HL Deb 03 June 1981 vol 420 cc1224-6

2.57 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take steps to prevent a recurrence of the disturbances which took place among British supporters during the football match between England and Switzerland in Basle on 30th May.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, we must be realistic about what the Government can do to control the actions of their citizens when they are abroad. Where football supporters are concerned I must emphasise that the responsibility lies with the football authorities and not with Government to take precautions necessary to ensure that the disgraceful scenes witnessed at the Switzerland v. England match are not repeated.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for his reply, and understanding the feelings of frustration that lie behind it, may I ask whether he would agree that this entire House would wish to express its feelings of repugnance and shame at the behaviour of some of our citizens at football matches abroad?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, while I cannot speak for the entire House, I assure the noble Baroness that of course the Government agree with every word she has said. In fact on Monday my honourable friend the Minister for Sport urged the international governing bodies of football to reconsider their present arrangement for ticket allocation and crowd segregation at these matches. He also immediately condemned, on behalf of the Government, the behaviour of a small minority of English football supporters who at Basle brought such disgrace to English football and to the good reputation of our country.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, is it not unfortunate that the excellent standards at Wrexham in the Wales and Soviet Union match were not carried out in Basle? Would it not be a good idea to export a few Welshmen on these occasions?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, while speaking entirely as a Cockney, may I remind the noble and learned Lord that a Scottish match in London also went off very well.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, that being so, would it not be much more appropriate in the Question itself to refer to English supporters rather than British supporters?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will know that my honourable friend the Minister is of course a fellow countryman of his.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that a vast improvement in the general conduct of the Scotland-England match in London a fortnight ago was due to the better control of the sale of alcohol and the banning of alcohol on trains, something for which this House ought to take credit considering how this was pressed during the Committee stage of a Bill about a year ago?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I of course agree with my noble friend. I should also like to remind him that there has been action over the past years by the transport authorities, police, football authorities, and clubs and the Government against football hooliganism, which is now taking its toll.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, should a number of these football hooligans find themselves in jail in some of these countries for periods rather longer than they would expect to receive under similar circumstances in this country, will the noble Earl and his friends just please smile quietly and not assist them?

The Earl of Avon

I should not like to answer that hypothetical question at the moment, my Lords.

Lord Kinnaird

My Lords, apart from things getting out of hand in foreign cities, may I ask the Minister to say when the Home Secretary will see fit to make our own cities safer to live in? If he cannot, will he tell us what the Government intend to do about the increasingly dangerous situation?

The Earl of Avon

I suggest that my noble friend's question goes rather wide of the mark, my Lords. If he wishes to table it in his own name, I am sure my noble friend from the Home Office will be pleased to answer it.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, while there will be universal agreement with the condemnation of the so-called football supporters, may I ask the Minister if any steps are being taken to have firm consultations with the Football Association about the matter?

The Earl of Avon

Yes indeed, my Lords; my honourable friend the Minister for Sport has asked for a report directly the secretary of the Football Association returns.