HC Deb 03 November 1993 vol 231 cc371-3

5.9 pm

Mr. David Amess (Basildon)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make further provision with respect to the prevention of violence or disorder at or in connection with football matches played outside England and Wales; to amend the Football Spectators Act 1989; and for connected purposes. I am a lifelong supporter of West Ham United, and since June 1983 I have been a supporter of Basildon United. Both, in their respective leagues, are the finest teams in the country. Unfortunately, occasionally they meet teams that play a little better than they do—but of course, those matches are always played in unfortunate circumstances. My household was delighted by West Ham's performance on Monday night, when we beat Manchester City. The passwords in our house are, "Up, you irons," and, "I'm for ever blowing bubbles."

I am an east ender, and it is appropriate that I support West Ham United, because when England won the world cup three West Ham players—Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters—scored all the goals. Those people were an inspiration to other young players in their behaviour both on and off the field. In more recent times, Trevor Brooking has also been an admirable ambassador for the British game of football.

I decided to ask the leave of the House to introduce this Bill because of my anger at the scenes that we saw on our television screens and in the newspapers at the time of the England versus Holland match. My Bill has nothing to do with football supporters or spectators. The idiots to whom I refer are so thick that they cannot even wait for us to lose a match before they riot. They have no interest whatever in the game of football; they have simply latched on to our national game as an opportunity for what they see as "having a good laugh". Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the two are somehow related in the minds of the general public.

We are all deeply saddened that we are now out of the world cup, that our national sport is still at a low ebb, with some players being paid too much money in return for poor skills, and that we have no settled English team. Now is the ideal time for us to take action on disorderly conduct at football matches. Lord Justice Taylor's report on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster said that there was no single remedy for hooligan behaviour. Those disgraceful individuals should be dealt with seriously, because of the shame that they bring on our country, on themselves and on their families. I presume that those people all have parents who love them, but if I had a son who behaved in that way I would string him up, and if I employed one of them—I assume that they are in work—I should not be at all happy about his staying in my employment.

I pay a warm tribute to the way in which the British game has been cleaned up, thanks to firm, decisive action. We are an example to other countries, and many people and organisations should take the credit for that—the football unit of the national criminal intelligence service, the Football Association, with its England unit travel club rules, the all-party football group and its chairman, and so on. The two 1991 reports of the Home Affairs Committee on policing football hooliganism, and other Select Committee reports, have made significant contributions. Media headlines on one day are soon forgotten, but the matter needs constant attention.

Hooliganism is certainly not confined to these islands. For instance, as we have seen on television today, it happens in Turkey. It is widespread throughout the world, so the thrust of any amending legislation should be reciprocal, and should take effect on a European basis. For my suggestions I am indebted for his support and guidance to the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who wanted to be in the Chamber, but is at present doing an interview on the same subject for a television programme.

The passport scandal is an example of the complex difficulties of control. Some hooligans, instead of using their own passports, apply for British visitors passports under false names to avoid proper identification. The rules for issuing British visitors passports should be tightened to require a more rigorous examination of supporting documents. If fans using the FA travel club scheme had to present full British passports, their tickets and their club cards, that would help greatly.

I hope to ensure that some action is taken, building on our successes in this country so that Britain can lead the way. First, we should extend by statutory instrument or otherwise the powers under section 22 of the Football Spectators Act 1989. Only three times have statutory instruments extended the powers under section 22(1). Surely it is time for an extension to other countries. Regrettably, only 25 restriction orders have been issued by the courts since 1990, and most have now expired. That matter needs attention.

Secondly, we should lead by positive example, through the 1985 European convention on spectator violence and misbehaviour at sports events, especially football matches. Twenty-four countries are involved and, in the light of experience, a standing committee of the convention should review the provisions under article 9 more frequently. Our treatment of alcohol, the use of closed-circuit television inside grounds and mobile cameras outside, effective football units co-operating with one another, and local legislation giving the police emergency powers, will all greatly improve the situation, and will help to distinguish between innocent people and obvious offenders. That must all be done on a common reciprocal basis. We cannot be happy when the police authorities in other countries appear so restrained in their use of prosecution, finding it easier to ship suspected offenders as quickly as possible back to their home countries.

We have a great tradition of fair play in this country. We have always been seen as good losers—perhaps not wanting quite enough to win. There may be something in that. However, in the long term, no game could survive in a civilised society with the sort of nonsense that we have seen perpetrated by the mindless hooligans who have travelled abroad in recent years.

I hope that the all-party football group will wish to review the present position and to report its conclusions to the Home Office and to the Minister responsible for sport, so that appropriate action can be taken by a standing committee of the European convention. We cannot and should not stand by and allow our national game to be brought into disrepute by mindless thugs. The Bill will make a significant contribution to that end.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. David Amess, Mr. David Alton, Mr. John Carlisle, Mr. David Clelland, Mr. Tom Cox, Mr. David Evans, Mr. John Greenway, Mr. John Gunnell, Mr. Jim Lester, Ms Liz Lynne, Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. Nicholas Winterton.