§ 1. Mr. McQuarrie
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Football Association, and chief fire officers in Scotland, on the safety of football grounds in both senior and junior leagues; and what steps are being taken before the new football season commences in August.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)
I met representatives of the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Football League, the British Transport Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) on 1 July to review crowd control measures. Scottish fire brigades have at my request recently visited football grounds and other stadiums in their areas. Managements are being advised of any measures needed to improve fire safety in their grounds. The committee of inquiry into crowd safety and control at sports grounds will provide interim advice about crowd safety before the opening of the new season.
§ Mr. McQuarrie
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. I welcome the steps that the Scottish Office has taken towards improving crowd control and safety at football grounds. Can he say when the Popplewell report will be published? Can he also say whether there is the possibility of financial support being provided by the Football Trust to clubs which are not eligible for assistance from that source because they are not included on the football pools list? The smaller clubs are experiencing difficulty over their stands because of the ecommendations of the fire officers.
§ Mr. Stewart
The interim report of the committee under Mr. Justic Popplewell's chairmanship has just been 298 received by the Government, and we hope to publish it before the House rises for the summer recess. The non-league grounds to which my hon. Friend referred, such as Peterhead in his constituency, are covered by the fire masters' review. I am sure my hon. Friend will accept that the primary responsibility for the safety of individual facilities must lie with the operators of those grounds. However, the position of non-league clubs has been drawn to the attention of the Football Trust by the Scottish Sports Council.
§ Sir Hector Monro
Scotland can rightly take a great deal of credit for the steps that it has taken to improve its football grounds and to reduce alcohol abuse. However, does my hon. Friend accept that there are absolutely no grounds for complacency? Car he say what steps are being taken this summer, before the start of the football season next month, to improve grounds in the interests of sports safety?
§ Mr. Stewart
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend I do not believe that there is any complacency whatsoever in Scotland. There was no complacency at the meeting that I held on 1 July. I can assure my hon. Friend that the review of safety by the Football Grounds Improvement Trust includes all league grounds in Scotland; and safety is, of course, being considered by Mr. Justice Popplewell's committee.
§ Mr. Ewing
I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State and the Secretary of State on winning the argument against Home Office Ministers in relation to clause 1 versus clause 10 of the Bill which is at present before another place. It would have been preposterous if the staff of British Rail had been held responsible for alcohol being carried on trains going to football matches. Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that during his recent visit Mr. Justice Popplewell praised highly the safety standards at Scottish football grounds? May I also ask him not to single out football? The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) will appreciate that attendances at many rugby matches in Scotland are far higher than attendances at football matches. It is important to consider safety at all sports grounds.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, as a result of his request to the fire brigades and the police, there is a distinct possibility of one senior Scottish club—I shall not name it—not being able to start the new season?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman raised the first part of his question on Second Reading of the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol Etc.) Bill. Home Office Ministers have reached agreement with us on appropriate changes to clause 1.
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the problem is not limited to football. That is why the Scottish fire brigades were asked to visit other stadiums.
On the hon. Gentleman's final point, following the surveys by the fire masters, concern has been expressed about four Scottish league grounds. At one club the matter has been rectified, and at another measures are in hand. At two other clubs there could be restrictions on numbers in the new season.