HC Deb 08 June 1995 vol 261 cc376-96

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Wood.]

7.1 pm

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

In this Adjournment debate, I wish to raise the subject of the treatment of English football supporters abroad. It is best to declare my interests at the outset. I am a member of the board of Chelsea Pitch Owners, which earns me no remuneration, expenses or, I might say, even thanks. Secondly, I am a Chelsea season-ticket holder, which costs me £500 a year.

In view of the comments made by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) in the previous debate, I should declare also that the Chelsea goalkeeper is a Russian. His name is Dimitri Kharin. As far as I am aware, he is not part of the Marxist-Leninist plot of which we have been hearing. If he is, I await next season with great interest.

I have been an avid Chelsea supporter for more than 40 years. During that long period, we have not been spoilt with success. If one adds to that my membership of the Labour party, I suppose that one can see that life appears to have dealt me something of a bum hand, but, in politics as in football, it is best to travel optimistically.

I last secured an Adjournment debate on the subject of football and the behaviour of football supporters abroad and at home on 19 April 1985. It might sound somewhat immodest but my speech on that occasion is worth a revisit. Among my recommendations to Neil Macfarlane, then Minister with responsibility for sport, were the following. I said that grounds should be all seating, covered and divided into small secure sections with closed circuit television."—[Official Report. 19 April 1985; Vol. 77, c. 596.] I said that the courts should impose more custodial sentences on convicted hooligans and community work orders on match days for offenders, that clubs should provide many more voluntary stewards for self-policing of their crowds, that clubs should operate membership schemes, without which admission to grounds would be denied, that the police should set up specialised teams of officers to provide intelligence on known troublemakers, and that the police should travel with supporters to away matches and brief other local police forces.

I specifically urged that on the Minister in column 601. He said that he would draw the Home Secretary's attention to my suggestion, but it took until March 1990—some five years later—for the national football intelligence unit to be set up. It took until 1989, under the terms of Football Spectators Act 1989, for exclusion orders to be implemented for convicted hooligans. Regrettably and tragically, it took the Hillsborough disaster on 15 April 1989 to produce the Taylor report and the requirement for all-seater stadiums.

I mention those items of 10 years ago not to state my claim for being particularly original in my thinking but simply to illustrate that, if only Ministers had listened more carefully to those many football supporters who know something about the game as a spectator sport, so much trouble could have been avoided in recent years and possibly many lives could have been saved.

Politicians who know little or nothing about football but who do not hesitate to rush into television studios or into print in reaction to a particular event are a wretched nuisance. Similarly, legislation that follows in the same knee-jerk fashion is often far more trouble than help. I yield to no one in the House or even outside in my condemnation of those brain-dead louts, fascists and drunken troublemakers who have done so much damage to our national game. That is what my 1985 debate was all about, warning Ministers about events that were then taking place—to which no great political attention was being paid—and the likely consequences of a lack of action.

There are times when it does not give one any satisfaction to say, "I told you so," even in politics, but the trouble is that the activities of that small and unrepresentative minority have led to the reputation of English football supporters as the scum of the footballing world. I stress "English" football supporters, because the Scottish, Welsh and Irish supporters enjoy a favourable reputation in football.

The image of the English supporter as a thug has now tragically taken a firm hold in public perception, but the image is simply not the reality in respect of the great majority of football supporters. Most supporters are normal decent people who love their club and the game. They are young, old, black, white, male, female, professional workers, skilled workers, unskilled workers, employed and unemployed. Football is a great leveller and people are accepted when they are a club supporter without reservation or qualification.

People do not ask supporters who they are and what they do. They just accept them as football supporters and one of the family. It breaks down class harriers and, for most, engenders a great feeling of camaraderie and togetherness. Those are the realities of football supporting for the great majority, but, regrettably and tragically, it is not true of all supporters. It is that wretched but significant minority that obsesses politicians, the media and the police.

The purpose of the debate is to draw attention to a specific and growing problem, which originates through and in the activities of that minority. In recent months, I have accumulated a disturbing amount of evidence that shows that the image of the English football supporter as a thug is leading to police forces in Europe believing that all travelling supporters are a menace to public safety and that the police can thus deal with them accordingly. Such police forces adopt the attitude that the travelling English supporter left his or her civil and human rights behind on this side of the channel, and that, when they set foot on the continent, the police can declare open season on them.

In the course of my inquiries, I have collected a wide range of personal evidence from individuals and groups, many of whom I know personally, of the most appalling treatment that has been dished out to them by police forces on the continent. My evidence tonight comes essentially from Chelsea and Arsenal supporters following their respective clubs in the European cup winners cup last season.

I am fortunate because I have a lot of time at my disposal, but I do not intend unnecessarily to detain the Minister or the House. I do not apologise for giving the following evidence in some detail because we need it on the record. We need Ministers to listen and to take these matters seriously. Genuine football supporters are deeply angry and hurt that no one seems to want to listen to their problems or deal with their complaints. They feel that they are perhaps being treated on this side of the channel almost as they are being treated on the other side. The media are very interested when there is violence, but are not interested when it is perpetrated against English citizens abroad.

First, I shall give some details and make some broad general comments that were common to most of the letters that my office has received or that were forwarded to me by supporters and from Arsenal and Chelsea clubs. The first comments relate to the match on 28 February between Club Bruges and Chelsea in Bruges—I was at that match.

Up to 500 Chelsea supporters were herded into a warehouse outside the city in a Belgian police operation before the match. Fans were handcuffed and forced into riot vehicles, with the majority of them seemingly committing the crime of speaking with an English accent. In this giant warehouse, the fans were pushed into huge, purpose-built pens, handcuffed, sprayed with water cannons and offered no food or drink for the next nine hours. At 5 am the following morning, the inmates were deported in handcuffs.

Imagine the rightful outrage there would have been in this country, if the British police had handled visiting foreign supporters in such a way. We would have been right to criticise, but, as the police have told me in discussions, they would not have dreamt of behaving in such a fashion.

One of the letters relating to the warehouse incident comes from Mr. Wheeler of Earslfield, London SW 18, who organised a trip to Bruges for 28 business executives. Nine members of the party—none was wearing Chelsea paraphernalia—were arrested outside the stadium about half an hour before kick-off when asked if they were English. They were thrown into a police van, and one was attacked with a baton. All the fans were told that they had been arrested because their tickets were forgeries, but all the tickets had been bought from an official source. The man who bought them is a travel agent and he knew that they were genuine, but the Belgian police were saying, "That's a forgery," and tearing them up in the supporters' faces. What could they do? The evidence had gone; there was nothing they could do.

Those business men were among the 500 Chelsea supporters taken to the warehouse on the outskirts of Bruges and held for nine hours—obviously, they all missed the match. They were not given any food or water, there were no seats, and they were forced to urinate on the spot when nature called because no facilities were provided.

Miss McDonnell of Palmers Green, London N13, witnessed camera crews following the Belgian riot police and waiting in anticipation for something to happen. She said: I watched from a bar window as Belgian police hit out at people for merely walking along the street. These scenes were later shown on News at Ten and Sky News. I was at that match and television companies that were not the slightest bit interested in football or the game went there looking for trouble. They wanted to broadcast scenes of English fans rioting on breakfast television the following morning. If one waits and provokes long enough, one will get precisely what one wants. Surely that is not a responsible attitude for the media to take, and I am not prone to criticising the media either in the House or outside.

I heard from Mr. Hugo from London N5, whose son went to Bruges with two friends on a four-day break that coincided with the match. Two days before the match, they were in a bar when Belgian police entered, apparently shouting, "All English outside." His son and the two friends were arrested and detained without food or drink for 18 hours. They were paraded in front of what seemed to be a stage-managed party of press and TV crews. They were then deported in handcuffs.

I have also received letters about the Real Zaragoza v. Chelsea match on 6 April. Again, I will go over the common reported occurrences in all the letters from Chelsea supporters. The police emptied the contents of fans' bags on to the floor during the search, taking batteries from cameras and discarding them in a heap on the floor—apparently, a move to stop fans using the batteries as missiles. Fans with tickets for the upper tier of the official supporters section were forced to sit in the lower tier—the section of the stadium where the trouble erupted, as I shall explain. There were seemingly motiveless attacks by Spanish police on Chelsea supporters up to three hours prior to the match.

I have heard from a number of people who were giving independent evidence, which I could cross-relate. Young fans—one was a nine-year-old—who travelled to the game with their parents, were manhandled by the Spanish police officers. One youngster had his hag, which he had just bought, ripped open and another was struck with a police baton. Subsequently, his father was beaten up by police officers as a result of his understandable reaction to the attack on his young son. I have evidence from other people who witnessed the scene and who did not know the man or his son. They wrote to me independently and I was able to compare three or four letters, all of which said precisely the same thing. There could not have been any collusion between all those people.

The organisation of seat allocation by ticket number was non-existent, with no apparent control over the situation. Fans were forced to sit in areas far away from their allocated seats, with many becoming separated. I experienced that in Bruges. I was told, "Just get over there." There was no question of the fans being segregated, or of there being any coherent plan to get them to their allocated seats. It was a disgraceful situation and it got even worse when the Chelsea supporters went to Real Zaragoza.

The general feeling among fans sitting in the lower tier, where so much trouble was shown on television, was that the police charged at them for no reason after Zaragoza scored its third goal. A minority of fans in that section then threw chairs as a response to the police charge. Afterwards, I saw independent footage of the scene and that is exactly what happened. The fans were attacked and, having retreated, in the end threw seats at the police, which gave them the reason to attack yet again. Those fans who sat still and tried to ignore and distance themselves from what was going on—Home Office evidence says that that is exactly what they should do—were then attacked by the police officers as they ran through to get at those throwing the seats, who were provoked into taking that rather irresponsible attitude. Of course, it is easy to say now that one should never be provoked, but unfortunately at the time it was advice that was not easily followed.

The police were undoubtedly attacking innocent fans, who were simply trying to ignore or get away from the situation. The Spanish police prevented official Chelsea stewards from entering the lower tier to calm the situation. After the match, two fans were brutally attacked by the police when querying where their coaches were situated.

Those general comments were in a range of letters. On the specific points, Mr. Germaine from Harold Hill in Romford travelled with his wife and three children on official supporters club tickets on the "Green flight". He had tickets to the top tier in the Chelsea section with the official party, but was forced by the police into the lower tier that I just described. He was hit with police batons nine times, while he sat with his family in the stand, trying to ignore what was going on. He decided to leave the stadium to protect the safety of his family, but was again attacked when leaving by the Spanish police. The incident has brought great distress to his wife and his young children.

Mr. Williams from Lancing in West Sussex—a company director who travelled with the official club trip—was attacked by Spanish police as he went into a refreshment bar at the back of the lower tier just after half time. He was hit with batons and suffered severe bruising to his legs. He said: I was a lone figure posing no threat to anyone. W. E. Fowler from Stanwell in Middlesex, a Chelsea football club steward on the trip, claims that the Chelsea stewards in the upper tier were prevented by the police from going into the lower tier to calm the violence.

Mr. Ragot of Westbere road NW2, said that, on returning to his seat in the lower tier of the Chelsea section after visiting the lavatory, he was attacked by police with batons and ejected. While pleading with police outside the stadium that his jacket and passport were still on his seat, he was hit on the back of the head by a policeman on horseback and knocked unconscious. He had to go to Zaragoza hospital to receive treatment for his injury.

Mr. Bargery of Slough in Berkshire witnessed a missile thrown from the Spanish section of the crowd on to the lower tier of Chelsea supporters. As they complained, the police became angry and started clubbing any and everyone they felt fit to. Mr. Hedley from Cambridge street, Pimlico and his two friends received a severe beating from Spanish police outside the stadium before the game. Consequently, they missed most of the first half of the match. Mr. Hedley needed medical treatment for his injuries and his two friends were very badly bruised around their backs and legs. A friend travelling with Mr. Dibble from Worcester Park saw a young boy hit with a baton outside the stadium before kick-off. The young boy's father obviously became upset with the policeman and he was beaten up by a group of Spanish police officers as a consequence of his reaction. As I have already mentioned, that case has been cross-referenced.

Mr. O'Rourke from Wembley in Middlesex had a ticket for the upper tier with the official party but was forced by the police to sit in the lower tier. Many people tried to sit in their allocated seats but were forced into the lower tier, where the trouble occurred. As the trouble erupted, Mr.

O'Rourke was attacked by two police officers while sitting in his seat. He lost his glasses and suffered bruising to his shoulders and legs.

Mr. Harrison from Lower Bourne, Farnham, paid more than £300 for himself and a friend to watch the match. He said that they witnessed good-humoured Chelsea fans attacked by police outside a bar three hours prior to the game. Mr. Harrison also had a ticket for the upper tier. He was told by the Spanish authorities that he could sit anywhere that he liked and he decided to sit in the less-crowded lower tier. That was a mistake on his part. As the trouble erupted, he stayed in his seat, only to be attacked by two policemen. He suffered bruising to his kidneys and back. He and his friend decided to leave the match early for their own safety. These people paid good money to go to that match. They wanted to see football, they wanted to enjoy Zaragoza and have good time. They did not and they came home very bitter indeed.

Mr. Goodwin of Walton-on-the-Hill, Tadworth—not a place one associates with hooligans—had a ticket for the upper tier but was told by Spanish police that it was impossible for him to sit there. The entire contents of his bag were emptied on to the floor during a police search procedure. He said: For the first time in my life I was frightened for my own safety and attempted to leave the lower tier through the sole available exit. Upon doing so I was confronted by more Spanish police who, rather than assist in pacifying a situation, seemed intent on inflaming it by further liberally indiscriminate use of their batons. They refused to let anybody leave, and anyone who did manage to evade them and reach the concourse ran the risk of further beatings. I feel sure that it was solely due to my knowledge of the Spanish language that I was struck only twice before finding comparative safety in a toilet cubicle. I feel fortunate, unlike two other innocents who I saw left lying in pools of blood in the concourse. I and these others were not mindless right wing thugs, merely Chelsea Supporters fleeing for our own safety.

Mr. Kyte, a senior manager for London Transport, and his brother paid £235 for the trip and travelled with the official club party. They saw only 25 minutes of the game because of a police attack on them while they sat in the lower tier of the Chelsea section. His brother had to go to hospital in England suffering from severe concussion after having bad head pains and sickness on the return journey.

Mr. Robinson, a solicitor and secretary of the Diadora football league, said that many of the fans in the lower tier where the trouble erupted were sitting in their seats holding their hands up in an obvious sign of peaceful intention. Many of those fans, however, were still struck by passing police officers. He also commented that alcohol was freely on sale inside the stadium during the match, which is in direct contravention of FIFA regulations, about which I shall say more shortly.

Mr. Steve Frankham, a Conservative voter, is a personal friend of mine. I do not normally confess to having Conservative voters as personal friends. He is a quantity surveyor and a very successful business man. He witnessed two young Chelsea fans being brutally attacked by Spanish police and saw blows inflicted to their faces, legs and backs. He said that the fans were knocked to the ground by the sheer force of the blows. The two were merely asking the police for directions to their coach.

Miss McDonnell of Palmers Green has not missed a home or away game for 17 years. Well done, Miss McDonnell! She witnessed a fan knocked unconscious by police while standing next to a refreshment kiosk in the stadium. The gentlemen had to receive mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Inside the stadium, Mr. Thompson from Wokingham witnessed a young Chelsea supporter being beaten by a group of police officers as he tried to retrieve a packet a crisps that he dropped down a flight of stairs. Steve Frankham also saw that incident and told me about it.

Let us turn to general comments about the Sampdoria v. Arsenal match in Genoa on 20 April. Six coaches full of Arsenal supporters were escorted by Italian riot police from Genoa airport to a large car park just outside the city. The coaches were forced to stay in the car park for six hours from 1100 to 1700 hours. At the site there were only basic refreshments and WC facilities available. Many of the supporters were due to have a three-course meal in Genoa as part of their travel package. The supporters were travelling to enjoy a good time, which is what I like doing when I travel to Chelsea away matches. None of that happened because the coaches were taken straight to the stadium by riot police and escorted directly back to Genoa airport after the match finished. I have heard a number of complaints about people taking their families for what would have been a good night out. It turned out to be a nightmare.

I have a number of commonly reported occurrences from Arsenal supporters about the Arsenal v. Real Zaragoza match at Parc des Princes on 10 May in Paris. They described the failure of French police to help Arsenal supporters obtain easy access to the ground and easy departure from it and said that alcohol was sold inside the stadium. Again, that was an infringement of FIFA regulations. There was an apparent lack of Arsenal FC and French stewards inside the stadium. The clubs are responsible for such matters. They must send more of their own stewards to the matches. What is more, when possible, those stewards should be bilingual. CS gas was sprayed at Arsenal fans inside the stadium after the match.

Questions were raised about safety and access to the stadium. A lack of turnstiles caused a crush of supporters at the entrance. Again, such matters are covered by FIFA regulations on safety in stadiums. We must ask whether the Parc des Princes is an acceptable venue for World cup matches. When I talked to police officers in this country, one of the complaints that they made was about the appalling facilities in a number of such stadiums. We are often seduced into thinking that all stadiums on the continent are wonderful palaces of facilities for spectators. That is not true in many respects. They do not have the facilities to segregate supporters like we have in this country.

The following are some of the letters that I received concerning the Arsenal v. Zaragoza match. The brother of Mrs. Jeans of Lissenden gardens in London NW5 attended the match. As he was returning to his coach after the match, he was attacked by a French police officer. Apparently, he was walking too slowly. He suffered bruising to his legs. A family friend of Mrs. Jeans also attended the match and reported that Arsenal supporters were locked in the stadium for 35 minutes after the end of the match, which is not unusual.

Anyone who has travelled with away supporters realises just how appallingly—sometimes—they are treated. In this country, the police do not attack, but supporters are often kept standing, kept waiting, are escorted and rushed from the station to the ground and never allowed to act in a civilised fashion. Frankly, if one starts acting in a brutal fashion towards people, one should not he over-surprised if the response is similar. I am more surprised at the way in which people do not react. Certainly, when people act brutally towards me, I get exceedingly angry and aggressive indeed. I do not attack anyone, other than verbally, but I am certainly incredibly frustrated and angry by such treatment.

To return to the comments about the Zaragoza match, the fans were kept inside the ground for 35 minutes, which is not unusual. But some of the fans were then sprayed with CS gas by the French police. I assume that it was the French riot police, the CRS. The French police are not noted for being especially delicate in their handling of individuals. That was no way for English citizens to be treated in Paris. Many women and children were in that section of the stadium and were scared and bemused by the events that I have just described.

French police in riot uniform refused to help or give any directions to Mrs. Gray of Highbury, London N5 who was trying to go to her hotel after the match. In her letter, she also queried safety in the stadium. She said that chaos was caused in the access areas to the stadium, where an apparent lack of turnstiles to filter supporters entering the ground caused a bottleneck. Mr. Barford of Enfield in Middlesex noticed the lack of Arsenal stewards in the stadium and identified safety problems such as the small access area to the ground causing a crush of fans, as already described.

Mr. Martin of Hertford discovered confusion among Arsenal supporters who were trying to find their seats in the stadium, due to lack of stewards. He was also concerned about alcohol being sold inside the stadium. Mr. Nelson of Hornsey road. London N7 went to the match with his 13-year-old son; a proper and fitting thing for a father and son to do. After the match, the section of the stadium where he was sitting was locked. After a short while, a minority of the Arsenal supporters became impatient, as I have described, and, as a result, the French police fired CS gas into the crowd, causing great distress among fans in that section, many of them women and children. Mr. Nelson's son was affected badly by the gas. He was temporarily blinded and, being an asthma sufferer, he had extreme difficulties in breathing.

That is the evidence; I could have gone on a lot longer. The evidence is there and I have extracted the bare bones to give a taste to the House. Following the evidence I received, I wrote to the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, with whom I also raised the matter directly, about the treatment of British citizens. The response from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary can only be described as pathetic.

The Prime Minister is, of course, a fellow Chelsea supporter, although of less vintage than me. I was there for all Chelsea's championship matches in 1954–55; it is difficult to forget Chelsea's championship year because it is the only one we have had. The Prime Minister has told me that he started to support Chelsea the following season. I was beginning to get rather worried because we have many similarities. We both come from Brixton, we were both on Lambeth council and we are both Chelsea supporters and Surrey supporters. I took great consolation from finding that he stood at the opposite end of Stamford Bridge. Clearly, the divisions were evident even then.

This fellow Chelsea supporter and Prime Minister, for the time being, wrote a letter which I found totally unacceptable. He said that he shared my concern about those who masquerade as supporters and who cause trouble. I condemn them unequivocally. However, he then said: I cannot comment on the circumstances of individual incidents, but I do know that where disorder occurs at football matches, both here and abroad, innocent people can be caught up in the measures taken to deal with it. And some. The letter continued: Although… it will he of little comfort to those concerned, I would stress that the real responsibility for what occurred in Spain lies squarely with those who deliberately set out to create mayhem instead of watching football. Absolute nonsense.

Who briefed the Prime Minister? From where did he get that impression? All the evidence is to the contrary, yet the Prime Minister wrote such a letter. If I were him—I have offered to show him the information—I would sack the person who gave me the duff information. I asked him whether he would be prepared to take evidence from the spotters—the police officers who travelled from Fulham police station to Spain with supporters—and from an officer from the football unit of the national criminal intelligence service who was there to act as an intelligence co-ordinator alongside the Spanish police. The Prime Minister said that they could not provide a full report on the actions of the Spanish police, and that it would not be right to ask them to do so.

I do not want to invoke the words of Palmerston: "Civis Romanus sum." I do not know whether Mr. Palmerston was a football supporter. Perhaps he supported the Corinthians or the Royal Engineers, although they were probably formed after his time. I know that they won cup finals in the 1870s. What Palmerston was saying was that English citizens had a right to expect their Government to defend them, and not to dismiss their justified arguments and to say, "Sorry, it is nothing to do with us. This is something that you just happened to fall foul of because the Spanish police were dealing with problems." The Spanish police were not dealing with problems; the Spanish police were creating the problems. We demand action from the Government, following Mr. Palmerston's observations.

If the Government do not want to listen to Mr. Palmerston, they should look at the front page of an old passport. I often wonder whether the words mean anything; it is clear that they do not if one is a football supporter. The passport states: Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary. That is just words—just a load of old garbage. If people wave that at a Spanish policeman, a French policeman or a Belgian policeman, the police will crack their heads open. So much for the power of the British passport which once, as they used to say, caused Johnny Foreigner to fall to his knees. I do not, of course, expect that sort of attitude. I am not some kind of neo-imperialist. All I am is someone who says that English citizens travelling abroad have a right to be protected from brutality wherever it comes from and that the British Government have a responsibility to protect them.

The letter from the Home Secretary was essentially couched in the language used in the letter I received from the Prime Minister. Obviously, they had cross-checked. It was an inadequate response.

May I make some positive proposals to the Minister? I realise that he is a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister and that many of my proposals affect the responsibilities of his colleagues in the Department of National Heritage and the Home Office. As in the debate I had 10 years ago, I want to be as constructive as I can he—[Interruption.] You will he glad to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my drink is not alcohol.

First, to deal with some of the activities, we should ban the carrying of Union or national flags that are adulterated with the names of clubs or towns. These days, the Union flag so often has the name of a club or the name of a town across it. The flag is supposed to be a unifying and not a divisive symbol. Was what I just did—taking a drink—in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker? If I did it again, I should not like to find myself falling foul of you.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

The tradition of the House is that hon. Members should come here fully watered and victualled before they make their speeches. I hope that hon. Members will maintain that tradition. Those who suddenly get a frog in their throat may, of course, briefly take water to keep them going. To help the hon. Gentleman, I suggest that a degree of calmness in presentation means that the voice will last longer.

Mr. Banks

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would never want to fall foul of you intentionally. I was wondering what on earth, if hon. Members have to come in here watered and victualled, those two decanters were doing sitting on the Front Bench. Obviously there is one rule for Back Benchers and another rule for Front Benchers.

The second point—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman will have observed that Front Benchers get a little more excited than Back Benchers do.

Mr. Banks

I often find that excitement makes the juices flow more readily than does the more staid approach. I am, however, grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for clarifying the situation.

Banning the carrying of Union or national flags adulterated with the names of clubs would be something. I have called for it before and I think that action should be taken. It is offensive to people to see such flags. The flag then becomes a divisive rather than a unifying symbol.

Secondly, we should cease the practice of playing national anthems before football matches. No other sport does this. I cannot understand why this happens in football matches when it does not happen before cricket matches or rugby matches.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry)

It does sometimes.

Mr. Banks

I do not recall anyone playing the national anthem before a cricket match. Was the national anthem played up in Leeds before the start of the test match against the West Indies today?

Mr. Baldry

I do not know whether the West Indies has a national anthem.

Mr. Banks

The Minister's comment is interesting. What about Australia, then, or New Zealand? The Minister knows that the national anthem is not played at cricket matches. Why is it played at football matches? This is not an attempt to get at the national anthem, but a suggestion. Rival supporters whistling and jeering the respective anthems does not get the match off to a very good start. Again, as you can see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am getting over-excited.

Thirdly, there should he a crackdown on the sale of tee-shirts, leaflets and badges—all the rubbish that is sold outside grounds—that carry racist slogans. In August 1991, the Government announced with a great flurry of publicity that running on to the pitch and chanting indecent or racist slogans would be criminal offences. How many arrests have we had for those offences since 1991? It is not good enough to pass new laws. We need to ensure that they are properly and adequately enforced.

Fourthly, English clubs must insist that FIFA enforces its own rules and the European convention on spectator violence and misbehaviour. When I go to matches in which we are playing an overseas club, the no-drinks rule is enforced rigidly, from the directors right the way through. The continental clubs are ignoring the rules on the sale of alcohol. Again, we start to ask why we should follow the rules when the others do not. We should follow the rules, and, more to the point, so should they. Frankly, that is something that the Minister should raise through the Foreign Office and other agencies.

Fifthly, part II of the Football Spectators Act 1989 gave the courts the power to make restriction orders to prevent convicted hooligans from travelling to key football matches outside England and Wales. Statistics obtained through the answers to parliamentary questions show that only seven such orders were made between 1991 and 1994. That is a joke. How can Ministers expect us to take those regulations and rules seriously if they are not being adequately enforced?

Sixthly, we must seek changes in the legislation to allow those who cause trouble abroad to be prosecuted in the English courts. I know that this introduces a new concept, but it is about time it was seriously examined. We must also encourage authorities on the continent to prosecute those who are responsible for causing trouble within their jurisdictions.

It is offensive to see thugs—I am talking about genuine thugs who are properly arrested, not the innocent people whom I was describing earlier—getting back to Heathrow or leaving a ferry and giving the television cameras V-signs and fascist salutes, cocking a snook at authority in this country. It sends the wrong message altogether and is extremely offensive.

Seventhly, I would like to say a word about the role of the media. They seem to be interested only in the violent minority. I have found it very difficult to get the media interested in the sort of the cases that I have been describing at length. The media do not seem to be interested in the violence perpetrated on the innocent. They hype violence and inflame the situation.

One of the complaints that was made in Zaragoza was that the local press there was reporting what the national press in this country was saying about all the hooligans who were going there. People, and the police force, in Zaragoza became worried that a load of barbarians would turn up and trash their town. That hyped up the police, made them extremely edgy, and they overreacted. The media have to understand the impact they have when such alarmist, hyped-up, unnecessary stories are conveyed to the country that is about to receive the visiting supporters.

I come to the most important part of my contribution. The role of the national football intelligence unit is crucial. It must be given the resources to extend its work. I have been talking to people involved and it is amazing that there is only a handful of officers—six or seven—in the NFIU. I had thought that there were loads.

In the Metropolitan police area, those officers are complemented by an officer in each police division in which there is a football club. I presume that that applies throughout the country. Even if one takes account of the 92 football clubs in the English leagues, that does not amount to a great number of officers to deal with a crucial public concern. It is no good politicians getting worried and making statements about what is going on and the media reporting and amplifying these events in great depth if we do not give the police the resources that they need to deal with the matter.

Each police force has its own spotters who go to club matches, but they are junior officers, constables. No more than two local officers, senior though they may be, go over to liaise with their counterparts on the continent before a match. They can go only by invitation. I mentioned the Spanish, the Belgians and the Italians, none of whom have the equivalent of our NFIU. Only the Dutch, who have a similar problem with football hooligans, have such a unit.

It is incumbent on Ministers to take some initiatives. First, the NFIU must receive more resources if, as politicians, we are going to complain about football violence and the behaviour of football supporters at home and abroad.

Secondly, Ministers should ask their European counterparts to allow police officers from continental countries to come to Britain for training in football crowd control techniques. Our police officers are probably now the best in the world at football crowd control. No doubt we all regret that they had to acquire that expertise, but at least they have it, and it should be shared among their continent counterparts.

We must send far more police officers to matches abroad to accompany supporters. Wherever possible, the officers should be bilingual—people who can get involved in what is going on, not to dictate to police forces abroad but to assist them to ensure that some of the problems that I have described do not recur.

We should also send police officers in uniform. I know that this is not customary, but I have checked the matter out and there do not seem to be any great obstacles standing in the way of that. It would comfort and perhaps control English travelling supporters to see English police officers in uniform with them. It would have been reassuring, certainly, for those innocent parties that I described earlier if they could have gone to an English police officer and made their complaints rather than suffering in the way that they did.

There is an understandable lack of expertise among European police forces. They have not been forced to acquire the detailed expertise that, regrettably, we have had to. Because they lack expertise, they tend to compensate by relying on policing in numbers. That, in turn, creates problems of intimidation and confusion. To be confronted by massed ranks of police officers when you travel to a match is not a very comfortable position.

One of the other difficulties experienced by NFIU officers is that the police forces with which they liaise prior to matches are often not the police who end up policing the crowd. That is hardly useful.

In the end, essentially, we in this country are the problem, so we should be prepared to contribute far more to the control and resolution of the problem. The Government must take the situation seriously.

The responsible Ministers,—I wrote directly to the Prime Minister—should he prepared to call for reports on the matters that I have raised tonight. They should call for evidence from those few police officers who were at the matches I have detailed and from our embassy and consulate staff who would have been at them.

I expect the Government to do far more than that. On behalf of the large numbers of decent football supporters who travel abroad, I expect—indeed, I demand—that the British Government defend their rights and correct the wrongs experienced by those British citizens travelling abroad. Those football supporters, those English citizens, have a right to expect action from the Government, and the Government have a duty to respond.

7.47 pm
Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

I will add only a few words. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) on obtaining the debate and on being so clever as to get it on a night when we can go on a little longer.

My hon. Friend made an excellent speech, which has covered a lot of the issues that I wanted to raise. I accept that the Minister may not be able to deal tonight with some of the points that my hon. Friend has raised, and the questions that need to be answered, because it is clear that many of the things which have gone wrong in term of co-ordination and responsibility come under the aegis of the Department of National Heritage, although I am sure that the Minister will have co-ordinated with that Department.

I speak on behalf of the many Arsenal supporters who wrote to me, and I know that many have also written to my hon. Friend. The evidence that my hon. Friend gave about the match in Paris and about the other matches is very clear and we have all seen it. Some of us have also seen that my hon. Friend has a large file on the matter. What have the Government done? This situation has not just arisen—it has been going on for some months. Did any Minister at any state write even one letter or make one telephone call to protest or ask for an explanation from the French authorities, the Spanish authorities or those in any of the other countries where incidents occurred? If not, why not?

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West is right. Can one think of any other circumstances in which large numbers of people from another European country would be treated in such a way here without it being front page news and roundly condemned? It seems that the Government are not prepared to stand up for English—in this case, they were English—citizens abroad who have clearly been treated deplorably.

It is not good enough for the Government to say that there arc diplomatic reasons for not responding, or that there arc had supporters. We know that there are had supporters, and it is precisely because we want to isolate them that we need to stand up for the genuinely good supporters who did nothing but spend large sums of money and take time off work to enjoy a football match.

I have here evidence to back up everything that my hon. Friend said. One letter relates specifically to the European cup winners' cup final in Paris. My hon. Friend mentioned the state of the ground. I appreciate that it is not really a matter for the Minister tonight, but the football authorities need to be asked why the ground in Paris—the Parc des Princes—was allowed to be used. The available evidence shows that it was not fit even to host a normal match, let alone the final of a major tournament.

I received a detailed letter from Mr. Barford who lives in Enfield. He also wrote to Arsenal and to my hon. Friend. It outlines the way in which fans were treated on the way into the match. Even when they were not being treated badly, the route to the ground calls into question every FIFA rule. It appears that the roads leading to the ground were cordoned off with crash barriers and there was only a very small access area, which meant that people were crushed together. Mr. Barford's letter states: This was further compounded by ticket holders having to fight their way back through the crowd if they were trying to go down the wrong road and were told to go elsewhere.

Everything points to a lack of clarity about who was taking the decisions at the ground and who was responsible for it. Our football authorities owe it to the people who matter—the supporters—to ask FIFA why the ground, which was clearly not fit to host a major match, was used. At the same match, fans had to go through a small opening in the fence and there was more crushing. Mr. Barford said: I find it hard to believe that a stadium that hosts international matches does not have any turnstiles, a basic requirement that even non-league football clubs in this country have to have.

Once inside the stadium, there were problems with the stewarding. Many Arsenal stewards travelled with the fans, but were not always in evidence at the ground. There is some uncertainty as to why that happened. It was not because the stewards disappeared to have a nice time watching the match; there seems to have been a lack of understanding about where they were allowed to go and what they were allowed to do. I am sure that the same has happened elsewhere. The final result was that people were unable to find their seats. They were told to sit where they liked, which led to disagreements. The length of time that fans had to stay in the ground after the match also caused a problem.

All that happened to fans of a club which has no history of football hooligans attaching themselves to it. Indeed, the previous year Arsenal was awarded a fair play award for its supporters' behaviour in Europe. Mr. Barford concludes: I would not attend another football match at this ground", and says that he would be very hesitant about attending another match in Europe at all. It is sad that many such letters are from people who were travelling to Europe for the first time and who now will never go back.

What do those incidents tell us? The Government are supposed to be interested in bringing the people of Europe together, but for many young people, their first trip abroad to watch a match was ruined and they will not return. We need some answers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West mentioned the football intelligence unit. How it works is crucial, but there were questions about how it co-operated with the Dublin authorities during England's match there. I know that we are debating matches in Europe, but the Republic of Ireland is also part of Europe. I understood that the Minister with responsibility for sport was meant to co-ordinate the work of the Home Office and the Foreign Office with reference to our supporters travelling to international matches. I asked him whether he had had any discussions with the Dublin authorities the week before the match. He did not even pick up the phone to speak to the sports Minister in Dublin and ask how things were going. There had been no communication. That is scandalous.

We must remember that we are hosting the European championships next year, and many people will be coming. I hope that our hooligan minority will not be stirred up, and that our well-behaved supporters will not try to make up for the way they were treated by taking out their frustration on supporters from Europe. Football supporters matter, and football matters, but it is also important for the credibility of this country that we host the championships properly next year.

The World cup will be held in France in 1998 and, as my hon. Friend said, many people will be worried if England qualifies, as we hope that it will. They will be worried about going to watch England play in France if great attention is not paid to assisting our fans abroad. As Members of Parliament, we have to stand up for supporters who are going about the legitimate activity of watching a match abroad. We cannot put the matter aside and say that good supporters have to lumped together with the bad and receive the same treatment. It is not good enough to pass the buck.

I am afraid that the football authorities will say that the problem is a matter for the Government and the Foreign Office, and the Home Office will say that it is a matter for the Department of National Heritage. It is important that someone in Government gets a grip on this serious issue, which will not go away. The Minister must respond quickly to the evidence presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West and the response must show that the Government are prepared to stand up for English citizens abroad.

7.58 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry)

This has been a useful debate. I do not wish to belittle any of the concerns raised by the hon. Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) or for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey), but the problem is that the hon. Gentleman's main contention was that police forces across Europe felt that it was fair game and open season to attack English fans because of their reputation.

Last season, according to my calculations, English clubs played some 17 matches in Europe. One or two of those 17 matches could have been extremely difficult, such as the Galatasaray match. We are concentrating on three out of the 17. I do not want in any way to belittle the difficulties that may have arisen at those matches, but it is perfectly possible for English clubs to play in Europe with large numbers of English fans supporting and spectating, with no difficulties whatever. The idea that somehow police forces overseas see English fans as fair game, and that it is not possible for English fans to attend matches in Europe without getting into difficulties is not borne out by facts.

There is another difficulty, but again I do not want to belittle anything that the hon. Gentleman said. He read letters from a lot of people who had written to him regarding the three matches. Following those three matches—I have checked this carefully with officials from the Foreign Office, the Home Office and elsewhere within the Government—no football organisation or supporters organisation made any representations to us, either formally or informally.

I suspect that the attitude of many was summed up by Monica Hartman, the deputy chairman of the Federation of Football Supporters Clubs, who—after the match in Bruges—commented: It is no good anybody trying to make excuses for these people who fell fou[...] of the authorities in Bruges… I just hope that the actions of the Belgian police sends a message around the world to those other security forces who have been so lenient with the louts in the past. Some of them are not even house-trained let alone fit to be travelling abroad representing our country… They think that wherever they go they will strike fear into people. Well this time they were up against a police force who remember Heysel and the terrible loss of life caused by hooliganism in their capital city … I applaud the way the Belgian police rounded them up and locked them away in community centres. What else did they deserve if they entered the country without tickets?"

In relation to this year's football season, we have not had representations from any of the official supporters clubs or the Football Association. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, if concerns had been raised either by embassy staff who attended the matches or by the police—the hon. Gentleman knows that the UK police are present at all such matches—they would have been fully investigated. I have to say that concerns about the three matches were not raised either by consular staff or by the police.

Mr. Tony Banks

Does not the Minister understand that he is identifying the problem? The fact is that the fans are getting so used to such treatment that they are not complaining. I am articulating—aggressively, perhaps—the frustration and anger that supporters feel. They believe that no one is interested, and that there is no point in complaining because all they will get is a stunningly complacent response from the Minister. I mentioned only a few matches, but I can give the Minister evidence from other matches.

Mr. Baldry

There is nothing complacent about my response whatever. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady raised concerns about specific matches. One would have thought that if the clubs or the associations that represent supporters had real concerns about the way in which matches were policed, they would certainly have gone to the Home Office or to ourselves to talk them through. The idea that the representatives of football in this country are not prepared to talk to the Home Office or the Foreign Office about their concerns is just unreasonable.

One accepts that the vast majority of supporters who go abroad have not been implicated in any of these events. The hon. Gentleman read out a litany of concerns from football spectators who felt that they had been treated unfairly by the police authorities in relation to the three matches. But it is also important to recognise the coverage following the Zaragoza v. Chelsea match. The Daily Star reported: Chelsea's hooligan element shamed English soccer once again with a sickening charge on Spanish riot police. Mindless thugs threw seats, coins and anything they could lay their hands on as they fought a pitched battle. Today said:

Hundreds of Chelsea fans heaped more shame on English football with another display of mindless violence last night. Thugs went on the rampage after their team went 3–0 down in the European Cup-Winners' Cup semi final in Spain against Real Zaragoza. They ripped up plastic seats and hurled them at the police, who responded with a series of baton-wielding charges… trouble exploded in the section especially reserved for Chelsea fans. Again it was a mindless few who disgraced the club's name, just as they had in Belgium when they faced Bruges.

Miss Hoey

Is the Minister saying that because some mindless hooligans behave in a way that we all condemn, that justifies many people being treated in the way described by my hon. Friend'?

Mr. Baldry

I do not accept that large numbers of people were brutalised in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman.

In relation to the Arsenal match in Genoa against Sampdoria, some concerns were raised about people being detained in a car park for several hours. We received eight letters of complaint about that match. One cannot discuss the three matches that have been raised this evening as if they were instances of police forces suddenly deciding to beat up a few English fans. That is the way in which they have been presented this evening.

What happened in three out of 17 matches this season—by any interpretation—was that a significant number of mindless thugs, who were, sadly, English, started to attack the police and other fans. Their actions resulted in a public order disturbance. When the police are trying to sort out large numbers of people misbehaving and causing violence late at night, I am afraid that occasionally some innocent people may get caught up in that. But it is neither fair nor reasonable to attack the police in those circumstances, as the hon. Gentleman has done, by asserting that they have gone on a bloodlust hunt and were simply seeking out English fans because they spoke English. The facts do not bear that out.

Mr. Tony Banks

The facts do bear it out. I do not know how much the Minister knows about football, nor do I know how many matches he has been to, either in this country or abroad. He is reading from a brief that has been prepared by someone who does not know anything about what happened at those matches. I have concentrated on those matches specifically because I thought that I would get only a short time to discuss the subject. I could refer to a range of other matches.

I suggest that the Minister speaks to his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) about the experiences of some Manchester United supporters in Turkey. He should talk to hon. Members from Liverpool about the experiences that people from that area have had.

I have a track record in this area, as I proved 10 years ago. The Minister should be listening, and not just reading out second or third-hand stuff from journalists who frankly did not understand what was happening.

Mr. Baldry

The hon. Gentleman is being selective if he chooses to ignore all that was written by the reporters and those who attended those matches. He should reflect on the fact that, if events occurred as he suggested, it is surprising that none of the journalists, English sports writers and those who attended the matches chose to comment on it. I do not belittle or dismiss the concerns that he raised, but he has been selective in his interpretation of the facts. The facts that he and the hon. Lady put forward do not support the contention that police forces throughout Europe are picking on English fans. It is perfectly possible for English fans to go to Europe and watch football matches peacefully.

We all share a common interest in and are committed to stamping out football hooliganism. Before every European match, officials from the Home Office, the Foreign Office and other Departments get together to see how it will be possible to minimise the difficulties that might occur. We in the Foreign Office seek to ensure that every party is kept in touch because, as the debate has made clear, a number of different Government organisations are involved. The Home Office is responsible for security and public order. It leads on issues arising from football hooliganism. The Department of National Heritage also has an interest in football policy, more broadly. The Football Unit of the National Criminal Intelligence Service collates police intelligence on persistent hooligans. It exchanges intelligence with foreign forces and plays a key role in identifying the troublemakers. Security advisers from the football associations and club officials are also directly involved in the pre-planning stage.

The Foreign Office seeks to ensure that all those parties are in touch to help with arrangements on the ground and, most importantly, to help British nationals who get into trouble. Consular staff at our posts abroad are well placed for that task. They are intent on responding and being available if there is a breakdown in public order surrounding a football match.

Miss Hoey

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Baldry

I shall give way to the hon. Lady in a moment.

Miss Hoey

The Minister has plenty of time to do so.

Mr. Baldry

I know.

In her speech, the hon. Lady's hypothesis was to concentrate on two matches and suggest that those examples proved that every time English spectators went abroad, they would be attacked by European police and nothing would be done to help them. The facts do not support that contention, and it is important that the House understands some of the facts.

Our consular staff know the local system and the language. Honorary consuls are often also involved. Those staff are involved right from the start in preparation and planning before a match. The level of staffing at a particular venue, and their deployment, is carefully worked out beforehand in consultation with local police. Their aim is to be able to react quickly to calls for help from those arrested, injured, or otherwise distressed. They need to know in advance whether ticketless fans are to be detained away from the match.

One of the problems about a number of those matches is the number of people who turn up at the grounds without tickets. The consular staff need to know in which hospitals injured fans will be treated; where the troublemakers will be held; and how expulsion and deportation will be handled. When large numbers of fans are known to be travelling, not only consular staff are involved. The entire embassy staff and others will be deployed in and around the ground and at other relevant venues.

We wish to play a substantial part in countering football hooliganism, and will continue to do so. We have agreed this evening that it is not a problem for Government alone. The football authorities, clubs and the fans themselves must take a stand against those who cause trouble. Obviously, we try to prevent football hooligans from travelling to matches abroad. As the hon. Gentleman said, courts have the power to impose restriction orders, which means that those convicted of football-related offences can be prevented from attending key matches. That applies to matches in the United Kingdom and abroad. Those subject to restriction orders must report to a police station while the match is taking place.

As the hon. Gentleman said—his figures were slightly wrong—so far, only 26 restriction orders have been made. It is a reasonable inference that, given the small number of restriction orders that have been made, that scheme is not working as well as we would have wished. We are therefore considering ways in which it may be made more effective. The Home Office is reminding the courts and other interested parties of those powers. If we know the troublemakers, it may be sensible to impose restriction orders on them.

Last season was not one of which anyone can be altogether proud. Sadly, there was a resurgence of violence on and off the pitch in the UK. It sometimes seemed likely that that rather unpleasant aspect of football might be an export item. We were acutely aware that there were six English teams involved in the three major European competitions this season.

In the European Champions cup, Manchester United played in three matches. The game against Galatasaray in Istanbul in September last year had the potential to be the most difficult. The House will recall that it followed a previous encounter there, when six English fans were detained and some 180 were deported without seeing the game. The lessons of the past had been learned. There was close liaison between the clubs, police, UEFA and consular staff. We sent an official from the Consular Department in the Foreign Office to help, and that game went off perfectly peacefully. Directors of the club and Greater Manchester police were grateful for our contribution to the end result.

The Manchester United-Galatasaray game in Istanbul, which started off the season last September, proves that it is possible for English teams to play in Europe and not get into difficulties. The same applies to the three English clubs represented in the UEFA cup. Fans from Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa travelled to Holland, Spain, Sweden, Italy and Turkey and there was no trouble at any of those matches. Indeed, the citizens of Bilbao paid tribute to the behaviour of Newcastle United supporters. So one must also ask why the Spanish police did not have to intervene on that occasion, and one can only conclude that they were not provoked as they were at Zaragoza. That means that the only difficulties resulted from the matches played in the European cup winners cup, and we have gone into those in considerable detail.

Miss Hoey

Is the Minister suggesting that the Arsenal supporters behaved badly at the final in Paris and that no trouble was caused by the Newcastle supporters in some of their matches?

Mr. Baldry

What I am saying to the hon. Lady is that the facts do not support the contention that French police suddenly decided to pick on or attack English supporters and spectators simply because they were English. I have made it clear this evening that it is perfectly possible—indeed, it frequently happens—for English clubs to go and watch matches in Europe with no difficulties whatever.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Baldry

No; I will not give way again.

I accept without question that the vast majority of the football-watching public are innocent fans showing support for their chosen team. Of course I have sympathy with the resentment that they must feel about being regarded in the same light as thugs who are intent on causing trouble. Of course I deplore the inevitable occasions when any innocent fan is caught up in efforts to control troublemakers. [Interruption.] I say "inevitable" because we have all seen the disturbing and frightening images on our television screens. They give us only a hint of the chaos of a full-scale football riot and, in the face of a violent breakdown in law and order, decisions must he made by individual police officers in the blink of an eye. I know that no innocent supporter deserves to be harshly treated, and of course we all deplore that.

I can only suggest that genuine fans do all that they can to keep well clear of those who attend a match but have no interest in the game. That goes for football clubs, too. Experience shows that the safest way to watch a game overseas is to travel with the supporters club party and heed its advice. It may cost more than travelling independently, but costs are not always about money. Naturally, our consular staff are there, seeking to help anyone who gets into trouble.

I say to the hon. Members for Newham, North-West and for Vauxhall, who repeatedly jump up and down, that if Arsenal or Chelsea feel that they have genuine worries about the way in which the Foreign Office or the Home Office help to contribute to the organising of overseas matches, I shall be delighted to meet them. However, neither Chelsea, Arsenal nor any other football club or football organisation sought to visit Ministers to express anxieties about any aspect of the past season. That is because those clubs, I believe, recognise that the Foreign Office, the Home Office and all the other organisations involved have been, and are, working extremely hard to try to ensure that English spectators, when they go to Europe to watch matches, can have an enjoyable time, watch a match and return safely.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am trying to communicate to the Minister the fact that those people do not come to visit him and they do not complain because it is a waste of time. If I may say so, his speech is clear evidence that it would be a waste of time. He appears to have dismissed all the evidence that I have given tonight as being of no great concern because it relates to only three matches. Next time, I shall produce evidence from all the other matches as well.

It is outrageous that the Minister appears not to be prepared to accept that that evidence is genuine and that he shows no concern about what is going on. Those organisations do not come and see him because, on the evidence, it seems to be a rightful assumption that they will get short shrift from him.

Mr. Baldry

But all the football organisations are co-operating and working with the Foreign Office day in, day out, throughout the year, as are the police forces, as are the relevant organisations. It is a picture of continuing co-operation. They do not mention, and have not mentioned, the anxieties that the hon. Gentleman expressed, not because they believe that we are insensitive to them but because they recognise that co-operation takes place to ensure that English spectators may travel overseas and watch matches safely. I am saying to the hon. Gentleman that the speeches that he and the hon. Member for Vauxhall made this evening have not fairly reflected either this season or the work that is carried out by the Home Office, the Foreign Office and English clubs.

If any football organisation, football spectators organisation, football supporters organisation or football club feels that there is a scintilla of a shadow of a suggestion of truth in the proposition that both hon. Members advanced this evening—that European police forces are declaring open season on English fans—I very much hope that they will seek out Home Office and Foreign Office Ministers to talk us through that, because I shall be keen to listen to what they have to say. None of them has sought to do so, because they know, as we know, and as the House knows, that that contention simply is not true.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-three minutes past Eight o'clock.