HC Deb 06 June 1985 vol 80 cc428-30
7. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the implications for safety and security at other sports facilities in the light of the disaster at Bradford City association football club.

Mr. Brittan

While those will in the longer term be matters upon which the Government will look to Mr. Justice Popplewell's inquiry for advice, I have taken the following immediate steps as a result of my statement on 13 May. First, chief fire officers were asked on 16 May as a matter of urgency to visit all uncertificated sports stadia within the definition of the 1975 Act and to advise management on any necessary safety measures.

Secondly, on 23 May, consultation letters were sent to the football authorities and other interested parties on the timetable for designation of the third and fourth division Football League grounds, which I had promised would be put in hand immediately.

Thirdly, on the same day, I announced to the Rugby League my intention also to extend designation, although not necessarily on the same time scale, to the grounds of clubs in divisions 1 and 2 of the Rugby League.

Mr. Alton

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for that reply. How long will he give the clubs before they are expected to implement the Prime Minister's recommendations on personal security cards, the security of grounds and segregation? Will he be entering into talks, even if informal, with the organisers of sports in other grounds? What response—

Mr. Heffer

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is not in order.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) must keep in order.

Mr. Alton

I am in order, Mr. Speaker. A supplementary question is in order.

What response will the Home Secretary. give to those clubs which have asked for funds to carry out much needed improvements to their grounds?

Mr. Brittan

I think that the question of cards and other such matters go beyond the question, but those matters are being actively discussed with the football authorities. On the question of funds, the hon. Gentleman will recall what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

Mr. Waller

While it appears certain that association football clubs can do something to make their grounds safer through funds available from the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, will my right hon. and learned Friend consult his right hon. and hon. Friends about the particular problems of Rugby League clubs, many of which have old wooden stands, but, unfortunately, no similar recourse to funds?

Mr. Brittan

My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport will be considering with the Rugby League the implications of the proposed extension of designation to the grounds of clubs in divisions 1 and 2 of the Rugby League. My hon. Friend will recall my reference to the difference in the time scales for football and rugby.

I stress that clubs have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the public, in the same way as the operators of any place of entertainment have that responsibility.

Mr. Heffer

Will the Home Secretary explain to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) that there is a great difference between someone unfortunately dropping a matchstick and setting a stand on fire in Bradford, and football hooliganism? Will he also explain to him that it is about time he stopped using the House of Commons for his abusive activities, as he does in relation to all subjects, rather than dealing with the issue?

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that I should use the opportunity of such a serious question to intervene in an intra-Liverpool dispute. Although broadly I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said, there is a relationship between security and safety. It is for exactly that reason that I asked Mr. Justice Popplewell to look at both aspects of the matter. It does not take long for the House to consider the locking of exits, for example, to realise the connection.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

While very much welcoming what my right hon. and learned Friend has said—that it is the responsibility of football clubs to ensure the safety and security of those who go to their grounds—may I ask him to pay particular regard to the implications for police manpower of any of the changes that may be proposed? Will he also offer to the House his view on the point that football clubs might spend a little less money on the transfer of players and a little more on safety at their grounds?

Mr. Brittan

I shall draw my hon. Friend's second point to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport. I agree with my hon. Friend's first point. I hope that any changes that are introduced following the examination of these tragic matters will take full account of police manpower and will ease rather than add to the burdens on the police.

Mr. Torney

Will the Home Secretary further consider the suggestion that I made in my speech immediately after the Bradford city football ground fire, that sprinkler systems should be installed in all football grounds and in all other places of a similar nature and that orders should be given that doors must not be locked while large numbers of people are inside? Does he agree that if sprinklers had been in place inside Bradford city football ground the death toll and the number of injuries would have been much lower?

Mr. Brittan

I ought not to speculate upon the hon. Gentleman's last point. However, I agree that both of the points to which he has referred will need to be considered in the light of the findings of Mr. Justice Popplewell in his interim report.

Mr. Tony Banks

While the designation of third and fourth division football grounds is to be welcomed, can the Home Secretary tell the House whether his colleagues are discussing the possibility of making loans available to league clubs to carry out the necessary safety improvements? If not, designation will result in the closing of a number of third and fourth division grounds.

Mr. Brittan

I have already explained that the financing of such safety measures as have been taken or are to be taken to improve spectator safety is being considered by the working group under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport. The surveyors of the Football Grounds Improvement Trust are assessing the likely cost. Until that process has been completed it would not be sensible to make any judgments.