HL Deb 24 July 1985 vol 466 cc1218-31

4.2 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement about the interim report of the Popplewell Inquiry which is now being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a Statement. The Government have today published the interim report of the inquiry into safety and control at sports grounds under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Popplewell, established following the tragic fire at Bradford City football ground and the events at Birmingham City on 11th May. My right honurable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are both deeply grateful for the speedy, clear and thorough way in which the chairman and his two assessors have tackled this difficult and important task.

"The inquiry concludes that the Bradford fire was probably caused by the accidental dropping of a lighted match or cigarette or tobacco on to accumulated rubbish below the stand; that had the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (the 'Green Guide') been complied with, the tragedy would not have occurred and that the not at Birmingham—which the police could not reasonably have foreseen—was caused by spectators bent from the outset on violence. No one reading the report, or who followed the public hearings in Bradford, can doubt that the inquiry has investigated these matters as thoroughly as possible.

"The inquiry makes 32 recommendations, eight of which are provisional. They fall into two groups: those concerned with safety and those concerned with control. I am making available separately a written Statement dealing with each of the recommendations.

"The safety recommendations include a number designed to improve arrangements at sports grounds by, for example, improving evacuation procedures, the training of stewards, the provision of fire-fighting equipment and increasing the scope of safety certificates. In all these cases the Government will be inviting the local authorities, the police and the sports authorities to respond immediately to the spirit of the recommendations. The Government will issue a fresh edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, the 'Green Guide,' in the light of the inquiry's final report. But they will also ask certificating authorities and the police in exercising their powers to take full account of the recommendations for amending the 'Green Guide' before the issue of the new edition of the 'Green Guide'.

"So far as crowd control is concerned, the inquiry has made a number of important recommendations concerning membership cards and closed circuit television, the creation of new criminal offences relating to smoke bombs and the throwing of missiles and the need for a more suitable police radio.

"On membership cards, the inquiry recommends that urgent consideration be given by football clubs in England and Wales to introducing a membership system so as to exclude visiting fans. Also recommended is that closed circuit television be introduced at league football grounds. The Government strongly support the television recommendation and have also already made clear their support for a scheme of membership cards to help exclude troublemakers. A Football League working party is looking at the options and I would urge both the league and the Football Association to take heed of the recommendations of the inquiry by seeking jointly to reach positive conclusions at the earliest practicable date.

"It is also proposed that new offences should be created, making criminal the possession of smoke bombs in football grounds and the throwing of missiles. This proposal will be carefully considered for possible inclusion in the public order legislation which the Government hope to bring forward next Session. The Directorate of Telecommunications at the Home Office will also consider, as a matter of urgency, how best to meet the concern expressed about the personal police radios used at Bradford.

"In its provisional conclusions the inquiry indicates that it is minded to recommend changes to the provisions of the Fire Precautions and Safety at Sports Grounds Acts; that the police be given additional powers of search and arrest; and that consideration be given to the creation of a specific offence of chanting obscene or racialist abuse at a sports ground. We shall of course consider with care any recommendations which the inquiry makes on these and other points in the final report.

"I hope it will also be convenient for me to bring the House up to date on matters relating to safety and control since my Statement on 13th May. First, under the Safety at Sports Grounds Act I have designated all the qualifying grounds of clubs in Divisions 3 and 4 in the Football League in England and Wales, as well as in Divisions 1 and 2 of the Rugby League. The necessary orders were laid on 19th July and come into force on 9th August. From the latter date clubs will be required to apply for safety certificates before admitting any spectators. I have made it clear to the certifying authorities that the expectation is that they will work swiftly, normally by means of issuing interim certificates. In some cases the best way of providing immediate protection—while also reducing the costs of implementation—may well be to restrict attendance ceilings in grounds or parts of grounds.

"My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has decided for his part not to proceed at present by extending designation in Scotland beyond its existing limits. However, he has arranged for all non-designated clubs and all governing bodies in sport in Scotland to conduct an urgent review of ground safety in co-operation with their local fire authorities.

"Secondly, all uncertificated grounds of the Third and Fourth Divisions of the Football League, of the First and Second Divisions of the Scottish Football League and of the First and Second Divisions of the Rugby League have been inspected as a result of the request that I and my right honourable friend made to Chief Fire Officers and Firemasters. In addition, accommodation for spectators at the larger cricket grounds, rugby union grounds, race courses, motor racing tracks, greyhound tracks, tennis clubs and athletics grounds has been inspected.

"Chief Fire Officers and Firemasters have sent copies of their findings to the management of the sports grounds indicating what remedial measures have to be taken. In some cases this will involve the complete closure of a stand until rebuilding or remedial work has been completed: in other cases strict limits are being placed on the number of spectators allowed into the stand. My honourable friend the Minister of Sport will be looking further at the financial implications with the interests concerned in his working group on the financing of safety improvements.

"Managements have responded in a co-operative way and have either set necessary work in hand or are considering how to comply with the requirements. Local authorities and local fire authorities have sufficient statutory powers to ensure that essential fire safety requirements are complied with. These will in no way be affected by the separate proposals directed towards streamlining the present law on fire precautions published yesterday in a consultative document and which I am inviting the inquiry also to consider in the context of their work.

"My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are grateful to Chief Fire Officers and Firemasters for the prompt, efficient and careful manner in which this survey has been carried out. A digest of the reports will be submitted to the inquiry.

"Thirdly, the House will of course be aware of the rapid passage through both Houses of the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Bill. It will be in force by the beginning of the football season.

"Fourthly, steps have also been taken to enhance police effectiveness next season. In England and Wales the Association of Chief Police Officers has introduced a new system for exchanging information about the conduct of fans which should assist in anticipating and preventing trouble. Three of the Home Office photographic vehicles will be available to be deployed at football matches, together with two experimental high-definition tripod-mounted cameras. This is in addition to the £500,000 worth of closed circuit television equipment purchased through funds provided by the Football Trust.

"Fifthly, my honourable friend the Minister for Sport has helped to promote and draw up a Council of Europe Convention on Spectator Violence which was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers yesterday.

"There is no single, simple method of making sports grounds safe and free from violence, but I believe that the steps taken in the last few months, coupled with the implementation of the important recommendations of Mr. Justice Popplewell's inquiry, have already made and will make a significant contribution towards preserving football as a major spectator sport."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, the House will, as usual, be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place.

Mr. Justice Popplewell was appointed to conduct this important inquiry on 13th May, and here is an interim report published today, just over two months later. We on these Benches would like to associate ourselves with the expression of gratitude to the learned judge, to the assessors and to those who assisted him generally in regard to this report, for the speed with which it is before us. Those who have been able to read it will, I think, want to add to those words of gratitude appreciation for the clarity and thoroughness of this interim report. Somewhat plaintively in the introduction Mr. Justice Popplewell says: Even for High Court Judges there are only 24 hours in a day". In the course of this interim report Mr. Justice Popplewell pays tribute to the heroism among all sorts of people at the Bradford tragedy. My first question to the noble Lord the Minister is: has liability been admitted by anyone to compensate the victims, or the families of victims, for what occurred on this tragic day? And if liability has not been admitted, have the Government any plan to pay compensation to cover what may be the urgent needs of some of those involved in this tragedy?

4.15 p.m.

I was a little surprised that one important element of this report was not mentioned in the Statement, although there is an oblique reference to a provisional recommendation that there should be some criminal offence put on to our statute book where abuse and racial remarks and obscenities are uttered at a football match. There is a section on political activities. I ask for the patience of the House, because of the importance of this matter, if I read the two short paragraphs involved. They are paragraphs 5.5 and 5.6 on page 39 of the report: There is a good deal of evidence from responsible witnesses that political activists are involved in troubles at football grounds in England, although it seems not to be a problem in Scotland. To some extent grounds are used for recruiting for these political activists. There were found on the Birmingham ground a number of leaflets belonging to the National Front. One fan—who for obvious reasons shall be nameless—said: 'Quite early on in the game I heard a rumpus behind me in the seats and turned to see two policemen escorting a teenage Pakistani youth from the stand onto the back of the stand. As this was going on I could hear about 50 of the Leeds fans chanting "Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil". They were standing up with a Nazi salute aimed towards the police. I could see that several people near me were wearing Nazi armbands, mainly teenagers, there were a few skin-heads among them. The arm-bands were with a red background, white circle and a black swastika in the middle.' A transit van returning to Leeds after the Birmingham incident was seen to be carrying Leeds supporters, sporting swastika armbands. Sociological research on the activities of the politically far right at football matches suggests that many young fans who espouse racist views, or who join in racist chants, have little real idea of the politics of groups like the National Front and the British Movement. I shall need to inquire more deeply in due course into this aspect. That concludes the quotation which I thought I ought to make to your Lordships in view of the obvious importance of it. One hopes that when the final report comes out, and the final thoughts of Mr. Justice Popplewell and his recommendations on this matter, it will certainly have the attention of Parliament.

That brings me to the recommendation about missiles, which seems to go a little further than the definition of "container" with which we were dealing in the recent Bill that we passed through so swiftly to try to deal with these matters. Your Lordships will no doubt agree with me when I say that if these matters are to be dealt with in a public order Bill—and I should like the Minister, if he would, to confirm that this is the intention of the Government—one would hope that that public order Bill will have some legislative priority in the next Session of Parliament.

Your Lordships will be interested to know, because of the Bill that went through this House with great speed, that Mr. Justice Popplewell, in the course of his report, at page 39, paragraph 5.2, says that no doubt drink made a substantial contribution to the violence which took place. I know that your Lordships will hope that the Bill that we passed so rapidly through this House, and which went through another place and is now on the statute book, will help considerably in regard to these matters, although all of us knew that it would not by any means be a panacea.

One noted the reference to the membership scheme. I merely ask the noble Lord the Minister if, in replying, he will in his courtesy say whether he really thinks, from the discussions that have taken place with football clubs and their representatives, that this is a practical solution or even a practical scheme. Limited progress appears to have been made on the all-important matter of universal circuit television. There is no doubt that, from the point of view of detection, prevention and evidence hereafter of who was responsible for violence, this is one of the most important matters that is dealt with in this report and it ought to be carried out.

I have two points in conclusion. The Statement refers most importantly to the fact that, the Minister for Sport has helped to promote and draw up a Council of Europe Convention on Spectator Violence which was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers yesterday. Can the Minister tell us, in general terms, what that convention was all about, and what it covers? I am sure that we shall be very interested. Finally, all this is all very well. Safety on football grounds we want. Prevention of violence we want. Prohibitions against all sorts of things and construction of all sorts of things, as recommended, we want. But are the Government prepared to put money behind what is such an essential recommendation as this report makes in regard to safety on football grounds?

Lord Wigoder

My Lords, we too are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for repeating this Statement, and, of course, to Mr. Justice Popplewell for an extremely thorough interim report which has managed to be both rapid and not hasty. The Statement that we have heard today is lengthy. It is coupled with the Government's response to the recommendations on several other sheets of paper. Unusually for a ministerial Statement, we have also had the report itself available in full for some hours today. That means that there is an enormous amount that one might be tempted to cover this afternoon. It would be easy to exceed the acceptable limits of response to a ministerial Statement, and indeed it would be easy to exceed the unacceptable limits also.

The report is divided into two quite separate sections, because it deals with two quite separate matters. As to the Bradford fire disaster, the proposals that are made there are quite clearly constructive and will no doubt meet with rapid and ready acceptance. I say that subject only to the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. Are the Government aware that implementing those recommendations will be an immense financial burden on many clubs, particularly the smaller ones? It would perhaps be unrealistic to ask the Government to provide much in the way of the necessary funds, particularly when all their funds are at the moment obviously committed to implementing the report of the Top Salaries Review Body.

The real issue is this. Do the Government accept that funds will be required by the clubs, and therefore that it is crucially important that the Government should not take steps to diminish the revenue upon which clubs have come to rely, unless it is absolutely necessary? This is an issue which we dealt with many times in the last few days when we were dealing with the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Bill.

As to the Birmingham aspect of this report, there is one perhaps inadvertent omission which I know the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, can remedy without difficulty. It does not disclose the date on which the report was submitted to the Home Office. Perhaps the noble Lord could help us about that, because if by any chance it was before 17th July, last Thursday, when we were debating the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Bill, the information in this report would indeed have been of very great assistance to us in the course of those discussions. That is because, first, this report makes clear that those of us who were arguing that it is not the sale of alcohol at the ground which is the problem, would have found very considerable support; and, secondly, because it makes clear that those of us who were arguing—and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has drawn attention to the passage—that there are many sober hooligans who are the real ringleaders of this violence, would also have found their argument much assisted had the report been available.

As to the public order Act which is promised, if that is the right word, or threatened for the new Session, can the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, indicate that it will be wide enough to consider and encompass within itself all the various proposals that Mr. Justice Popplewell makes for amendment of the criminal law, including the amendment that my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich urged upon us last week to deal with making criminal offence the invasion of any sporting ground?

The last matter to which I wish to refer is perhaps in some ways the most complicated and the most controversial in this report; that is, the recommendation that there should be membership cards or identity cards issued to football supporters. The ministerial Statement says that the Government have, made clear their support for a scheme of membership cards to help exclude trouble makers". That, I think, is not really the object of Mr. Justice Popplewell's proposal. The way Mr. Justice Popplewell puts it, as I understand it, is that the only way to eliminate violence at football matches is to limit the attendance to the home supporters only, and that the only way to limit the attendance to home supporters only is to issue home supporters with a membership card or an identity card, so that admission to the ground can be limited in that way.

Do the Government accept that this is a quite draconian proposal? It may be that we shall have to come to it, but it would be helpful if the Government would at least say that it would be the very last resort in their efforts to deal with the real problem. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, finished the ministerial Statement with the words that the Government wanted to make, a significant contribution towards preserving football as a major spectator sport". But I am sure he will agree that it would be an unattractive solution if we could do that only by eliminating the spectators.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their comments about the Statement, and I am certainly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for his tribute to Mr. Justice Popplewell and to those who helped him produce the report in such good time. Also, I entirely share his views, which have been expressed before, about the heroism which was shown by so many at the time of the fire. May I just clear up one point that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, asked about early on, concerning the date when the report was received. It was received late on 19th July, which answers that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was concerned about liability and costs. Individuals wishing to claim compensation was the theme of his question. It is, as I think he will expect, a civil matter for individuals. Liability has not, so far as I have been able to ascertain, been admitted by anybody. Individuals could, of course, take it up with the courts, so far as ownership of the Bradford Football Club and general responsibility are concerned. But as regards Government assistance, because it is a matter for civil action there is not a lot that can necessarily be done. But I have to remind the noble Lord that the Government have already given £¼ million to the Lord Mayor's Fund, which I believe is now in excess of £2 million—I do not have the precise figure—and that has helped enormously.

4.30 p.m.

I note the noble Lord's concern about racial abuse. It is difficult to measure the effect of the presence of political extremists on the level of crowd violence but we do not rule out the possibility that this is a contributory factor. Certainly, anyone with any evidence of political extremists inciting or organising violence at football matches should draw it to the attention of the police. I understand that the Football League is taking action through its ground regulations to prevent the distribution or sale of literature. In his interim report Mr. Justice Popplewell raised the possibility that it might be made an offence to chant obscene or racialist abuse at sports grounds. The Government will certainly consider any recommendation which he makes in the final report, and of course will stand by to assist the inquiry in its further consideration of this aspect.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was also concerned with missiles. No one doubts the growing menace presented by hooligans hurling missiles, and we take very seriously any suggestion that there may be gaps in the law. To the extent that there are problems of proving intent, this should be remedied by the statutory redefinitions of the public order offences which are proposed in the Government's review of public order law. If there are still gaps in the law, naturally we shall consider further amendments to ensure that missile throwers do not escape prosecution. For the moment it seems more likely that this is primarily a problem of detection and enforcement rather than of any deficiency in the law. Of course throwing a missile anyway could to some extent be caught by existing legislation.

While I am on the subject of public order law it might be helpful if I tell both the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that while in regard to intent to bring forward that legislation I cannot anticipate the Queen's Speech, we hope that it will come forward with the urgency which I know your Lordships desire.

Membership cards are, I know, a matter which concerns many. The Government regret that speedier progress has not been made on the introduction of a membership card system by the football authorities. I have to say that. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, is concerned about practicability, but the Football League has recently established a working party to consider the options and that working party will report early in September. The Government certainly welcome that development and urge the Football League and the Football Association to make rapid progress. We are content that this matter is being taken seriously.

The difficulties which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, put forward are of course all bound up with the very real difficulty that football is in if the violence which we have seen is allowed to continue. Obviously the matter must be looked at with very great care. I believe that it is best looked at within the forum to which I have referred. Mr. Justice Popplewell makes it clear in his report that the current conditions cannot continue. We must all be aware that it is a great shame that decent supporters should have to suffer as a result of the firm but necessary measures which have been introduced to tackle the problem. I do not see any way in which the serious suggestions which have been put forward with such care by Mr. Justice Popplewell should not be seriously considered.

On the matter of the Council of Europe Conventions, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, asked what they all contained. I can say that as soon as an authenticated text is available—I regret that there is not one at the moment—a copy will be placed in the Library of the House. The convention was formally adopted by the Committee of Ministers yesterday and will be open for signature on 19th August. The secretariat is confident that an authenticated text can be prepared by then.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister in his kindness give way? Let me make it very clear that I gave him no notice of that question, and I apologise for it. It occurred to me almost while I was on my feet. I wonder whether he can give the House just a general idea of what the convention provides. If he cannot, I shall accept it immediately. If he finds that that is not a possibility we shall obviously wait to see the authenticated version in the Library.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, what I can say is that my noble friend Lord Elton listed the features of the convention in a Written Answer to a Question from my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway on 5th July. It is in the Official Report at columns 1471 and 1472. It is quite long and I do not think I can easily read it out now.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I am much obliged.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, we turn now to the issue of expense, which seemed to be very much the theme of the understandable concern of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. The financial implications of safety improvement work are being considered by the working group which was set up by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister following the Bradford tragedy. This committee is chaired by my honourable friend the Minister for Sport. A preliminary estimate of work required at newly designated Third and Fourth Division football clubs has been produced by the Football Grounds Improvement Trust. The working group will now need to consider the implications arising out of Mr. Justice Popplewell's interim report and also the chief fire officer's inspections. Until those components have been taken fully into account, it is too early to consider how much and from what source funding might be available. But I am sure your Lordships will bear in mind that it is the responsibility of football clubs, or for that matter organisers of any event, to ensure proper spectator or audience arrangements within their grounds, within cinemas or whatever they may be. This is in common with so many different parts of our world of entertainment. To mitigate the effects, clubs can always accept a lower spectator ceiling based on average attendances, rather than the full or very full attendances which they might have on special occasions. That should help to a very large degree.

I may have missed out one concern of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, on the specific offence of throwing a missile at a sports ground. This matter will be looked at urgently in connection with the anticipated public order legislation. I think I mentioned it earlier, but it raises one or two difficulties because one is dealing with sports grounds on some occasions where people do throw missiles. I mean that in all seriousness, because if one attempts to define it too narrowly one finds all sorts of difficulties associated with, for example, the discus and even cricket balls.

Those are the answers to the main points that have been raised. I acknowledge the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, about finance, but on the other hand, I think that the measures which exist in other forms of entertainment adequately meet many of those concerns. But naturally we shall have to look at the situation as time goes on.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that everyone would commend both Mr. Justice Popplewell and the Government for the way in which they have reacted over recent months to the happenings which carry so much danger?

I was very relieved to hear the last part of the Statement, on the question of finance. We have to be a little careful in this respect. I rather interpreted the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, to hint, at any rate, that perhaps there should be Government money spent on dealing with the safety aspects of these important matters. I was relieved that my noble friend was aware that there are many other institutions—theatres, dance halls, hotels and restaurants—all of which are put to considerable expense as a result of the fire officer's recommendations, very properly given, but which add to the expense. If for some reason Government grant is given to football grounds and not to the others it would carry with it an element of unfairness, which would be resented and perhaps create a great deal of trouble.

With that in mind, I hope that my noble friend can look again at his answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, who referred to the Bill on the restriction of alcohol and to the orders which will be coming into operation in August. The noble Lord suggested that if by bringing in restrictions we are interfering with football clubs getting the money to look after their own safety needs, that would be wrong. Can my noble friend give an assurance that the Government will be flexible and, if they find that there is no need for rigidity, which we ought to start off with, they will relax it so that the clubs can look after themselves?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I note my noble friend's concern. On the question of fire safety, there might well be an element of unfairness and I am grateful to him for pointing that out. On the question of alcohol at football grounds, we have been over this subject and we must give it time to work. As I said when the Bill was going through this House, we shall look at the effect it has on football clubs—and no doubt that effect will become apparent very quickly—when we come to consider public order legislation. I cannot go beyond that now.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I note that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, is trying to rise to his feet, but we have been 39 minutes on this Statement.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I have to tell the Government Chief Whip that there has been only one Back Bencher to question the Minister and he was from the other side.

Lord Wigoder

My Lords, I think we were 32 minutes on the Statement and the responses from the Front Benches.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I must apologise; it shows the danger of coming in and, without having been here, then looking at the clock. Of course I am in the hands of the House. The feeling of the House is clearly that we have not quite finished on this Statement, so I apologise for my early intervention.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, first may I, too, express my appreciation to Mr. Justice Popplewell for the speed with which the report has come forward.

I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I speak for a few minutes on Leeds United because a major part of this report relates to the incident at the match at Birmingham on 11th May. The report refers to Leeds fans travelling wearing swastikas. My noble friend Lord Mishcon also referred to this. The suggestion is that these were authorised bona fide fans of Leeds United Football Club.

I must tell your Lordships that Leeds United has a director, Mr. Maxwell Holmes, who is charged with trying to eliminate vandalism and thuggery from that club. In fact, Leeds United has spent over £200,000 in installing some of the very measures that the report calls for, such as television and various forms of crowd control. Whenever Leeds United travels away this gentleman goes to the home club a week beforehand to discuss with the club, and with the chief of police if necessary, what measures they wish the Leeds United Football Club to take in order to eliminate this awful vandalism and thuggery. Therefore, when one has reference to people wearing swastikas, one has to be a little careful as to who they really are.

We should question the Minister a little more on this problem and on the suggestion from Mr. Justice Popplewell about introducing membership cards. The report quite clearly states that: Urgent consideration should be given to introducing a membership system in England and Wales so as to exclude visiting fans. That is quite clear. I should like to put a question in that respect. It is not a hypothesis; it could happen. I live in Leeds, but if I am a supporter of any football club, it is Manchester City. On Sunday a football match is taking place in Leeds between the veteran English team that won the World Cup and the old German team. It is a charity match in aid of the Bradford disaster. I have been invited. If the proposal in the report is followed through, would I be allowed to go to that match? That matter has not been thought through.

The report refers to racialist chanting. I must bring to the attention of noble Lords present that one of the worst features of the cricket season so far on certain grounds has been the racialist chanting and there has been much open comment about it. The Bill itself—which covers a part of what this report is about—states quite clearly that the measures can be extended to all other forms of sport. The report refers even to indoor sports and suggests that where there are 5,000 or more spectators that should eventually be embraced within the legislation.

Are we as a nation going to accept such draconian proposals when it could mean, ultimately, that anyone in this country who wants to attend a spectator sport where more than 5,000 people are gathered will have to carry an identity card? I do not know of any way of killing a sport quicker than that. That is one idea in regard to which the practicalities are enormous, and it ought to be forgotten about.

Finally, I say this. Obviously there will be further legislation to deal with this problem. This is an interim report and we have had it for only a short time. There has not been sufficient time for us to digest it properly. Therefore I ask that, when the final report is completed, the Minister gives us an opportunity to debate it and to pass an opinion on it, because of what is involved for the people of this country.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I certainly note the noble Lord's concern. The question of a debate is a matter for the usual channels, not for me. The final report will come out in due course.

I realise that the noble Lord is concerned, and his is a concern which has been fairly widely expressed. The noble Lord will be aware that in the past certain clubs have attempted to introduce their own schemes to try to deal with the problems caused, in some cases, by away spectators. Certainly Mr. Justice Popplewell's suggestions go a long way, and perhaps rather further than some of the other suggestions which have been made. While being aware that we must take careful note of those considerations—and they are very much in the melting pot at the moment—and in view of the need to prevent this violence by excluding trouble makers, all I can say to the noble Lord is that the concerns which he expresses will be borne in mind.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, may I ask one question directly on the point put by the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, relating to the membership card scheme? A moment ago, my noble friend Lord Wigoder said that, as we understood it, when this idea was propounded by the Government it was directed towards keeping out trouble makers. Is the noble Lord aware, as the noble Lord, Lord Dean, pointed out, that Mr. Justice Popplewell is going far further by excluding all visiting fans? Is he further aware that in the summary of recommendations which has been distributed by the Government this afternoon the Government say that this is a matter for the football authorities and clubs, but that the Government hope that they will be given serious consideration? Is that a neutral statement, or does it imply that the Government believe that such a scheme should be enforced? As my noble friend pointed out, it would have substantial consequences for English football, and in the view of many it would go much too far.

May I ask a second question relating to paragraph 6.60 of the report? There Mr. Justice Popplewell makes a statement which has far wider implications than the simple problem of violence on the terraces. He says: When people in responsible positions in public life fail to condemn violence against the police whenever it happens or worse still actually condone it, it does little to lead the young to believe that throwing pieces of concrete or other missiles at the police is other than a pretty harmless exercise". Is he aware that many of us regard that as a wholly justified observation, which I hope will be borne in mind by all those who are involved in public life in the country?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I certainly welcome the comments of the noble Lord on that paragraph. I am sure that that view is shared by many. It is certainly by me. So far as all visiting fans are concerned, I am aware that the report is far-reaching, and what is said in the Government's response to the recommendations is correct. It is essentially a matter for the football authorities to sort out and I hope, as we all hope, that at the end of the day we shall come up with a sensible and realistic solution to this problem.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, since I do not think that this should be the occasion for debate, may I just briefly say that I appreciate the tributes that have been made to Mr. Justice Popplewell and his associates for the care and speed with which he has given his report, also for the very many constructive and helpful suggestions. I shall mention and criticise only one of them, namely, the membership card proviso, and if in fact the football authorities are going to be left to devise what they deem to be practicable, then I do not think we would have any quarrel. I hope that the noble Lord can give us that assurance because Mr. Justice Popplewell's conclusion is the impeccable one, that the one way to get rid of all violence at football matches is to have no spectators there—and indeed that would be the end of football because it would not pay for the costs of running it. That is the logic. It would be immensely disappointing to all supporters of football if they could not see their own team play in key cup matches away from home.

What will happen to many friends of mine in Sheffield, for example, is that those who happen to have season tickets for both the grounds will have to opt to visit only one of the two grounds in their own city. It seems to me that this is a totally impracticable proposition propounded by Mr. Justice Popplewell, and I hope that the Government will stick to their advice—merely that the Football Association, as I know they will wish to do, will do what they can to eliminate problems by such identification processes as they deem practicable.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, one thing which is absolutely guaranteed to mean the end of football is the continuation of the violence that we have seen. Let there be no doubt at all about that. While the noble Lord suggests that the introduction of membership cards may be moving in that direction as well, all I can say to him is that it is a matter for the football authorities. I do not believe that it is impossible to work out some scheme, but one thing has to be balanced against another: the issue of violence on the one hand against practicability on the other hand. Those matters are being considered.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, perhaps I may very briefly add to the tribute paid by my noble friend to Mr. Justice Popplewell for producing this report so quickly. Obviously, there is a lot in it which needs to be debated. There is one thing that I picked up on Chapter 7, concerning exits. My noble friend mentioned this when he spoke about cinemas. When we go to a cinema the gangways and exits are kept clear, and you can push a bar and open the door. This seems to me to be a highly desirable thing to have at football grounds so that people can get out. If this had been the case at Bradford, then that tragedy may not have happened.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, that is really a matter for the certificating authority to look at. As he does, I appreciate that locked turnstiles produce the sort of tragedy that we have seen. That is why it is important that these recommendations, particularly the ones relating to safety on egress from a stadium, are looked at carefully; but I believe that they are a matter for the certificating authorities to deal with rather more than me. But I note the noble Lord's point.