officers standing in a witness box and saying that the defendant's eyes were glazed and his breath smelt of alcohol, so he was drunk. It is then argued that the defendant's eyes are usually glazed—a phenomenon that I detect in the Chamber now—and it is discovered that what was considered slurred speech is normal. I wonder whether it is possible to be a little more specific about drunkenness. We now have marvellous machines which must only be inflated by the suspect to give a measurement of blood alcohol levels, on the basis of which people can be deemed to be drunk. Evidentially, that would be far more acceptable.
I support the Bill as a step in the right direction.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
I am pleased to speak after the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), as he mentioned Everton football fans in Rotterdam. I am probably the only Everton fan in the House who was at the Feyenoord stadium for the European cup winners cup final.
I have followed soccer in the city of Liverpool for 35 years. I have watched matches at Everton and at Liverpool and seen those clubs play in other parts of the country. Although the Bill has the Opposition's support, it is a damp squib compared with the problem that it is supposed to tackle.
None of us wants to see drunkenness that leads to mindless violence, but in my experience of watching football in this country and abroad it does not seem to be the prime reason for our problems. Years ago people had drinks before football matches, they travelled to away matches, and they were not segregated in football grounds. The problems we now face are far more deep-seated than the Government are prepared to admit can be dealt with by the public order legislation which is promised in the autumn.
We cannot deal with this problem unless we get to grips with the society in which we live. One hon. Member talked about drunkenness in the Soviet Union, but apparently the drunkenness that Mr. Gorbachev has admitted exists in the Soviet Union does not lead to the type of mindless violence we see on our football terraces.
§ Mr. Wareing
There has not been the same amount of evidence of that.
Nevertheless, I would strongly argue that we have to look at the fact that our society is based upon an economic system which is very much biased against the poor. There are large numbers of people whose horizons are and will continue to be limited until we have a better distribution of resources to enable all people to live in a classless, not class-ridden, society, with values which are reflected on our television screens.
The influence of television on violence has not been mentioned, although one hon. Member perhaps did mention that thugs like a theatre and like to see television cameras when they are acting. Much of our television viewing involves mindless violence, and it can be regarded as a transatlantic sewer letting out the worst type of pollution from across the Atlantic ocean. Nobody wants 398 tight censorship, but television could be an instrument for good in our society—something with which it cannot presently be charged.
Clubs on Merseyside and in other parts of the country, such as Norwich City, have been wrongly victimised as a result of events in Brussels. Having witnessed soccer on Merseyside closely over the years, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) stated, I know that Liverpool and Everton supporters can be together in the same football ground, whether at Anfield or Goodison park, see their team win or lose, and emerge from the ground as friends. There is no need for them to be segregated. At the Liverpool football ground the Anfield road end is for visiting supporters and the Spion Kop is for Liverpool supporters. Although an Everton supporter would prefer to be at the Anfield road end during a derby match, he can quite conveniently see the match in the Spion Kop without being attacked. Families on Merseyside are mixed in terms of soccer. As fans they are split between Liverpool and Everton. As one of my hon. Friends has already said, they travel to matches together. When Liverpool and Everton played in the Milk Cup at Wembley in 1984 there was no serious trouble. The people of Merseyside are no angels, and some of them get into trouble, but there was not serious trouble at the Milk Cup final or at the subsequent Charity Shield match at Wembley last year when Liverpool and Everton played.
In the six weeks prior to the tragedy in Brussels I travelled with the Everton football team to Munich and Rotterdam, and at the magnificent Olympia stadium in Munich there was no real segregation and no trouble. The fans of the Everton and Bayern Munich teams were wearing one another's favours. During the night in Munich I felt a little cold and wore a Bayern Munich cap. I can assure right hon. Members and hon. Members that they will not see me in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster wearing such a cap.
I do not know where the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West meets Liverpool and Everton supporters, but I can tell him that at Rotterdam the fans were boisterous. People cannot be expected to go to a football match and not be a little boisterous. If they were all public schoolboys, they would be described as high-spirited, but when working-class youngsters engage in boisterous behaviour it becomes hooliganism.
At the Feyenoord stadium, which is better than the one in Brussels, most spectators were seated, which is an additional advantage. It does not necessarily solve the problem, but it is advantageous to have an all-seating arrangement. The Feyenoord stadium might be used for another cup final in the future, but one complaint of mine is that fans are not allocated specific seats; they are allocated to a specific part of the stadium. I do not know whether that was the case in Brussels, but it could lead to problems. In Rotterdam there was no trouble at all. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West talked about people drinking overmuch, but I travelled on the train between Rotterdam and Amsterdam and saw no evidence of serious over-drinking among the overwhelming majority of fans.
Let us not forget that even though the fans were segregated inside the stadium — it is true there was segregation in Rotterdam with the supporters of Rapide Vienna at one end and Everton supporters at the other—when they emerged from the ground, whereas in Britain the police escort the away team's supporters back to the 399 railway station, there was nothing of that sort. The fans of Rapide Vienna and of Everton mingled quite pleasantly together. When travelling by taxi to the railway station in central Rotterdam, the taxi driver told me not to be surprised if the station was closed because previously there had been trouble from English fans. The Rotterdam central station was not closed on the night of the European cup winners cup final.
If there was danger in following sport on Merseyside, I would not subject my 10-year-old nephew to it, but for the past three years I have been taking him to see football matches at Goodison park and Anfield in perfect safety. Because I know that his safety will be assured, I shall continue to take him to watch football in the city of Liverpool. I would be apprehensive about other grounds in the country, but not those at Everton and Liverpool.
We are told that we must have this Bill because similar legislation has been successful in Scotland. I do not want to insult any of my hon. Friends from north of the border, but I argue that the case that alcohol creates hooliganism is not proven. The problem of hooliganism has not been solved north of the border. The problem of alcoholism may have been solved, but it is interesting to relate that the only reason why Everton was playing Rapide Vienna in Rotterdam was that the Austrian team had appealed against a result in an earlier round of the competition when it had been defeated by Glasgow Celtic. Rapide Vienna appealed, because members of its team had been attacked by supporters of Glasgow Celtic, and UEFA ordered that the match be replayed. It was replayed at Old Trafford, and on that occasion Rapide Vienna won. Even then, Rapide Vienna complained about players being attacked.
I am not suggesting that Glasgow Celtic should be banned from European competitions. It would be as wrong to ban a football team because of hooliganism that is inherent in society as it would be to close Liverpool Philharmonic hall or the Royal Festival hall because one or two people had been drunk and disorderly inside those concert halls.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
My hon. Friend referred to supporters of Glasgow Celtic—a club that my wife has supported for many years. It would have been more accurate if he had referred to two supporters of Glasgow Celtic. There is no doubt in my mind— I support Greenock Morton—that there has been a dramatic diminution in football hooliganism north of the border. I accept what my hon. Friend says about the Bill not being the complete answer to the problem.
§ Mr. Wareing
I accept what my hon. Friend has said. I shall not stress the Glasgow Celtic connection in view of his dear lady's support for that team.
The term "supporters" has to be used carefully, because I understand that the majority of the people being interviewed by the Merseyside police are not from Merseyside. In Brussels there were many people with cockney accents who were wearing Liverpool scarves.
Not all that long ago, the Prime Minister ordered that the England-Scotland match should not be played at Wembley but should be transferred to Hampden park. Was that to keep the sober Scots away from Londoners or to prevent the drunken Londoners going to Hampden park? That was a ridiculous decision.
400 There is an element here that should be considered seriously, but we are in danger of sweeping it under the carpet. Some hon. Members have already mentioned the Fascist connection. In Liverpool, the National Front and Fascism have very little support. They rarely put up candidates for election. When they do, those candidates fail abysmally against the traditional parties. Ministers should consider seriously the statement of John Smith, the chairman of Liverpool football club, that he was confronted by supporters of extreme Right-wing organisations.
We have heard that the National Front was recruiting members on board the ferries to Belgium. The Tribune of Friday 24 May — only five days before the Brussels disaster—pointed out that Italian Fascists were in this country meeting with extreme Right-wing British Fascists and obviously plotting to do us no good. We have had evidence about Oxford United National Front supporters going to Blackburn Rovers and being photographed with a Union Jack with a swastika in the middle—an insult to our national flag.
To ignore the Fascist element is to trample on the graves of the millions who fought against Fascism 40 years ago. There has been evidence of the Chelsea National Front being in Istanbul. How do these people get the money to travel such distances? We should find out who is at the back of the Fascist organisations with the coffers out of which fans can get money to go to Mexico and Finland to create disturbances. Italian Fascists were very much in evidence in the Heysel stadium. Indeed, the insignia of the Ordine Nuovo, the extreme Right-wing Fascist organisation in Italy, was emblazoned on one of the Italian flags on display that night.
All right, let us pass the Bill. I shall certainly support it and give any support necessary to any Government who are striving to get at the wrongdoers. If the wrongdoers are drunks, the Government will have the support of all the people on Merseyside in dealing with them.
The Government should not stop there. They should investigate some of the criminals who are in this country now, such as Clemente Graziani, one of the founders of the Italian Fascist new order, and Roberto Fiore, an interesting case, who is residing in a flat in the same apartment block as the Secretary of State for Transport. Perhaps that should be investigated. Let us find out what these people are doing. I understand that one or two of them are wanted by the Italian authorities in connection with their investigation of the Bologna railway station bombing.
In regard to our home-grown variety, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has referred to the dreadful publication Bulldog with its league of louts. That should be considered. We must get at the instigators of violence; we should not depend only on getting at those who are dragged behind because of alcohol and the herd instinct. I ask the Government not to regard our support as easy support for the Bill. More than this is needed. The Government should investigate the people, whether they be rich or poor, who are behind the Fascist movement which is instigating trouble in football. They should not expect to solve the problem by this mouse of a Bill.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)
Unlike many other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, and in 401 particular unlike the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), I do not have any football anecdotes to relate. I have to confess that my knowledge of football is limited, and that my interest is even less, but I do have an interest in legislation, and I fear that this legislation is in some respects unsatisfactory. It is clear that in bringing forward the Bill the Government are very properly reacting to a sense of horror and concern throughout the country. I am sure that the Government are right to identify alcohol as a significant, if not a substantial, cause of some of the violence and hooliganism that has taken place.
My criticism is not of the main objective of the Bill, but rather of the means that have been adopted to achieve that main objective. The Bill goes too far, in that the powers that it confers upon the Secretary of State are unnecessarily wide. It is perhaps desirable that one should understand exactly the scheme contained in the Bill, because it is extremely wide-ranging. The Bill gives the Secretary of State virtually unfettered powers to designate sporting grounds and sporting events as being grounds and events to which the provisions of the Bill shall apply. I say virtually unfettered powers because the power is subject only to the negative procedure.
As the House will know, the negative procedure is an extremely unsatisfactory way of controlling secondary legislation, because under the negative procedure the House can only either accept or reject the proposals contained in the statutory instrument. It cannot amend a statutory instrument and therefore the negative procedure is an extremely blunt weapon for dealing with delegated secondary legislation.
As I said, the Bill gives the Secretary of State virtually unfettered power. It will enable him to apply the provisions of the Bill to, say, cricket, tennis, rowing, athletics, boxing or any other sport. That is the power that we are giving to the Secretary of State.
We ought also to realise that the restrictions in the Bill are far-reaching, and are essentially three in number. The first restriction is on the right to possess intoxicating liquor in the designated sporting ground. It may well be that in the context of football that is a perfectly acceptable restriction, because the event is of fairly short duration, but I question whether it would be acceptable if the Bill were to be extended, as it can be, to cricket, to tennis, to Henley or to any other sporting event where alcohol is commonly consumed. We have to contemplate that happening, because the Bill enables it to happen.
The second point about these restrictions is that the Bill prohibits the possession on a sporting ground of what is called a controlled container. Within the meaning of the Bill, a controlled container is any container capable of containing liquid and capable of causing an injury. The truth is that any container capable of containing liquid is capable of causing an injury if thrown, and therefore all containers are controlled. We know that bottles of beer are obviously controlled containers, but so for that matter is a hip flask or a Thermos flask, or a can of Coca-Cola or even one's wife's scent bottle.
Those are all controlled containers and one has to ask whether it is right to prohibit people from carrying these things to a designated ground. In the context of football the answer might well be, "Yes, it is, because it is an event of fairly short duration," but if one were to raise that question in the context of cricket. would it be reasonable to stop somebody taking a Thermos flask or a carton of milk to a cricket match, which, after all, goes on the whole 402 day, no doubt in hot weather? When one begins to test the Bill, one comes to the conclusion that perhaps it goes a little too far.
The third restriction is on the right to sell alcohol within the designated ground. I shall not cover the points made by many other hon. Members, save to say that it is clear that this prohibition can impose quite substantial financial hardship. Again, that may be necessary in the context of a football match, but I question whether it is acceptable in the context of the other activities to which the Bill can be applied.
I believe that the Bill goes further than it should. We have the problem of violence at football grounds. Clearly we must tackle it, but we must be careful not to use a method which carries it too far.
I can see that it is convenient for the Secretary of State to have power to extend the provisions of the Bill to any sporting event which may cause trouble. I can see that it may be convenient to the House not to have to consider primary legislation in the future if, for example, we have trouble at boxing matches. Although these arguments are of considerable pragmatic worth, I question whether we should be doing that.
In essence, we are giving the Secretary of State power to enlarge the ambit of the criminal law. We are giving him power to impose penalties, sanctions and prohibitions where presently there are none. I do not like that being done by delegated secondary legislation. We should have the courage to apply the Bill to what the House wants to apply it to, and that means defining the grounds or the events in the Bill. If that cannot be done, let us try to formulate some restrictions or limits on the power of the Secretary of State to enlarge the scope of the activities covered. Do not let us extend the criminal law by way of delegated legislation. I find that offensive in principle, and for that reason I find the Bill unsatisfactory.
§ 9.7 pm
§ Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)
I am sure the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) will understand if I do not take up the many detailed matters that he raised. I agree strongly with the central principle of his speech —that we should not delegate too much legislation in the way that the Bill does.
The city of Leeds has unfortunately been associated for many years with the problem of football hooliganism and football violence, and it is important to put on record the efforts that have been made by Leeds United to overcome the problems. For some years, the club's directors have taken steps to improve the record of the club. Talking to local residents and the police locally, it becomes apparent that at Leeds United home matches there has been a significant improvement in crowd behaviour. It has been achieved at a cost to the club in making ground improvements and in the number of police that have to be used for crowd control. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) that it has been at a cost to away supporters, who come to Leeds station and are escorted to the ground by the police. But there is a sensible reason for that. If it was not done, people living around Elland road would pay a heavy price.
All that has been done, and it has improved the record at the Elland road ground. Unfortunately, the club has a very bad record away from home. During last season, we had trouble at Huddersfield, Barnsley, and in the last match of the season at Birmingham.
403 I make three brief points about the Birmingham game. The first is that the game was played in a dry ground. The Government's proposed legislation would have no effect on what occurred there.
Secondly, I invite hon. Members to consider the number of arrests made and the addresses of those arrested. Very few of them came from the city of Leeds and very few of them from west Yorkshire. Unfortunately, in common with a handful of other clubs, Leeds United attracts an element of support from many parts of the country, and that is clear from the addresses of those who were arrested at the Birmingham game.
Thirdly, the game at Birmingham could not have been an all-ticket match. It became important only five days before it took place, because the club was in with a chance of promotion from the second division. Nobody expected that. It came about because of certain results in the football league second division, which meant that the game attracted additional importance. Therefore, we cannot simply stipulate that all games should be all-ticket matches because at one stage they may not be important and later they may assume importance.
We should not forget what clubs have tried to do, and the wider context of the problem. Leeds United and other clubs attract some supporters who look for trouble. It is difficult for both the club and the police to control them. Some of my hon. Friends have referred to supporters who seem to make it their business to plan trouble at away matches. Elland road has attracted what is called the service crew, which goes to away matches, not on public transport and special coaches, but in minivans. They arrive early, drink in pubs in the city, and often stand with the home supporters and cause trouble. The Government should take such groups seriously, because evidence suggests that there may well be Right-wing extremists infiltrating them. The service crew is a typical example of the problem groups that some clubs must face.
The Bill is not of tremendous importance, but we shall support it. The problem of alcoholism does not take place in the grounds. The Bill would have been more satisfactory if it had taken into account the many supporters who travel by minibuses and buy beer from supermarkets, because they form one element which arrives at the ground drunk and causes trouble. The Bill does not and cannot deal with the problem of pubs around the ground. Perhaps the police need to use their power to close those pubs to ensure a dry area near the ground. In those respects the Bill is unsatisfactory.
If the Bill is the Government's response to football hooliganism, it is unsatisfactory. Much more money should be made available to buy the video equipment that is necessary to detect those who commit offences on the terraces. At the Huddersfield-Leeds United game the video equipment was so effective that the police officer who manned it has been attacked by hooligans. The Government should make money available to the clubs for that equipment, to improve the quality of the grounds, to make the grounds easier to police, and to bring the grounds into the community. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) said, it is sad that in the golden days of British football money was not used effectively to bring football into the community. In many respects football was divorced from the community. I hope that the Government will make money available to extend the facilities at 404 football grounds to a wider section of the community so that they are used more extensively, not only on match days but every day.
I hope that the Bill is merely the start of the Government's reaction, that they see the deep-seated problems of football hooliganism, and that we shall be able to continue this debate on other occasions and get to the nub of the problem, which besmirches the name of British football.
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)
In view of recent events, no one would wish to minimise the problems associated with crowd control, violence and hooliganism at football matches. For that reason, I support the intentions behind the various provisions in the Bill. However, I am worried about many specific aspects.
The Government have acted speedily and resolutely in response to a worrying sequence of events that in certain cases has involved violence and even fatalities that no civilised society could tolerate. Although the need for this emergency legislation is not in dispute, it does not alter the fact that Parliament must try to get the details right, and that aspect worries me.
Certain facets of the proposed legislation demonstrate a lack of understanding of the structure of professional football in Britain. As a consequence, some of the objectives of better and more effective crowd control, to which we all subscribe, could be jeopardised if the Bill were passed in its present form.
Then there are the wider implications. My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) explained the consequences of accepting the Bill as drafted, with the wide enabling powers which it would give to the Secretary of State. It is clear that conditions that apply at football grounds, in response to which the Bill has been produced, may be entirely different from those relating to cricket, rugby or any other sporting activity.
I shall illustrate my concern in two ways, one in general terms and one in particular. In general terms, it is important to remember that football is our national sport. It is watched on average by 500,000 spectators every Saturday. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) said that because over the years the numbers watching had declined, in consequence the number of clubs should be reduced.
In addition to those who watch, many millions more are involved, be they watching football on television, following their own teams—from Everton at the top of the first division to Torquay at the bottom of the fourth —doing the pools or whatever. In other words, the very structure of our football league system is important to perhaps 20 to 25 per cent. of the population. That is why the Government must be careful before introducing legislation that could harm the fabric of our national game.
In relation to the particular, I refer to the proposed changes in clause 3 regardingthe sale and supply of alcohol at licensed or registered club premises situated in a designated sports ground for the period of any designated sporting event.Many larger clubs derive considerable revenue from executive boxes. At Tottenham Hotspur, as hon. Members have pointed out, the 72 boxes, costing on average £10,000 each, provide a revenue, before any drinks or food are sold, of £750,000. That income is reinvested in 405 ground improvements, which in turn provide greater crowd safety, which in turn ensures that the level of attendance is maintained.
That is vital not only as income to larger clubs but because of the spin-off by way of the attraction of sponsorship, the football pools and the 4 per cent. pool contribution. All those factors have an impact on the smaller clubs. My local football team, Plymouth Argyle, last year received £48,000 from such sources.
I hope that the Minister will consider the question of the serving of alcohol in executive boxes which overlook the grounds. The amendment suggesting that alcohol should be served up to half an hour before a game and thirty minutes after the conclusion of the game is a sensible one. I hope that the Minister can say that he is prepared to respond to this positively. This income is significant for football clubs and thus for the structure of professional football. Plymouth Argyle was contemplating the building of eight executive boxes this summer. Unless the Bill is modified, Plymouth is highly unlikely to go ahead with the scheme. Therefore, potential revenue to the game will be lost.
I believe that the problem of alcohol is associated with the consumption and purchase of drink before the game. I support the provisions for tackling the problem, but I hope that we will not allow over expectation to develop.
With regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), I agree that there is an increasing tendency in the country to respond to the activities of a small minority, thereby preventing the great majority of the public going about their lawful interests such as enjoying their recreation and leisure pursuits. While this applies to football grounds and alcohol, it is also a much wider problem. If we are not conscious of the danger of responding too quickly to a range of situations, we will prevent the great majority of people from doing anything at all.
§ Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)
The Government, in aiming to solve the problem of football violence and hooliganism, would have done better to start with a leaflet which I sent to the Home Secretary over two years ago. In the leaflet, which was handed out at Newcastle United football ground, the National Front claimed that Newcastle was only second in the National Front football league, but said that it was going to Chelsea the following Saturday to prove that it was the champion.
The Government are trying to tackle the problem by means of minor and relatively unimportant legislation. I would have preferred them to strengthen police powers and instruct chief constables to act as speedily as possible in removing people who shout Fascist and racist slogans at football matches.
Secondly, we are tending to punish the innocent, and, as someone who supports a small club—Hartlepool—I am particularly sorry about that. I am proud of the club in Hartlepool, despite the reaction of some Conservative Members. I feel strongly about Norwich City, a small club which has done exceptionally well. I say this openheartedly, because Norwich City beat Sunderland, the area which I represent in Parliament and the team which I follow weekly. I mixed with the crowds at that game and sat among Norwich supporters, and not one iota of trouble occurred at the ground or when the crowd left the ground. While they were on the tube train, the Norwich 406 supporters were sympathising with the Sunderland supporters because their team had played particularly badly that day and pointing out how that had happened to them on a previous occasion. Adopting the theme of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton),I feel that to punish the innocent in this way should be no part of the Government's objective.
§ Mr. John Powley (Norwich, South)
I concur with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the club in my constituency, Norwich City. I agree wholeheartedly about the good behaviour of both the Norwich City and Sunderland supporters during the Milk Cup final. Supporters can be well behaved and can get along together, provided that the right set of circumstances prevail. That has been shown by those two sets of supporters.
§ Mr. Boyes
I welcome the hon. Gentleman's remarks.
I abhor violence wherever it occurs, but especially at grounds which play such an important part in my life. I have no vested interest in the Bill, because never, under any circumstances, do I drink alcohol. I abhor drunkenness, whether in this House or at football matches. The police should have power to remove people from grounds if they are in an intoxicated state and are causing problems.
In addition to our concern about the activities of Right-wing groups, the clubs have a responsibility to segregate the crowds. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw has already made that point. I attended the Chelsea-Sunderland match last season, when rioting began in the stands. I was hurt when I was trapped by rioting fans. Therefore, I address my remarks not only to the House but to the football clubs, which have a duty to ensure that visiting supporters are not allowed free access to the stands when they can mix with home supporters. I believe that almost 3,000 games of football were played last season, but only eight incidents were referred to the football League because of violence or a similar problem.
Sunderland football club has private boxes, from which it gains £60,000 a year. There has never been an incident in any of the boxes. One hon. Member said that we do not want to create different classes at matches by banning drinking in one area but allowing it in another. Jack Dunnett, president of the football league has put forward three proposals. He suggests that licensing justices should have discretion under clause 3(2) to license any part of the ground, on the basis that justices can take into account local conditions, a club's previous record and the type of spectator to be found in a particular part of the ground. In other words, if a ground can satisfactorily demonstrate to magistrates that it is trouble free, the magistrate should allow it to sell alcohol in approved areas. To take revenue from a club such as Sunderland, which with other sponsorship grants could amount to £200,000, would leave the club with some difficulty.
The general manager of Sunderland has told me that after every game he and his colleagues hold a meeting with senior police officers to review the game, to determine whether there have been any problems and to decide how the ground can be made more efficient and effective. When I say problems, I am talking about assisting the police.
Football needs additional cash. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) suggested a 407 video system. It would cost Sunderland £50,000 to instal a suitable video system to monitor the problems. Football urgently needs cash—first for safety at the ground, and secondly to assist with control. Therefore, as I have said before on other occasions, the Government should pay up; they should pay their bit. They should make money available to football clubs so that they can improve the grounds in the way that is needed.
The pools should give more money from the profits that they make. The pools get a good deal from football. They should put more cash into the game. There will be an amendment to the Finance Bill calling for a reduction in pools tax, which has been mentioned.
Football is a great game. All of us who have spoken have great affection for it. We think that it is an essential part of our lives. We want to see the game cleaned up, but let us tackle the problem where it occurs, and not just take a big sledgehammer to crack a nut by tackling the problem as if every club and every spectator behaved in the same way as a few idiots do occasionally on a Saturday.
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)
I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on bringing forward this excellent Bill. I should like to say, I believe on behalf of hon. Members on both sides of the House, that it is very welcome.
I was always keen on controlling hooliganism, in another interest that I had. My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) also mentioned this matter. We must have strong deterrents to stop football hooligans once and for all. Unfortunately, being a football hooligan is nothing new, but it is something new for the Government to introduce a Bill on this important subject. That is what is to be welcomed.
I am a supporter of Leicester City football club, which is in the first division and is a well-behaved group. It always does well. It is a credit to the other football clubs in the area. I went to see the club play Tottenham Hotspur immediately after the troubles. I was impressed with what I saw. Unfortunately, Leicester did not win, but I saw no trouble. The police were not, as the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) described them, hounding or herding football supporters. I went to the railway station to see Spurs fans being escorted to the football club at Filbert street. There was no trouble. The fans were led in a snake, but it was an orderly snake. The police got on well with the football supporters on both sides.
The morning before the police went to meet the football fans, there was a police briefing at Charles street police station, where I watched the police working out where there might be trouble. We were certain that if there were any trouble, the police would be there to prevent it. They did prevent it. There was no question of anyone being charged with an alcohol offence after or during the game. The directors on both sides supported the decisions taken by the referee. There was no difficulty whatsoever.
The idea of video cameras for crowd surveillance, suggested by Opposition Members, is a very good one, and has been tried out successfully in Leicester. It is only right that we should emulate the Scottish Football Association. The ban on alcohol being taken into the 408 ground, introduced in Scotland in 1980, was correct. It made sense. If we follow the Scottish dimension for a change, I see nothing wrong in that.
I wrote to my right hon. and learned Friend about the banning of alcohol, and also to the Prime Minister. Several other hon. Members naturally did the same. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about increasing football violence. In my letter, I referred to the provision of identification cards. I should like to see a photo on those cards. I referred to the banning of alcohol in or around football grounds, stiffer sentences for hooliganism, publicity in local and national newspapers of all those who have been convicted for any offence of hooliganism, and the full policing of football matches, but remembering always that the police are invited into the football ground. They do not have an automatic right of entry.
I am a co-sponsor, with my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller), of the Sale of Alcoholic Beverages from Garage Premises Bill. If garage chains such as BP allow alcohol to be sold in garage forecourt shops, that will be a temptation for the travelling football fans to get tanked up even before they arrive at the football ground. This is a matter of concern, and I do not doubt that my hon. Friend the Minister will be answering on that point.
We must never let fans go into the ground in a drunken stupor. I know that the police will be outside keeping an eye on those entering football grounds. I feel certain that they will be able effectively to stop the sale of alcohol and will stop fans coming in carrying alcohol. However, I am not certain whether they can always stop the drunkards coming in. I hope so. I know that they will be able to search for alcohol and I know that they will he able to stop what are known, and have been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), as football travelling nasties from going in.
I want membership cards introduced. I am upset that Ted Croker, the FA secretary, seems to be against the use of identification cards. He feels that they are too expensive and will be difficult to administer, but if they can stop football hooligans once and for all, it must be worth using them.
The deterrent aspects of the Bill are welcome. The £400 fine and the three months' imprisonment make a lot of sense. We must publish the names of those convicted of offences of drunkenness, hooliganism and bringing the game into disrepute. We say that about some of the football players, but we never seem to say it about the hooligans, and the football players are taken advantage of. Too often, the football hooligans get away with it because they are in the crowd and get excited, and they do not think that they will be noticed because they are in the crowd. We must move as fast as we can on this problem. The police will be helping in this. I do not want to see the police used as a weapon to beat the hooligan. The law is here to beat the hooligan and I want to see the law used to keep the peace.
I appreciate that our young people want and love their football. The greatest punishment would be to deprive them of full acceptance and admission into football grounds. Publishing their names in the club programme and building it up into a cumulative list would be a great embarrassment to them. It would deprive them of their 409 membership, and I do not think that they would be treated as heroes. In the end, they would be treated as of ill repute and as a discredit to the game.
In 1978, Leicester city council published a study paper, "Behaviour of Persons Attending Football Matches". It identified many of the points, particularly those concerning excessive alcohol, that have come to light today. It is frightening that that report was published in 1978 and it is now 1985, but at long last we are doing something. I want to see football clubs co-operating fully. Whether people are fellow supporters, players, directors or the gatemen, all can help in cutting out the cancer of football hooliganism. They can be certain that they will be assisted in bringing these miscreants to book once and for all.
Our football players have not always been the best behaved. Sometimes, when they have misbehaved or there has been a punch-up or something like that, football fans have wanted to emulate that example. This must be stopped. I know that I am speaking of the very few football players who abuse the system, but I urge them to take care because the public are watching them at all times.
It is marvellous that the Government have introduced these proposals, but it is incredible that it is not the Football Association and the football clubs that are bringing forward proposals. The Government have had to give the lead. That is a credit to them, but it is worrying that once again the football clubs are copping out. They are always the weak ones, and we have to introduce legislation. I hope that this legislation will pass tonight.
The behaviour of those so-called fans in Brussels was a discredit to the whole country. It brought shame to people no matter where they lived or what views they held. Those scenes must never be forgotten. They must serve as a constant reminder to those who might try to forget them that such behaviour by football hooligans abroad must never be allowed to happen again. The deterrent aspect of showing those scenes will always help.
Political commentators have criticised the Bill because they say that the provisions are far too sweeping. I see nothing wrong with that. I am pleased that someone who allows alcohol to be carried on a vehicle may be fined up to £1,000.
As I said in an intervention during the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, Leicester City football club is worried about clause 3(3), because people will no longer be allowed to consume alcohol in the executive boxes. The boxes are screened from the pitch but they overlook it. As the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said, that is where football clubs make money. For example, Tottenham earns £750,000 from them in one year. That money is needed for the game. That is why Leicester City has an excellent, well-protected ground. I also agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) said.
I am sure that the magistrates courts will help clubs such as Leicester City, which apply for exemption orders, and I am sure that Leicester City's application will be granted.
The police will have new powers to stop and search coaches—
§ Dr. Godman
Are the so-called spectators who frequent those boxes there for the football or for the drink?
§ Mr. Bruinvels
The people who frequent the boxes are supporters and the sponsors of matches. They regularly give money to the game. The hon. Gentleman implied that they should be watching the game instead of drinking. That is their decision. I prefer to watch the game. However, we must not forget that they give much-needed money to the game.
The question which I asked my hon. Friend the Minister a long time ago about the police powers of stop and search has been clearly answered. I am sure that the Bill will reassure those who worry about offensive weapons being taken into grounds. The Bill will also cover empty containers, which can become missiles.
It is obvious why many people stay away from football games. Many games are shown on television, and there is no need to go. It is no longer a family game because of the violence and the fact that the wrong elements attend matches. The Bill will help to bring back a great British tradition. Football is a decent game. It is a group sport which encourages a team spirit. The Government have shown their team spirit by presenting the Bill. It will bring peace to our pitches and encourage people to return to football grounds. With family stands and good policing, I have no doubt that football will once again become a great sport for spectators to enjoy.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
This has been an extraordinary debate. In accordance with our procedures, and following precedent today, I have some interests to declare. First, I am a director of Wembley stadium, which I understand from the Home Secretary will be subject to the provisions of the Bill. Secondly, like my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), there are two first division football teams in my constituency—Aston Villa and Birmingham City—both of which are extremely well conducted, and both of which depend heavily on sponsorship income, especially income from sponsors' boxes. They would find it difficult, if not impossible, to divide those boxes into drinking areas and watching areas. That is at the heart of our difficulty.
The House is giving the Government the generous facility of trying to take all the stages of a Bill in one day. It is acknowledged that both sides of the House support the procedure, but my experience in the House tells me that, whenever we have done so, we have never quite got the legislation right. It is a hazardous process.
I emphasise the point that the Bill will provide a permanent restriction on football clubs. We are not restricting any other sport. Therefore, it behoves us to get it right tonight if we can. We have a duty to examine all comments by football authorities and hon. Members who have an interest in the subject:. I have agreed with every word of the speeches by at least six hon. Members from both sides of the House tonight. We are not criticising what the Government are trying to do, but expressing our concern.
The Government are entitled to say that there is all party support for the measure, but that does not mean that they should treat the House with disdain by refusing to take on board any of the problems which have surfaced during the debate or which have been brought to our attention by the football authorities. If the Home Secretary and the House are convinced by the arguments, somewhere, 411 somehow, between now and when the Bill is considered by another place, more thought must be given to the problems.
That takes me to the heart of what I think are the difficulties in connection with the Bill. How do we deal in equity with the consumption of alcohol within the grounds? I regret that the Minister with responsibility for sport is not to take part in today's debate, but I understand that not everybody can speak. However, that means that the Government are approaching the legislation from a Home Office stance, when it should be considered in a football setting, because it deals with the problems which affect football. The Department of the Environment working party report, which was published a few months ago, stated:The police report little evidence of drunkenness among those arrested at football matches and believe alcohol is not the major factor in soccer violence in England and Wales.We must be careful if, at one stroke, we plan to throw out of the window the findings of a working party based upon police advice.
The principle of collective guilt seems now to be universally applicable to all who have anything to do with football. We must condemn such nonsense. I have never believed in collective guilt in connection with a nation or a sport. I do not believe in the collective guilt of football supporters. I believe that 99 per cent. of all men and women who watch football in Britain are decent, ordinary, upstanding people who want nothing to do with violence or drunkenness. They should not be penalised unless it is absolutely essential and unless we can prove that by penalising them we can eradicate the so-called cancer. I do not believe that the case is proven.
I accept that the Bill provides one way of achieving equity between the person who sits in a box and drinks wine with a three or four-course meal and the man on the terraces who wants half a pint with his pork pie. The Government must deal equitably with both, or they will be building up trouble for the future. The Government say that they will deal with that problem and achieve equity by not allowing people to drink in a private box, but allowing them to drink in the directors' room or in the supporters' club round the corner.
What will be the consequence to football if the Government deal with the problem in that way? [Interruption.] The Home Secretary must not keep on grumbling. I am aware that the Opposition are in agreement with the Government on the principle of the Bill, and the Opposition have already made a strong case for equity, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman should listen when hon. Members prove that his proposal is not the best way to achieve equity. If he does not listen to what is said in the House, he is treating the House with contempt.
§ Mr. Howells
Of course he is. Only the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) could possibly think that if a Minister does not listen to the House he is not in contempt. That is why the hon. Gentleman makes such nonsensical remarks. [Interruption.] It seems that hooligans are not confined to the terraces of football grounds.
412 I want to carry the Home Secretary with me on this. I do not expect him to agree tonight to change the Bill. At least six or eight hon. Members have drawn attention to this aspect, and the Home Secretary and the Minister of State should look at it. If there is a problem, it should be examined and considered. When football clubs tell us that they will be seriously affected by these measures, we must consider their case. When the earlier discussions took place between both sides of the House, no figures were available. Since then, the football league has revealed that £4 million is at risk from the closure or threatened closure of sponsors' boxes.
Is there not another way to achieve the sense of equity which both the Government and the Opposition want in dealing with drink at football grounds? There is indeed another way and it is to be found in amendment No. 22 which would bring licensing hours into football grounds. For example, no drinking would be allowed in any part of the ground between 30 minutes before the match starts and 30 minutes after it ends.
The amendment would deal with the problem in a practical way, because most people these days do not come to football matches more than 20 minutes before the kick-off, as we have heard in some graphic accounts today. We would deal with the problem realistically, on the basis of equity, without discriminating against the man in the private box or the man on the terrace and football would not be deprived of £4 million. That is the intelligent way to deal with the problem. I do not expect the Home Secretary to jump up and accept that proposal now, but I ask him to consider it, as the Opposition will.
There is another deficiency in the Bill, which I would describe as the European dimension. There is no provision in the Bill to cover drink on boats or planes. That means that there are no provisions relevant to the problems of Europe or the situation that occurred in Brussels. Everybody knows what the problem is. People get tanked up on the boats, but the captain refuses to close the bar — I have had experience of this problem, and I sympathise with Ministers who also have to deal with it — because he says that it will deprive genuine passengers of a drink. Many of these boats were previously British Rail owned. The fans then arrive on the continent far too early and drink all day before the match starts. They drink cheap wine, which they are not used to drinking.
There is no reference in the Bill, and there was none in the Home Secretary's speech, to alcohol on passenger trains. We have been told that special measures will be introduced for special trains, but most of the thugs do not travel on special trains. They create mayhem on ordinary passenger trains. Nor does the Bill refer to off-licence premises and supermarkets. The hon. Members for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) and for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) drew attention to this fact.
There is no panacea which will solve the problem, yet we are in danger of suggesting that there are three panaceas which will solve it. None of them will work. I have dealt with the first panacea — the prohibition of alcohol inside football grounds.
The second panacea is the introduction of identity cards. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) graphically illustrated the problems which turnstile operators would face if they had to look at photographs on identity cards and refuse admission to somebody when 20,000 people were trying to get into a football ground during the last quarter of an hour before 413 a match began. It would be impossible for those refused entry to get out, and in any case most of the thugs would refuse to accept such a refusal of admission.
I speak from experience. My brother is a turnstile operator. A fan was set upon last season and seriously injured outside his turnstile. My brother left his turnstile and went to help him, whereupon he was hit on the head with a brick and suffered a serious injury, which required the attention of at least three police officers to stop the bleeding. He was taken to hospital and his turnstile was left unattended, together with the money that he had taken. We must not add to the problems already faced by turnstile operators that of trying to identify every person who goes through their turnstiles. The football league has asked the football trust to conduct an investigation, but I do not believe that identity cards will work. They are not a panacea.
Yet another panacea has not been mentioned so far in the debate — the segregation of football supporters. Segregation is very important, but it is an admission of failure. The clays when a man and his neighbour could go to a football match, support different teams and enjoy themselves in a civilised way are over. Segregation may be vital during this emergency, but it should not be regarded as a permanent solution to the problem.
We must not pretend that the Bill will deal with the social evils in our society. It comes nowhere near to achieving that aim. There is violence at football matches, on the beaches, at pop concerts and in city centres. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis tried to quantify that violence in his last report. He said that violence was growing at about 7 per cent. per annum, and I believe that he is right. So this measure, or any other measure which does not seek to deal with the underlying causes of violence in our society, will be irrelevant to the real problems with which we have to deal.
On behalf of the Opposition, I went to see Mr. Justice Popplewell to ask him how he proposed to conduct an investigation into the National Front and the evils of extremism, which are battening on to football for their own evil purposes, and was much concerned when he replied, "Mr. Howell, I am an inquiry and not an investigation. I do not have the resources to conduct an investigation." Although the Opposition favour his inquiry into the fire at Bradford and the events at Birmingham City, we—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Mr. Howell
— are concerned that Mr. Justice Popplewell does not have the resources to conduct the wider inquiry that we think is necessary.
Hon. Members have considered how we should deal with our trouble makers abroad. In the report to which I have referred the Government say that we must consider "consular confidentiality". The names of people who disgrace our country abroad cannot be made available to anybody, including the Football Association, who wants to deal with the problem. We must change our approach to civil liberties and to the availability of passports to known trouble makers.
The absurdity was never better illustrated than by the Minister with responsibility for sport asking the Mexican Government please to ensure that they do not admit, at the 414 next World Cup, trouble makers from Britain. Thai is a ludicrous procedure. We are telling the Mexican Government that we cannot stop hooligans from leaving Britain, so will they please stop them from entering Mexico.
The Opposition will support the Bill, especially the proposals for banning people going into grounds with alcohol or when they are the worse for wear. We shall also give all our help on the proposals concerning drink when travelling. The Bill will have a marginal effect on the problem in football grounds. We hope that it will he to the good — I have expressed my reservations.
A football board with substantial funds, or some other means of producing money, must be established if we are to turn football into family entertainment once again. Grounds must be made more profitable, and there must be all-seating stadiums, which will help to identify trouble makers. Indeed, amenities generally must be improved.
The House should ponder the fact that duty on football pools is 42.5 per cent. whereas it is 7.5 per cent. on off-course betting, 4 per cent. on racing on track and about 6 per cent. on bingo. It is absurd that, before the man enters the competition, when he sits down to fill in a football pool form, he has paid 42.5p out of his £1 to the Chancellor when his wife pays only 6p or 8p when she goes to play bingo.
The Chester committee, which I set up in the 1960s, recommended a football levy such as we have for horse racing. The Royal Commission said the same. I am not making a party political point, because we did not act on the Chester report, any more than the Government have. My point is that the time has come to produce some money. If we remove or put at risk the £4 million from clubs, we must provide a substitute.
The House must find an answer to the problem. We shall support the Bill because it goes some way towards dealing with violence, but I have grave doubts, which have been reinforced by speeches from both sides of the House. It would be helpful if the Home Secretary would agree to examine the new arguments that have emerged during the debate.
§ 10.6 pm
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)
The House has had a fairly full, frank and fair debate on problems which relate not just to the legislation we are currently considering but to the problems within football both here and abroad. My hon. Friends and Opposition Members have the judicious benefit of hindsight about events which gave rise to the problems faced by the Government in recent months. Such events were cumulative. It was not just the enormous tragedy in the Heysel stadium at the end of May, but a season of ghastly tragedies: such as the fire at Bradford; some of a direct hooligan nature, like the Millwall-Luton game; some like the Birmingham tragedy; and, on top of that, the tragedy in Brussels. The House recognises that any Government would have to take a view whether to do something or nothing. The general mood on the morrow of the Brussels tragedy was that the good name of English football was at an internationally low level and that the good name of the British had been badly affected.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) remarked that football is crucially important because it is a national game, but that we should not harm the fabric of that national game. The events of the last 415 season have undoubtedly harmed the fabric of the national game and we are discussing legislation which none of us would wish to do in the circumstances in which it is brought before the House. I appreciate the way in which hon. Members on both sides of the House have generally welcomed the fact that there is legislation to deal with this element. I accept that this is but one element — and probably a small element — of the total problem with which we have to grapple. On that issue, I stress to the House that the prime arbiters of what goes on within football must be the football authorities.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), with his long experience and knowledge of these matters, will recognise that the issues have been on the table for discussion with football authorities year after year. Discussion on the problems of violence on the terraces, hooliganism, vandalism, crowd control, police activity, courts and sentences have occurred cumulatively almost year after year. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to the Chester report, but who chucked it out? I understand that it was the Football League. The football authorities would have nothing to do with it.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
The Minister needs to be careful. The football authority is very much in favour of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, which is the point that I made.
§ Mr. Shaw
The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that that was not the only element involved, but so be it. If there is self-policing, if there is self-help within football, that is all to the good.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who spoke first for the Opposition, was concerned not so much with this piece of legislation as with criticising the Government for failing to act on the broader issues. It seemed that he was suggesting that there has been inadequate action. He was critical because we have not done anything except to produce this Bill — [Interruption.] That was the inference from the argument that he was seeking to deploy.
I remind the House of the events that have occurred since the close of the football season. First, my right hon. and learned Friend, under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, is designating the third and fourth divisions of the Football League.
Secondly, the Popplewell inquiry was set up. Hon. Members will know that that inquiry can take evidence in relation to the Brussels tragedy, as well as the tragedies at Birmingham and Bradford, and that there is likely to be an interim report available to my right hon. and learned Friend, hopefully, before the start of the new football season.
Thirdly, there will be a major effort to re-establish good relations on behalf of British football within Europe. The climate has been substantially restored, particularly by the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in accepting at once a liability on this country to correct what has gone wrong.
Fourthly, after discussions with the Football Trust, £500,000 is being allocated for the extension of closed-circuit television equipment — a very important contribution to crowd control. That should be sufficient to cover another 30 grounds within the next few months and, hopefully, within the coming season.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am sorry to come back to this point, but in relation to the Popplewell inquiry the Minister seemed to indicate that it was prepared to look into certain aspects of the Brussels tragedy. I have had a letter today from Mr. Morgan, the secretary to the inquiry, in which he says:Your memorandum and attached correspondence has been given to the chairman and the assessors and we are grateful for your evidence. As you appreciate, the investigation into the events at Brussels is, of course, a matter for the Belgian authorities, although any lessons learnt will be taken into account by Mr. Justice Popplewell.That is all the letter said. That does not give the same impression as the hon. Gentleman has given.
§ Mr. Shaw
Mr. Justice Popplewell can certainly take into account observations made in relation to the Brussels incident, but he is not conducting the inquiry into that incident. That is being done on two levels in Belgium, as I suspect the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) knows. First, there is a judicial inquiry in relation to the criminality of the event; secondly, there is an inquiry by the Belgian football association in relation to the game itself, to which I understand UEFA will be giving evidence.
I have referred to the extension of closed-circuit television, which is an important development.
Fifthly, the Home Office is providing three of the special control vehicles that were designed and tested last season for use by the police at sensitive events in the forthcoming season.
Sixthly, the police have improved substantially the coordination of information between police forces and also with the British Transport police.
Seventhly, radio compatibility between the British Transport police and the police system will be established. Eighthly, major efforts are being made by my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport to discuss further within the industry initiatives that can be taken to improve the state of the game.
Ninthly, a substantial effort by my hon. Friend at the Council of Europe has achieved a convention which has been fully ratified by 23 Ministers and will become binding, hopefully, on all member countries of the Council of Europe. That major document is in the Library of the House of Commons, so hon. Members may refer to it. It requires the co-ordination of the policies and actions of Government Departments. It requires the signatories to secure that adequate public order resources are employed to counter outbreaks of violence, to ensure that offenders are identified and prosecuted, and to introduce procedures to identify problem matches in advance and provide effective co-operation between authorities. It lays down many other steps to be taken to improve Europe-wide the major measures to contain the breadth of hooliganism.
§ Mr. Shaw
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have been arguing that the spread of the problem, its duration and complexity require action to be taken across a broad front. I have indicated to the House that that is being done.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) rightly expressed his concern about alcoholism in general and was against the exemption procedures. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) will, in due course, hope to catch the eye of the Chairman of the Committee in order that he might make his point. He did, of course, raise certain other specific matters.
§ Mr. Heffer
The Minister has referred to a document which is obviously relevant to this discussion. It is a document which the Minister for sport has negotiated with his fellow Ministers at the Council of Europe. It is obviously a very important document, but it is not on the Table. We are told that it is in the Library, but nobody has been told about it before. Could the Minister ask for the document to be brought here for the consideration of hon. Members?
§ Mr. Shaw
I did, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If it is not in the Library now, it will be. I apologise to the hon. Member for Walton if he has not been able to locate it. I am informed that it is there.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said that the Bill was not tough enough to deal with problems outside the ground, but he must agree that the measures for the control of the provision of alcohol outside the ground already rest on the ability of police officers to obtain magistrates' agreement to the closure of licensed premises and off-licences in the area of the ground. This measure provides for a special offence of drunkenness at the entrance to football grounds, and a substantial effort can now be made to prevent those who are drunk from arriving at the ground.
The hon. Gentleman will concede the important points on transport, to which he drew attention. These will provide for alcohol to be banned from vehicles and special coaches on both rail and road. Masters of ferries have the power to close bars, and the same is true of captains of aircraft. Indeed, many of them do so.
The provisions in the Bill refer to hired minibuses as opposed to a private minibus whose owner takes five or six of his friends together with himself.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) gave an assurance that the licensed victuallers were happy with the Bill, and I welcome that.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) drew attention to the McElhone committee's report, which suggested that drinking before, during and after the match was at least a contribution to the problem. It is precisely because we have been guided in large measure by the Scottish situation that I welcome that contribution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) stressed the importance of the responsibility on the clubs to manage their games and to reduce those elements which give rise to some of the most appalling behaviour on the grounds, let alone on the terraces. That is a fair point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) was concerned that policing policies should be changed, although he welcomed the Bill. I accept that there has been a high degree of tolerance about hooliganism when it comes to the way in which magistrates' courts have dealt with it. However, one has seen a change recently. My hon. Friend referred to the judgment delivered recently in Cambridge which resulted in a major custodial sentence.
The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) referred to the particular problem of the clash between clauses 1 and 10. I accept there is an awkwardness. Indeed, two portions of Bill are not satisfactory. I understand the desirability of ensuring equal treatment 418 between British Rail employees on both sides of the border. I will undertake to consider the matter again with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport before the Bill proceeds to the other place.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) welcomed the Bill, but rightly said that we must not rely on this single measure. Drink is a major contributor to hooliganism at many events, not just football. I am grateful for his support, and I take note of his questions about the problems of drink inside grounds, to which I shall refer shortly.
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) said that a body should be set up similar to the Horserace Betting Levy Board. That thought has been echoed several times in the debate, and I am sure that it deserves consideration — I hope initially by the football authorities recognising that they may have an interest in seeing such a body established because they will have to determine whether they wish to fund it and to operate a system of that kind. However, that is outside the competence of the present Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) supported the Bill, but criticised it as being far too complex. As for our establishing one set of rules for those on the terraces and another set for those occupying executive boxes, this theme was widely used by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I shall come to that point of equity in a moment.
As for police powers, I accept that once again we are asking policemen to perform a significant number of additional tasks at the entrances to grounds. I suspect that they now have a much clearer position than before when it comes to the control of drink, and I hope that they will not find it too difficult to obtain the agreement of local magistrates to the closure of licensed premises. Such cooperation has been given freely in most places. The apprehension of persons actually drunk outside football grounds before matches should reduce the problems internally.
§ Mr. Madden
The Minister will recall that I asked whether the Bill's provisions would apply to Bradford City football club in the coming season. If they do, how will they be applied, and how will members of the rugby club's social club at the ground be affected?
§ Mr. Shaw
I understand that Bradford City intends to use the rugby league ground at Odsal next season. I suspect that the intention will be to designate the rugby league stadium as a designated ground for soccer matches. How it applies to rugby league is a matter that my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport will discuss with the chairman of Bradford City when he meets him later this week.
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) asked how the Bill would help to deal with drunkenness in town centres. That is a problem to which I have alluded already. There should now be a greater containment of the problem of people arriving drunk at the entrances to grounds. If they are drunk, they are committing an offence and will be liable to arrest.
As for the control in town centres, I hope that the hon. Gentleman appreciates the efforts that the police are now making, with the co-operation of the football clubs, to ensure that they have proper control of persons arriving at football grounds by both public and private transport and 419 can prevent the supporters of visiting clubs running loose through the streets of many town centres which have felt the weight of hooliganism in recent months.
My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) dislikes secondary legislation, and I understand his reasons of principle for that, though I suggest that his argument could be applied to much legislation and not just to this Bill. Although he dislikes it, I hope that he understands why it is necessary to bring a Bill of this character before the House. We are seeking to prevent disorder, and our objective cannot be met by introducing primary legislation on every occasion.
I understand what my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) said about the time scale being applied here. The time scale in the Bill is that for the designated event. It has to be one which will ban the sale of alcohol. That is the purpose of the Bill and the principle which clearly has found favour on both sides of the House. Some measure to restrict alcohol should be taken. However, to say that a way round that is to reduce the period of exemption to virtually half an hour before a game begins and half an hour after its conclusion does not seem to me to be an adequate solution to the enormity of the problem.
I suspect that the question of the sale of alcohol inside football grounds occasioned most concern, as the right hon. Member for Small Heath made clear. Much of the debate has been about both the sale and possession of alcohol inside grounds. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary made it clear that that is an important part of our approach to the issue. The Association of Chief Police Officers has told us that the main alcohol problem is caused by people who come tanked up, and we recognise that. The association does not believe that the sale of alcohol within grounds produces particular problems. The main impact of the Scottish legislation has been on people who arrive at grounds drunk or in possession of alcohol, which is why we have laid great stress on making provisions to deal with that.
I recognise that clubs are worried about the effect on their revenue of not selling alcohol inside the grounds. Indeed, substantial revenue is derived from the provision and sale of alcohol. I understand from the football authorities that about 32 clubs are involved in the provision of sponsorship boxes, and that the total revenue from that source is about £4 million a year. That does not include revenue to clubs from catering contracts and other sources. The Football League estimates that about 75 per cent. of the leasing revenue will be at risk if no alcohol is available because boxes are primarily used for entertaining business clients. The Football League estimates that the total income from the sale of drink in bars inside grounds on match days is about £l.5 million a year.
Those figures are significant, and I recognise the interest and anxiety expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. However, we cannot easily duck the problem if we seek to reduce the consumption of alcohol in football stadiums. Although we accept that the major risk comes from people arriving with substantial quantities of drink on board, we must also recognise that if we take no action within stadiums it would seem absurd if people could arrive and tank themselves up at the ground as they saw fit in the hours preceding the game. Therefore, a 420 policy on the provision of alcohol within the ground needs to be observed to complement and supplement the arrangements for the prevention of alcohol being consumed outside, either through the closure of adjacent premises or by removing potentially drunken spectators at the entrances to the ground. That is the crux of the problem.
The Bill does not go as far as the Scottish Act in that respect. It provides for an exemption which may be applied for to local magistrates by the clubs, which are the primary lessees or licensees for the provision of alcohol. That major exemption is provided because it will help clubs to obtain income from the continued provision of alcohol at defined places, as agreed by magistrates and the police on an application to those magistrates at least twice in a football season. It is crucial that hon. Members recognise that that is because we take seriously the review of conditions pertaining to a club in relation to disorder within the grounds. I am sure that all hon. Members will recognise the importance of such control.
§ Mr. Wareing
Does the Minister not concede any of the points made on both sides of the House that the Bill is insufficient? My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and I mentioned other matters relating to political Right-wing extremist organisations, and the fact that the only United Kingdom club to have had one of its winning results disqualified in a European competition was a Scottish club, to which previous legislation already applied.
§ Mr. Shaw
I thought I had made it clear that there were many aspects of the hooliganism problem. We are dealing with the alcohol element. There are, of course, other issues, such as those that the hon. Gentleman raises, but they are not germane to this legislation.
Some hon. Members have regarded the restraint on the ability to sell alcohol, and so to earn revenue for the clubs, as a crucial reason why they should feel dissatisfied with that part of the Bill. I have heard two sets of arguments about boxes. It is argued that it is inequitable to allow the occupants of boxes to be in possession of alcohol while viewing the pitch and, on the contrary, that it is inequitable to prevent them from doing so.
I appreciate the argument that it is unfair and inequitable to bar the occupants of boxes from drinking alcohol in the boxes. But it is the general practice already for respectable spectators elsewhere in the ground to have to leave their seats and go behind the stands for a drink in the public bars. In most grounds, even the directors are not allowed to take drinks into their enclosures in the stands, and instead they, too, go into rooms at the back — into boardrooms, for example — if they wish to have a drink.
We are not totally preventing the occupants of boxes from getting a drink. We are providing in the Bill that, as with other supporters, they should not be able to possess alcohol while in sight of the pitch. Like everyone else, they should go and get their drinks, and consume them, out of sight of the pitch. I do not regard that as unfair in principle. On the contrary, exactly the same rules are applied to everyone.
Not only box holders will be affected by the provision. I am told that at a few grounds, there are bars actually on the terraces. It is undesirable for them to be there, and the Bill will make it unlawful to possess or sell alcohol in such 421 places. Thus, the prohibition on the possession of alcohol within sight of the pitch will not solely affect box occupants.
I have seen some speculation in the press that clubs will be able to evade the controls on possession of alcohol within sight of the pitch simply by installing curtains or other temporary covers on the windows of private boxes. I will make the position clear on this. The controls will apply throughout the period of the designated sporting event — a period which lasts from two hours before the match until one hour afterwards. It will be an offence to be in possession of alcohol in any area of the ground from which the pitch can be viewed directly during that period. Thus, it would not be sufficient to draw curtains or blinds merely during the period when alcohol is actually consumed. Clubs will have to ensure that alcohol is consumed only in areas which are clearly out of sight of the pitch.
I recognise that in some cases clubs may wish to consider structural alterations to boxes to make it possible to provide an area in which the pitch cannot be viewed so that alcohol can be served there. If this is necessary, clubs will need to ensure, to comply with the law, that the partitions cannot be moved or changed during the period of the designated sporting event. This points either to the installation of permanent partition walls, or at least locks to prevent partitions or shutters from being opened during the relevant period.
I make these points because I know that they have been of concern in particular to the right hon. Member for Gorton. Indeed, he has an amendment down for the Committee stage. I emphasise to him, to the House and to the clubs, that the controls in the Bill cannot be evaded by simple measures such as the installation of curtains. To ensure compliance with the law, it will be necessary to ensure that any structural changes made cannot easily be reversed by their deliberate or accidental action of the occupants. In view of the concern that has been expressed by the right hon. Member for Gorton and others, we will consider, before the Bill reaches the other place, whether this point can be made clearer in the legislation.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
All hon. Members who have been in the House for some time want to see the legislation work, and nothing that I suggest is designed to do other than commend the Bill and assist it to work. I want to be sure that I understand the position. If a number of fans, presumably over the age when they can buy liquor, wish to go to the back of the stand to an open bar, they will he able to purchase liquor. Is not the Government's view that the possession of liquor on the ground and the tanking up of fans who have arrived there with too much in their system anyway is one of the causes of the violence? How can it be right to produce a Bill designed to reduce the 422 problem of alcohol at football grounds which enables people to get more alcohol provided that they go round the back of the stand out of view of the pitch? It does not make sense.
§ Mr. Shaw
My hon. Friend will know that the police, if they believe that there is drunkenness going on and that disorder may occur, can close the individual bar, and have the right so to do. Any provision of alcohol on the grounds will be a matter of exemptions which have to be taken before the magistrates' court. That will require the individual places where alcohol is to be sold to be designated in the exemption order.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Motherwell, North)
I wish to get the record straight on the incident in Scotland. In the ground in question there are no bars, and no alcoholic liquor is sold at the ground, at which I am a regular attender. One idiot who was intoxicated attended the ground, threw a missile and missed a player, but was nevertheless prosecuted. I do not think that that is a condemnation of the legislation in Scotland, because it did not happen in the circumstances that the Minister related to the House.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
The hon. Gentleman was relating a situation not related to the consuming of food, which is what goes on in private boxes. Is the Minister telling us that he expects that, between the soup and the fish course people in a private box will get out round the back, have a glass of wine and come back, and then get up between the fish course and the main course and have another glass of wine out of sight? The proposed solution is totally unworkable.
§ Mr. Shaw
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends required the Bill to be of this character, so no doubt he might speak to them occasionally before he makes such an observation.
In conclusion, I commend the Bill to the House. It will not in itself solve the problem of football violence and football hooliganism, but I believe that it will make a major contribution to doing so. The chief constable of Strathclyde has said that the Scottish police forces regard the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 as a major step towards improving football spectator behaviour in Scotland. We hope and believe that this Bill will be similarly effective in England and Wales.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.423
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House. — [Mr. Boscawen.]
§ Question proposed, That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.10.36 pm
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
I object to the proposal that the House should immediately resolve itself into a Committee and proceed forthwith to consideration of the Bill. If we adopt that suggestion, the Bill will be less fully and adequately scrutinised than I believe is necessary.
Anybody who heard the debate of the last six or seven hours will appreciate that there are genuine grounds for disquiet, not least about executive boxes, which was the point touched upon by my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the end of his wind-up.
The Bill was published on 26 June — that is, last week. I suggest that there has been inadequate time for the clubs and other interested bodies to formulate their objections to the Bill or to make the representations to interested Members which would in ordinary circumstances be desirable.
The Bill carries within it widespread restrictions. It will undoubtedly impose substantial financial burdens. It is undesirable that we should be asked to proceed so quickly to a scrutiny of the Bill — especially, if I may say so, at nearly 11 o'clock when we have already been considering the Bill for many hours.
The practice is that this House considers a Bill of this sort on the Floor of the House only if it is genuinely uncontroversial or if there is a real requirement of speed. I do not believe that this Bill falls into either category. I do not believe that it is genuinely uncontroversial, nor do I believe that there is a need for unusual dispatch. On that basis, I oppose the motion.
§ Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)
I wish to support the sensible comments of the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg). Neither this House nor the country generally has had sufficient time to consider this important item of legislation.
I do not object to the legislation being introduced, because I recognise that there is a problem with which we must deal and that there is a need to do that speedily. I have been present during most of the debate and hon. Members have raised a number of important items, and when the Minister replied he indicated that he would report certain items to another place. That is wrong. Those items should be referred to a Committee of this House to consider and amend.
I recognise the problem, but it would be wrong to pass bad legislation because of the speed with which we are being asked to deal with it.
§ Mr. Pendry
Although I did not have reservations earlier, as the debate progressed I became convinced by the hon. Members for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) and for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) that this is a rushed job. It is an important issue. As my right hon. Friend said, this is a Bill for all time, and, as the hon. Member for Grantham said, it can extend to other sports. Therefore, we must get it right and not rush it through.
424 I support the hon. Member for Grantham and hope that other hon. Members on both sides of the House will follow suit.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) that there is indeed a significant sense of urgency about the Bill. There can be no measure on the statute book before the commencement of next season unless this Bill makes rapid progress through the House. I am sure he will agree that it would be wrong not to have such a measure on the statute book before the football season commences. That requires Royal Assent on a strict timetable, which I believe will have to be by 26 July.
On the question of controversiality, I accept that some hon. Members have been critical about certain portions of the Bill, but I am sure my hon. Friend will recognise that, with the single exception of himself, every hon. Member who spoke in the previous debate, which began at about 3.40 pm, was in favour of the Bill.
I suggest that we now move to the Committee stage, when many of the points to which my hon. Friend wishes to address himself can no doubt be discussed.
§ Mr. Maclennan
As the Minister knows, I support the principle of the Bill and share his view that it will make an important contribution towards reducing a serious social evil. I also accept his point about urgency. He is right to say that the Bill should be enacted before the end of the parliamentary Session.
Had the Bill simply been the implementing in England and Wales of the provision in Scotland — which I had originally understood it to be — we would have been going down a well-trodden path, but the Bill departs somewhat from the predecessor measure. Indeed, in his reply to the previous debate the Minister referred to what he considered to be serious misdrafting and a failure to reconcile two clauses of the Bill. I had not spotted what the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) spotted, but it is that sort of thing that makes us extremely uneasy about the Government's timetable. It would be of some assistance to the House, before reaching a decision, to have it made plain that it is not a practical alternative to have the Committee stage on another day. It is now rather late, and there are many matters which we would wish to look at in detail, for the sake of good drafting.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Everyone supports the Bill. Everyone appreciates the urgency of it. But would it make any difference if we had another few days to consider some of these details? Would it be too late to consider the Bill next week?
That is one of my shorter speeches.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
I stress for the final time to hon. Members on both sides of the House that we must complete the measures which have been laid before the House, which have been agreed in discussion with the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and my hon. Friend the Member for 425 Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths). The measures are primarily agreed between us. I suggest that we proceed to the Committee stage as rapidly as possible.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill immediately considered in Committee.
§ [MR. ERNEST ARMSTRONG in the Chair]