HC Deb 17 April 1989 vol 151 cc19-42 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the disaster at the Sheffield Wednesday football club ground at Hillsborough on Saturday. Everyone has been horrified by this incredible tragedy in which 94 lost their lives and 174 were injured.

Shortly after the start of the match, there was a surge of spectators on the Leppings lane terrace, which crushed many at the front against the perimeter fence. This accounted for most of the deaths and injuries.

The match was due to start at 3 pm. To help ensure orderly access, the gates of the ground were opened at 12 noon. At 2.30 pm most of the Nottingham fans were in the ground, but many of the Liverpool supporters were still arriving. It was clear to the police officers in charge that there was ample capacity still to be filled in some parts of the enclosure allocated to Liverpool.

At about 2.45 pm there was a large crowd of Liverpool supporters at the turnstiles in Leppings lane behind the west stand. There was difficulty in coping with the pressure on the turnstiles, and the police used loud hailers to urge the crowd to be patient. At about 2.50, more Liverpool supporters arrived and the numbers in front of the turnstiles increased. Some supporters started to climb the walls and turnstiles, and those at the front of the crowd outside the stadium were under considerable pressure from those behind.

The senior police officer present considered that there was a possible danger to the lives of the spectators at the front of the crowd outside the stadium. In order to relieve the pressure, he arranged for an exit gate near the turnstiles to be opened to let a section of the crowd through. The relationship of that action to the disaster on the terrace shortly afterwards is clearly a central question to be investigated.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I yesterday visited the football ground and the two Sheffield hospitals which received casualties. I should like to pay tribute to all those involved in the rescue operations at the ground, including the many spectators who gave their help, and to those others, including the hospital staffs and voluntary agencies, who have since been working so hard treating the injured and consoling the bereaved. We heard many accounts of courage exerted on behalf of others.

I have asked for further factual reports from the police and other services, the local authority and the Football Association. Inquests will be held in due course. But over and above this, there is clearly need for a full and independent inquiry to identify the causes of the disaster and to examine what needs to be done to prevent such an accident happening again. I have therefore asked Lord Justice Taylor to carry out an inquiry with the following terms of reference: To inquire into the events at Sheffield Wednesday football ground on 15 April 1989 and to make recommendations about the needs of crowd control and safety at sports grounds. Mr. Brian Johnson, the chief constable of Lancashire, has agreed to assist the inquiry as an assessor, and arrangements will be made as necessary for other qualified assessors to be appointed and for the inquiry to be provided with technical advice and support. I am asking that the inquiry should proceed with all possible speed. Lord Justice Taylor will visit Sheffield tomorrow to begin his investigation. I am grateful to him for agreeing to undertake this task.

However, we need also to take a wider view. The Government believe that the future of football in this country lies in a national membership scheme in designated grounds—[Interruption.]—and now, it seems, also in providing all-seated accommodation at major football clubs. This would involve the disappearance of terraces at those grounds. It might also involve amendments to strengthen the Football Spectators Bill so that its provision for the licensing of grounds matched this concept. We shall be considering these matters urgently.

An appeal fund is being set up by the civic authorities of Liverpool, Nottingham and Sheffield. The Government will be contributing £500,000 immediately towards this fund.

This was a devastating tragedy. Our deep sympathy goes to the families of those who died, to those recovering, and—particularly moving yesterday—to those young people who are still fighting for life and health. We owe a duty, it seems to us, to these passionate supporters of football to examine urgently and thoroughly the causes and the background, and to do all in our power to prevent such a thing from happening again. We have to set our sights high and find a better way for British football.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

May I, first of all, offer the deepest sympathy of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself to all those who were injured in or bereaved by this terrible tragedy. Little that we say will help them at this moment, but I hope that they find some comfort in the knowledge that the whole country shares their grief and suffering. We also offer our hopes for a full recovery to those 17 patients still in intensive care.

May I also express our gratitude to and our admiration for all those individuals who did such remarkable work saving lives, comforting the dying, and helping the injured —police, fire officers, the ambulance service, St. John Ambulance Brigade, doctors and nurses, the staff of the club, and the football supporters who acted with such great discipline and compassion?

May I go on to welcome the Home Secretary's decision to set up a public inquiry, and express our hope that its report will lead to immediate and decisive action? May I ask the Home Secretary about the police inquiry that is to be carried out at the same time? Can we be assured that neither its proceedings nor its conclusions will delay or inhibit the public inquiry that he has announced today? We need an unequivocal and authoritative account of what happened at Hillsborough, why it happened, and what must be done to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. On the face of it, two parallel inquiries are not the best way to achieve that result.

The report emanating from the public inquiry must be followed by a reorganisation of football ground control, which may take some time to achieve. I refer, for example, to the replacement of terraces with seats. But some action must be taken at once. Will the Home Secretary issue an immediate instruction to those safety committees and chief constables who have insisted upon football clubs installing perimeter fences? Many football clubs have warned for years that perimeter fencing is a potential danger. On Saturday it proved lethal. It must not be maintained where lives are put at risk.

We assume that the recommendations of the public inquiry will concern crowd control outside the turnstiles and on the way to matches—not simply organisation and accommodation inside grounds. In the light of that, will the Home Secretary consider the implications of any policy or legislation that results in concentration of crowds outside grounds immediately before matches? The potential consequences of football supporters being held in large numbers outside turnstiles was demonstrated yesterday. Nothing must be done to make such concentrations more likely or more frequent.

Most informed opinion, including that of the police, insists that the concentration of supporters outside turnstiles would be the certain result of part I of the Football Spectators Bill. This morning's decision to push that Bill through Parliament even while the inquiry is sitting is neither rational nor sensitive to the mood of the country. We shall oppose it with every legitimate means at our disposal.

I offer the co-operation of the Opposition for any legislation that is genuinely concerned with football safety. Indeed, I do more: I assure the Home Secretary of my party's profound wish that proposals on safety at football grounds can be made with the general support of all political parties and wholly free from political controversy. It will clearly be in the interests of everybody to obtain unanimous agreement on a subject that has nothing whatever to do with party politics. I ask the Home Secretary to try to achieve that agreement.

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful for the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, which expressed sentiments on which the House is united. He raised several particular points. The chief constable of South Yorkshire took the view, which I think the right hon. Gentleman will probably consider right, that since the actions of some of his force will be central to any inquiry, it is right that another force, and one with experience in these matters, should undertake the police work that is necessary both in preparation for inquests and to submit the necessary information to Lord Taylor's inquiry. Therefore, he made the announcement to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I do not think that there is any confusion or duplication. The work to be carried out by the chief constable of the West Midlands force will be at the service of Lord Justice Taylor, and will not cut across what he does.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about barriers and perimeter fencing, and it is worth answering that point in a little detail. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, they are not a statutory requirement, but they are in many places a requirement imposed by the local authorities as a condition of the safety certificate, which is required under the law. The purpose of the barriers and in particular of the perimeter fences is to increase security and improve protection from one type of threat—that of violence.

Mr. Hattersley

Not violence—hooliganism.

Mr. Hurd

That is their purpose. We have yet to find satisfactory means of ensuring that, in removing one hazard, the authorities do not create another.

The Home Office guidance, which the right hon. Gentleman will have studied, specifically lays down the importance of exits on to the pitch through the perimeter fence for emergency purposes. No one who saw the fence and the gate at Hillsborough or listened to those who tried to get through it, often in vain, can believe that the right answer was found on that occasion. It must be for Lord Justice Taylor and the inquiry to look into that. He is aware—I discussed the matter with him this morning—that if he believes, as he may well, that there are certain matters—perhaps this one—that require an urgent interim report, so that steps can be taken in advance of the next football season, he will be able to do that.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Football Spectators Bill. The next stage of the Bill was to have been Third Reading in another place, on Monday next. We believe that the House and the other place will agree that it is seemly to have a short delay in that. Perhaps after that delay, the best course would be for the Bill to complete its stages in the other place so that any additions that we propose in the light of my earlier statement can be introduced when it comes to this House. In the first instance, that is a matter for the usual channels in another place.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that I speak for the whole House when I say that we are all appalled at this tragedy. Our sympathy goes out to the relatives of those who have been killed and to the injured. It may not be possible for me to call every hon. Member who wishes to ask a question, but I propose to give precedence to those whose constituencies are most directly affected.

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

As the Member of Parliament representing the area that covers the ground and the Northern general hospital, I wish to reiterate what has already been said in paying tribute to those who helped, in the ground, in the community around and at the two major hospitals in Sheffield, to deal with the dead and injured. I offer my sympathy and those of colleagues in the city of Sheffield to the bereaved arid to those families whose relatives have been injured. I am sure that we all want to consider every possible way of avoiding such an incident ever occurring again.

I ask the Home Secretary to confirm that the Sheffield Wednesday football club has done more than most clubs in investing more than £1 million over the past 10 years in improving safety and facilities in a ground that must be one of the best of the top two or three football league grounds in the country.

I hope that the Home Secretary will confirm that the inquiry will accept the task of considering how we might change the image of football. Will it be possible for us to take a fresh look at how we treat football spectators? The behaviour of a few has led to a concentration on actions and attitudes whereby fans are treated as hooligans, or potential hooligans, rather than as human beings.

No one would condone the pressure and the late arrival of fans outside the game on Saturday, but we want to see facilities for entertainment, catering and comfort in grounds begin to restore decency and a sense of purpose. I speak as someone who sat on a small wall behind the goal at Hillsborough when I was a child without fear or anything happening to me or to those around me.

I ask the Home Secretary to reject the alleged statement this afternoon by the president of UEFA, in which he described fans as "beasts". I hope that the Home Secretary will say that we shall restore dignity and a sense of decency to our football supporters and to the viewing of football in Britain.

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I agree willingly that Sheffield Wednesday has put massive investment into modern facilities at the Hillsborough ground. The terms of reference of Lord Justice Taylor are wide and will enable him to range over what he thinks is essential. I agree that those whom my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I visited yesterday in the hospitals were human beings who had suffered greatly in body and, sometimes, in mind as well. No one who made those visits could conceivably think of them in any other way.

I agree also with the main thrust of the question of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett). It is by building up the comfort and the conditions of the game and its high reputation that we can attract more and more people to become spectators and restore the attractiveness of the game. That will mean raising our sights, and thinking of new ways of doing that. That is why we have come to the conclusion that seated accommodation in the larger stadiums is an important part of the objective which the hon. Gentleman states.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

Our hearts go out to the bereaved families, but surely our thoughts should be concentrated on what lessons should be learned for general application thoughout the country. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not refer to one pressing matter. Is he aware that, over the past three years, ever since the inquiry of Mr. Justice Popplewell, the St. John Ambulance Brigade, which has unrivalled experience in providing first aid at sports grounds, has been pressing the Home Office, local authorities and the Football Association to provide much higher standards of medical care and equipment at football stadiums throughout the country?

If it has not been possible outside London to achieve these standards—in London it has been all right—will my right hon. Friend take appropriate action in advance of the inquiry? There is clearly a need to ensure that, in any breakdown where injury is inflicted, the rescue services and the magnificient work done by the St. John Ambulance Brigade are not frustrated by a lack of proper facilities.

Mr. Hurd

My right hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the criticisms that have been made. He may have heard the doctor from Glasgow give his considered talk on that matter on the radio this morning. I understand that before the match began two ambulances were at the ground together with attendants from the St. John Ambulance Brigade. The first call for additional ambulances was received by the ambulance service at eight minutes past 3 and within 17 minutes a total of 10 additional ambulances had attended. We spoke yesterday to the head of the ambulance service. Its record of quick recourse is a good one. However, it does not help with my right hon. Friend's point about the facilities already at the ground. I imagine that that is a matter to which Lord Justice Taylor will want to give urgent attention.

Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)

These are probably the most difficult questions that I have ever had to ask in the House of Commons. I say that because many of my constituents and many of the constituents of my colleagues who represent Liverpool and Merseyside, as well as elsewhere, are dead or injured because of the great tragedy at Hillsborough. I am thinking of the families and of the people who are bereaved.

It is a tragedy that should never have happened. The people of Liverpool in particular are in deep mourning but there is also a measure of anger because, as has been urged elsewhere, they feel that steps should have been taken well before the match to avoid such things happening.

Although the attitude that the Government have adopted has been sympathetic, may I urge them not to go ahead at the moment with their proposals? Please be sensitive to the feelings of our people. Is the Home Secretary aware that I have recently received letters from some of those who died urging that the Government should not introduce the scheme because they felt that it would add to the existing problems? I urge the Government: please desist at least until the report is published. Let us have another look at the situation.

May I also urge the Government to take some immediate steps? For God's sake, do not let our people be trapped like animals again. I am an Evertonian—I do not often attend Liverpool matches and I was not at this one—but I saw on television the agony and the dreadful scenes when young people, children and others had their lives crushed out of them, not only because of the perimeter fences but because of the barriers. We must ensure that this never happens again anywhere in the country.

Those who are in authority and who had not foreseen that such a situation could develop cannot run away from their responsibilities. The last thing that I want to do is to create a scapegoat and I do not want to condemn the policeman outside the ground who made a decision, thinking, perhaps, that he was saving lives. I just want us to look at the whole situation again, again and again, so that such a tragedy does not happen again.

The interests of the spectators should be put before the interests of everybody else. They must be treated as civilised human beings, not as the enemies of society. Yes, a few enemies of society may get into football grounds from time to time, but our lovely people of Liverpool—and those elsewhere—must never suffer again because they have suffered too much already.

Mr. Hurd

Anyone who watched on television the reaction of people in Liverpool, particularly at the services in and outside the cathedrals yesterday, will know that the hon. Gentleman was right in the way that he started his question. There is also absolutely no doubt from what we heard yesterday that the hon. Gentleman is right to talk about people being trapped, crushed and helpless. That leads back to the point about perimeter fences. The hon. Gentleman is right also to advise against a rush to judgment. Yesterday, we listened to many accounts of what happened from casualties and witnesses. The broad thrust of what they said tallied. However, there were discrepancies—as there usually are—on many important points of detail. It is for precisely that reason that an inquiry is needed.

There is no particular difficulty about part II of the Football Spectators Bill. As to part I, the national membership scheme is designed as a remedy against violence. Violence was not present at Hillsborough on Saturday, but it has been the curse of the game and might be again unless we find the right remedy. The remedy in the Bill flows from the Popplewell report on the last disaster—[Interruption.] In considering the Hillsborough disaster, it would be foolish to forget the lessons of earlier disasters.

The action that we propose is reasonable. I mentioned the parliamentary delay that we believe to be seemly. I mentioned also that we want to go forward and not back on the Football Spectators Bill and on the concept of a national membership scheme, which we believe to be necessary and right. We must go forward, to see whether the Bill's licensing provisions need to be strengthened, to make possible the move to all-seated accommodation in big stadiums, which we believe is the right way to proceed. There will be consultations and discussions about that possibility. If we reach the conclusion that the Bill needs to be altered and strengthened in that way, we shall bring that conclusion to the House.

Sir Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House wholeheartedly share his sentiments about the heroic acts that took place on Saturday? I shall be grateful if he will address his mind to two points that I will put to him. I associate myself in many ways with the comments of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer). Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the inquiry will be all-embracing, because the disaster has major implications for many other major spectator sports? Also, can the inquiry be speeded up? Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends feel that the inquiry is desperately important, even allowing for the recommendations made four years ago by Mr. Justice Popplewell. If some of them had been acknowledged, perhaps we would not find ourselves where we are today.

Does my right hon. Friend hold the opinion that it would be premature and foolhardy to proceed with the national membership scheme until he has an opportunity to consider all the contributory factors, both inside and outside the ground, to the Hillsborough tragedy? Those factors clearly included panic on the part of the police and of spectators. I am certain that it would be premature to proceed with the scheme until the inquiry has been concluded.

Mr. Hurd

Lord Justice Taylor's report must be speedy and thorough. In theory, there can be a contradiction between the two. However, I have made it clear to Lord Justice Taylor—and he accepts this—that he may encounter matters and issues that need to be tackled with particular urgency and upon which he may wish to make pressing recommendations. If that is the case, it will be open to him—and I have the impression that he will take this course—to submit an interim report on such matters before he has finished reaching all of his conclusions, so that they may be acted upon. Lord Justice Taylor has it in mind that, as with the Popplewell inquiry, the proceedings of his inquiry will be in public, unless there is a particular reason in any case against allowing that. That is the procedure. I do not want to pin Lord Justice Taylor down to a specific timetable before he has even visited Sheffield, which he is to do tomorrow, but I hope that my hon. Friend feels reassured.

I note what my hon. Friend said about the comments of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), and he will have noted what I said in reply. I agree to the extent that we need to set our sights high, and that, apart from other considerations, a delay would be seemly. As I have said, we shall need to look at the Bill to see how it might be strengthened to meet the extra points that I have mentioned. I do not consider that it would be right or sensible to resile from the concept of a national membership scheme or from that of designated grounds, for reasons that I have already given. If Lord Justice Taylor wishes to comment on that, nothing in his terms of reference will prevent him from doing so.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, let me offer my sympathy to the bereaved and injured. Let me also acknowledge the efforts of those who rendered assistance, especially the unsung acts of heroism performed by many young people.

I should like to press the Home Secretary a little on the scope of the inquiry. Will it be wide enough to enable the inquiry to consider whether lessons should have been learned from an alleged incident in 1981, in the same part of the same ground? It is said that there was severe overcrowding on that occasion, but mercifully no one was killed or injured.

The Home Secretary would receive support from both sides of the House if he took a much more robust attitude to the football membership scheme. Many of us feel that even proceeding in the way that he has outlined will inevitably pre-empt Lord Justice Taylor's report.

Mr. Hurd

On the second point, I do not think that I have anything to add to what I have already said. As for the first point, Lord Justice Taylor will of course be able to look at evidence from the past if he considers if relevant.

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked me about the kind of issues that Lord Justice Taylor will need to address. I have already mentioned the decision to open the outside gate. There is also the question why, once in the ground, fans were propelled into the central tunnel rather than to the side entrances to the terraces, and the question why those responsible did not notice earlier what was happening on the central terrace behind the goal posts. Then there is the whole question—which we have already discussed—of the perimeter barrier and the gates within it, which were designed to serve as an emergency exit but which obviously failed to do so.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

As my right hon. Friend knows, I am one of the strongest supporters of the Football Spectators Bill, and I remain committed to the principle of membership to combat football hooliganism. Does my right hon. Friend accept, however, that in consideration of what has been said this afternoon—and, indeed, of the tragic circumstances—it would be wise to postpone any further discussion until the full results of the public inquiry are known? I hope that my right hon. Friend will then bring to the House a Bill that will receive not merely all-party support but support from outside the House, to combat the terrible problems that have been highlighted by Saturday's tragic events.

Mr. Hurd

As I have said, there will be a pause for the sake of seemliness—as the House would wish—and also for consultations on the possible strengthening of the Bill. Both purposes are, I think, important from the point of view of my hon. Friend.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the events at Hillsborough ought to make us all step aside from preconceptions and look afresh at how we are to find a better way for British football. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] However, I think that my hon. Friend will agree, even if the Opposition do not, that an important part of that must be protection against hooliganism and violence, and that in that context a national membership scheme, or the kind that flows from the Popplewell report, has a crucial part to play.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Ashfield)

I was at the match on Saturday and saw everything that happened. If those events had taken place at a mid-week Cup tie replay on a black, dark January night, with people dashing from work in the rush hour trying to get in, it would have been twice as bad. Most of the fans had a ticket, which is a form of membership card. If the Secretary of State introduces a computer system and a membership card, all we shall need is one idiot to take a piece of chewing gum and jam it into the slot. That would put the turnstile out of action. The police would then have no option but to allow people to rush into the ground through the emergency exit. They would not then be in a position, especially on a dark night, to direct the fans to the proper entrances.

If this tragedy had happened after the Football Spectators Bill had been introduced, the Secretary of State would certainly have had to resign. Will he not wait until the report is published? In the meantime, will he not arrange for the barriers to be taken down? Will he not insist that all big matches are played live on television on Sunday afternoons so that there is less reason for people without tickets to turn up at the ground, as they did on Saturday, and fewer traffic problems? If the Secretary of State took those interim measures and introduced in the next Session of Parliament a safety of sports grounds Bill, we should certainly support him.

Mr. Hurd

The tragedy happened under the existing system, not under any future system. [Interruption.] No, the hon. Gentleman has not proved that point. Part of the problem on Saturday, as on other occasions, was that people turned up without tickets, as the hon. Gentleman said, in the belief, which tragically turned out to be correct, that some of them would find a way in. Under the scheme, that would not have been possible because they would or would not have a football membership card. They would not travel to the game in the expectation that they would be let in without one.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Police Federation welcomes both the public and the police inquiry? Will the inquiry particularly consider the safety of stadiums and will it have the power to recommend temporary closure, should that prove necessary? Can he also say whether the inquiry will further consider how supporters travel to matches, the parking arrangements and the way in which supporters approach the ground? Can he further say whether the inquiry will consider the role of the Football Association in connection with the proposed football membership scheme?

Mr. Hurd

We have deliberately cast very widely the terms of reference for Lord Justice Taylor, so that he can examine all those matters that my hon. Friend has listed, I believe without straining at the terms of reference. There are many angles to this—many points of comment and criticism that have already arisen, even in the last 48 hours—and it is right that Lord Justice Taylor should be able to look at them all. The existing system of safety certificates under the 1975 Act and the responsibility of local authorities—how that works out in practice and whether it is right, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) pointed out earlier, that perimeter fences should in many cases be regarded as a requirement for a safety certificate—are matters on which Lord Justice Taylor could comment.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

We all grieve today, but some of us are angry. I speak not only as a Sheffield Member of Parliament but also as someone who still stands on the popular side week in, week out. Is the Home Secretary aware that, in the aftermath of Heysel and Bradford, I wrote to his Department and described the extensive improvements that had been put in hand at Hillsborough, costing £750,000 for crowd control and police liaison, and that I invited the Minister who was then responsible for these matters to come up and see them? He did not. Will he caution those who would make whipping boys of Sheffied Wednesday and the South Yorkshire police? Will he concentrate on those who, in trying to shape our safety requirements since Heysel and Bradford, have taken us in a impractical and unreal direction?

Will the right hon. Gentleman look hard at football—its structure, greed and psyche, and its contempt for ordinary working-class lads—and ask how far the football establishment is responsible for the continuing slaughter? During the past three or four years cages have been set up to contain visiting supporters at football grounds that detain them more severely than prisoners of war were detained in world war 2 Britain.

Mr. Hurd

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is unreal and wrong, at this stage and with our present knowledge to look for, or talk about, whipping boys. I am glad that, from the Opposition Benches and from all parts of the House, that has been stated clearly. As the hon. Gentleman said, we have endured—and football supporters in particular have endured—a series of tragedies at home and abroad. We have had a tragic fire, a number of tragedies brought about by violence—Birmingham and Heysel—and now a tragedy brought about not by violence but by physical pressures because too many people were concentrated in one narrow part of the ground.

Each of those different tragedies has brought forth a series of answers, inquiries, reports and guidance designed to avert a recurrence of the most recent tragedy—the one that is on everyone's mind. We must not forget the earlier lessons as we concentrate on the new lessons. We must look at the whole picture. That includes protection against violence and hooliganism and what Popplewell said about fire. It also includes the problems that we have naturally been discussing following the Hillsborough tragedy—the problems of perimeter fences and pressure exerted on people by physical objects that can wound and crush them. Unless we are prepared to consider all these matters, we shall continue to chase partial solutions. That was the nature of my statement today.

Mr. Irvine Patnick (Sheffield, Hallam)

May I join the hon. Members for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) and Sheffield, Atterliffe (Mr. Duffy) in speaking about the tragedy that occurred in Sheffield? I pay my compliments to the emergency services on the way in which they handled themselves at the weekend and to Sheffield people who volunteered to give accommodation to those from Liverpool who were bereaved. When I visited the temporary morgue that had been set up with my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport I was appalled by the tragedy. Only when one sees the bodies laid out can one fully appreciate the extent of the tragedy that happened in Sheffield.

I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to bear in mind that it was apparent to me that there was a lack of a disaster plan for that sports ground, which is one of the major sports grounds in the United Kingdom. As the hon. Member for Attercliffe said, there are few better grounds than that ground. Nevertheless, shortcomings were apparent.

I congratulate the two radio stations, Radio Hallam and Radio Sheffield, which kept up a non-stop commentary on what help was needed for people in the area and the Sheffield Star on its special edition—a copy of which I gave to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—which showed graphically the horror and mayhem.

Will my right hon. Friend examine two questions—first, the apparent lack of a disaster plan and, secondly, the part that alcohol played in the disaster?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is right to the extent that Lord Justice Taylor will have to look very carefully at the shortcomings in control and communication which seem to have been present at the crucial moments that afternoon. If the hon. Gentleman's second point becomes substantiated, it will certainly fall within Lord Justice Taylor's terms of reference.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Can I say to the Home Secretary that I am probably one of the few people in the House who was at the game, if it can be called a game. I was in the Leppings lane area and I was pinned against a wall for about 20 minutes. One of my immediate observations was the inadequate policing of the Leppings lane entrance. People were coming down the road in quite large numbers and there was virtually no direction. What could have and should have happened is that the outer gates to that enclosure should have been closed to limit the number of people within it. That did not happen, and the police cannot be blamed for removing themselves from within that enclosure as the crushing became greater.

In my view the disaster had nothing to do with late arrivals. When I go to Anfield road to see a football match, I arrive at ten to 3 and walk through with no problem at all, because the policing there is quite adequate and the crowds are broken up by the police outside the ground.

As has been said, football supporters have been virtually disregarded because of the behaviour of a tiny minority of fans, and have been typecast as gorillas and inhuman people. That image develops in the mind of police, politicians and others the idea that everyone who goes to watch a football match falls into that category, and that influences the way that people treat football supporters. That did not happen in Sheffield, because the community around the football ground understood the situation, because their sons, daughters, fathers and brothers are probably football fans. They gave immediate sustenance and help to the football supporters. I wish to express my gratitude to the working-class people in Sheffield who did all they could to assist those who were distressed and injured and to deal with other minor matters.

I do not understand how the Home Secretary can continue to defend a scheme that, had it been in operation on that day, would have caused even greater damage, if that is possible. It is about time that the football industry, the Home Secretary, the House and society in general concentrated their minds on bringing in legislation to make football grounds safe and deal with the hooligan element. No genuine football supporter wants to tolerate that. We want those people rooted out of our sport, and they can be rooted out.

But let us not categorise football spectators so that anybody and everybody will look for an excuse not to listen to them. They know about the grounds, as they visit them week after week, and they know where the faults lie. I hope the Home Secretary will say that the inquiry will have full regard to those people who go to foot ball matches and know the problems. If we listen to them and act upon what they say, the game will be brought back to what it was—a game that families can watch and enjoy without any danger to themselves or to other people.

Mr. Hurd

I hope indeed that football supporters will find their voices and mobilise their ideas and put them to Lord Justice Taylor, for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman has given. As regards the police, there was no shortage of police officers—there were upwards of 770 police officers in or around the ground. The hon. Gentleman will agree that many of them showed great heroism for an hour or more trying to extricate people, help people and restore people to consciousness and life.

Of course he is right to say that, as the chief constable has recognised, the decisions of the police and the general question of control and communication will have to be examined by Lord Justice Taylor.

Because of the passionate loyalty of so many for football—we all know of it even if we do not share it—it must be right to do everything we can to restore the game's reputation.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask for brief questions on this matter, please, because a great many hon. Members wish to take part, and it is difficult if long questions are asked.

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)

I am sure the House and the country sense the feeling of tragedy that every person on Merseyside feels today because of the events of Saturday, when what should have been one of the great showpieces of our sporting calendar turned into such a tragedy. On behalf of my constituents and all the people of Merseyside who were helped, I thank the people of Sheffield for all they did. I am sure that I can speak for all my colleagues on Merseyside when I say that our heartfelt sympathy goes to the families of all those who were bereaved, including the family of a 17-year-old boy from Crosby who was named today as one of the dead. It is an absolute tragedy.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement about a wide-ranging inquiry. May I ask him to take one particular thing on board, because many lessons must be learned from the events at Hillsborough on Saturday? Will he see that part of the inquiry looks at the way in which the Football Association allocates tickets to the clubs involved in major sporting occasions? For clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham, with huge followings, the allocation is often fearfully inadequate and exacerbates a problem which should not exist but which we all know was part and parcel of the problem causing the fatal events on Saturday.

Mr. Hurd

That point will certainly come within the review. There seems to be a general opinion—Lord Justice Taylor will test this—that there was still room at the Liverpool end of the ground. The trouble was not that the total space was overcrowded but that particular area—[Interruption.] Yes, as the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) said, the distribution was wrong. That is what I was referring to when I talked of people being propelled through the central tunnel rather than directed round the sides where there was access to parts of the Liverpool terraces. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw also mentioned that people came from Liverpool without tickets in the hope of getting in. Both those facts aggravated the situation.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Yesterday afternoon at this time, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) and myself, together with dignitaries from the three cities involved, were standing on the turf in front of where all those people were killed. Everyone stood silently; there were no photographers present. Our hearts went out from Sheffield to the people of Liverpool. The heart of Sheffield is collectively a great heart and the people of Sheffield are appalled at what happened. The last time I stood in such a way was a long time ago during the war. The sense of what had occurred was horrific to me, and, I hope, to everybody.

We all have our opinions about what went wrong. I know the ground intimately, the exact spot and all the details, but I do not want to apportion blame now. When the inquiry takes place, we should all realise that it is the most important inquiry in the history of football in this country and what it decides will decide the future of football. Football is a dynamic, not a static, sport. It will not stand still and will never go away—thank heaven—but we want to make the proper decisions.

Therefore, I want voices that say, "Do it rapidly," to be listened to with much care. I do not want skimping. The decisions that we take must be long-term decisions. Every aspect must be considered; otherwise, this will occur again and we shall once again need to have another melancholy inquiry into what went wrong. I want an assurance from the Secretary of State that we shall have such an inquiry and that it will not be rushed in any way whatever.

Mr. Hurd

I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman said. I should like to mention the generosity of the people of Sheffield, which has been evident. I have heard many stories of offers of help, accommodation and transport to complete strangers from his constituents and other citizens of Sheffield.

I repeat, without wishing to be tedious, what seems to be the crux of the matter. We have had a series of disasters and tragedies arising from different causes and circumstances. We must not simply ignore the earlier lessons and concentrate on the latest ones. The latest one is terrible and perhaps more appalling than the others because of its nature. It therefore needs to be thoroughly and urgently investigated, and the totals must be added together to find a new way for British football. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that the inquiry must be dynamic. There must be no resting on ancient attitudes as the right foundation for the future of the game.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

I am sure that the House will join me in sending condolences to the families of Colin Sefton and David Rimmer, constituents of mine, who died, and Robert Graham, who is fighting for his life in intensive care. May I express, on behalf of the people of Skelmersdale and Ormskirk, who are ardent Liverpool supporters, our appreciation of the Sheffield services, which acted so quickly?

I support my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the introduction of all-seated grounds, which I have advocated for some time and regard as a solution. Will he return to the Bradford City fire report by Mr. Justice Popplewell, in which he will find among the 63 recommendations one that says that it is essential to have exit gates in perimeter fencing that keeps in the crowd to give an exit on to the field should there be disturbances? Will he reconsider that and bear in mind that such gates do not exist at 16 first division grounds, including Manchester United's ground, Old Trafford, where it is proposed to hold the rematch of this game in the next week or two?

Mr. Hurd

One point on which we can all agree is the absolute necessity of emergency exits through perimeter fences. As my hon. Friend said, that is contained in the Popplewell report and is clearly spelled out, with specifications about the widths of gates, in paragraph 215 of the Home Office guide to safety at sports grounds. Anyone will agree that if the guidance is implemented it is adequate. There must be an investigation in to why the exit gate was not an effective way in which desperate people could get on to the pitch.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

In the face of this terrible and wholly avoidable tragedy—many of the fatalities were young children, including a 13-year-old boy from my constituency—expressions of condolences and sympathy seem inadequate to sum up the enormity of it for a city that is mourning its dead and is united in its grief.

A time will come when grief will give way to anger and questions will have to be answered. I should like an assurance from the Home Secretary that it will be made clear why the gate was opened and who took that decision. Why were emergency arrangements so pitifully inadequate? I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about the provision of seats in our national stadiums, but will he take urgent action to ensure that those terrible metal cages are put on the scrap heap and people are treated like human beings instead of animals?

On 22 March, I wrote to the Minister about the ticket allocation for Saturday's match. I enclosed a statement from Mr. Peter Robinson, the chief executive of Liverpool football ground, who said: I made it plain that there was no way I could support the choice of Hillsborough this year with the same ticket allocations applying. When I received a reply dated 11 April from the Minister of Sport, he said that the mater was entirely for the football authorities. In the light of what has happened, will the Home Secretary accept that the Minister should take an interest in this matter? Will he confirm that which the Minister said, that the allocations were made on the basis of police advice? I ask that because there have been conflicting statements in the past 24 hours.

Liverpool is a city schooled in adversity. However, not since the blitz has it had to face a tragedy on such a shocking scale. I am sure that the House today will wish to express its solidarity with those who grieve and those awaiting news of loved ones, whose lives still lie in the balance.

Mr. Hurd

All the points raised by the hon. Gentleman are clearly covered by the terms of reference of the inquiry, and Lord Justice Taylor will be able to look into them. I am slightly surprised that he suggests that Ministers should become involved in deciding, match by match, how tickets should be allocated. He is perfectly right in his understanding—these are matters for the football authorities. They consult on them and are guided by the police. I shall repeat my earlier point that, although the matter of total allocation will certainly be looked into, it was not the total allocation, so much as the concentration of that allocation in a part of the Liverpool terrace, which resulted in the terrible damage.

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

May I, as a regular supporter of the Nottingham Forest team, speak on behalf of all its fans and the people of Nottinghamshire, and associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller)? It was a most tragic accident and, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, no words uttered in this place will fill the gaps in those families who have lost young people who went out on a happy day which ended in tragedy.

We should recollect that more factors unite football fans than divide them. That was clearly shown at the Hillsborough ground when the Nottingham Forest supporters—as soon as they realised that a tragedy was taking place—behaved in an exemplary fashion and helped in every way. The majority of people who follow football are united in the game's interests. The Home Secretary has an opportunity to utilise that good will on all sides. There is no shortage of suggestions or ideas. I beg him not to rush ahead too far but to think carefully before he proceeds in any direction. He should take all the advice given from all those of good will who want the future of football—this country's national game—to continue in a proper and rightful way.

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend that the right sequence of action is thought, consultation, thought, action.

Mr. Terry Fields (Liverpool, Broadgreen)

Like thousands of Liverpool families on Saturday, my wife and I waited tearfully and anxiously because we had two sons and a nephew in that part of the ground where the disaster happened. My relief on discovering that my family was all right was tinged with the realisation that thousands of other Liverpool families would never see their kids come home as a result of the terrible tragedy. After the Heysel tragedy we were assured that the Prime Minister would leave no stone unturned in discovering who was responsible. I want an assurance today from the Home Secretary that, similarly, no stone will be left unturned when this incident is investigated.

Others have said that they are not looking for scapegoats, but the anger that permeates Liverpool today reflects the tragedy that occurred in Georgia in the USSR, after which the top tier of the country's leadership was forced to resign. We need assurances, because we do not want a whitewash. The fans are paramount in this incident, and must be consulted when the in-depth inquiry takes place—no matter how long it takes for their point of view and experiences to be put across. If they were decent, honest and honourable, the responsible Minister, chief of police and FA officials would resign.

How long are we going to carry on treating fans like cattle? Their treatment contrasts with the champagne swilling that goes on in the plush directors' boxes. The views and conditions of the fans must be taken into account. If we lock people up we create a certain mentality, and it is little wonder that they react in these circumstances.

Mr. Hurd

Nothing that we heard yesterday at the ground or in the hospitals bears out the sort of rhetoric that the hon. Gentleman has sought to employ. It is precisely because of the incredible nature of the tragedy that we have moved quickly to set up what even the hon. Gentleman would agree is a fully independent inquiry with what even he would agree are wide and complete terms of reference. The proceedings will be conducted in public, unless there is a special reason for not doing so. It will be open to everyone to make their views and recommendations known. That is the proper way to proceed and then to reach conclusions afterwards—instead of gabbling with malice, as the hon. Gentleman has done today.

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I ask my right hon. Friend to think again about putting the Football Spectators Bill on ice. Is he aware that many of the police are concerned that if the Bill is enacted and crowds build up outside stadiums the same sort of thing could happen again as happened on Saturday? Would it not be better to wait for the results of a full inquiry and then to bring forward a Bill that is acceptable to everyone concerned with football?

Secondly, was my right hon. Friend, like me, nauseated by some of the pictures in some of the tabloids, which must have caused enormous distress to some of the bereaved families? Would it not have been better if they had never been published?

Mr. Hurd

On the first point, perhaps I can add something to what I have already said. I remind the House, which has not yet considered the Bill, that it is an enabling framework and that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has already given a full commitment not to implement the scheme within that framework until the necessary technology has been satisfactorily worked out. My hon. Friend will agree that the point about terraces that I emphasised at the beginning is also relevant.

I note what my hon. Friend said about newspaper photographs, and I also note that the new chairman of the Press Council has said today that the Press Council should inquire into that matter.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

I was at the other semi-final on Saturday at which the other Merseyside team, Everton, was successful, but there was no real rejoicing. When we came out of the ground and learned of the problems at Hillsborough, we were all united in grief with all football fans on Merseyside.

Will the Home Secretary use his influence to get football clubs to be more flexible about kick-off times? One of the reasons why crowds try to crush through turnstiles quickly into the central areas of grounds is that they hear the roar from inside the ground when the teams run on to the pitch and play starts. Matches in Germany are often held up for half an hour to ensure the safety of the spectators, which should come first.

When, oh when, will the Government escape from the "We never make mistakes" syndrome? When will they learn from their Back Benchers, not one of whom has supported them this afternoon, withdraw part I of the Football Spectators Bill and start from scratch?

Will the Home Secretary ensure that the inquiry examines the location of football grounds? I know that there can be improvement—by relocating grounds when necessary—only in the long term, but too many of our grounds are in built-up urban areas. Because of the war, Germany and Holland have been able to build grounds in open space areas in which there are far more facilities for controlling crowds. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into that?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask for brief questions; long questions are unfair to other hon. Members.

Mr. Hurd

I shall try to be succinct. I have much personal sympathy for the hon. Gentleman's point about flexibility and timing of the start of matches. I am sure that that will be looked into. I have nothing further to say on the other matter.

Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)

May I on behalf of my constituents and supporters of Manchester United join in the expressions of sympathy to the families of the bereaved? Will my right hon. Friend have urgent consultations with the football authorities to ensure that in future special coaches and trains for away matches do not leave their points of origin unless everybody on board is already armed with a ticket? That would avoid thousands of fans, many of them without tickets, arriving simultaneously five or 10 minutes before the start of a match.

Mr. Hurd

That is an interesting suggestion and I shall make sure that the inquiry takes it into account.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)

I should like to be associated with the condolences and the messages of sympathy to the bereaved families. I pay tribute to the Liverpool supporters and the Evertonians for their tribute to Liverpool yesterday at Anfield and at Liverpool metropolitan cathedral. I was present at both those ceremonies and they were very moving. My brother's son lost three friends on Saturday, all of whom were in their twenties. That was a tragic loss of life. I welcome the public inquiry and hope that there will be no cover-ups. Such a tragedy must never happen again, although any preventive measures are too late for all those people who are now dead.

Mr. Hurd

I agree with the hon. Gentleman and with the way in which he expressed himself.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

My constituents are shocked that even the London suburbs should now be associated with this terrible tragedy. Sarah and Victoria Hicks, two teenage girls attending the match with their family, now lie dead. Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the shadow of this tragedy it would be easy to jump to conclusions and adopt what might be fashionable solutions? Will he give us an assurance that the widest possible brief will be followed by the inquiry to ensure that we can genuinely call our sports grounds safe? Will he ensure that all recommendations by the inquiry are legislated into action?

Mr. Hurd

Certainly, as my hon. Friend will have seen, the terms of reference are very wide. When we receive the report—whether it is an interim and then a final or a single report—we will need to act quickly.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The whole House knows that we have a heavy day ahead of us. I shall call those Members whose constituents have been most severely affected, the Liverpool Members, and then we must move on.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

May I, too, associate myself with the statements made to the families who lost people on Saturday? I find it impossible to express the despair that I feel and that suggests something of the utter desolation that those families must be experiencing at this time. While none of those families will today be thinking about compensation, does the Home Secretary think that we have a duty to them? Am I right in saying that some families who lost members on Saturday will receive no automatic compensation payments? Is that right or fair? If it is not fair, will the Government change the law?

Mr. Hurd

I think that the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there is no automatic compensation. Of course I have read about the possibilities of civil action and I have also read and spoken about the fund that has been set up. I should like to look further into the matter.

Mr. Sean Hughes (Knowsley, South)

I represent half the borough that is today mourning the deaths of 12 young people, including the infinitely tragic death of a 10-year-old child from my constituency. As an Everton season ticket holder, I was at the other semi-final. As a football supporter I share the disappointment of many people at the Home Secretary's reply about the ID scheme which demonstrates a woeful ignorance of the nature of the football fan. Increasingly, in the greatest spectator sport in Britain, the least important person is the spectator. We feel very deeply that the Government and the Football Association do not demonstrate an awareness of that fact.

Finally, in addition to the disappointment that has been caused by what we have heard about the ID scheme, there will be disappointment about the Home Secretary's response to questions concerning the allocation of tickets. I remain absolutely convinced that the allocation of tickets for big games, such as semi-finals and finals, is crucial. Going to a football match is not like going to the theatre; it is a way of life for an enormous number of people. Those people will be acutely disappointed by what has been said about the allocation of tickets. The fans who turn up without tickets, and those who pay exorbitant amounts to ticket touts, are not the ones who are intent on hooliganism; they are the ones who have been going, match in, match out, throughout the season, but cannot get tickets for the big games. Therefore, the Football Association too must be thoroughly investigated.

Mr. Hurd

I agree entirely that the allocation of tickets—working out the totals between the two clubs—is extremely important. What I was arguing against was the argument of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), that this is a matter that Ministers should decide.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

I should like to associate myself with the sympathy that has been expressed. At the invitation of the Merseyside fire and civil defence authority, I visited Sheffield yesterday. I was very touched indeed by the response of some Nottingham Forest supporters, who had organised a collection in their pub the previous evening and had come to the ground to present more than £100 towards the appeal fund. It was very helpful of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) to make arrangements so that those of us who came over were able to find our way around and could go to the appropriate places.

Having spoken to several people who came over to Sheffield yesterday to find out what had happened to their relatives, I think it is clear that the emergency telephone system simply did not work satisfactorily on Saturday. I spoke to one woman who had tried for eight hours to find out what had happened to her son, but had been unable to get through. I understand from the fire and civil defence authority that an exercise was conducted recently—using the Bristol exchange—aimed at dealing with precisely such problems, and that that exercise was relatively successful. On this occasion, the provision of far more lines would have enabled the emergency telephone number to work more effectively. I understand that that system was used for the flotation of the British Gas shares. If it was good enough for the flotation of the British Gas shares, it would have been good enough as an emergency system.

Mr. Hurd

As the hon. Member has said, there certainly was a problem of swamped lines, as there often is on these occasions. I understand absolutely the distress, anxiety, and worse, caused by that, but I think that it is rather apart from the terms of reference of the inquiry. Perhaps I may look into the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised and then get in touch with him.

Mr. John Evans (St. Helens, North)

In view of the fact that fans from St. Helens died at Hillsborough on Saturday, I want to associate myself with the condolences that have been expressed.

Can the Home Secretary confirm that the trouble started outside the ground because of the late arrival of fans and the inability of the turnstiles to cope with them? Will he ask Lord Justice Taylor to look into the traffic arrangements for visiting fans, bearing in mind the abysmal signposting and the sometimes rather odd decisions of traffic police when they are directing fans towards the ground?

Secondly, can the Home Secretary inform us that the South Yorkshire police will reply directly to the inquiry, and will not allow the West Midlands police to answer on their behalf?

Mr. Hurd

The question of traffic and signposting is certainly within the terms of reference of the inquiry, and I shall make sure that it is noted.

On the second point, as I explained earlier, the chief constable believes—and I think that he is quite right—that since the actions of some of his officers are obviously a matter for the investigation, it is right, for the credibility of the exercise, that the police preparing the information for Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry, let alone for eventual inquests, should not belong to the same force. Therefore, the chief constable looked for, and found, another force and another chief constable with a high reputation and with experience in these matters to do that job on their behalf. I think that that is the right course.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

As somebody who has constituents who are now dead, or are relatives of those who are dead as result of this tragedy, and as someone who lived in Sheffield for 25 years, I have a dual interest in this matter. Will the Home Secretary take one urgent step, which I hope is non-controversial? Will he arrange that all the film coverage and the pictures that were taken on Saturday both by ITN and the BBC and by amateurs be made available to the inquiry? Unless we move quickly, that footage may be lost and it contains evidence that may be of great value to the inquiry, because it will enable the inquiry to see the pressures both inside and outside the ground, and allow it to draw some valuable conclusions.

Mr. Hurd

I know that there are sometimes difficulties about this material, but that is a valuable suggestion, and I shall pursue it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I will now call two Back-Bench Members from each side, and then we must move on.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

I shall not comment on the Hillsborough ground itself, but my right hon. Friend will be aware that in many grounds, the facilities are deplorable. Will he have discussions with his colleagues in the Treasury to see whether the tax system can be adapted so that there is an incentive to invest in improved stadiums, and a disincentive to spend ludicrous sums on transfer fees? I do not expect my right hon. Friend to make any decision about the Football Spectators Bill this afternoon, but will he say that the Government will reflect on the views that have been expressed in the House this afternoon?

Mr. Hurd

I have noted those views on the Bill. I believe that the Bill, which addresses a different problem from the one that caused the tragedy at Hillsborough, is soundly based. There will be a pause, as I have said, and there is a case for adding to the Bill and strengthening it. However, the improvement that we are seeking for football cannot be total without a provision along the lines of a national membership scheme. On the first matter, my hon. Friend is touching on a point that is sensitive in the football industry, but he is right to say that those in it must examine carefully the priorities for spending their not inconsiderable resources.

Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)

I associate myself with all the remarks made by my Sheffield colleagues on the Opposition Benches. I was at the ground, with my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth). I ask the Home Secretary to take action on perimeter fencing. Yesterday, I spoke to some experienced engineers, one of whom said that this was an accident waiting to happen. I call on the Home Secretary to ensure that no major games are played with fans kept behind perimeter fencing.

Today, the media have been singled out, and the local radio stations in Sheffield, both Radio Hallam and Radio Sheffield, played a major part in helping to co-ordinate the magnificent efforts made by the Sheffield people in, for example, blood donation and other services, and the arrangements between the Liverpool and Sheffield families. When the Home Secretary looks at the White Paper on broadcasting and particularly at that part dealing with local radio, I ask him to bear that effort in mind. Local radio showed what magnificent assistance it can give in a tragedy.

My main point to the Home Secretary is that he should consider carefully the removal of those fences. I think he will find that all the major engineers were saying that that was an accident waiting to happen.

Mr. Hurd

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about local radio. The perimeter fences are not there by accident. They are there because local authorities, to issue safety certificates, have often required them as a form of protection against violence.

Mr. Hattersley

No, against hooliganism.

Mr. Hurd

The danger of violence has not gone away. What is required is a way to reconcile the need to protect spectators against violence with the need for people to be able to get out on to the pitch, or to get back in the case of emergency. That is tackled in the Home Office guidance, but it did not work successfully at Hillsborough. That is the nature of the problem that the inquiry will have to tackle.

Mr. David Evans (Welwyn, Hatfield)

Is not the Football Spectators Bill about separating the hooligans from the football fans? It is an enabling Bill and the FMA and football itself will put forward a scheme for the Secretary of State to approve.

Are there any plans to introduce legislation to remove the control of football from the Football Association and the Football League, which have consistently been incompetent and, some would say, bloody-minded in their attitude to football spectators? Can my right hon. Friend assure us that football families will be able to go to football grounds in safety and be safe within those grounds?

Mr. Hurd

On the second point, there is evidence of thinking ahead, which I welcome. I notice that Mr. Graham Kelly said on television that he supports the move towards all-seated matches in important stadiums, and I notice that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), with his experience, agrees. It is partly because of the evidence of fresh thinking among the football authorities that we have given that suggestion the impetus that I have announced today.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

At the end of these questions, I ask the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister to reflect on the view, which has come from both sides of the House, that, in the light of Saturday—we all saw it on our televisions and have read the newspapers and the views of interested parties—the Government should withdraw the Football Supporters Bill? They would not be losing political face, in the light of the feelings that have been expressed. The Taylor report will look at these matters afresh—those are the words of the Home Secretary. The police inquiry, under the chief constable of the West Midlands force, is a statutory inquiry. It will be looking, legalistically but carefully, at the role of the police.

Why not wait until those reports are out and come back with a new Bill? I am sceptical about the identity card scheme, and I say that from experience because I live alongside the Leeds United football ground. However, if the reports are in favour of identity cards, I would be prepared to change my mind. Therefore, the Bill should be abandoned until the reports are in.

Mr. Hurd

I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman and to others who have said this. The comments would be just if this tragedy had occurred under the new regime. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman knows the origins of this proposal. He knows the recommendation in the final Popplewell report and the nature of the scheme. He knows, as I have said and as my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn, Hatfield (Mr. Evans) has just confirmed, that the Bill sets up an enabling framework. He knows that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has already committed himself not to implement the membership scheme, which is the core of part I, within the enabling framework, until satisfactory arrangements have been worked out. He knows what is in the Bill about the making of those arrangements. The right hon. Gentleman is accustomed to seeing things in the round and I do not believe that he would argue that, because there was no violence at Hillsborough, which I concede, we can forget the lessons of earlier disasters where there was violence, and which were examined by Mr. Justice Popplewell.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

On behalf of all those who were present on Saturday to face first the trauma and then the grief of what happened, I ask the Home Secretary firmly to repudiate the provocative, inaccurate and disgraceful statements made by representatives of UEFA and FIFA. In particular, Mr. Jacques Georges said: This region seems to have a particularly aggressive mentality. He drew comparisons with Heysel, and said that the fans were "savages". Sepp Blatter of FIFA said: Will the fans never learn? Will the Home Secretary support us—I speak with the authority of the Football Association and the Football League—in totally rejecting that suggestion, that the Liverpool supporters and fans were in any way responsible for this tragedy? The Home Secretary would carry us all with him if he did so.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to realise that there is a difference between crowd behaviour control and crowd safety. As one who was there on Saturday, I know that there was no crisis management there. There was no apparent relationship between the fears of those outside the ground and the danger to those inside the ground. There was no appreciation or understanding expressed about conditions and delays on motorways and of the effect that they would have on late arrival at the ground. There was no proper crowd control and no arrangements were apparent inside the ground for dealing with the disaster and with the mass of injuries and deaths which had to be dealt with. It was not apparent that any member of the police force—I do not say this critically—understood that the first priority was to get the fences down and to get the 10,000 spectators on to the field, that being the only possible place to which they could be evacuated.

I turn to the controversial aspect of the Home Secretary's statement. Lord Justice Taylor's appointment to conduct the inquiry is a commendable choice and I fully support it. Is he to proceed with his inquiry on the assumption that the Football Spectators Bill will be enacted? It will have a profound effect upon his thinking, and that is one of the reasons why the Bill should be withdrawn.

Many of us are distressed by the adversarial philosophy that the Government practise on sport as in other matters. They never trust the supporters associations, and the Minister has not even suggested that the association be appointed a member of the Football Membership Authority. It is my experience, having dealt with the association in recent months, that there is enormous collective wisdom and good will to be harnessed, especially from football supporters and their associations' representatives. Will the Minister please take counsel from them? Will he listen to what they say, as should the police and the football authorities? The good will has to be tapped.

I say to the Home Secretary as gently as I can, but I am afraid harshly, that the decision to continue with the Football Spectators Bill in all these circumstances is a profound mistake. It is appalling arrogance for the Government to think that they know better than anyone else. The Government never consult the Opposition on these matters. They never consult football generally about these matters. As far as I can see—[Interruption.] It is true. The Minister for Sport may get upset, but three times I have offered from the Opposition Dispatch Box to formulate a policy that would, in effect, cross the House. I have never been invited to meet the Minister to discuss these matters. This is disgraceful and it is time that this lack of discussion came to an end.

I hope that the Home Secretary will reflect on what he has said today. He keeps telling us that the Government will proceed with the scheme because of previous violence, but there has been no substantial violence within football grounds for three years.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for remaining in her place throughout the exchanges to listen to what everyone has to say, but I say to her and to the Home Secretary that anyone who was present on Saturday, as I was, will know that advocates of a membership scheme that requires harassed gatekeepers, in addition to their great traumas and problems, to inspect cards, possibly to look at photographs, and then to put the cards into a machine, are saying, in effect, that they wanted the disaster to be aggravated. That is the essence of the problem.

I ask the Home Secretary to try to achieve a consensus within football generally and within the House so that we can all agree to get through this place a Bill to deal with football troubles, whether they be behavioural or are related to ground safety. If we are all convinced about the merits of such a Bill, we shall be happy to support it and to secure its passage in record time. I ask the Home Secretary to take on board the collective view of everyone in the country, except the members of Her Majesty's Government, that the Football Spectators Bill should be withdrawn in the interest of public safety.

Mr. Hurd

I have not read the generalisations which the right hon. Gentleman quoted at the beginning of his intervention. If they are as he stated, they are certainly wholly unjustified by what occurred at Hillsborough. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for getting in touch with me on Saturday night. He is correct in saying that the problems of control and communications, some of which he listed, are central to the inquiry.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) concluded the exchanges by using what happened at Hillsborough as a stick to beat the Football Spectators Bill[Interruption.] That is what he did. He is straining and upsetting history to argue that the approach of my right hon. Friends has been arrogant or adversarial. I have been present at several meetings at which my right hon. Friends and my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport have been straining nerves to try to carry football with them. They have done this year after year. What is the date of the Popplewell report? The answer is 1986. The effort which has been made by my right hon. Friends to build support and to carry the football authorities with them has been prolonged and conscientious. It is only because that effort did not yield a voluntary scheme on the lines which Mr. Justice Popplewell recommended that the Bill has been drafted.

I repeat that the Bill is an enabling measure. It has been worked out by my right hon. Friend's working party. The assurances that have been given about implementation are crucial to it. It is in the interests of football supporters—the right hon. Member for Small Heath rightly stressed their importance and their commitment—that there should not remain the gap in protection that the Bill is designed to fill.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising from the statement. The terms of reference of Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry are clearly wide and the timing of the report is indeterminate. It surely follows that the conclusions of such an inquiry could be contrary to the views of House that are taken in pursuit of legislation of which we have just heard. Will you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that in this instance the sub judice rule does not apply? Would not that be the view of most persons with legal training?

Mr. Speaker

I can confirm what the hon. Gentleman says. The sub judice rule does not apply to legislation.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Given the importance of the inquiry to our greatest spectator sport and to thousands of our constituents, can you assure us that the report will be debated before any recommendations or observations are acted upon?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's words have been heard by those who are responsible.

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