HC Deb 21 March 1990 vol 169 cc1114-6
11. Mr. Pendry

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps his Department will take to ensure that security arrangements for British soccer fans at the World Cup are adequate and comprehensive.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Colin Moynihan)

We are providing assistance to the Italian authorities in respect of safety and security measures in connection with England's participation in the World Cup. My Department chairs an interdepartmental working party of officials, which also includes representatives from the police and the football authorities, to co-ordinate United Kingdom measures on preparation for the tournament.

Mr. Pendry

That is all very well, but will the Minister confirm that there will be exchanges between the Italian and English police authorities, that the intelligence that has been gathered by police spotters will be used in any operations, and that he will take action on alcohol restrictions of the kind that were so successful during the England-Holland match in Dusseldorf? Finally, does he believe——

Mr. Speaker

No. One question please, although I think that the hon. Gentleman has had two.

Mr. Moynihan

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. Gentleman asked three questions, all of them important. Police spotters and closed-circuit television have proved invaluable in our determined efforts to reduce football hooliganism at domestic games, at the European championships and at international friendlies. The information gathered by, and expertise of, the spotters and the national football intelligence unit will be on offer to the Italian authorities. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot comment on the detail of police operations.

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question related to the exchange of police. That is already under way. As he will be aware, about 50 carabinieri are at present in England—[Interruption.]—not, as some newspapers suggest, learning English as understood by football supporters. Their visit is devoted primarily to the policing of football.

To answer the hon. Gentleman's third supplementary question, on the vital issue of alcohol restrictions, I assure him that I shall be discussing that matter in detail during my forthcoming visit to Sardinia.

Mr. Jack

Is my hon. Friend aware that many England soccer fans in Lancashire may be unable to travel to see the World Cup as a result of the excessive community charge demands of Lancashire county council? They could have travelled had the Conservative proposals—for a community charge of £60 per head less—been adopted.

Mr. Moynihan

I am only too well aware of the position expressed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

Does the Minister appreciate that security at home is just as important as security abroad? Does he further appreciate how welcome was yesterday's announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Is he aware that many other sports—rugby league and rugby football, for example—will be affected by the Taylor committee recommendations and will he undertake to discuss with his right hon. Friend ways in which those sports may be assisted to make the changes which the Taylor recommendations necessarily involve?

Mr. Moynihan

The whole House will wish to join me in welcoming that announcement, which reflects the Government's concern to ensure that vital improvements to football grounds are made. I am certain that the football authorities will now take urgent steps to provide for the safety and comfort of their spectators by implementing as quickly as possible Lord Justice Taylor's recommendations. All-seater stadia are, as the Football Association and the main question recognise, a prerequisite to a successful and safe World Cup bid.

Mr. Batiste

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the improved facilities that will be provided in English football grounds as a result of yesterday's announcement by the Chancellor may make it possible for this country to host a future World Cup?

Mr. Moynihan

I agree with my hon. Friend. Yesterday's announcement will be warmly welcomed as being significant for sport. As the Football Association recognised in representations to the Secretary of State and myself, all-seater stadia are a pre-requisite. They are essential now for any country wishing to host the World Cup, and the twin aims—of ensuring the safety of spectators and of making sure that we have a sufficient number of all-seater stadia to host the World Cup—are doubly welcome.

Mr. Denis Howell

May I, from the Opposition Benches, endorse our appreciation of the Chancellor's action yesterday which the Minister will recall we advocated in the debate in January, after negotiations with the pools promoters? Will the Minister be more active in relation to the potential explosion of violence in Italy? Will he comment on the reports that the thugs of Holland and of this country are already arranging their own fixtures for a celebratory punch-up? That would be disastrous.

Is it true that the police have only nine names on their computer to use in relation to part II of the Football Spectators Act 1989? Will we be able to stop only nine of these evil crooks going abroad and causing trouble? What will the Minister do to make sure that the hundreds of people who misbehaved last year are not allowed to leave these shores for the World Cup?

Mr. Moynihan

We hope that part II of the Football Spectators Act will be in place by the end of April. The right hon. Gentleman is right that it is vital that it should be in place before the World Cup and that everything possible should be done to assist the Italian Government and authorities in minimising trouble during the World Cup and in deterring the hooligan factor. Five major interdepartmental meetings have been held in the past year; I have been to Rome and I shall shortly be going there again and to Sardinia. We shall be offering every possible assistance, through the Home Office, the Foreign Office and my Department. If the right hon. Gentleman has any additional ideas, we shall look at them closely.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his initial comments. That we have taken careful note of the representations that he and the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) have been making for many years was evidenced by the measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday.