HC Deb 29 June 1998 vol 315 cc7-9
6. Ms Claire Ward (Watford)

What discussions he has had on the 2006 world cup bid; and if he will make a statement. [46316]

Mr. Banks

I hold regular meetings with the Football Association. I have discussed the 2006 bid with key members of the FIFA executive committee, here in London and in their home countries, and the Government will continue to play a full part in the 2006 campaign.

Ms Ward

Does my hon. Friend agree that the criminal activities of drunken hooligans must not be allowed to knock off course England's world cup bid? Does he deplore the decision by the authorities in St. Etienne to allow all-day drinking, particularly in the light of the statement by the spokeswoman for the prefecture in Lens that the ban on alcohol was the main reason for the relative lack of trouble in that town?

Mr. Banks

I condemn unreservedly the behaviour of the small criminal element that caused trouble in Marseilles. When those who were imprisoned arrive back in this country, they will be dealt with using further restriction orders. Those who think that they may have got away with crimes in Marseilles should know that footage is still being examined. The French authorities will take action against them, and we support them entirely in that.

I cannot join in my hon. Friend's criticism and condemnation of decisions about drinking that might be taken in St. Etienne. It is amazing that a police officer in France, who said that the French want to keep their bars open so that they can keep the world cup festivities going, was condemned here by our tabloids as a lunatic who has escaped from an asylum, as if it is French people's fault that some of our fans cannot hold their drink. Drinking a lot is no excuse for trashing a town or beating up people. The French must be concerned about their town and their welfare, and I am happy to let them make their own decisions. I understand that there will be a press conference later this afternoon and the French authorities may change their decision. We should undoubtedly welcome that, but what a sad comment that is on the minority of English fans who still cannot mix football with drink.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

But will the Minister be any more effective in getting the world cup to come to the United Kingdom in 2006 than he has been in trying to get more than the derisory 2,000 seats for the next football match in France?

Mr. Banks

That is very good, but I am not Tone the Tout; I do not actually have tickets at my disposal. As hon. Members will know, I took a decision not to go on the ground that I somehow knew that this situation would develop. Obviously, the ticket allocation for England's match in St. Etienne is derisory, but the arrangement was made some time ago.

The blame lies with FIFA for allowing 60,000 tickets to go to French nationals, who clearly have not taken up their allocation but instead have sold them on the black market. A number of national associations did not need their tickets, but, instead of sending them back to FIFA so that they could be passed on to countries such as England, Germany, Holland, Japan and Argentina which needed them, they dumped them on the black market.

Hon. Members should not blame me. I would have loved to be responsible for ticket allocations. I might even have found one for the hon. Gentleman—or not, as the case may be. We must ensure that, after this is over, FIFA carries out a thorough investigation so that this shambles is not repeated either in 2002 or in 2006, when England will host the world cup.