HC Deb 19 February 1986 vol 92 cc300-1
3. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent discussions he has had with the football authorities about crowd behaviour.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Richard Tracey)

We continue to review progress and issues in my working group, comprising representatives of the football authorities, the Home Office and Department of Transport. The group last met a week ago on Wednesday 12 February.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the Belgian Government's ban on all British teams playing in Belgium following the tragic events in the Heysel stadium last May, and the fact that Scotland has now been drawn to play Belgium in the European Nations Cup, will the Minister remind the Belgian Government that I am still awaiting the courtesy of a reply to my letter to them of last May in which I pointed out that FIFA and UEFA draw a distinction between Scottish and English football? They are not punishing Scottish football teams and their supporters for the misconduct of some English supporters. The Belgian Government should follow suit by lifting their ban immediately on Scottish teams and allow them to play in Belgium.

Mr. Tracey

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety. He has correctly drawn attention to the narrower definition put upon teams by UEFA and FIFA. It must be for the Belgian Government, with their much broader interpretation, to determine when and how they should ease their ban on British teams. In all the circumstances, I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to seek to intervene.

Mr. Powley

I support the discussions that have taken place between my hon. Friend and the football authorities, but does he agree that we need to encourage a greater sense of self-discipline in some sportsmen and some members of the crowds who go to sporting events, thus diminishing the amount of crowd and sportsmen's misbehaviour?

Mr. Tracey

I entirely agree. Within my working group we have had considerable discussions about the community interest which we encourage between football clubs and the communities around them. I applaud those football clubs which encourage community interest and family involvement.

Mr. Jim Callaghan

What discussion has the Minister had with the football authorities and the police in the light of the dreadful incident that occurred recently outside the Liverpool stadium, when soccer hooligans, not fans, squirted a harmful liquid into the faces of the Manchester United players? What preventive measures does he intend to take to stop the recurrence of such an incident, when a footballer may be seriously injured or killed?

Mr. Tracey

That was a regrettable incident and one which both sides of the House will deplore. It was a matter of public order and there is a police investigation into it. It would be wrong for me to comment further at this stage.