HL Deb 20 November 1973 vol 346 cc927-80

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, which implements the main recommendations of the Report prepared by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley. The Bill aims to provide a reasonable degree of safety for members of the public attending sports stadia as defined in the Bill, and potentially at any rate other sports grounds.

We are fortunate in this House in having as a background to this debate the earlier debate last January initiated by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull when we discussed the Wheatley Report as, I think, the last in a fairly long series of reports on this subject. I do not think that I need again go through the whole range of reports on the disasters at Wembley, at Bethnal Green underground station, Bolton Wanderers football ground, and indeed other related reports like that of Mr. Winterbottom for the Sports Council. There is in addition Sir John Lang's Report in 1969 on Crowd Behaviour at Football Matches. All these have contributed to our knowledge on this subject. They have all, in the end, led to reliance so far on voluntary measures for looking after the safety of the public. Certainly Sir John Lang's Report in 1969 recommended the updating of the Football Association's 1948 guidance on safety measures.

All that was overtaken by the disaster at Ibrox Park in 1971, and that, in due time, led to the Wheatley Inquiry. I do not think that I need go into the disaster at Ibrox Park. We discussed that before, and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull told us about it and the dreadful casualties. Of course there was an inquiry under the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1895. It was the turning point which led to the setting up of the Wheatley Inquiry to produce the Report that we now have. His terms of reference extended to all kinds of sports grounds, but the immediate problem was that of football grounds, and to them he gave most of his attention. He published his Report in May of last year, and when it was published, the Government announced their acceptance of it in principle. Considering that he did this very largely in his own time and took a great deal of trouble about it, it is right that I should again, as I did in January, on behalf of the Government thank the noble and learned Lord for his assiduity and industry in doing this work, and doing it so quickly and thoroughly.

He appraised the existing arrangements. His scrutiny left him in no doubt that the existing voluntary system of certification of grounds introduced by the Football Association was inadequate. He found that there were no requirements as to the competence of the people who carried out the annual inspection of the football grounds, and no specific standards which persons doing that job might use as guidelines. He also thought it possible that those engaged in such inspections could possibly be influenced in the standards that they applied by their knowledge of the financial state of the clubs concerned.

The noble and learned Lord also reviewed those existing statutory provisions which seemed to be relevant to the safety of spectators. Although they are somewhat different, we have the Building Regulations in England and Wales and the Building (Standards) Regulations in Scotland. These provide basic statutory safeguards relating to the structural strength and stability of new buildings and structures (or substantial alterations to existing buildings and structures), in football grounds. Certainly in England and Wales it is extremely doubtful whether the regulations apply to open terraces or hard standing at sports grounds, although possibly they do in Scotland. There are special controls in London over stands and structures, but again not, we think, open terraces. There are various other provisions. There is a section in the Pub[...] filth Act 1936. There are parts of the Offices Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, and certain provisions in the Licensing Act 1964, and indeed in the Fire Precautions Act 1971, which have a bearing on this. Even when he had put them all together, Lord Wheatley concluded that the law at present falls far short of providing a proper or effective control over football grounds as a whole.

We have, unfortunately, a dissatisfaction with the voluntary arrangements on which much reliance has been placed, a lack of adequate statutory provisions, and so the noble and learned Lord concluded that only a specially devised statutory scheme would ensure the control over safety standards at football grounds that he thought was necessary. He recommended a statutory licensing control exercised by the local authorities. He envisaged that this should be phased, starting with the large grounds, and he also recommended that there should be a right of appeal for clubs concerned against any decision by a licensing authority. Throughout his Report—and this is an important point—he was conscious of the need to reconcile the paramount aim of ensuring spectator safety with reasonable and practicable measures for individual clubs to be able to implement. There is this balance here that we all have to recognise.

When Lord Wheatley's Report was published, the Government also announced that, with an eye to legislation being prepared, there would be consultations with those concerned—notably, of course, the local authority associations and football interests. In the event, these consultations have largely been concerned with guidance on safety measures at football grounds prepared by the Technical Support Group to the Wheatley Inquiry, the product of which was Appendix A to the Report. It was at once apparent that, whether the promised legislation came sooner or later, all concerned needed to be agreed on the principles to be adopted in future for the safety of spectators, especially at football grounds, and that consequently what we needed was a code, to which I shall come in a moment.

The football authorities have left us in no doubt about their apprehensions about the financial effects of the Bill on clubs, and I strongly suspect that we may hear more about this aspect in the course of the debate. But, that apart, they have been of the utmost assistance in drafting the new code, which has just been published (I think at the end of last week), in the form of a little green book, and we should like to thank the fooball authorities for their help in this matter. More recently, there have also been consultations on the principal features of the proposed legislation, not only with the football authorities themselves but with local authority associations, the police, the fire services, as well as with representatives of other sports. Apart from this question of finance, so far as I know there has been no objection to the principle of this Bill, which is in any event very close, as I have suggested, to what the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, proposed which I think was widely welcomed, in this House at least, in January.

It is worth while saying a word about the non-statutory code because, of course, this was one of the keys that Lord Wheatley put into his Report. The idea was to provide a basis for licensing authorities to use in judging what sort of licence to issue and what conditions to impose upon grounds. The guidelines in the Appendix to Lord Wheatley's Report were subjected to practical tests, as I told the House last January, and so that they could be set within the wider context of football as a whole they have since been made the subject of consultations with the football authorities and other interested organisations. They are in fact extremely technical, and they are also metricated. I am a little perturbed to find that foot pounds per foot width have turned into kilo newtons per metre width, which is apparently the latest blossoming of metrication. But, at any rate in most cases, we are given the old imperial measurements as well. Certainly it is a very technical document, and noble Lords who are interested in this subject will no doubt like to study it.

It is the result of a wide range of professional and expert advice which has been distilled into this code, and we deal here with matters like the strength and siting of crush barriers, the provision of entrance and exit routes (incidentally, there is a mistake in the diagram in Appendix B, which we are correcting), angles of slope for terracing, the construction of staircases and measures to ensure the safe movement of spectators both in normal circumstances and when there is an emergency. It is a very comprehensive and well-thought-out document. It is the first, I think, to provide a standard comprehensive guide to the measures needed for ensuring adequate safety standards for members of the public at existing sports grounds, and it is hoped that local authorities and other interested parties will be guided by it in deciding what measures may be appropriate at any particular sports ground. But it is to be non-statutory because, as the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, recognised and we recognise, it is important to maintain the maximum flexibility to take account of the differing circumstances at individual sports grounds, which depend on such factors as their age, their size, their mode of construction and matters of that sort.

That was the origin of flexibility, but flexibility has gone further than that in this Bill because it pervades the whole of the licensing system that we are setting up. As I have already explained, it was recommended to us that the introduction of licensing should be phased so that the larger sports grounds, where the most obvious risks occur, will be dealt with first, and the designating order procedure in the Bill allows for phasing in exactly this way. As has already been announced by my honourable friend the Minister for Sport, following a meeting with representative authorities in the football world, only those grounds in Lord Wheatley's category I will be dealt with first; that is, international stadia, English First and Second Division and Scottish First Division clubs. Grounds in Lord Wheatley's categories 2 and 3 —and one wants to look at page 14 of his Report for these categories—will be dealt with later on, as the need arises. The grounds in his category 4, which have accommodation for fewer than 10,000 members of the public, have been specifically excluded from the designating order procedure in the Bill, although they are not exempt from control altogether, and will be expected to take measures to ensure a reasonable degree of safety at their grounds.

The Bill has been drafted with the risks at football grounds principally in mind, but it has been thought prudent to include stadia used for sports other than football, where similar risks may arise—for example, the large cricket grounds. Power has also been taken to apply this Bill, with such changes as are necessary, to places where sporting activities attract large crowds though the places are not stadia; that is to say, with stands all the way round—for example, race tracks and motor racing circuits. I say "with such changes as are necessary" because, of course, there would be full consultation with those concerned before the Bill was extended to a sports ground other than stadia, if only for the purpose of establishing what modifications to the non-statutory code of practice, the green book, would be needed. As the early paragraph 1.2 of the code says, it is primarily applicable to football stadia, and although a number of its recommendations would hold good regardless of the sporting activity concerned, modifications will clearly be necessary for other sorts of grounds. For instance, at race meetings spectators are constantly moving from a stand, say, to the Tote windows or to the unsaddling enclosure, and they are not mainly confined to one spot as at a football match. So one would inevitably need to have alterations if the designation powers were extended to other sorts of sports grounds.


My Lords, will the Minister pardon me? From what he has said, and having in mind the interpretation on page 12 of the Bill, may I take it that sports grounds do include racecourses?


Yes, my Lords. The definition clauses have been very carefully drawn. If the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, will look at page 12 of the Bill he will find that he is quite right. Has the noble Lord got Clause 16?




The noble Lord will there find "sports ground" defined. To come within the definition, a place must be somewhere where activities are taking place in the open air, where there is accommodation of artificial structures, either buildings or adaptations of natural features, and where members of the public are invited as spectators, not private individuals. So that there are certainly opportunities here (and it would arise under Clause 14 of the Bill, which is headed "Power to extend Act by order") to get on to racecourses—but of course, powers subject to the procedure in the Bill. The noble Lord may be making a speech on this point in due course, and I shall listen carefully to him; but he is quite right.

As I have said, we shall need to consult carefully with the authorities concerned in order to provide that the right sort of code, like this one, with necessary adaptations, was introduced before we ever sought to extend it to places other than stadia themselves, which we have in mind at the moment. In fact, the representatives of the various sports which have been consulted in connection with the present proposals have in general accepted that it would be sensible for their sports to be brought within the scope of the Bill, if need be, and I think also the representatives of those sports which could be brought in, but subject to the qualification that they would need to be sure about the standards it was sought to impose upon them.

Finally, I should emphasise that the requirements which may be imposed must be reasonable in the circumstances of each individual case. This is not merely recognition of the fact that absolute safety can never be guaranteed but an indication of the Government's concern that, without sacrificing the basic requirements of safety, the local authorities should have full regard to the individual circumstances—and I mean the individual circumstances—of an individual ground in deciding what precautionary measures should be taken. In addition, there is to be a right of appeal by interested persons against any requirements which a local authority might impose and provision has also been made for rights of hearing when appeals are made and for formal inquiries to be held where necessary.

My Lords, perhaps I may say a word or two about the substance of the Bill. Clauses 1 to 7 establish the main system of control under the Bill—the certificate procedure. The term "certificate" we have preferred to "licence" because "licence" suggests some kind of control over the sporting activity itself; whereas the sole purpose of the Bill is to provide means for spectators' safety to be reasonably assured. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is empowered to designate sports stadia with a capacity of more than 10,000. Once a stadium has been designated, it will require a safety certificate from the local authority. Application for this will have to be made in the prescribed form, the status of the applicant established and the local authority (which will be a county council in England and Wales or the appropriate regional authority in Scotland when the Local Government (Scotland) Act comes into force) will be required to consult the police and fire authorities and the district council because the district council is responsible for the enforcement of the building regulations. After these consultations and any necessary inspection, the local authority will be required to issue a general safety certificate required for the ground.

The general safety certificate will be the main continuing form of control. It will specify the activity or activities at the stadium and the number of spectators who are to be admitted. Provision is also made—this is the second possibility I and it is a discretionary one—for the issue by the local authority of a special safety certificate to take account of the exceptional or occasional event at a stadium; for example, the use of it for an activity not specified in the ordinary certificate or a request for a relaxation of a condition in the ordinary certificate which might be acceptable subject to certain extra requirements being imposed. A typical case would be an application for more people to be admitted to a ground on a special occasion than the certificate ordinarily allows but subject to extra precautions being taken.

The safety certificate is to contain terms and conditions which will reflect the local authority's view of what will be reasonably safe for the public while enabling the stadium in question to continue to be used. Meanwhile, a term or condition might specify that a particular stand should not be used by spectators until certain works had been carried out. The management of the ground will have the choice of abandoning the use of the stand either indefinitely or for a period while they took action, as and when they were able, to bring it into condition to justify the removal of the restriction. This is flexible and can be changed as time goes on.

In addition to specifying in the certificate the terms and conditions that the local authority think necessary, they will in any case be required to deal with certain important matters. One of them is the maximum number of public to be admitted to the stadium as a whole or to any part of it; others are the provision of entrances, exits and crush barriers. Should any of these conditions be thought unreasonable, there are the appeals that I have mentioned. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, recommended a special tribunal for appeals, but so as to avoid unnecessary proliferation of tribunals and to achieve uniformity of practice we have decided that appeals should lie to my right honourable friends, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland. If necessary, they will set up a formal inquiry as recommended by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley. Finally, under these clauses the holder of the certificate is to be placed under a duty to inform the local authority of any proposal to alter or extend the stadium where this would affect existing arrangements for securing the public's safety. There are powers of entry and inspection in Clause 8–and these powers do not apply only to grounds which hold more than 10,000.

Clause 9 provides two important powers. Should a local authority apprehend a risk, either at a stadium which although designated has not yet been granted a certificate or at a non-designated stadium—and that could be one holding less than 10,000 people—they are empowered to apply to the magistrates' court or to the sheriff's court for an order restricting the admission of the public. This is a kind of emergency power probably to be used only after local negotiations have failed; but it means that the smaller clubs will not be able with impunity to ignore the safety of their spectators. There is provision in this clause also that the Crown Court, following a conviction on indictment, may in addition to any other penalty make an order banning or restricting the admission of the public to the ground. This is an added section to the provisions and penalties dealt with in Clauses 10 and 11 which are themselves fairly fierce; and particularly so in the case of indictment.

Clause 12 empowers my right honourable friends to make regulations in respect of the safety of the public at sports stadia. This is really a reserve power; we have no intention of using it at this moment. It could be used to prescribe minimum requirements for grounds not subject to designation or to give backing to requirements though necessary perhaps by something in the "green code book" which in the light of experience had been shown always to be essential and which should be given the force of regulation. Clause 14 allows my right honourable friend to extend the Bill by order to classes of sports ground other than stadia. This was the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. Clause 15 applies the Bill to the Crown. I think there is a football stadium belonging to the Army. This might he involved and it is right, therefore, that this should be so.

Lastly, my Lords, a word on finance. As the first designating order will cover only about 80 grounds, the initial costs of enforcing the Bill as set out in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum are comparatively small. The local authorities will in any case be able to offset their own expenditure by fees to be charged for certificates. As for the clubs, the expenditure, if any— because one must remember that there has been voluntary agreement on standards in force which many clubs have already put into effect—will depend upon the standard of safety that has already been achieved and upon the decision of the local authority in each particular case. We cannot give any overall estimate, but in the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, the money for any necessary improvements will have to be found by the clubs and within football itself. That is certainly the view of the Government.


My Lords, surely what the noble Viscount is saying is not true! What the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, said in paragraph 60 was not that the money should be found but that he went to the Treasury and found that the Treasury would not give any money. Therefore he proposed to accept that. His Report is based on the hypothesis that there will be no money from the Government. For the Minister to say that Lord Wheatley stated that we should get no money from the Government is the reverse of the truth.


My Lords, the noble Lord will be making a speech and I am sure that he will develop this argument. I can confirm that the advice given to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, was right and that we do not propose to provide money from the public funds.

My Lords, those are the main provisions in the Bill. We want the scheme of control that we envisage to operate flexibly and reasonably having regard to the circumstances of individual clubs but we want to achieve a degree of safety which will considerably reduce the risk of another disaster of the kind which last occurred at Ibrox Park. I hope therefore that the Bill will commend itself to the House and that this afternoon it will be given a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for the survey he gave of the events leading up to the production of this Bill, so there is no need for me to go over all those matters again. We are grateful to him for the review he has given of the provisions in the Bill, and also for reminding us of our indebtedness to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, for the work undertaken in the preparation and presentation of his Report. Let me say right away, my Lords, that we on this side of the House offer a warm welcome to a measure intended to ensure the safety of members of the public when they attend sporting events. No one wants a repetition of disasters such as that which occurred at Ibrox Park and the other disasters mentioned by the noble Viscount. We hope that the provisions in this Bill will prove to be a means of providing a greater measure of safety, and indeed complete safety in the future.

My Lords, last Friday afternoon I watched with some interest a B.B.C. television programme, I think it was called "Blue Peter", in which viewers were taken to Rome and were shown the Coliseum standing 2,000 years after it was built. We were told it accommodated crowds of 50,000 on many days of the year, I think some 170 days, and that there was nothing in the record to indicate that apart from what took place in the arena, there were any disasters.


My Lords, noble Lords may remember my noble friend Lord Lyell's speech, in our debate in January, about ancient Roman disasters, and my dissociation on behalf of the Home Office from any responsibility.


My Lords, the point is taken. It would be very good indeed if we could feel that as from the passage of this Bill there will be no further disasters in this country. One hopes that we have seen the last of them. As I say, we on this side of the House give the Bill a warm welcome and I think it proper that I should say, having been in touch with most of them, that local authority associations also give a warm welcome to the intentions of the Bill. Although the local authorities give this general welcome there are points of detail on which they have some reservations and I shall be touching on one ore two of them this evening or raising them during the Committee stage.

My Lords, I turn to those responsible for the implementation of the standards of control and safety as laid down in the Bill, the clubs and the organisations responsible for the sporting events concerned. I think it ought to be said that they, as much as anyone, want trouble-free sporting occasions. They wish the safety of the public to be guaranteed; they have nothing to gain, indeed they have a great deal to lose, when the safety of people attending the event they have organised is endangered, whether it be soccer, rugby, horse racing, tennis tournaments or whatever other sporting event may be arranged. I hope that before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House we shall have examined it very closely and made quite sure that it is designed to help those organisations as much as possible.

We need to look very closely at the burden which will be placed on the organisations, and to see whether it is a reasonable burden or whether it may in application prove unduly demanding in financial terms. If the burden is too heavy for the organisations to bear, the enactment of this Bill may prove destructive to sporting activities in this country. I should like to raise a number of specific points, and I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, will be able to deal with them, since what he has to say will undoubtedly influence the Amendments which we may table as the Bill goes through its stages. My Lords, may we be told why in Clause 1 the method of empowering the Secretary of State to designate sports stadia should require to be certified, rather than that the system be adopted, which, as I understand it, was proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, of categorising all sports stadia which should be licensed under a phasing system?

I note that paragraph 51 category 4 of the Wheatley Report contemplates that grounds with a capacity of less than 10,000 should at some stage come into any proposed licensing system, whereas the Bill does not extend that far down in numbers of persons. Indeed, the noble Viscount confirmed the limitation of the Bill in that respect. I think it would be interesting to hear a little more about why a longer view is not taken. I should like to know whether it is not desirable that the Secretary of State should take power to designate any sports stadia having structural accommodation, such as stands for spectators, even where the capacity is below 10,000. I ask this on the presumption that otherwise under the Bill there would be no case for designation, unless such a case were made out.

I come now, my Lords, to the matter of fees. Clause 12 empowers the Secretary of State, by regulation, to prescribe the fees to be charged for safety certificates issued by local authorities; or alternatively, that the regulations may, instead of specifying the amount of any fee, authorise a local authority to determine the amount, subject to limits as may be prescribed by the regulations. It seems to me that the latter course would be preferable, and I think I am right in saying that it would follow what is contained in Clause 34 and Schedule 2 of the new Local Government Bill which we shall soon be considering. If that were the case, we could ensure that there would be flexibility regarding the amount of the fee according to circumstances, subject to the prescription from time to time by the Secretary of State of a maximum figure. I note that the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum states: The cost to the local authorities as a whole is estimated at £900,000 for the initial application of the scheme. The length of time this will take cannot be determined in advance, but thereafter the total annual costs are not expected to exceed £30,000. Further, I note that the "estimates represent, for the local authorities as a whole, 16 staff". I am wondering how these figures were arrived at, both in respect of finance and also the number of people who will need to be engaged at local authority level. I wonder whether it is possible for us to be told what the cost might have been if the Wheatley Report had been implemented in full, and what the effect might have been on staffing at local authority level.

The business of licensing is to be the responsibility in Greater London of the Greater London Council, and outside London of the county councils, whereas in the same clause it is stated that the building authority in an outer London borough is the council of the borough and elsewhere in Greater London the Greater London Council; and in England and Wales outside Greater London, the district council. The appropriate responsibilities are set out, so far as Scotland is concerned, in Clause 16. It would be helpful, I think, to many outside if an explanation could be given how to find the division of responsibility. I appreciate that the Fire and Police control come under county councils, and building control under district councils, but I cannot help feeling that there was a great deal more to be said than most of us realised for the recommendations of the Maud Committee for the setting up of unitary authorities, because certainly that would have avoided such a division of responsibilities as is now included in the Bill. County councils seem to be very happy with the role allocated to them, but I must say—and this is why I am asking the question—that the district councils, the A.M.C. particularly, as building authorities, feel that they ought to be given the whole responsibility.

My Lords, may I raise the matter of safety standards. As it is, there are no detailed safety requirements laid down in the Bill, but as the noble Viscount told us, local authorities are to be guided by a non-statutory code of practice. I venture to suggest that this could result in a variation of standards. I wonder whether, perhaps with advantage, a Schedule might be added to the Bill to ensure, at least, minimal standards. In any case, the code of practice will go beyond the Football Association. It will extend to the game of Rugby, as the noble Viscount has said; and indeed, as I understood him to seek to make clear, it will include racing. I take it that it would also include—




—cricket, tennis tournaments, and a very wide range. But whether the matter is dealt with by a code of practice, or otherwise, there is, I suggest, a strong case for consultation with the appropriate governing bodies of sport, be it soccer, Rugby or any of the others. The noble Viscount has indicated that the international aspect of affairs will be borne in mind, and there is need there also, I think, for consultation. It might be as well if we made provision in the Bill for that.

I have said that the Bill has received generally a warm welcome, and referred to the universal wish to ensure the safety of our sports grounds and sporting events. But, my Lords, goodwill is not enough. I doubt whether anyone seeks to impose burdens on sport which it cannot possibly carry; and yet this Bill shows no concern about—and as I understood the noble Viscount when he was speaking, it is intended to make no provision at all for —the cost of actually carrying out the work on the grounds. It is quite unconcerned as to how the cost is going to be met. It reads—and it would appear from the manner in which the noble Viscount spoke—as though all the clubs affected can find the money without any real difficulty.

I venture to suggest that no one with much knowledge of the position feels that this is so. Indeed. I am advised by those who speak, I think, with some authority for sporting organisations, that the costs of implementing this Bill will go far beyond the means of many governing bodies of sport. I therefore ask: are the Government really determined to make no arrangements? Because if they are, then they are going to run into opposition. If they succeed in carrying this Bill through and it becomes an Act, it will have a devastating effect so far as many sporting activities are concerned. Therefore, I was very disappointed, and I think the disappointment will extend far beyond this Chamber, that the noble Viscount confirmed, as I thought very clearly, the impression that is abroad that the answer to the question about what help the Government tends to give is "None".

My Lords, that is a pretty frightful and pretty frightening discouragement for those in charge of sport in this country. For many of them it could be the end of play as it is. We must give some considerable attention to this issue. As it is, the Government draw considerable income from sport by way of V.A.T. and betting duty imposed—the latter on football pools. I do not know how far wrong I am in the estimate that I am going to suggest about what the Government draw from V.A.T., but am I very far wrong if I say not less than 10 per cent. and perhaps as much as 11 per cent. of their income? In any case, I think we are entitled to know what the figure is. I do not ask the House to accept the estimate. I ask the Minister, when he replies, to give us the figures as to what the Government get by way of V.A.T. from football and the other organisations concerned.


My Lords, I do not know whether I can do that to-day. I do not have the figures with me. But if the noble Lord wants the figures, could he tell me precisely what organisations he wishes them for, so that I can give him an adequate answer?


My Lords, I wonder whether I can say: "the organisations that will be affected by this Bill". The noble Lord has agreed that soccer, rugby, cricket and tennis will be affected—




That is an important matter: could be or would be? I have to ask: do the Government appreciate the full extent of this Bill when it becomes an Act? Do they know in detail the organisations that will be affected? Because if they do, I think they ought to be able to give us the information I have requested. I accept that it is not reasonable to ask the noble Viscount to give us this information off the cuff, but we shall be going through Committee; and since this is a matter of great importance it is one that I think will have to be returned to time and time again. There are those of us who say, "The Government must recognise the need for help", and it will not be enough for us to be told, "Well, it does not matter what you say. Nothing will be given". The House is entitled to know what the Government are receiving so that the House can determine, before the Bill leaves Committee stage and before it leaves this House, whether it is reasonable that it should go forward without some provision for helping these sporting organisations.

I think it very necessary that there should be some provision to enable grants to be made to clubs that cannot possibly afford to meet the cost of what they will be required to do, and/or loans at very low interest rates, but only in those cases where a club can show financial need. I recognise that there would need to be —I hope "will be" is the more appropriate way of putting it—some control from central Government as to the total amount—that is accepted right away—of the amounts that may be made available for individual clubs, having regard to their circumstances. May I suggest that this is a field where with great advantage there may be close consultation with those who speak for the sporting organisations. The Government must surely recognise the consequences that will follow this Bill unless they help financially in the improvements that will be called for. We are all agreed that the safety of spectators must be an overriding concern, but we do want the game to go oil. We wish sport to flourish. Even if we cannot accept that those who will the end should will the means, surely we ought to ensure that the means are available so that the ends—in this case the ends of this Bill—may be achieved. In other words, we must provide some practical help.

My Lords, there is no doubting the reaction of many of our sporting organisations on this matter. They are quite certain that the Bill imposes a financial burden which is unacceptable and far too great for many of them to carry. In adition to what I have said as to grant and/or loan provision, it has been suggested to me—and I put the idea forward because I think it is one that is worthy of consideration—that some thought should be given to further alleviation of the position by including all sports buildings within the industrial buildings allowance, and thereby qualifying appropriate organisations for tax concessions which would help in the more rapid achievement of safety measures. Again. I am not thinking that we may get a "Yes" or "No" on that issue to-night, but it is something that we may well return to, and I hope that in the meantime the Government will give some consideration to My Lords, for what it sets out to do, let me repeat, in conclusion, that we welcome this Bill. As I have indicated, we shall try to improve it in Committee so that it may more speedily and more satisfactorily achieve its purpose.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I think everyone who recalls the Ibrox Park disaster and who has read the Report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, must agree that Government and Parliament could not at this stage stand still and do nothing. To my mind, the scheme put forward in this Bill seems, broadly, entirely reasonable. It has been said that attendances at football matches have been dwindling in the last year or two, and that consequently the risks are not as great as they were. As against that, I am afraid it also has to be admitted that there are signs of an increase in the incidence of hooliganism, which can so often be the detonator that sparks off an explosive situation. We hope that this latter tendency will in due course be reversed, and we hope that the attendances will increase, but we have to look further ahead than to just to-day and next year. I should have thought that it was entirely reasonable now to bring forward a Bill to regulate safety of sports grounds. Indeed, if there are any noble Lords who know less about football than I do, they will be as surprised as I was to find that there has not been any regulation up to now.

I was interested in the explanation given by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, about the flexibility which it is proposed to introduce into this system of certification. As I understand it, the local authorities are to be guided by this document, but they are to use their common sense: and I suppose if they found that in a particular stadium the doors were a few millimetres too narrow, they would not immediately insist on their being rebuilt. What I hope is that these guide lines will be constantly under scrutiny, perhaps by a standing committee of representatives of the sports concerned, in consultation with the Government, because, in the light of experience it may well be found that points have been overlooked which could be remedied. I had an instance brought to my notice the other day when two spectators—they were young boys—were quite seriously injured by being pressed against the crush barriers. It is quite natural for boys to be very keen to try to get in front, and no doubt their elders help them, so that they can see properly. But then the pressure comes, and in the two cases that I heard of the two boys were quite seriously injured as a result of pressure against the barriers. It occurred to me to wonder whether, for example, the barriers should not have some protective padding on them. That is the sort of thing that might be looked at when the Green Book is kept under review.

My Lords, there are two other points that I want to raise (I do not want to speak at length, because there is important business to follow), and the first is in relation to the special certificates. I confess that I did not understand from the Bill, or even from the noble Viscount's exposition, what was the purpose of special certificates. If a ground is certified as satisfactorily safe to allow 25,000 people to watch a football match, is it not equally safe for 25,000 people to watch an athletic competition, or perhaps to engage in community hymn singing or to attend a trade union mass rally? The noble Viscount shakes his head, and no doubt we shall hear in due course why that is not so. I should have thought that there was not a great difference, although perhaps the movements of the audience are not entirely the same.


My Lords, perhaps I can give the noble Viscount an instance. Supposing you had some activity which allowed spectators out on to the pitch, extra entrance and exist provisions would be required over and above those at a normal football match when the spectators are behind the barriers which keep them away from the touchline. It is that sort of thing that one would need to take into account.


I am obliged to the noble Viscount. I had not actually envisaged sports in which the spectators were allowed on the pitch.


Hymn singing, or something like that.


Could they not hymn sing from their scats? But I will leave that there. There is a further point to which I would invite attention, and that is the time factor. I was thinking particularly of my last example, because I know that in recent years the West Ham Stadium was used from time to time for mass meetings of London dockers. These mass meetings are arranged at short notice, probably not more than two or three days before, and it is difficult to see how a special certificate could be obtained from the local authority in that time. The local authority has its meetings at monthly intervals: and whether the local authority would be permitted to delegate its responsibility to someone else, I do not know. I think they have to obtain powers to do that, and possibly powers of that kind should be written into the Bill. I thought that perhaps one of the reasons for the special certificates was to find a responsible person to ensure that the terms and conditions of the certificate were carried out. If I may offer a suggestion, would it not be quite reasonable for the principal licensee, if I may so call him, to be responsible for anybody to whom he sub-let the stadium and for the holder of the original general certificate to be responsible for the terms and conditions being maintained?

I should like to say a word about appeals. The noble Viscount explained, not at great length, why he felt that the recommendation of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, should not be accepted and that the appeal should be made to the Secretary of State, or to the Secretaries of State. I must confess that I much prefer Wheatley. It seems to me that there are two objections to an appeal to the Secretary of State. The first is that, from the Secretary of State's own point of view, I should have thought it was desirable to limit the number of issues in regard to which he can be called upon to exercise a quasi-judicial function. For instance, in planning we find that the Government are often unable to express a view at a critical stage because the Secretary of State or the Minister may at a later stage have to exercise a judicial function. From that point of view, I should have thought it would be preferable for the Secretary of State to be out of the picture. The other objection is perhaps even more compelling. I think that we all want to see—and certainly those of us on these Benches—local government made effective and meaningful. Of course, if the county councils are the certifying authority they may sometimes make mistakes and may have to be overruled. Would it not help the relations between the Central Government and the county councils if the county councils were to be overruled not by the Secretary of State but by an independent tribunal? The noble Viscount said that he did not want to see a multiplicity of independent tribunals. I understand that. However, I believe that this tribunal might be on a part-time basis, because I would expect that there would not be a great many appeals to deal with. No doubt the Secretary of State himself would have to collect a panel of people to advise him on appeals, so I should not have thought that there would be a great deal of difference between one system and the other. However, for the reason I have already stated, I certainly prefer the proposal of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley.

May I now turn to something which is not in the Bill. In paragraph 55 of the Wheatley Report attention was called to the fact that even in senior football the normal attendances at grounds in the lower leagues are such that defects in layout and structure represent no real danger because of the limited number of people attending. This seems to me to bring up a point which has not been fully appreciated in the drafting of the Bill; that is, that the risks against which we are guarding (and happily they are very small) relate not lust to the size of the ground or to the numbers of people, but to the numbers of people in relation to the size of the ground. Quite a small ground, if overfilled, could represent a potentially dangerous situation, whereas a large ground might have 20,000 or 30,000 people in it and be potentially perfectly safe. This, coupled with what the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, was telling us about the difficulties of the small clubs from the financial point of view, led me to wonder whether there could not be, for want of a better term, what I will call a B certificate. In other words, it would be a case of "How many people can we have a certificate for if we do nothing to the ground?" I strongly suspect that that number would be more than some clubs normally get on a Saturday for a home match, and in those circumstances the club could continue on a B certificate very much as it is at present. Of course, the difficulty would arise when they throw their hats in the air, having discovered that they have drawn a cup tie at home with one of the giants; but this would be a case for a special certificate. Again, if they were unable to do anything to the ground, a special certificate would not allow them as large a gate as they would be able to allow in if the ground was perfect. But since this is not likely to happen to any club more than once in five years—I am sure that they would think themselves very lucky if it did—they may well decide that it is better to have a smaller gate rather than go to the full extent of meeting the complete Green Paper conditions. I know that a great deal of consultation will be needed before the Bill finally leaves another place, and I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether he would consider the case for the provision of something like the special B certificate that I have mentioned.

Now, my Lords, we have the question of who pays. Here I find myself rather in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy. After all, the clubs themselves (or whoever is the owner of the ground) to-day have complete responsibility for the safety of people attending football matches. I will not say that they have neglected the responsibility, but perhaps they have not realised its full extent. The result of course is that a big bill has built up. But I cannot see on what grounds they could now come and say, "The Government are imposing this requirement and so they ought to help with the cost"—because the Bill is doing no more than to make statutory what is already a common law liability. It is quite true, as the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, said, that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, did not feel able to give an answer on this point, because he felt it to be outside his terms of reference. But lie did say that if the Government did not pay the money would have to be found within football. He also said that it appeared to him that there was a substantial amount of money in football which could be drawn on.

He went on to say—and this troubled me a little—that it would be not only presumptuous but wrong for him to suggest how it should be done. I am going to be a little presumptuous and stick my neck out by calling attention to some of the more obvious bits of money that there are in football. We read constantly, especially at this time of the year, about the large transfer fees which are paid in accordance with this curious relic of slavery that is apparently still legal in this country. I believe that a very small percentage of, or a levy on, transfer fees would soon build up a big fund which could be used for this purpose.

If we look at the pools, I venture to suggest that even in these days of inflation a quarter of a million pounds, free of tax, is about enough for anybody to get, whether by skill or by good fortune, for picking eight draws. Yet one of the pools companies is advertising that they have just paid their eighth person over half a million. if the top prize were to be limited to a quarter of a million, that would give £2 million already which could be creamed off for the purpose of helping clubs in need. I do not believe it would affect the investment, as I think it is called, of anybody in the pools if the top prize were a quarter of a million instead of something in the region of £600,000. It seems to me that these are two ways in which what is called the football world could help. The problem here is rather the same, if one may draw a comparison, as the problem of the country as a whole: there is plenty of money, but it is a maldistributed. I think the football authorities ought to consider whether some help could be given by the people who have the money to those who have less money. My Lords, I am sorry if I have stuck my neck out and been presumptuous, in the phrase of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, but it is worth pointing out that there is a great deal of money about, and I do not see why the football authorities, if they really got together, could not find some means of helping those clubs which need help. But if the noble Viscount would also consider this point about the B certificate it might be that the total amount required could be substantially less than would otherwise be the case.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, may I say at the outset that I have a personal interest in this Bill as I am chairman of a well-known First Division Football League club in the North East of England. I am a member of the Football League Management Committee, which controls 92 professional League clubs, and I am a councillor of the Football Association, which is the governing body of football in England and has 36,000 football clubs under its control. I think I can claim therefore that I know something about Association Football. And I want to make it quite clear at the outset that the football authorities are not against the licensing of sports stadia as it is of paramount importance that the safety of the public should be safeguarded at all times. I have been associated with the cinema and theatre business for over 40 years, and both of these types of entertainment have been subject to licensing for many years, and with excellent effect. I fully agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, when he states in his 1972 Report that if the public pay for admission to the ground, then it is up to the club, whether it be a football club, a cricket club or a rugby club, to ensure that the ground is safe.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, in paragraph 38 of his Report, also stated and I quote his words: I am satisfied that any solution can only work satisfactorily if those operating it do so in an understanding and reasonable manner and not in a rigid and highly technical way. As it is the intention in the Bill to grant powers to the local authorities which will be issuing the necessary safety licences. I trust that there will be some uniformity of standards, as it is common knowledge that decisions vary a great deal between local authorities. I can quote an example of which your Lordships will be aware, the licensing of films, where one authority passes a film for exhibition while the neighbouring authority bans it. The same applies to liquor licensing laws. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some assurance on this important point.

On the question of an appeal against a decision of the local licensing authority, Clause 6 of the Bill states that an applicant for a licence may appeal to the Secretary of State, and in subsection (7) it is proposed that before determining an appeal the Minister shall appoint a person to hear such an appeal. In his Report the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, gives it as his considered opinion that any appeal should not be heard by a court of law or by a Minister of the Crown, and he recommended the setting up of a special appeal tribunal, consisting of a legally qualified chairman, an architect, a surveyor or an engineer, and a police officer with experience of crowd control. If I had to make an appeal against a decision of the local authority I would be far happier to do so before a body like that than I would be appearing before a person appointed by the Secretary of State. Surely the Minister is not going to saddle one person to make a vital decision or a recommendation which could result in the closing of a sports ground.

Many of your Lordships will remember the amazing scenes at Wembley Stadium in 1923 when over 200,000 people got into the ground. Happily, on that occasion there was no loss of life, and ever since then all Cup Finals at Wembley have been all-ticket games. As your Lordships have heard, in 1946 there was an incident at the Bolton Wanderers' ground, resulting in the loss of 33 lives. In January, 1971, the Ibrox disaster took place, when 66 people lost their lives and many others were injured. When one takes into account the number of spectators who watch sport at the week-ends it is remarkable that there have not been more incidents such as happened at Bolton and Glasgow. During the past ten years of Football League matches in England, the total number of paying spectators was 283,719,725, an average of over 28 million per season. That is in England alone. These figures do not include Cup Ties and Cup Finals, which are usually well patronised, as your Lordships who have tried to obtain a Cup Final ticket at the proper price will know only too well.

The most important matter which is at the foundation of the implementation of this Bill is, as your Lordships have heard, the question of finance. As I have said, the clubs will be only too willing to carry out necessary recommendations imposed by the licensing authorities, but most of them do not have the money to do so. Out of the 92 professional Footbal League Clubs in England there are only 8, or perhaps 10, clubs which make a profit. The remainder struggle along with schemes to raise money outside the admission monies, and in many cases the directors of these clubs put their hands into their own pockets, or guarantee overdrafts, to keep their clubs going. In Scotland, the position is even worse, with smaller gates; and most of the teams there exist by transferring their players to other larger clubs.

This brings me to the question of transfer fees, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, referred. I have heard many arguments about the huge sums which change hands when the registration of a player is made to another club. If I did not know football as I know it I would have thought there was a lot of money in it. But it should not be forgotten that the money—and I am chairman of a club which has paid great transfer fees—goes to another smaller club and enables that smaller club to continue in business. It does not go outside of football. It should be borne in mind that the reason my club paid big fees was to avoid paying tax at the end of the season. I would rather have a football player than a slip of paper from the Inland Revenue. Without that system, and without clubs' organising fundraising schemes, there is no doubt whatsoever that many clubs would have to close down—make no mistake about it, my Lords!

It is important that every endeavour should be made to keep all clubs in existence; and, with all due respect to rugby football and cricket, it cannot be denied that "soccer", as it is sometimes known, is our national sport. Apart from the many millions who watch it on television, it attracts the greatest number of spectators to the sports grounds throughout the country. It may be of interest for your Lordships to know that the estimated number of people who watch "Match of the Day" on Saturday nights is 10 million. That gives your Lordships some idea of the importance of this game.

Many football clubs are the lifeblood of a town. Look what happened to Hereford United when they gained admission to the Football League two years ago. It created great interest and enthusiasm in that part of the country and still does. I should imagine that there were many people throughout the world who did not know where Sunderland was until that team won the F.A. Cup last May—and as a result the production in factories, shipyards and coalmines in that area went up by leaps and bounds.

The Government in 1966 set up a special committee under the chairmanship of Norman Chester the Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, to report on football, and among many of their recommendations that committee suggested that there should be a similar levy to that which applies to racecourses and which I understand brings into racing a figure of some £7 million a year. When you realise—and this also might be interesting to the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon—that the Government take out from football a sum of nearly £60 million a year by way of a betting tax, plus the additional burden of value added tax, and do not put one single penny into our national game, it makes one wonder just how we in football are going to implement the new legislation without some share of that money. My Lords, I hope that what I have said will be brought to the attention of the Secretary of State and that perhaps in the Committee stage of the Bill more information can be given to us to give football some hope for its future and its future existence.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I think we can all give a general welcome to this Bill. It is a reasonably modest and uncomplicated measure because the problem, although a most important one, is of limited dimensions. I was extremely glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, raised the question of young people and the dangers that they may be in when they go to football matches. Indeed. I have heard many parents going around asking advice as to whether they can let their child go to a football match in safety. Yet 50 years ago in Manchester we had solved this problem. It was a much rougher age, and in those days Manchester City played on a small ground in Hyde Road, in an industrial area. There was a specially reserved boys' corner where nobody over the age of 14 was allowed to penetrate, and our parents knew that we could go to the match in safety and that the only danger in which we might be would be from hearing some rather coarse language and seeing an occasional piece of gross behaviour. I believe that there are solutions of this kind and that they should be put forward when the municipalities give their advice to the football clubs.

I should have thought there was a case for developing the family visit to the football match, perhaps having special enclosures where families might go together and where no single men would be admitted. The only place I have seen where due regard is paid to the family and where an attempt is made to attract the family is at Goodwood on, I think it is called, the Trundle, which is on top of a hillside where there is the most remarkable provision. It seems to me that a great deal of the future of football lies in providing more comfortable and civilised amenities. I was talking to an American at luncheon and he told me that he thinks the reason why there is so little violence, so little hooliganism, in the area of an American sports ground in a very violent country is the fact that seats are provided for everybody. So I look forward to this development of the family witnessing sport together and provision being made by the football clubs for it. This could be done on a much bigger scale if football decided to have its close season during the three worst months of the year instead of during the three best months. In this country I do not think it is ever too hot to play football, but it is often too cold to watch it.

I am less enthusiastic than my noble friend about Government grants. I would gladly accept them if they were to be offered, but I felt that when the Football League was asking the other day for a £1 million subsidy it was knocking on the wrong door, in the wrong week, and probably in the wrong year. The problem is what is going to be done to help the football clubs? I can think of three ways: one is a communal effort by which money is raised locally for the safety and development of the ground. I should not have thought that that was impossible: some kind of voluntary effort could be made. Then I should have thought that those people who sponsored competitions for football might like to sponsor safety. They might like to sponsor a particular stand or a section of a stand. Thirdly, since our football clubs are so much a part of the community I wonder whether the municipalities could not be given powers to lend money to a football club to carry out the improvements which a particular municipality itself has required under the Act. I do not think it is a question of giving them interest-free loans, or even low-interest loans, which are only another way of giving a subsidy. I think that the clubs could take on a loan if it was understood that the amortisation of that loan was to be over a sufficiently lengthy period and there were to be waivers during bad seasons.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to welcome the Bill and say how good it was to hear the weighty expertise of my noble friend Lord Westwood who clearly has enriched the debate. I should also like to congratulate the Government on the samewhat lightning speed with which they have acted on the recommendations of Lord Wheatley's Report. Whether it is the influence of a young dynamic Minister in the guise of my noble friend or whether it is on the part of active footballers in the Home Office, or whether it is because Wheatley was so comprehensive and thorough I do not know, but with deference to my noble friend I suspect it was the latter reason.

My Lords, there are two aspects on which I should like to touch: the first is the non-statutory technical code and the second is the reaction of the football authorities to which the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, made particular reference, and the state of football finance. On the technical code, the House will recall that over half of Wheatley's Report was devoted to the drawing up of a code of standards. It was indeed a pioneering code by the Wheatley sub-committee and clearly acted as a catalyst to this Bill. I was glad to hear from my noble friend that. since the Wheatley Report consultations have been going on between the Home Office and the football authorities and now we have published the code to be adopted.

There are two questions which I should like to ask my noble friend on this code. May I say that I very much welcome it as a non-statutory code, but first, may I ask whether the football authorities agreed to this code or whether there was some air of disagreement which in the end the Home Office had to overcome? Secondly, now that we have a code of standards, is it known just how many of the 44 clubs that will initially come under the umbrella of the Bill will be seriously affected?

The local authorities' task in administering this Bill is clearly a considerable responsibility and again I would say that I very much welcome the remarks of another noble Lord regarding the flexibility which the Government have given to local authorities. It will be interesting to know—perhaps my noble friend could tell us later—how the local authorities viewed their new responsibilities when they were consulted. Were they happy that they had sufficient qualified staff available? I was going to raise the point of appeals, but I would simply say at this stage that I support both the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and my noble friend Lord Westwood. I hope we can perhaps discuss this matter in the Committee stage.

To turn to football finance and the case for Government assistance, I find myself in sympathy with certain parts of the football authorities' case, but increasingly confused with some of the other parts. Where I feel there is a good case for Government intervention, as other noble Lords have said, is of course with V.A.T. V.A.T. as an entertainment tax has, I believe, no merit at all, and besides adding an unnecessary cost to living standards it may have a savage effect on the scope of entertainment. The second somewhat strange case affecting the football authorities is the rather odd situation of the tax structure of football clubs on capital improvements, which for some reason are not tax deductible. This matter was raised last January to my noble friend, and indeed at that time he said that the reason why the Treasury would not amend this apparent anomaly was the very same reason that it gave at the time of the Laing Committee some twenty years ago. But what my noble friend's brief did not say, or did not extend to at that time, was precisely what the reason was. I hope my noble friend can enlighten us tonight—perhaps, better still, say that the matter is again receiving attention and sympathetic consideration.

I would particularly stress this point as I know cases of Scottish clubs who perhaps part with a player to some rich club down South, and for the reason of this tax anomaly, they cannot gain a tax benefit from this money on certain of the ground improvements.


My Lords, would the noble Earl give way for a moment? I am interested in this matter because I remember that the noble Lord, Lord 13eswick, made a great point about it in the last debate. When the noble Earl speaks about its being an anomaly, is it not the usual practice of taxation that capital additions are not liable as a charge against revenue?


My Lords, if I may intervene, if it is in order, I was given instructions earlier this week. I should not like to state that this is categorically the law, but as a result of the 1972 Budget I am given to understand that football clubs are now, subsequent to the passage of the 1972 Finance Act, allowed to deduct in one year expenditure on ground improvements and I think probably this would cover crowd safety and improvements to safety in stadia. This statement is the result of an "off-the-cuff" conversation with a leading tax expert in Scotland, but perhaps I could gain further confirmation of this later from my noble colleague the Minister.


My Lords, I am grateful for both interventions. My noble friend is a qualified chartered accountant, and I think he is perhaps on to the point. But I think I am right in saying that under farm improvements certain capital improvements can be deducted against income on the year.

The remaining part of the case for football's declining finances I find somewhat confusing, for there is I believe a vast untapped natural resource which remains at present unharnessed. I refer particularly, as the noble Viscount. Lord Simon, did, to the football pools' income. It stands at the rate at the moment, I think, of £200 million a year, of which we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, £60 million goes to the Government. What does the other partner get? What do the football authorities get from the football pools promoters? They get. I am told, the amazing sum of £2 million a year—equal, in other words, to 1 per cent. of the gross income. or equal, in other words, to four first dividends offered by some of the pools promoters. For the partner who owns the copyright of what the football pools print, it seems an exceeding poor return and a somewhat amazing deal.

Nobody would dispute that football to-day is very big business, yet what appears to be happening is that, instead of concentrating on some of the natural resources available from football—football pools and broadcasting rights—the football authorities appear bent on a policy of increasing the club fixtures, presumably to swell the income, with the result that players become fatigued, the entertainment value drops, and our international reputation suffers. Lord Wheatley in his Report said this of football finances: The football authorities may have to take a long hard look at their finances and rules to sec whether changes are required to circulate the money in football to the better advantage. If these are sound words, as I believe they are, how much more healthy it would be for football if they could optimise their finances and stand on their own feet, rather than have to come cap in hand to the Government—which I believe would not be healthy for their future.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful for the intervention and powerful information we have received from the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, this afternoon. I believe he made a powerful case for the football clubs and pointed out that all is not quite as healthy as one might believe from reading in the football Press the financial deals that go on. While I intend to devote the main part of my comments to Association Football grounds, we must remember that we are considering safety at sports grounds. It was not only, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, that disasters happened in Roman times and not much attention was paid to safety there. Sport and competitive activities have continued right through 20 centuries, and in the 20th century sport, with the increasing ease of communications, provides several opportunities for huge crowds to gather all over the world with a great deal of ease.

There is also one other interesting aspect which has not yet been raised. It is the psychological aspect, in that when people go to watch or observe sporting activities there is possibly an element of identifying themselves with performers in the arena or on the pitch, as the case may be. Secondly, there is a gentle hint that this is a substitute for warfare. I know that this aspect has been brought out in considerable detail on the Continent, particularly in Italy. I think the psychological aspect is also related to the rather odd feeling of herd instinct. When you join in a large crowd of 40,000 on the terrace at one of the more populated Football League grounds you do not go to behave or experience the same emotions as you would at a symphony concert. You go along to wave banners, probably; to beat drums, blow bugles, sing, chant and shout, and generally, if one can put it delicately, "let off steam", to enjoy yourself—with, one hopes, the minimum of violence. But this does not happen only at Association Football grounds; it happens also, as we have seen during the summer, at various cricket grounds in London. Lords, the Oval, Old Trafford—all experienced the joie de vivre of our West Indian cricketing friends, who did not always obey the implicit rules of cricket games, and often invaded the pitch. But I do not think this was in any way dangerous, and I just wonder whether the time has yet come when we should include cricket grounds in sports safety legislation. At Wimbledon one has similar crowds and possibly similar risks but there the passion is somewhat more suppressed. And I understand that Ascot, Epsom, and Aintree qualify as sports stadia for the purposes of the Bill.


My Lords, they are sports grounds.


My Lords, I stand corrected. Nevertheless, I think the risk there is considerably less, in that people go possibly to watch the horses, although prebably more with the possibility of financial transactions taking place. However, I can clearly remember seeing one exceedingly ugly incident at Newbury one winter's day when large sections of the spectators, and possibly disgruntled punters, made a very sharp demonstration against one of the winning horses, though I understand that order was restored fairly quickly.

Also, one finds large gatherings at Twickenham, Cardiff Arms Park and Murrayfield, which are the three largest Rugby Union international grounds, and these are all covered under Section 1 of the relevant Wheatley Report. But with regard to risks to the public arising from gatherings at sports stadia I think it cannot be denied that the main risk occurs between August and May, during the Association football season, when huge crowds gather around the country, from Newcastle and Carlisle down to Plymouth, and in Scotland from Aberdeen to Dumfries. As I have pointed out, communications are already quite easy and are getting easier arid there are increasing opportunities for these crowds to gather all round the country very quickly. Many supporters feel that it is worth while because they get a great deal of enjoyment in following their team to some, if not all, of the "away" games. Unfortunately, this brings with it a greater or a lesser risk of disorder and even violence in the towns and cities as rivalry and other psychological factors already mentioned build up to a peak on the way to the football stadium. Once the spectators have reached the football stadium, have paid their money and gone through the turnstiles there are fewer opportunities to run riot, to behave in a violent manner and create disturbances; but at the same time I believe that crowd behaviour is the greatest single and identifiable factor in crowd safety at these places. I think my noble friends would agree with me that there is an infinitesimal risk to the public in concert halls and churches and yet, extraordinarily, regulations for such gatherings are far stricter than those for sports grounds, at least until the arrival of the green-backed code that we have seen to-day.

I think at the same time we must congratulate the Government on their keenness to promote safety among spectators and also on the amount of good sense contained in the Bill. A few stadium managers and club secretaries have wondered how the various local authorities will interpret their roles as guardians of public safety, and there seems to be a need for a simple code of practice or handbook so that the owners of a stadium know precisely what are the powers of the police, the fire authorities, the building and public health bodies. Apart from this possible defect the Bill fulfils a desire felt by many people that safety among large crowds at sports gatherings is of the highest importance. The handbook published today goes a long way, if not all the way, to lay down such a code of practice as many people feel is necessary.

It is certainly a paradox that among the Association Football clubs that I have spoken to in the last week—I should think about 20–the cry has been one of absolute despair that not enough spectators come to watch the games and that football in Britain is in doubtful financial health. I am referring to financial health; so far as playing health is concerned I am not really eligible to speak. I think perhaps the international reputation of England may seem to be at a low ebb at the moment, whereas that of Scotland has received a useful boost in recent months. At first sight this would appear to be the case for the huge majority of professional league clubs in Britain, but after several inquiries I have found that the sickness is spreading to the richest and best supported clubs in the land. In many cases professional football cannot really exist in its present form, as we have heard from my noble friend Lord Westwood, on the takings at the turnstiles. Financial support comes in several forms, either from wealthy individuals as directors or from supporters' social clubs and raffles, or from selling players to richer and more successful clubs. When, however, these dozen (approximately) rich and powerful clubs struggle to pay their players and staff, as well as the overheads, we must think that madness has overcome, or is about to overcome, the league clubs in England and in Scotland. But for two reasons I do not necessarily believe this to be true. First, players' talents can vanish overnight. Recently two of the most skilful and able young players in Britain have been suddenly forced out of football at one month's notice because of knee injuries which have struck them down while in their prime. Seen thus, the large salaries paid to players during their relatively short careers do not seem too excessive.

The second reason why I think madness has not yet overtaken football is that there could be an argument that there is too much football and it is too avidly promoted by the news media, so that when success does not grow from week to week, people will not necessarily go to matches. This morning I was speaking to a representative of one club which has recently spent £400,000 on a new stand. I was not absolutely aware of the number of spectators who could be seated in this particular stand, but at present the capacity of this club ground is 62,500, as agreed between the club and the police and the local authority, so that there is the maximum amount of safety for the spectators conducive to reasonable viewing, and also so that the club can maximise its receipts. Of these 62,500 spectators 25,000 can see the games from seats. But, sadly, I think people do not necessarily go to a football stadium just to look at the grass growing or to watch snails racing, and in order to fill up this stadium (or any other stadium) there must be a great deal of success from the playing angle. To achieve this one might be lucky and rear one's own players, or it might be necessary to go out and to buy young and fairly able players; and to achieve this purpose the dozen richest clubs have a fairly intricate system of scouting to seek out either young players or, alternatively, talent in the junior schools football.

In connection with this financial aspect I spoke to one other club in the North of England which over the past three seasons has attracted over 1 million spectators to its home matches, which is an average of about 48,000 persons to each game. They play a minimum of 21 games in the Football League and will probably play three or four more in cup ties, and if they are lucky and successful they probably will play a few games in European competitions which should, one hopes. provide a gate of 48,000 to 50,000 which will provide additional revenue. But this season of 1973–74 has seen a drop in the number of spectators for this one club of approximately 10 per cent. and the club, which must be one of the best supported clubs, not just in England or in Scotland but in the world, last year took over £800,000 at the turnstiles. I think they played about 50 games altogether, including about 30 at their own stadium, and they pointed out somewhat humbly to me that their attendances are falling off by 10 per cent. already and they think they will fall away further because they are not so successful as they would wish to be. As of this morning they are second or third in the Football League table, which is half way through the season. It is in such cases that we can see that the financial position of professional football in Britain is not too healthy. When the top 5 per cent. of the clubs are struggling, there is not a lot of hope for the remaining 95 per cent. Exceptions can be and are found where clubs are not bedevilled by high salaries for the players, and where additional sources of income can be found to be fruitful Thirdly, professional football is not always healthy in financial terms, and the majority of clubs are not able to afford huge sums for ground improvements even for the minimum safety requirements as laid down in the Bill.

I foresee difficulties in granting special licences for sports grounds when, as we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, a First Division football club plays a Cup match in a small town, and the main ground facilities are normally adequate for a crowd of, say, 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 spectators. When a visiting club brings 10,000 spectators by train, bus, car, cycle, or even aeroplane, there is a huge risk that the stairways, gates, turnstiles, terraces and peripheral installations around the ground may not be sufficient to cope with some extraordinary or violent behaviour. This risk hangs over these smaller clubs. Should an accident occur, as at Ibrox in 1971, due to crowd behaviour, there would be a public outcry—and rightly so. We and our colleagues in another place could be seen to have failed the public in that we failed to provide adequate steps for their protection at such events. I think also there would be displeasure in the Government when taxpayers' money was demanded for such ground improvements, especially when sports stadia are in general used for only about three or possibly six hours during the week, and when the stadium is normally less than half full, or two-thirds full during those six hours. Paragraph 60 of the Wheatley Report refers to this problem of trying to finance professional football on its present scale from half-full stadia. There can be no doubt that the main risk to crowd safety is found among the best supported clubs in England and Scotland.

Sir Maurice Lang in his admirable Report in 1969 Crowd Behaviour believed that one major factor which aids good behaviour and crowd control is the provision of maximum possible seating accommodation. From a personal angle I would agree, since it is very difficult to indulge in violent conduct or to get involved in a fight when there is a risk of detection and consequent ejection from the ground, and where there is also the strong possibility of painfully barked shins on the steps or seat frames. I have been looking at paragraph 65 of the Wheatley Report which refers to the differences in drinking habits around the country. I must add that these drinking habits cause a certain amount of the trouble that one hears about and reads about in the Press. It was the behaviour of the crowd, and not the stadium, which caused the disaster at Ibrox in 1971, and that at Lima in 1964, which was one of the most serious disasters of modern times. At the same time, however, the stadia here in Britain must not provide unsafe facilities at any time. Therefore, I am happy to support the Bill as it stands.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill and the Report which preceded it, indeed the events which formed its background, in my judgment are a reflection of our national life. The weaknesses are the failure to recognise the problem or to act until too late, the triumphant shutting of the stable door after the horse has escaped. Let us consider the facts. At Ibrox there was a terrible disaster. The Secretary of State, then I think Mr. Maudling, set up a committee under the chairmanship of a distinguished judge. Its terms of reference were: To make an independent appraisal of the effectiveness of existing arrangements for crowd safety at sports grounds in Great Britain, and of the improvements which could be brought about within the present framework of the law: and to consider the nature of any alterations in the law which appear to be needed. They asked a lawyer to do the job. This is a lawyer's report. I have nothing but praise for Lord Wheatley. Nothing I say has any reflection on him. But Ibrox was inevitable.

Let us just consider the investigations which have been currently made. May I add that I have not talked to the chairman of any professional football club in the last week. I have not been to any of the associations. I did my homework as long ago as last May. When the Report came out in May, I was staggered by it. I did some homework and put it on one side until this morning. Let us consider what happened. The Football Association out of its own resources engaged a firm of construction engineers to test the strength of crash barriers at a number of Football League grounds. The barriers were tested by modes agreed with the Home Office on the basis of the Wheatley recommendations. It is no secret that many of the barriers erected at great cost are not reaching the required standard. One fairly successful Third Division club spent £20.000 on the replacement of a number of barriers, only to find on testing that they were below the standards specified in the Wheatley Report. In other words, what happened at Ibrox is most certainly going to happen again. The only reason I speak tonight is to destroy in advance the alibis of the Government when they are put forward.

My Lords, what, among other things, was the first thing that Lord Wheatley did? He went to the Treasury, the master of our destinies, and the Treasury told him something rather different from what the Minister said this afternoon. The Minister, be it noted, said in the course of his speech that Lord Wheatley had recommended that there should be no charge on public funds. Let us read from Lord Wheatley's Report, paragraph 60: The Government's general policy, as brought to my notice by the Treasury, is that in the private sector occupiers of premises should take whatever measures are necessary for the safety of their customers while they are on the premises and should finance such measures themselves. As a principle that is wholeheartedly supported by those below the gangway. This is in complete conformity with the laissez-faire administration of the 19th century. The responsibility for the safety of the crowds on the ground is the responsibility of the clubs. So Lord Wheatley proceeded to write single-handed, in his spare time, this admirable Report which the Government have adopted. But noble Lords will note the dichotomy in the formulation of the policy. It is produced by the Home Office; a Home Office Minister moves the Second Reading. I have every sympathy with him. Nothing I say is critical of him. I am also sympathetic to his master, the Home Secretary, because the previous Administration, which I knew only too well, suffered from exactly the same complaint.

I ask noble Lords to contemplate how the betting laws operate. They were generated from the thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who was conscious of two grave social problems in this country. The Conservative Government in the 1959 Election said they would legislate to deal with street offences and betting. Why? Because they were interested in football? Not at all. They were interested in a grave social problem, which is the responsibility of the Home Office. Part of the Home Office mandate happens to be safety, so the Home Office handle it. But who dictates the policy? The Treasury. The Treasury says, "Not a farthing! They have got to find it themselves". Of course the Treasury are responsible for the impoverishment of football. Let me give the figures. Lord Westwood said the Treasury took £62 million in 1971–72. but the anticipated figure for this year is £72 millions. The football pools have jumped from a turnover of £184 million in 1971–72 to a Treasury estimate of £215 million in the current year. In the name of God, how can the Treasury argue that the football clubs must pay the bill, when they put their maw in the pockets of the public through the means of the game of football to the extent of £72 million? But that again is not all the story. The largest fortune owned by any British subject, so it is reported, is a fortune of no less than £600 million, which has been earned, if that is the right word, by a gentleman who has engaged in the running of football pools since their inception.

It is only justice of course, quite apart from the question of public policy, that the Government should recognise the nature of the problem, and the problem again is a social problem. If you treat people badly, if you treat them like pigs, they will behave like pigs. A great deal of the trouble on football grounds is because the amenities on football grounds are, like the philosophy of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, of the 19th century. Nothing has been done about it because they have no margin to play with. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, that there are not a dozen football clubs in this country who are really viable in the strict sense of the word: unless they happen to find a bright lad and can "flog" him, they will be in dire trouble. Here again the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, wanted to take a slice out of the transfer fees without realising that this is money that goes round and round and without it he would be applying a tourniquet.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. Of course I did not suggest that I wanted a slice of the transfer fee. What I suggested was that the poorer clubs wanted a slice.


My Lords, the impression the noble Viscount gave me, to be perfectly frank—and I do not want to be impolite—is that he did not know much about it. He was speaking of Lord Garnsworthy and he was a little short of suggestions as to how the money should be obtained, and I got the clearest impression from the noble Viscount that he thought the football clubs in some way had sonic specific control over this money and could take a slice of it. Furthermore, I also got the impression that he thought the football clubs could take a slice out of the winnings on football pools, and I want to hasten to assure him that they cannot. Here is something I think the Home Office might look at, because they put a limit on bingo; why not a limit on football pools?


My Lords, if I may intervene, I just wonder, with all due respect. when the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, last went to a football match, either sitting in the scats or standing on the terrace, because I do not think he is being fair to the vast majority of the football league clubs in suggesting that they treat people, I think he said like pigs, and that then people will behave like pigs. I do not necessarily think this follows. Possibly he could correct me if I am mistaken.


My Lords, I must apologise for the vigour of my expression. I was brought up in the barrack room and I call a dry scrubber a dry scrubber, and I am always prepared to use it. The point is that the amenities on many of these football grounds are a long way short of what I think football clubs ought to be, as social centres. The gates should not close after the match on Saturday; they should be centres to which the young can go because it is on that ground that their heroes live. The premises should be constructed in such a way, as we have tried to do with some of the racecourses, that they could become meeting places. I apologise to your Lordships' House for using the expression "pigs". What I really mean to say and what I am trying to say is that the subject needs a great deal of clear thought, it needs some vigour, it certainly needs legislative backing, and at the end of the day it needs imagination in the Treasury. And, of course, there is no imagination in the Treasury, because the Treasury are not paid and do not exist to use their imaginaition on social problems. It is the job of the Home Office, but they cannot operate here because in fact they operate in watertight compartments.

The case I am making is that there is a social problem of great magnitude. It is no accident that we are losing football matches of international calibre. We are one of the few countries in Europe that have not got a national training centre. Other countries take their young talent and train them. There is one simple reason, and this I am sure would appeal to noble Lords opposite: that it is good for trade. This is tied up with international prestige. They do not care tuppence about Mr. Heath or Sir Alec Douglas-Home but they know the Charlton brothers. If we lose and get our backsides kicked in Poland this is known throughout the world, and Britain is further down the slope. Prowess in international sport as it is played to-day is a question of resources, and not only resources, because, as I say, it needs imagination, and this is singularly lacking. We produce this piffling, piddley Bill. It is over two years since the last event. I want to say that there is going to be another.

Now I want to turn to another field to illustrate the nature of the problem, and I go back to my love of racing. I questioned whether racing is covered, and it clearly is in the interpretation, except for a couple of words that worried me; it talks about "competitive sport", and I regret to say that not all racing in my experience is always competitive. Sometimes I have thought the favourite has been more co-operative than it need be. But these are technical considerations. Consider the facts. The legislation introduced in 1928 imposed a duty on the Racecourse Betting Control Board to "approve" racecourses. This provision was never used. When the new legislation came in during the Butler régime they did not know what to do with it, because the Racecourse Betting Control Board was got rid of. Quite rightly, they would not give it to the Jockey Club, so they gave it to the Tote. They would not use it.

When the new legislation was introduced in 1972 it was brought back to the Horserace Betting Levy Board, and I wanted to know what it meant. It seemed to me the word "approval" meant you go and look at all its aspects, including the aspect of safety. I was advised, "Oh no, you cannot do that. If you try to do that and impose certain conditions you will certainly get challenged in the courts. As nothing has ever been done, if you do something now you will be denying the will of Parliament, because if Parliament wanted you to do it they would say so." I tell the Minister it is only a question of time before a major accident happens on a racecourse. Let me tell him why. This is nothing to do with original sin, nothing to do with the decline of facilities; it is simply the advance of technology. Go to any popular meeting at any racecourse. Helicopters and aeroplanes are landing. At Newbury the prevalent wind is from the South-West, and the planes coming down are going straight towards the stand. Sooner or later somebody is going to cut out. Nobody is taking any decisions as to safety requirements regarding the landing of aircraft, including helicopters, on open spaces in connection with sport.

I do not want to paint a horrifying picture. You cannot ask a lawyer, on the morrow of a great disaster, to write a report, and then sit on it for over a year and then produce this Bill and think that you have got away with it, because in the kind of world in which we live the facts are too strong. This is exactly what is wrong with this country: we will not define a problem until we are forced to. We then define it and find a remedy which is convenient rather than one that fits the facts. If the facts are uncomfortable, we sweep them under the carpet.

So far as this Bill is concerned, my noble friends think that they can amend it. I say to them, "Don't waste your time". This Bill is unamendable in terms of improving it. What is needed is for the noble Viscount to go back to the Home Secretary and get a Cabinet decision to look at sport and the needs of sport, including its financial requirements, right across the board. It is only right and just that at least some part of the large sums of money that they have extracted by way of taxation from sports like football should go back again. I am not arguing for hypothecation or taxation in order to link it with football, but football ought to be supported through a levy imposed upon the football pool promoters, and some of that £600 million ought to be grabbed back to improve football and the facilities associated with football, to facilitate the building up slowly of training facilities right across the board for all our young people, and at the same time to turn football grounds into what they ought to be—seven days a week social centres which are a source of health and strength to the people of Britain.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, I am not, I am afraid, going to take this Bill back to my right honourable friends and noble friends in the Cabinet in order that it should be expanded into a measure which puts right all the known ills in every field of sport, not only in Britain but in the rest of the world, and to cure all the evils that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, knows about in the betting and racing field, and generally to cover all the matters he raised in a very interesting speech. Nevertheless, on one point he will find that we are close to him on his basic philosophy about the way in which the Government ought to go in the encouragement of sport. I am grateful to him for putting it in a wider context, but, as he said, this is a Home Office Bill, and its short Title is concerned with the Safety of Sports Grounds. I am bound to say that I do not think we had envisaged the difficulties about helicopters and aeroplanes flying into the stands, and this point probably requires some further consultation than I had, envisaged when I was talking to him at an earlier intervention about discussing these things with racecourse authorities. I do not see any reason why it should not be the subject of consultation with those who allow aircraft to land on racecourses. I would rather be a little more modest, and I do not think that he will be surprised if I am.

One message that came from the noble Lord's speech was that at any rate we were right to take the problem of safety seriously. This was a most welcome theme which ran through the debate, started by the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, who told us, incidentally, that the local authority associations to whom he had talked also welcomed what we were doing. That also answers my noble friend Lord Kinnoull on that subject. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, welcomed it and, most importantly, both the providers of football, in the person of my noble friend Lord Westwood, and, if I may put it this way, "our man on the terraces", in the person of my noble friend Lord Lyell, also welcomed what we were doing. There has been a fairly general welcome for the sort of things that the Bill sets out to do. This is hardly surprising in view of what was said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, as the culmination of a great deal of previous research.

May I briefly deal with one or two of Lord. Garnsworthy's points, although doubtless we may have to come back to some of them. He said, "Why not the stadia under 10,000 capacity?" We feel that it is not necessary to introduce the elaborate scale of precautions at small grounds which, as various noble Lords said, attract fairly small crowds on normal occasions when we have—and this is the point about Clause 9–the powers (and they would be last resort powers) under which one would expect voluntary agreement to be reached between the local authority and the club concerned. We have these reserve powers to put a limit, or to go to the magistrates to prevent the occasion occurring when a very big crowd is coming to a ground as a result of a cup tie and the club have not taken adequate precautions. This is partly the point that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was interested in when he was talking not so much about special safety certificates but about the Clause 9 side. We envisage that this power would be used extraordinarily seldom, but it is there in reserve to encourage any club outside the designation system, and outside the ordinary certification system, to make sure that it has sensible precautions, enough stewards, special numbers of police, all-ticket matches, or something of that sort when a very big crowd is occasionally to be expected. I will come back in a minute to the subject of special certificates.

The fees that the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, was talking about are covered in much the way that he wishes. If he will look at Clause 12(5) he will find that the regulations specifying the fees do, or may, in fact authorise local authorities, to determine the amount subject to such limits or in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by regulations". This means giving them a very great deal of flexibility. I do not think he will find that they are encumbered with great rigidity when it comes to setting the scale of fees under these regulations. He also asked about the way we worked out the cost for local authorities and staff. It is an estimate, as these things must be, but it is based on the time of professional staff spent on inspections, consultations and preparations of the requirement certificates, plus an element for administrative costs. It is not actually 16 people; it is the work of 16 people spread over all the local authorities who would be concerned. I agree that it may not be immensely accurate, but it is the best estimate we can make from the amount of knowledge that already exists on this particular subject.

The noble Lord asked about the local authority that ought to be the certifying body. I appreciate the view of the Association of Municipal Corporations, but we wish—and I think this was a point that my noble friend Lord Westwood mentioned—to keep a fairly steady standard without too much variation in the level of safety that is achieved. The more districts and councils involved, the more one is liable to have variations from one part of the country to another. We can avoid this by using the bigger authorities, and that is the decision we have made. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord appreciates, the building authorities, the district councils or the London Boroughs (except in Central London), will be consulted on their element and their building regulations side, so that they will be in on the whole question of what should be the right standards. We feel that this is probably the right balance.

The noble Lord mentioned the question of taking it away from a voluntary and flexible basis, with a code in a green book laying down a certain minima. Of course, as I said in my opening speech, this can be done if it transpires that there are certain minima which are of universal application. But I noted that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, on the other hand, encouraged us to continue to scrutinise and revise this code, and certainly I would not have thought that this was the moment to start embodying it in some sort of Statutory Instrument. The moment may conic when some of it will go in, but I think we need to learn as we go along for the present, and try to see, in the light of experience, whether we have got it right.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was perhaps a little suspicious about the certificates and the special safety certificates. I do not think there is any great mystery about this. The sort of thing one envisages happening is that a local authority will give a certificate for a ground and say that in ordinary conditions the maximum number of people shall be, let us say, 20,000. Now that is a term, and if the club let in more than 20,000 they commit a criminal offence. But suppose the club know very well that in about a month's time or three weeks' time there is going to be a very big match and that there will be one of the influxes of supporters about which my noble friend Lord Lyell was speaking for which they will require special dispensation. Very well; in such circumstances they go to the local authority and explain the situation, and the local authority says, "Yes, in these circumstances you may, but you will have to have extra stewards; you will have to have extra facilities of one sort or another; you will have to have extra communications". And it may be that other arrangements will have to be made. These are laid down in the special safety certificate; the whole thing is lawful; it is all agreed, and in nine cases out of ten, if not more, I should have thought that this was a sensible way to deal with a practical problem.

The noble Viscount may not know it, but in fact there are occasions when West Ham Football Stadium is used other than for meetings of dockers. There are, for instance, evangelistic rallies; and on those occasions people do go on to what is normally the playing area, and I think the noble Viscount will recognise that if you normally have a barrier between the playing area and the spectators which prevents the one getting at the other, and if you are then allowing spectators on to the pitch, you require special arrangements for entrances and exits and other crowd control facilities which would be dealt with by way of a special certificate. So I think it is therefore quite a sensible measure to introduce for unusual activities of that sort as well.

In a way, the noble Viscount has really raised the question when he discussed appeals, to which my noble friend Lord Westwood and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull also referred. They were in favour, I think, of the Wheatley provision for a special tribunal, but the sort of appeal that we anticipate would normally take place or be exactly the one envisaged by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon; and it might happen in a very short space of time and have to be dealt with very quickly. It would probably be a purely technical matter; and therefore to do it by way of a hearing in front of a person appointed by my right honourable friend could be a very rapid and expeditious way to get over a comparatively minor problem. What one must remember is that there is also a provision in Clause 6(9) for a much more formal inquiry of a much wider nature, which I suppose, if a large issue of principle were to arise, would come to very much the same sort of thing as the sort of tribunal the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, was thinking about. I appreciate that there is more than one point of view on this subject but we think that probably, with those two provisions read together, under the provisions of the Bill as they are we can cope with most of the situations which are likely to arise.

The question of hooliganism was touched upon, though perhaps not emphasised so much on this occasion as it was when we last debated this subject. The noble Viscount mentioned it, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and my noble friend Lord Lyell, in his survey of what goes on at football matches. It is for the clubs themselves to decide whether family enclosures, as the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, suggested, might be provided. The subject of seats has of course been mentioned in this connection before, and I know the arguments about this matter. But what I think is important is that if one looks at the code one sees that there are all sorts of provisions in it which will help to combat hooliganism, notably I think in Part 7, dealing with the terraces.

As I understand the matter—and I cannot claim the personal knowledge that some noble Lords have—the sort of thing that tends to happen is that a large body of people sway to and fro and push other spectators aside, forwards or backwards. If the, body of spectators are split up by more crush barriers into smaller groups, this sort of mass swaying will be very much less easy to achieve. At the same time, if there are more gangways it is much easier for the police or stewards to gain access to people who are causing trouble. Therefore, indirectly the actual physical layout of the ground can be immensely effective in combating hooliganism and in preventing it from causing danger to people who are the victims of it. So I think the code is a direct help towards this, and I can tell my noble friend Lord Kinnoull that the code is indeed agreed with the football authorities. I think, therefore, I am left with the question, which I knew was going to be the most difficult one, of the finances. My Lords, there is, I am afraid, no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, got the Government's attitude right. I am afraid that, whether the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, likes it or not, we do not see any reason to depart from the very well established principle that people who put the public at risk in the course of their commercial enterprises must bear the necessary cost of removing those risks. This is a very general principle; there have been many recent examples of it, not least in the Fire Precautions Act, which was passed two years ago; and we do not wish on this occasion to depart from that. But let me tell noble Lords a little more about the arguments on this.

In the first place, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wheatley, himself attempted to achieve, we are phasing the introduction of the requirements under this Bill, and we have been told (and who am I to disagree with this?) that there has been a good deal of compliance certainly by the more senior clubs with the voluntary standards which the Football Association first introduced in 1948. I accept the point that some of the crush barriers may not be up to standard but if, broadly speaking, this voluntary code has been implemented by the major clubs then I cannot see that they are likely to have anything very much to fear from the extra requirements placed upon them under this Bill. If, on the other hand, the voluntary code has not been adhered to, then I am afraid I have very little sympathy with those clubs which belong to an association which for something in the region of 25 years has been broadcasting the existence of and the requirement to comply with the code but have done nothing about it. I think it is high time that they were brought up to standard. It is most likely, I would have thought, that the latter proposition is not true, and that the responsible clubs, the ones that will be first brought in under this control, will have done most of the work already and will not find it a major imposition.


My Lords, I should like to get this quite clear. Forgetting for the moment the clubs which are well-to-do, is the noble Viscount suggesting that if clubs clearly cannot meet what is expected of them under this code of practice he is prepared to see those sporting organisations go out of business without any further thought at all as to how they might be helped financially to meet the situation?


My Lords, no—because the noble Lord has not let me finish this part of my speech. There are certain areas where help may come. Let us just look at the question of taxation. I stand to be corrected on agriculture because in my experience agriculture is always the exception to everything; but while it is normally the case that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, suggested, capital improvements do not attract reductions from corporation tax, there are other expenditures which get help from taxation under the present law. I do not know whether there is anything special about the 1972 Finance Act—I shall find out from my noble friend—but some items count as plant and machinery and 100 per cent. of the expenditure incurred on them is allowed for tax purposes; for example, such items as fire-fighting equipment, floodlighting, removable seating, communications equipment, counting equipment, if it is movable, and crush barriers, if they are movable. Some of them are extremely relevant for the purposes of the code. There are also certain replacement items. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said that crush barriers have been found to be inadequate. I do not know the detailed procedure, but if there is no element of improvement involved, I understand that the cost of crush barrier replacements would be treated as revenue expenditure and allowable for deduction from corporation tax. There are areas where the Revenue are not unreasonable about matters such as this and the law as it stands will offer help. It must be an improvement under the code.


My Lords, the noble Viscount looked at me severely. I had visions of myself with a begging bowl on behalf of the football clubs. That is not my rúle. I plead not for charity but for justice. Will the noble Viscount be good enough to go back to his right honourable friend to discuss the possibility of a levy on the football pool promoters. This will help football as a whole. Perhaps in the interim they might transfer to this cause the subscriptions they already make to the Conservative Party.


My Lords, I think that that is one of the most attractive propositions that I could possibly take to my right honourable friend. It is one that we have considered at great length and, unfortunately, have decided to reject. As the point has not been raised by noble Lords, apart from in that intervention, may I be forgiven for not rehearsing all the arguments?

The most important aspect of this question is what the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said about the way in which the Government ought to help sport. He is right. Our rúle is to attempt to help people participate in sport rather than to watch it. There are already three football stadiums where plans are in progress to bring in people to participate when the ground is not being used for football matches. There are various schemes and I shall not go into them in detail. This is a job for the Department of the Environment, who, through the Sports Councils, are actively doing what the noble Lord suggested should be done; so the Government's policy is in line with what he is telling us it ought to be. Apart from that Government help, I am afraid that we must look inside the football world.

I am not sufficiently skilled to know whether the money involved in the transfer of players stays inside the football world so that none of it can in any circumstances ever be used for the purposes of improving grounds. Frankly, I am a little sceptical about the impossibility (as it was put) of taking any money to pay for safety requirements. That must be up to the clubs. The latest situation on the agreement between the Football League and the football pools promoters is, as noble Lords have said, that £2 million is this year to be paid to the League for their fixture list. One judges this, as my noble friend Lord Kinnoull suggested, against the total turnover of the pools. It was established by Mr. Justice Upjohn, as he then was, that there is a copywrite in the League's fixture list. If the League succeed in extracting only £2 million for that copy-write, it is a matter for the League. I do not think that it means that the Government must interfere with what is a private contractual arrangement between two parts of this industry.

I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Westwood that the Government is taking £72 million—which is the prospect for this year—out of football. It is not taking anything of the kind out of football. This is a betting levy and the money is taken as part of a general betting levy revenue collection and taken out of football particularly as one of a number of betting levies on which tax is collected. Those noble Lords who think that in view of the turnover of the football pools there may be room for negotiation between the League and the football pools promoters may be on to something. I have to tell the House that I shall have to be persuaded by arguments a great deal more cogent than have been presented so far that Government money should be put into this matter of safety. I must have more details to take back to my right honourable friends before any decision of that sort can be made. We are obviously going to have a number of detailed points to discuss in Committee.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount leaves the matter of finance, will he undertake to take back to his right honourable friend the point that before you can get tax allowances you must have made a profit? In practice, the clubs that need assistance are those that provide splendid entertainment but make no profits. They will therefore get no such tax allowances.


My Lords, I understand that; but, as I understand it also, the money collected by the League from the pools, for instance, is not at that moment allocated to different clubs. The League can do with it what they wish.


My Lords, may I correct my noble friend. The League does not do what it wishes with the money. It divides it equally among the 92 clubs during the season. It does not keep it.


My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend. That is precisely the sort of fact that he will know and I shall not. It is divided equally and a share will go even to the most lowly club, the club doing worst financially.

My Lords, I was simply going to say, in conclusion, that we can revert to many of these subjects in Committee and in subsequent stages, but that I think we have received a welcome for the Bill from all sides of the House and from knowledgeable noble Lords. I am grateful for than. I hope that the House will now give the Bill a Second Reading and that we can look forward to even more interesting discussions later on.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.