HL Deb 10 April 1989 vol 506 cc78-118

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 5.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment NO. 27:

Page 4, leave out lines 12 and 13 and insert— ("

  1. (i) disabled persons, and
  2. (ii) accompanied children,
in such circumstances and subject to such conditions as are specified in the scheme:").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 27, Amendment No. 28:

Line 2, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this simple amendment stands in the group of amendments to which we are speaking, and enables me to speak to those additional amendments which seek to widen on the face of the Bill the exemptions that we wish to see. I should like the guidance of the House and the Minister. I wonder whether it would be possible for me simply to move Amendment No. 28 and then leave those speakers who have prime interests in Amendments Nos. 29, 30, 31 and 32 to move them appropriately thereafter. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, as the noble Lord said, this is a paving amendment on the exemptions which will follow hereafter. The grammatical change that it proposes will not be necessary if noble Lords withdraw the subsequent amendments, as I hope they will.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to disappoint the Minister. Certainly we do not intend to withdraw the amendments. I know that in speaking to Amendment No. 25 the Minister rehearsed the arguments against them. To be fair he pointed out that we had already had a canter over this course in which the Minister had argued that what he had given in the form of a concession as to the duties of the FMA and the general issue of exemptions was as far as he thought he could go. In effect that is merely to insert Amendment No. 27 on the face of the Bill. The clarification as to accompanied children is referred to in Amendment No. 39.

Amendment No. 39 is still in this bracket. In moving Amendment No. 28 and giving notice that when we reach Amendments Nos. 29, 30, 31 and 32 they will certainly be spoken to separately, I confirm that what will happen to them will depend upon what the Minister has to say. I seek the guidance of the Minister. Amendment No. 39 states: and in this subsection 'accompanied children' means persons under the age of 10 years in the charge of an authorised spectator. We no longer have football supporters or fans; we have authorised spectators. That is a category which will rest uneasily on the shoulders of many of my friends who stand on the terraces at matches.

Can the Minister tell us what device the Government have in mind to be able to estimate the age of the child in question and to determine whether or not he is under the age of 10? One of the arguments that we had about the old age pensioner was the difficulty of ascertaining exactly who was an old age pensioner. That amendment will be moved and spoken to much more fully by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, when we reach it and I am not anxious to interfere in those arguments. So perhaps the Minister can tell us what device, other than accepting the word of the person accompanying the child or perhaps the production of a birth certificate, the Government have in mind to determine whether or not a person is under the age of 10.

Is he saying that the age of 10 has been decided upon because it is felt that someone under that age is either not a potential hooligan or is incapable of committing acts of violence? Is it felt that someone over the age of 10 is ipso facto someone who is more likely to commit violence? One hesitates to ascribe to youngsters aged 7, 8, 9 or 10 the kind of violence that we see. However, that is no yardstick. Even though youngsters are accompanied by an authorised spectator, who is usually their parent, that is no guarantee of their age. We shall come later to an amendment which concerns parents. Having moved Amendment No. 28 I ask the Minister to say a little more about Amendment No. 39.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, as I said previously when I spoke to Amendment No. 25, we have tried again to provide here something which is helpful and useful. The difficulty resides in where one pitches the age: at five, 10 or 15 years? The age of 10 has two advantages. First, it is the age of criminal responsibility; secondly, one will never obtain the perfect answer if there is to be an exclusion, as I am sure the noble Lord would agree.

His point about the ages is a very good one. In today's newspaper there is a horrifying story of a nine year-old and a seven year-old who beat up another child and set fire to him. Those children were under the age of 10. The fact of the matter is that we want to have something sensible. I would say that by and large a child of the age of 10 will look much more like a child than a 14 year-old who may be very tall and approaching six feet. We have tried to find something sensible which accommodates those views and which is the best age. The combination of that and the fact that it is the age of criminal responsibility is why the age of 10 was the age that we decided upon for this amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, will my noble friend say why it is easier to tell the difference between a 10 year-old and an 11 year-old boy, which he argues will be essential for the turnstile keepers, yet much harder to distinguish between men and women—because he is resisting the next amendment to exclude women. It seems to me that the Government have got themselves into a slight muddle.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Earl is entirely correct on that matter. I am sure that if we said that we would not exempt anyone down to the age of one he would consider that even less satisfactory.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am not arguing about the age of 10. I ask how the age will be determined. The Minister appears to be saying that it will depend upon appearance. But in that case he is all at sixes and sevens.

We acknowledge that this is a difficult area. We are trying to exclude lots of people legitimately. Can the Minister and his advisers say how they envisage that the turnstile keeper will be able to determine that the child who is accompanied by an authorised spectator is the age that the authorised spectator says he is? That spectator is not asked to say that this is his son or daughter, but simply accompanies the child. He goes through the turnstile. The turnstile operator says, "Just a minute. That child must be below age". The man says, "This boy is certainly below the age of 10". Is the word of the authorised spectator to be accepted? I do not envisage that there are vicious people below or above the age of 10. I simply wish those outside the House to know what guidance the Minister's advisers have been given in order to establish that under Amendment No. 39 the child is under the age of 10.

8.30 p.m.

Baroness Blotch

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. It seems to me that we are being unnecessarily pernickety on this point. If a young person goes to buy a railway ticket, and below the age of 12 he purchases it at one price and above the age of 12 at another, there has to be a degree of trust between the person at the ticket office and the person paying the money. There has to be a cut-off point somewhere. For the reasons that the Minister has given, the age of 10 is reasonable. It is possible that someone may say that a child is 10 when he is 11, or vice versa. But there has to be a degree of trust. We are being unnecessarily pernickety and I hope that the Minister will stick with his cut-off point at the age of 10.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I do not think it is a matter of being pernickety, if the noble Baroness will forgive me. We are discussing what will be incorporated into the Bill. If the requirements of the Bill are not followed, people will be committing serious criminal offences. That is why we are being pernickety, if that is regarded by the noble Baroness as a term of abuse.

I hope that the noble Baroness will forgive my saying that she tends to work on the assumption that anything presented by Ministers is self-evidently desirable. I do not think so. There is a genuine problem here. Ministers have made a great deal of the difficulty to make provision to distinguish between men and women. It has been said that it would be very difficult to decide who was an old age pensioner. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask the question: how does one decide whether a child is 10 or some other age? It seems to me a matter therefore of substance. I do not believe that what the noble Baroness said has a great deal to commend it.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, it is interesting to see the ease with which the Minister considers that one can pick an age which will be the arbitrary line of division, and that that will be the barrier. There has been trouble since time immemorial with those licensing laws that apply only to people of 18 and above. One of the biggest drawbacks in that area in the past has been that very often young people of 16 years look older than some people of 19 or 20. This has been a running sore in the licensing trade.

However, we are dealing with a very difficult situation. Just to draw an arbitrary line and to say that it will work is a very dangerous premise indeed. For instance, I have two grandsons. One is seven and one is five and a half. Noble Lords may ask what that has to do with the issue. The grandson who is five and a half is by far the bigger and looks the older. By the age of 10 he will look much older than the other grandson. If the Minister wants photographic evidence, I can give him it. He is the bigger and more mature boy now in terms of physical development.

How does one deal with the matter? If someone turns up with his son or grandson who is 10½, does one stop the whole procedure and ask, "Where is his birth certificate?" How does one prove age? Let us imagine a policeman at Anfield or Everton, Highbury or Tottenham, or at Manchester City or Manchester United on a big cup day. Suddenly he has to say to someone, "I think that the boy with you looks a little more than 10. Can you prove to me that he is not?" It is an absolute recipe for disaster—and a hold up of procedure.

We must bear in mind that most of these youngsters who go to matches are accompanied. Their first insight into football is mainly with their fathers and grandparents who take them to these games. The Minister has said that at 10 years a child can become the victim of criminal law. Surely the Government do not mean that they would relate criminal law to 10 year-old boys whom somebody has tried to take into a football match at the age of 10½ or 11 years? If so, what sort of a Bill is this? What kind of society are we becoming? I seriously suggest that the Minister ought to look at this amendment and try to reassess what he has said. In my opinion it will become the biggest joke of the lot. It will become a bigger joke than old age pensioners and women being potential attackers outside a football ground.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, is the Minister going to object to my amendment which deletes the word "and"?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, yes.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, there is no way in which we are not going to have a debate on old age pensioners. Let us make that absolutely clear. What precise procedure should we follow? In the final analysis, I am perfectly content to have an ungrammatical Bill because I do not think that it will make an immense amount of difficulty.

I wish to be clear that if we withdraw this amendment, we shall not be debarred from debating others.

The Earl of Onslow

Order!

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, could I be clear— —

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, surely we must try to keep in order. That means that I should not speak a second time—and there are many things that I wish to say—and nor should the noble Lord, Lord Harris. We know that he is immensely distinguished, intelligent and clever, but he is allowed to speak only once on each amendment. Otherwise, we shall be here almost as long as rabbiting on about law—and that would be a terrible mistake.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I have not spoken before. Therefore I am able to speak on this item. I am frankly surprised that the Minister has not replied to the direct question which my noble friend put. What will be the machinery for determining the admittance of a child, whether he is 10 years or 16 years? It is not a pernickety matter. There has to be some bureaucratic answer to that question. If it is to be left solely to the common sense and decision of the gateman, many of these other matters will fall into the same pattern. What will be the machinery for determining this matter?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I am very interested in this. It is extraordinary. The Government produce a concession that is based on common sense. It is immediately jumped upon by the Opposition as presenting insuperable problems.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, we want to know how you will supervise the matter.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, we envisage that there will be special areas where accompanied children can go. Let us consider the facts of the matter. We are trying to make a helpful and useful provision. There are various other amendments providing for different ages. We have thought hard about why we believe that 10 is the right age. I am more than happy to differ from the noble Lords but that is the Government's position. We introduced it as a concession without even being asked for it, as I pointed out earlier in your Lordships' House. We felt that it was the the best common sense age. There has to be an element of common sense in everything. We believe that that is the best common sense age for allowing children to be able to attend with their parents at a football match.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, if the Government have thought long and hard and have arrived at the age of 10, ipso facto they must have thought long and hard about how they will determine who is 10.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, perhaps I may return briefly to the point that my noble friend was endeavouring to make, having spoken before he was halted—rightly I think—in his tracks because he had already spoken, and this is Report stage.

This is the question. The Minister has indicated that he will oppose Amendment No. 28. If Amendment No. 28 is not carried, the word "and" remains. Can we have an undertaking from him that when the subsequent amendments are moved, as they will be, he will not object to them on the grounds that they will be ungrammatical? Will he give us that assurance?

Lord Hesketh

Yes, my Lords. I am sure that the Bill can live with a grammatical error until Third Reading.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I apologise without reservation for my ignorance about what the Minister had in mind. I was sensitive to the fact that if we had a debate on Amendment No. 28 and lost that debate we would lose the opportunity of debating the other issues. The Minister has said that there may be a grammatical error to be put right, but that we can proceed with the other amendments. In those circumstances, although we have had no satisfaction whatsoever concerning how the Minister's advisers consider how they can implement Amendment No. 39, neither will the new Football Membership Authority nor the individual clubs have any idea how they will interpret these issues.

I appreciate that the Minister has a working party considering these aspects. I have no knowledge of these matters, but I am fairly certain that every time the members of the group meet they will at least discuss what has happened in Parliament since they last met and try to make some sense of what we have tried to do. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 28.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 29:

Line 3, after ("(ii)") insert ("women and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, those noble Lords who have taken an interest in these matters will recall an amendment of mine at Committee stage to exempt all female persons. The House will have observed that I put down a similar amendment at Report stage which I subsequently withdrew, and I substituted for it the amendment that I have now moved. I wish to make it clear that my reason is for my own convenience and I hope for that of the House and not because my original amendment at Report was out of order or because of any convention which states that a similar amendment may not be moved at Report and Committee stages. However I decided that I would do it the Government's way. In fact the amendment, if it were carried, would read "women and accompanied children".

During our previous discussion, the noble Lord heard his noble friend Lord Onslow, and other noble Lords, talking about being able to distinguish between 10, 11 and 12 year-olds. There will be some difficulty about it. But as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said, there is no difficulty in distinguishing men and women and women and children. Therefore the amendment will be as easily understood and workable as the amendment that the Government have tabled concerning children of 10 years and under.

The original arguments at Committee stage still stand. It was unfortunate, perhaps because of some feminist ideas, that the amendment was not carried at Committee stage. It failed by only six votes, which was unfortunate because it was a good amendment and the Government could perhaps have incorporated it into the Bill then. Nevertheless the same arguments apply. There are no recorded cases of women at football matches behaving like hooligans. It will benefit football and probably reduce hooliganism if women are encouraged to attend football matches rather than discouraged as they will be under the Bill because they will have to apply for membership of the scheme and will have to pay for the privilege.

The same arguments apply and the same arguments stand, but the Ministers' amendments have shown that the exemptions of children, the disabled and women can be accommodated within the Bill and catered for. If we exempt disabled people, which I entirely accept and support, do we say that only the physically disabled will be affected or will the mentally disabled be involved as well? If they are, it will be interesting to know how the football authorities will distinguish between people who are not mentally disabled and those who are. It seems to me that there will be no difficulty about the amendment.

I believe, as I said and believed at Committee stage, that the amendment will benefit football and will help to reduce hooliganism. What is more it would be fairer to a section of the population which has shown quite clearly that, first, it does not involve itself in football hooliganism; and, secondly, is against it. I hope that in all the circumstances the Minister will be able to accept my amendment. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I completely agree with the thrust behind this amendment. The Government are accepting that turnstile keepers are capable of distinguishing between 10 year-olds and 11 year-olds, but not between men and women. It has always seemed to me that the principle of the Bill is good, provided that the tickets are circumscribed to what I have called and will continue to call potential yob classes. Women are outside that potentiality. I believe that the Government are making a grave error in not excluding women and old age pensioners; but we have had a vote on this matter.

If we have a vote on something at Committee stage, the House has decided. It is believed that certain noble Baronesses perhaps felt that they could not vote for sexist reasons—that I suspect is a rumour whizzing about a fairly male chauvinist piggy-wig place, that may or may not be true. But those of us who are really crypto male chauvinist piggy-wiggys would love it to be true. The House has decided by a vote in Committee stage not to do something. My view—and I voted for the losing side—is that the House was wrong. It would be not in order to press this or, unfortunately, the old age pensioner exemption as well. The House has made decisions, and having made decisions we should not go back on them. Another place may make different decisions. I hope that it will. I am sorry, but if there is a Division, I shall vote for constitutional propriety as opposed to sexual equality.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, did the noble Earl say that we voted on the exclusion of women and old age pensioners:

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, no., I said that we had decided on old age pensioners.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, surely if we did not vote on the issue of old age pensioners we are perfectly entitled, to vote on it tonight if we so choose.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, it was not the House which decided the question of whether women should be excluded but the Committee. The Committee has now reported to the House. Therefore the House is entitled to discuss the issue not necessarily to force a Division but to try to persuade the Government that the arguments put forward in Committee are worth while and that they should take them into consideration and think again. That is the purpose of the Report stage.

I should like to put two questions to the Minister. He will correct me if I am wrong, but I understood that when the issue was discussed in Committee he argued that the integrity of the Bill depended on its totality. I have paraphrased his words but it is almost an exact quotation.

As regards the disabled and children the Government have varied that opinion and we welcome that. Therefore the integrity about which the Minister spoke has already been broken by the Government on his own promise. We suggest that there are other categories of people who could be exempt without diminishing the effect of the Bill in any way. In fact, it would increase the effect of the Bill from the Government's point of view.

At Committee the Minister answered me by saying that the exemption of females would ruin the attempt which the Government are making to outlaw hooliganism. It was said that women would be encouraged to come into the grounds because they would feel safer. That is a specious argument. My first question is: has the Minister discovered a single instance in which a female has been involved in any form of hooliganism in any football ground anywhere in the world? If the answer to that question is no, surely all women attending football grounds will feel safer if the Government's case is correct and if what the noble Earl has called the "yob class" is excluded.

The Government must admit that they are making it more difficult for women to attend football matches by requiring them to apply and pay for a membership card. The second point I put to the Minister is this. He has agreed that he wishes to encourage more women to attend football matches because that will civilise the atmosphere. He has mentioned the setting aside of enclosures for accompanied children. Many football grounds already provide them and they are used by families; that is father, mother and children.

If the Government's argument is logically followed, and if the Minister wishes more women to attend football matches, he will make it easier for them to do so rather than more difficult. We ask the Government to think seriously about the issue. It will be no safer for women to go to football matches if they are forced to take up membership cards. Almost without doubt the enforcement of the necessity for a woman to hold a card will reduce the number attending matches.

Can the Minister answer these two questions: have there been any instances in which women have been engaged in hooliganism? Is it not the case that by compelling women to take out membership cards he will reduce the number attending matches?

Lord Renton

My Lords, surely the purpose of Report stage is to enable matters to be dealt with which were not resolved in Committee or did not then arise. If it is to become a practice that any decision made in Committee can be reconsidered, discussed and voted upon at Report our business will be seriously delayed. With deep respect, I believe that to say that the issue was not dealt with in Committee is merely a quibble.

As regards the merits of the case, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that generally speaking women are well behaved. They are better behaved than men and there are few women hooligans—

Lord Hatch of Lusby

There are none.

Lord Renton

I am not suggesting there are any but I should be surprised if there have never been any. Surely the Government cannot accept the amendment. First, we must remember that it would create an administrative loophole because many women have the same first names as men. The names "Evelyn" and "Robin" are used as Christian names by both men and women. Therefore, there would be confusion about whether a man or a woman was applying for the card or on whose behalf the application was made.

In these enlightened days of sexual equality women wish to have the same opportunities as men and they wish to bear the same burdens. They do not wish to be treated differently by Parliament in its law making except when that is unavoidable. For those reasons I believe that my noble friend would be wrong to accept the amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton, are correct in saying that for the House to reverse on Report a decision made in Committee is unconsitutional (as described by the noble Earl) or improper (as described by the noble Lord, Lord Renton). I remember at least one occasion since May 1979 when the Government were narrowly defeated in Committee and came back on Report having mustered their forces— —

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

That was the last occasion.

Lord Monson

They then overturned a decision made in Committee so any unconstitutional act was performed by the Government.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that the problem we must face is one of aggressive young males. However, I do not believe that we can rule out entirely the possibility of girls—I say "girls" advisedly and not "women"—taking advantage of any loophole which may exist. For that reason I marginally prefer the exclusion from the constraints of the Bill of women over 25 years and men over 35 years.

However, if the issue is brought to a vote I shall gladly go into the Lobby with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon.

9 p.m.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, as I said on Second Reading, I am totally opposed to the Bill. However, I believe that, as we have alrady discussed this amendment previously, we should leave it alone. If anybody is to decide whether women should be excluded, it should be the FMA.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps I may make a fine distinction here. As I read the Companion to the Standing Orders it says that noble Lords are perfectly entitled to table amendments which have been tabled at an earlier stage. However, they are not entitled to repeat at length on Report arguments which have been fully deployed previously. I suspect that we are getting rather close to that. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government will take this opportunity to change their mind.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the question of whether women should be exempt was debated at some length on two separate occasions during the Committee stage of the Bill. On the second occasion the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, moved an amendment which has the same effect as that which we are considering today; namely, it seeks a statutory exemption from the scheme for women. The House debated and considered this point very thoroughly in Committee and reached a clear decision not to provide for such an exemption. The Companion to the Standing Orders makes clear that arguments fully deployed in Committee should not be repeated at length on Report. In view of that, I am sure that the House will not wish to tread over the same ground in detail today and I do not propose to do so.

Your Lordships will also be clear, from our earlier discussions, about the Government's position on exemptions generally. I have explained that we want as many law-abiding spectators as possible to join the scheme and enjoy the benefits of membership. This will be good for members and good for football. It is in the interests of neither, nor of the working of the scheme to allow too wide-ranging exemption arrangements.

As I said at the beginning, this issue has already been debated at great length on a previous occasion in Committee when a clear decision was reached and I very much hope that in the circumstances the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I shall certainly consider that while I am speaking. First, I did not—and if he had listened to me he would realise this—deploy all the arguments which were deployed in Committee. Indeed, I deliberately kept my opening remarks very short and related them to some of the discussions which we have had this evening.

However, one point which has been raised, first, by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and then by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the Minister is that we do not have the right to discuss this matter and vote on it again because it has already been decided by the House, to use the term of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. However, the matter has not been decided by the House, but by a Committee of the House. One object of having a Committee stage is to be able to discuss a matter in complete detail. The object of having a Report stage is to enable the House as a House—as a complete House and not as a Committee—to have a second opinion. I believe that it will be dangerous for the House to accept, and certainly for Back-Benchers to accept, that once there has been a vote in Committee, that is an end of the matter. If the House accepts that, then it accepts that a very valuable piece of democracy is being taken away from it. It will agree to that at its peril.

Having made that point, I do not wish to deploy any further constitutional arguments as to what we can and cannot do. However, I believe that the amendment is a good one and would certainly be workable. I am sorry that the Government and the Minister do not feel able to accept it. I have been thinking on my feet and I shall not press the matter to a Division tonight and that is therefore the end of the matter as regards this House. However, I express the hope, because this is a serious amendment on a serious matter, that another place will take the matter up when it comes to debate it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 27, Amendment No. 30:

Line 3, at end insert— ("(iii) persons holding at an international football match passport issued by the country of origin of the visiting team;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as the amendment states, we are seeking to exempt supporters of the opposing team at an international football match from membership of the scheme. We have already had an argument as to the extent to which the foreign visitor nexus should run. We argued about whether it should be restricted to the EC. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, made out a very strong, reasonable and sensible case that the nationals of countries outside the EC enjoy the facility of coming to watch our football matches.

However, perhaps the Minister can take this opportunity—and I do not propose to press this matter to a Division as I seek clarification—to tell the House precisely how supporters from Albania or— —

Lord Hesketh

Romania.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, those supporters may be allowed out but perhaps may not be allowed back. They are very choosy who they let back into that country. Perhaps the Minister can tell us how foreign football supporters coming to this country but primarily to Wembley will gain admission. I should like to hear from the Minister the mechanics of how they will be able to stand on the terraces or sit in the stands and watch their team. I beg to move.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I believe that this amendment has suffered somewhat in the printing because when I first read it, it referred to the word "passports" and now it refers to "passport". I am unaware of any such thing as an international football match passport although the way passports are stamped nowadays, perhaps football teams should stamp them instead of the country whose frontiers are being crossed.

I can see the point of this amendment but, before the Minister replies to it, perhaps I may suggest a caveat. The amendment assumes that one should make provision for international football matches. Therefore, can the Minister clarify the phrase "international football match"? Is it defined in the Bill? Is it, for example, England v. Sweden or a Swedish club playing a British club? That is a flaw in the amendment.

Secondly, I refer to where a foreign club is playing a British club, and I come back to the amendment we discussed earlier. Nowadays, because of the internationalisation of football, a French club can include Dutch, Swedish and even British players. Because of their star status these players attract groupies and supporters who are not necessarily holders of passports—and this is what I believe the amendment sets out to do—reflecting the country in which the international team plays. Therefore, again I suggest that the amendment is flawed. I think I would advise my erstwhile colleagues in the British Tourist Authority to explore that aspect because they have to get all the business they can and have a statutory duty to do so. The amendment lacks something and I fear that it lost that something in transition between the first printing a the current Marshalled List.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, this amendment means we again return to how best to deal with foreign spectators at international matches. I have explained the government position on this important subject at some length. We accept that foreign spectators at international matches cannot be expected to join the scheme. At the same time I have explained why we do not think that international matches can be excluded from it.

I could not, I hope, have made it clearer that we regard Wembley as a special case and that we want to see special arrangements made for foreign spectators at international matches. I have said how important it is for the FMA to consider what the most appropriate arrangements should be. The FMA will consider those arrangements in consultation with interested parties and then submit the proposals to the Secretary of State. I do not think that it would be helpful to attempt to restrict the FMA in making its proposals by spelling out in the Bill exemption arrangements based on passports. Much the best way forward here is for the FMA to look at this issue in detail and to make its recommendations. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Graham, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, the Minister said that there are to be special arrangements. Manifestly, whatever the Government's desire may be, it is quite ridiculous for any serious minded person to believe that if, for example, Bulgaria played England at Wembley all the Bulgarians would have to become members of this ridiculous organisation. Clearly, therefore, there will have to be special arrangements. The only way in which one can determine a Bulgarian from a citizen of any other country is by examination of his passport.

Therefore, while not disagreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, in his determination to withdraw this amendment, as the Government clearly will have to do this anyway, it might have been slightly more sensible to have done it in the Bill. It is inevitable and as the Government will have to do it they are passing responsibility to the FMA for the simple reason that they do not have the slightest idea of how to do it themselves. That is why we have these constant tributes to the FMA—the organisation consisting of the Football Association and the Football League, which were regularly denounced by Mr. Moynihan on every television programme only a few months ago. Nevertheless, as these arrangements will have to be in the final scheme, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, in his determination to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am touched by the faith that the Minister has in the ability of the FMA to produce to itself a satisfactory means of dealing with this problem. Although we have pointed to simple problems, which the Minister says are not so simple, the Minister says that he has faith and that the FMA will come forward with a scheme.

Can the Minister tell the House whether, if the FMA produces a scheme that it believes to be satisfactory, and even if there are some aspects of it that he dislikes (that is, an alleged threat to the integrity of the Bill) he will, ipso facto or prima facie, accept the solution?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the noble Lord is well aware that it will be up to the Secretary of State when he sees the FMA's proposals. The noble Lord describes my faith as touching. It is not touching: we just have a lot of faith in the ability of football to organise the FMA.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am touched by the Minister's "untouchedness". There is nothing more to be gained. The situation is highly unsatisfactory and, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, whenever we come across a matter which the Minister and his advisers have not thought through the answer is that it has been thought through and left to the FMA. I very much hope that the FMA will take on board the fact that it is being given enormous scope. I share the Minister's faith in its ability to deal with this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to Amendment No. 27, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 27, Amendment No. 31:

Line 3, at end insert— ("(iii) members of organised school parties;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister puzzled us when he mentioned the categories of exemptions at the last stage of the Bill. Among the groups of people we wish to be encouraged to attend football matches on a properly-organised basis are organised school parties. The Minister acknowledged the breakthrough (it was a breakthrough) that there were categories of people for whom he was prepared to make special arrangements. Can the Minister tell us the kind of special arrangements that might be made at Tottenham, Enfield or Edmonton, where, as part of their organised out-of-school activities, schools wish to take along a group of boys and girls as part of the children's social and civic education? It is also part of their cultural heritage, for example, that they should wish to attend a First Division match at Spurs or at Enfield. That club has ambitions to enter the league. The school party may wish to go to Arsenal, which is not very far away.

Can the Minister tell us how a teacher accompanying 30 children between the ages of 12 and 16, should go about obtaining permission to attend a football match? I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the temporary membership arrangements to which the noble Lord, Lord Graham, alluded, and proposed in the government amendments to the Bill, provide an entirely appropriate way of dealing with organised school parties. We recognise that many clubs wish to encourage properly-organised school parties to attend matches. They will wish to organise the arrangements in advance with the schools concerned. If they wish, they may offer temporary membership cards free to the members of school parties. That will be for the individual clubs concerned. It is a sensible arrangement that will allow the clubs to ensure that school parties are properly organised. A blanket exemption for such parties would raise unnecessary questions of identification and definition. A school party is particularly well suited to the temporary membership arrangements because, by definition, it has to be organised in advance. Such an arrangement suits and fits very well into this scheme.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps the Minister will allow me to go through the procedure for the admission of a school party, as I see it. The school will apply to the appropriate official at Tottenham Hotspur and say, "When Spurs play Everton on April 22nd, as part of our organised school activities we wish to bring along a party of 30 children. We as a school are responsible for them." Does the school have to say, "Therefore, please issue free temporary membership facilities for the scheme"? That does not include admittance to the ground because, if the charge is £2 or £3, that will have to be paid for. Is it a fact that the school will apply to Spurs and ask for temporary membership to cover 30 pupils? It may be that the children will have to be named, but that can be worked out by the FMA and the Minister. Can the Minister say whether the procedure will be as simple as that? Can the Minister say whether in advance of the game the school will apply for approval and they will receive a ticket for the teachers and the 30 children? They will then go along to the ground and there will be separate turnstiles to deal with the party. Is that how the scheme will work?

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, let us suppose that one of the party is a French shoolchild. What will happen then?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, I do not believe that it will make any difference. The simplest parallel that I can give to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is the matter that was raised when we were dicussing at an earlier stage of this Bill package tours coming in from overseas. I believe that this situation is very similar. The school authorities will write a letter to the club. In the same way as the package-tour operator will supply a list of names, the school will act very much in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggested before I rose to answer his question.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister because that is part of the nitty gritty. I am not remotely considering these as words on the face of the Bill. At the moment, organised visits are made to Spurs in a much more ad hoc but responsible way. It is a general understanding that we seek. In the future, as I understand it, this simply means that in return for a letter the school will receive a ticket of admittance representing the temporary guest-card facility. The Minister agrees with me that that is how it would work. I am not tying him down to precise words but that is my understanding of the arrangement. I am grateful to him. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to Amendment No. 27, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Harris of Greenwhich moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 27, Amendment No. 32:

Line 3, at end insert— ("(iii) persons in receipt of a retirement pension from the Department of Social Security;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 32 deals with an issue which we discussed in Committee. I refer to the position of retirement pensioners. Notwithstanding what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said, no doubt mistakenly, earlier this afternoon, we did not vote on the issue. The amendment was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, and withdrawn after, by the standards of the Bill, a relatively short debate.

Why do we return to the issue of old age pensioners? We return to it for one self-evident reason. The Bill is supposed to be aimed at dealing with violence at football matches. How many old age pensioners have been convicted of criminal offences at football matches? The answer is one of almost baffled bewilderment on the face of the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, because there is no evidence that an old age pensioner has ever been convicted of such an offence. It may well be the case that on one occasion at Scunthorpe one dark Saturday evening an old age pensioner committed some appalling crime at a football match. However, no serious-minded person—those are the people to whom we are addresssing remarks—can conceivably imagine that old age pensioners represent a massive public order threat at football matches.

When I have asked senior police offices about their views on this matter they have looked at me as though I am going off my head. They cannot believe that I have asked such an utterly ludicrous question. I have reassured them that I fear that as we are having to discuss these matters with an appropriate attitude of solemnity it is necessary to reassure Parliament that old age pensioners have not been involved in such offences. There is general common ground. Indeed, on a previous occasion the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, was good enough to say: I recognise, of course, that it is unlikely that retired people would become involved in acts of hooliganism, far from it".—[Official Report, 7/3/89; col. 1428.] That is a good point from which to start. There is general agreement that no public order problem exists in this respect. We then have to ask ourselves why the Government are not indicating their enthusiasm for the amendment. They are well known opponents of unnecessary bureaucracy. In the public and the private sectors Ministers rightly queue up to denounce bureaucracy. I do not disagree with their views on that matter. Why then are they imposing it on old age pensioners? We must return to the fount of wisdom, the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, who had to explain the Government's position on this matter. He said at col. 1427 of the Official Report of the same day: It is essential, however, that these"— the exemptions— should be strictly limited, as I have said before, because of the danger of wide-ranging exemptions and also because in this case there is a possibility of confusion and chaos"— that is a strong word— at the turnstiles". That is the Government's case.

Since that debate I have asked the football authorities for their views on this matter. Once again those views are in conflict with those of the Government. They say that there would not be chaos at the turnstiles were the amendment to be inserted into the Bill. They point out that there are already a large number of separate entrances for old age pensioners. Indeed at the overwhelming majority of football clubs there are now separate entrances for old age pensioners. Therefore the picture conjured up on the last occasion by the noble Lord of intolerable queues of old age pensioners standing there on wind-swept turf outside the turnstiles is a little far from the truth.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, it can be done!

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, the football authorities say that they are very content and that if any old age pensioners want to be members of the scheme, then they can apply to do so; they can do so by the simple process of trying to join the FMA. Indeed, if the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, is to be believed, they will be enthusiastic to do so. I say that because the noble Lord said that membership is not a burden. Therefore, if he is right, many old age pensioners will want to be members of the FMA and that will diminish still further the likelihood of a queue outside those turnstiles.

The football authorities say that there could be several ways in which old people could in fact obtain a pass for the entire season—for example by simply presenting an old age pension book at the beginning of the season. All I say to the Government is that I do not really believe that there is the remotest prospect of them accepting the amendment because they have rejected so many entirely well-intentioned amendments at every stage of the Bill's proceedings. Therefore I expect the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, to put forward remarkably similar arguments to those he produced on the last occasion.

All that I say to the noble Lord is that the football authorities believe they can administer the scheme without any of the disagreeable consequences which were set out by the noble Lord when he attempted to justify his position on the last occasion. Indeed, we await with interest to see which particular arguments he will deploy this evening against this particular amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps I may simply say to the Minister that if he genuinely wishes to take football with him, this is a very good way to do something with which—although the Minister may not be happy with it—football says it is capable of living. I am told by the Football League that 89 out of the 92 League clubs already have facilities for admitting old age pensioners separately. Indeed, they have turnstiles which are geared to include old age pensioners and juveniles. That is very often because the reduced prices which are charged for old age pensioners and juveniles are the same.

As I see it, the Minister has only one barrier to cross in order to accept the sense of the amendment, that barrier being that he does not wish to accept it. However, that is not a reason. What is proposed is capable of being implemented. If, in fact, he were to do something along those lines, which he may well say endangers the integrity of the scheme, who will benefit? First, it will benefit the old age pensioners because they will not have to be members of the scheme; they will not have to pay; they will not have to fill in any forms and they will not have to have in their possession a card in order to gain entry. Whatever scheme is presently used by the clubs to ensure that old age pensioners satisfy the club that they are indeed old age pensioners in order to get through the turnstile, there will be the same facility. Moreover, what is also a certainty is that the clubs will be one of the greatest beneficiaries.

I can well imagine that a lot of people—I am getting perilously near, but I am not yet quite in the bracket which is affected by the clause—will simply say, "If I have got to join a scheme, pay a sum of money, fill in a form and carry about with me something that I need to get in to watch my local team"—that is, whether it be Newcastle United, which it was for me, but now it is Spurs—"I won't bother". One might say, "That's your choice". However, what an imposition to put upon people who, whatever else they have been doing, have been the lifeblood of our football. Of course, basically, watching football is perhaps a younger person's pastime.

My word, I do not go to football matches frequently but I sense that people feel that they belong to something. There is a camaraderie at a football match which is enjoyed by elderly people. The Minister should say something to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, which will enable him to believe that he genuinely wants to meet this serious problem.

The Minister should appreciate that he will alienate a great many people if he classifies old age pensioners in the same way as he classifies hooligans. Whether one is a hooligan or an old age pensioner one must have a membership card to get into the match.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest. I have a retirement pension and have had for many years. I concede that more weight should be attached to the arguments that have been advanced in favour of this amendment than to some of the previous amendments in which I did not think there was any substance. If people are to be exempt but still want to attend football matches, they would have to prove that they are exempt. Old age pensioners do not normally carry cards around with them saying that they are old age pensioners. One can obtain a concessionary rail warrant, but I can never find mine when I want it.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, does the noble Lord never travel on public transport? If he does, he carries a card around with him unless he is a lunatic. If one has a card one travels free. It is no good saying old age pensioners do not travel around with cards. Any old age pensioner who is not senile carries around a series of cards.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I must confess that the noble Lord has made a valid but silly point. To prevent the minority of undesirable people to whom we have referred as hooligans from entering football grounds we must have the irksome business—it is an irksome business—of making all those who want to go to football grounds have the right sort of authority to do so. I am not sure that old people necessarily wish to be treated differently from others. I am now so old that I hate it when people try to make me feel my age. The worst thing of all is when young men call me sir. To single out old age pensioners who, as has been said, form a large group of football supporters does not seem to fit in at all well with the generality of the scheme.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the issue is not whether old age pensioners are potential hooligans. The whole point has been missed, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Contrary to what he said earlier about me, I am against the Government on all exemptions. I believe that they are bureaucratic. I support my noble friend Lord Renton. They are patronising, especially for old age pensioners.

I am sorry that the Bill has been seen only in a negative way. There is another side of it which has not emerged during the debate—the positive side. It is wrong to interpret the Government as assuming that the people we are giving passes to are potential hooligans. It is an overall scheme designed to give the best possible protection to people at football matches and to make it more easy to identify the troublemakers. If the scheme is seen in that light, people holding cards at football matches can consider them to be a kind of protection. The chances then are that people who are up to no good may be more easily identifiable.

I think the scheme is good for members and will be good for football. There is also considerable scope for improving the financial wherewithal of clubs, in particular the Welsh clubs which were mentioned earlier as being in such dire straits.

In this Chamber we are incredibly cocooned, it seems to me. I find that there is an enormous amount of support for the Bill outside the Chamber from people who want an end to football hooliganism. If this Bill when enacted does anything to reduce or go some way towards eliminating football hooliganism, then those people who attend football matches with their identification cards will be better protected. My hope is that football clubs and their supporters associations will be healthier and stronger for it.

So I am sorry that noble Lords see this in a very negative light. My hope is that when we give identification cards to old age pensioners attending football matches it is not because they are potential hooligans but because we wish to protect those people going to football matches to enjoy what they see. That is a good football match.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, in part of her remarks the noble Baroness seemed to be making a Second Reading speech on the general principles of the Bill. Frankly, as one who is well beyond the old age pension scale since I am now in my middle seventies I am amazed to be told that it is patronising for pensioners to be given cheap facilities anywhere. I have in my hand my British Rail pass. I do not live in Greater London, therefore I am not as fortunate as other Members of the House who have free transport in London. My district council will not provide it, but I have the British Rail pass.

I think I mentioned during the previous debate that I go to see my football team. I know that somebody jocundly said that only pensioners would go to see my team; but I think that is unfair since they are now sixth in the Fourth Division table. I go along to every single Leyton Orient home game with my next-door neighbour who is 78, three years older than I. Nobody anticipates what we shall jump over the barriers—I only wish I could because I get trouble in my leg. Nobody visualises that. It is suggested that it is patronising to allow this; but we have heard from my noble friend that 89 of the 92 clubs already have special admission rules for pensioners, and they work properly.

Let us consider the pleasure that older people get from going down to see their football team on a Saturday afternoon, as my noble friend says, at a considerably reduced rate. It may be argued that it is not to the benefit of the football teams to recognise pensioners and give them cheap rates. However it is something that they appreciate. Pensioners would resent being told that their cheap admittance on a Saturday afternoon is patronising them. They believe that it is something to which they are entitled and I think that clubs are anxious to give them that facility. I give way to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I was not objecting to the fact that they are given a reduced rate for going into the match. I was saying that the issue of identification cards would be a protection for them rather than singling them out as potential hooligans.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I already have a membership card from my football club, but if anyone can assure me that if I had a card it would make me safer and that pensioners will be made safer, frankly that seems to be turning logic completely on its head. I shall not make a Second Reading speech because I want to keep hooligans out of football. However, to suggest that giving a membership card to pensioners will help them to keep hooligans out of football seems to me to be absolutely crass nonsense. I am sorry to put it as strongly as that.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I think that we have heard some very powerful and cogent arguments in favour of the amendment. I should have thought that the Government could accept it. I was rather surprised to hear Government Back-Benchers exercising their ingenuity in objecting to singling out old age pensioners when they were perfectly prepared to accept government Amendment No. 27 which singles out disabled persons and accompanied children under 10.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, perhaps I may make one point on the amendment which has not yet been made although it may have been referred to in the earlier discussion at the Committee stage. There is no doubt in my mind that the administration—the operation and mechanics—of the scheme by the Football Membership Authority, when the time comes and the scheme has finally been drafted and approved, will take time, money and work. For each application for a membership identity card inquiries will have to be made. Certain checks will be made and then the card will be issued. Let us accept that we are not worried about the terraces being festooned with rioting old age pensioners. We all accept that that is not the problem. We also accept that the problems of hooliganism are not in the grounds but outside.

The simple point that I should like to make to the Minister is that there are work and expense involved in the administration of the scheme for the clubs concerned. If at a stroke old age pensioners are automatically allowed in, the work in respect of those hundreds of thousands of people who go to football matches every Saturday will be reduced. That is another point which should be considered. Certainly those people do not need protection. I have had a season ticket for Old Trafford to watch Manchester United for 20 years. I go there fairly regularly and I have never felt in need of protection, whether by a card or in any other way. At a stroke much of the burden of the work and expense in the operation of this scheme could be removed merely by saying that old age pensioners are exempt.

Lord Monson

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, appered to suggest that the Bill was not strict enough. For those of us who consider that the great part of the Bill is authoritarian nonsense, motivated by panic, there is a lot to be said for supporting any amendments which make it even stricter. If, for example, there was an amendment to provide that women, children and pensioners should be compulsorily strip-searched in the freezing rain at the turnstiles, that would help to bring the Bill into disrepute and ensure its hasty repeal. I think that that is a temptation we should resist. Although I did not put my name down to this amendment, I gladly support it.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, suggested that no pensioner had ever been convicted of a football-related offence. I am sure that he is absolutely right, and I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, will be able to prove otherwise.

There is one good reason in support of this amendment which has not been mentioned. It is a sad thing that far too many pensioners as a result of misplaced pride refuse to take up social security benefits to which they are absolutely entitled. They consider that accepting these benefits constitutes charity and is in a sense beneath their dignity, however much one tries to explain to them that they are entitled to them and that it is not a question of charity. I am certain that exactly the same kind of thing is likely to happen in respect of applications for membership cards.

Old people tend to be conservative with a small "c"—politically they may have quite different views and are likely to have quite different views if this Bill goes through unamended. Older people are normally reluctant to change the habits of a lifetime. The consequence of that is that there will be a great many old people who love football but who will not be prepared to apply for membership cards and will be deprived of one of their few remaining pleasures.

Lord Hesketh

I am sure that all noble Lords derived varying amounts of pleasure from the description of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, of mythical rioting pensioners. However, we must face the Government's intention with regard to this amendment. We believe that for the scheme to work it needs to work in totality. We see it giving benefit to all who are members. We do not see it as a scheme which will place onerous difficulties upon pensioners.

We are providing a scheme which will achieve that which my noble friend Lady Blatch quite rightly pointed out. This is a matter which has hardly been discussed in your Lordships' House since the beginning of the Second Reading debate, it is the possibility that football might soar in popularity because we are doing something about trying to get rid of hooliganism.

It is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to say "Come on" from a seated position on the Front Bench opposite. The fact of the matter is that the Government are committed to doing something about soccer hooliganism. We are doing something about it with the Bill that is before your Lordships' House. Pensioners are a group of vulnerable people who will benefit from the results of the Bill.

I heard the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, say earlier this afternoon that at Wembley yesterday there was only one arrest. My Lords, 65 people were arrested; there were 17 ejections. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, has constantly spoken of one arrest in 10,000. I am not the best mathematician, but it is jolly nearly one in 1,000 on the basis of those figures. The fact of the matter is that that is not the story of a happy sport.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, how many of them were old age pensioners? If this measure is for their safety and they do not ever riot, they will be just as safe even if they do not have tickets.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the assumption of the noble Baroness is that the Bill will have no effect. We believe that the Bill will have an effect. That effect will be to substantially reduce soccer violence. If that is substantially reduced, the sport's good name will be restored. If one of the happy outcomes of the Bill is that protection and the ease of attending a football match are greatly improved, then most Members of your Lordships' House should support the Bill.

As I have said in this House on more than one occasion, the object of exclusion is to exclude the hooligans. The object of the Bill is to provide protection not only to pensioners but to everyone. It is very easy for the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to present and deploy an argument which, so far as I can make out, denies the existence of soccer violence.

I have found it extraordinary how rarely over the past few months the problem has even been mentioned. It is constantly presented as if the problem is already under control and the Government are interfering in something which has been cured. That is not true. We are acting for the protection of pensioners and everyone else who loves football. That is why we resist the amendment.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down—and setting aside his split infinitive which I shall ignore for the moment—he still has not replied to my noble friend. How many of those people who he told us were charged were old age pensioners? That is more relevant to the amendment which is before the House than the reply which the noble Lord has just given.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, first, it was not relevant. Secondly, I should be amazed if there was a single pensioner. We are talking about the effect of the violence on the weak in society, but the existence of that violence appears to be denied on the other side of the House.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, did the noble Lord really need to say something as silly as that?

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, is it not clear from what the Minister has said that the only reason for the inclusion of old age pensioners is to make the scheme economically viable? The Minister has said repeatedly, not only today, but during previous stages of the Bill, that in order to make it safer for old age pensioners to attend football matches they must have an identity pass. Does the Minister really believe that by making it harder for old age pensioners to go to a football match more of them will be attracted? The truth is the opposite.

I happen to have with me a concessionary fare pass issued to me as an old age pensioner living in Greater Manchester, where there are 2,750,000 people. I should assume, and I think rightly, that the overwhelming number of old age pensioners in Greater Manchester have such a pass. I could also have a pass for London, but living in the City of Westminster where Lady Porter leads the council I do not think that the council could afford to give me one. In the Greater Manchester area there are the two Manchester football teams, Manchester City and Manchester United; there is Oldham Athletic; Bolton; Bury, and Rochdale. There are tens of thousands of football supporters in that area who can be identified immediately by a pass which has their photograph on it.

What reason can the Minister and the Government give me for perpetuating or duplicating the situation by asking old age pensioners to go through that procedure once again? As I said, I do not know how many football teams are covered by the old GLC area, but I should imagine that that is the largest catchment area for football followers in England. A similar situation applies in the West Midlands. Many of those areas have a concessionary or free travel permit or facility for old age pensioners. As I understand it, such schemes must be accompanied by an identifying photograph which is part of the permit. I do not understand why the Government insist that there is a need to go through that type of exercise again. The Minister repeated what he said at previous stages; namely, that old age pensioners need such a permit for protection. That argument will not wash and he would gain far more credibility and acceptance for the Bill if he looked at the situation a little more seriously and gave better reasons than he has done so far.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I am a little puzzled about this matter and wonder whether my noble friend can help me. He said earlier that the Government believe in the totality of the scheme and that it should embrace everyone. I agree with him in that, but, if that is the case, why has he introduced an amendment to make certain exclusions? That must surely open the very floodgates that have led to the number of amendments tabled by noble Lords this evening. It seems to me that, if we are to have some exclusions, some of those that have been tabled—particularly this one—have a considerable amount of merit. I believe in the totality of the scheme, but the only way one can have totality is to have no exclusions whatever. One cannot go half way. I believe that my noble friend has made life a little more difficult for himself in this matter by moving the amendment that we are now trying to amend, because it opens the floodgates. As I said on Second Reading—I regret that I have not been here for the other stages of the Bill—we either have a blanket identity card system with no exceptions and everyone knows where they stand, or we have exceptions. This amendment allows for a reasonable exception.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly to help the noble Viscount. The reason why we have the limited exemptions in the amendment that we are discussing is that they were recommended in the working party document. There is some rationality behind the limited exemptions that the Government offer. We cannot have an "either/or" situation. We are trying to meet up with the real world and deal on a common sense basis.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I have not spoken to this amendment. If I had done so, I should not be speaking now; I know that that would break standing orders and I would not wish to do that.

However, the Minister must understand that some of us feel very deeply about the Bill and believe that it is an illiberal Bill. On the other hand, we understand that the Government are committed to the Bill and that they will have the football spectators' scheme come what may. We can understand that, but what I cannot understand is why they wilfully insist that a section of the population which is already easily identified at the football grounds should be made to join a football scheme and carry an ID card when, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has pointed out, virtually all football grounds now have separate entrances for pensioners. All pensioners must do is produce their pension books, pay and go through. We simply cannot understand why the Government insist that, as well has having their pension books, they must join the scheme. That seems to be a wilful imposition on pensioners. I hope that the Government will think about this matter. They have the opportunity now genuinely to say that there is no need to inconvenience this section of the population and therefore it will not be done. That is what I feel about the matter.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, might at least have replied to his noble friend Lord Mountgarret, but apparently he does not choose to do so. I commend him on the fact that he did not return to some of the more ill judged arguments made at Committee stage. The House did not hear anything more about chaos at the turnstiles, for instance. That was rather good news. The argument did not sound too impressive on the last occasion. It would sound even less impressive today after it has been pointed out that 89 clubs have separate turnstiles for old age pensioners. All we have heard are the merits of the totality of the scheme dealt with by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret.

Before turning to some of the more interesting remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, I should like to deal with the arguments of the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, which were logically impeccable. I understand the bureaucratic argument, or call it what you will, that there should be no exemptions at all. That was the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. In order to reassure us that she was not a firm supporter of whatever the Government did on any occasion, which I think perhaps was suggested in a previous debate, she indicated to us that she was a rebel on this question and thought that the Government had made a serious misjudgment in making exemptions for disabled people and children under the age of 10. Such a truly absurd argument almost defies rational analysis. Are we to have seven and eight year-old members of the scheme with photographs going through this piece of bureaucratic nonsense?

The way the noble Baroness approached this measure concerned me a great deal. Indeed, as she became more enthusiastic for a policy against all exemptions, I began to wonder whether she felt that this Bill went far enough. The logic of her position would be that over a period of time this legislation would come to apply to rugby league, rugby union, cricket, horse racing—where certainly there has been violence in the past—and indeed Wimbledon. I see no other logical position for the Baroness to take up.

I rejoice that, at least, until now, the Government have not adopted such a policy. The noble Baroness, who, so far as I am aware, does not have a financial interest in football, told us that the one piece of good news about this Bill was that the finances of football and the position of Welsh football in particular would improve. When she takes a financial interest in perhaps one of the Welsh clubs, I am sure that we shall be extremely reassured by her wish to give even more eloquent testimony to her belief in her own arguments. However, I shall be surprised if she does so.

As we learnt when the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, rose to speak, the fact of the matter is that the Government have no serious arguments to deploy on this amendment. They have none at all. All we had from the noble Lord was the extraordinary statement about the number of arrests that had taken place this weekend at Wembley. Presumably he used that argument during the present debate for some reason. He was asked by my noble friend Lady Seear how many of those arrested were old age pensioners but he was totally unable to give an answer. That raised an interesting question as to why he had used the argument in the first instance.

Since he has used the argument, and given the fact that I suspect that we shall have some debates at Third Reading—if not going over this precise ground they will no doubt cover similar ground—I invite him to ask the Metropolitan Police how many of these people were old age pensioners. It will no doubt have this information. Since he has used the argument, he is now obliged to give an answer on that precise question to the noble Baroness. I hope that he will do so in a letter to my noble friend Lady Seear before Third Reading. I am quite sure that if the Metropolitan Police has the information, as I suspect it does, it will be anxious to assist the noble Lord.

The final argument of the noble Lord consisted of two points. First, he said that the Government did not believe that to bring old age pensioners into the scheme would impose an onerous duty upon them. If one considers the fact that clubs at the moment believe that they will lose possibly 20 per cent. of their present gate as a result of the introduction of this scheme and that part of that 20 per cent. will consist of old age pensioners, that argument seems to have very little to commend it.

Finally, the noble Lord said that he was astonished, amazed—I cannot remember the precise words—that a number of us who had had serious doubts about the Bill no longer indicated our enthusiasm for dealing with the problem of soccer hooliganism. I do not think that in looking around for an argument, he believes something quite as threadbare as that. The fact is that all of us deplore soccer hooliganism. Our opposition to this Bill is that at its best it is entirely irrelevant to the problem of soccer hooliganism. It will not deal with the increasing problem of violence outside football grounds. The figures of the noble Lord in relation to Wembley indicated that most of the trouble arose outside the football ground. The more that we discuss this Bill the more foolish, threadbare and ridiculous it appears. I wish to press the amendment.

10.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 32), as an amendment to Amendment No. 27, shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 34.

DIVISION NO. 4
CONTENTS
Airedale, L. Monson, L.
Ampthill, L. Mountgarret, V.
Bonham-Carter. L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Carter, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Craigavon, V. Seear, B.
David, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Graham of Edmondon, L. Underhill, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Hatch of Lusby, L.
Hylton, L. Winstanley, L.
NOT-CONTENTS
Arran, E. Hesketh, L.
Belstead, L. Hives, L.
Blatch, B. Hooper, B.
Boardman, L. Long, V.
Borthwick, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Caithness, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Carnock, L. Mountevans, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Renton, L.
Craigmyle, L. Rochdale, V.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Dormer, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Dundee, E. Strange, B.
Ferrers, E. Strathclyde, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Trefgarne, L.
Harvington, L. Trumpington, B.
Henley, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10.11 p.m.

On Question, Amendment No. 27 agreed to.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 4, line 13, at end insert— ("( ) providing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme, of—

  1. (i) no more than two parents or other persons accompanying a child under the age of 16 years;
  2. (ii) that child,
where admission of all such persons is restricted to an area designated by a responsible person for the use of families.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we ask the Minister to deliver the recommendation set out in the Minister for Sport's working party. It has been used as a crutch by the Government more than once during the debates. The working party stated: The working party considered, in the interest of encouraging families to attend matches, that children under 16, accompanied by an adult member of the scheme, could be exempt from the scheme provided that: (i) they view the match from a designated family enclosure; and (ii) there is direct access to that family enclosure, not allowing transfer to other areas of the ground". I use as an illustration Millwall and Watford football clubs which I have attended. The Minister is well briefed in these matters and knows that they are but two illustrations. I also have a note of Manchester City football club, which my noble friend Lord Dean knows better than anyone in this House as a result of his attendance at Maine Road. Luton Town football club will create a new family stand in the near future, as will other clubs.

We seek to provide that a separate form of access will be offered to a closely defined number of persons with a view to encouraging family attendance at matches. Surely that is desirable. There will be instances where an 11 or 12 year-old is bitten by the bug and wishes to attend matches. The only people able to take him may be adults who are not members of the scheme. We wish to encourage family membership. I should like to give as an illustration a visiting relative. The youngster with whom he is staying may wish to attend a match and can do so only if accompanied by an adult. In that instance they will go into clearly defined areas.

Such areas already exist so we do not ask for an exception but a continuation of that provision. I do not chide the Minister for making the exemptions that he has made. However, I believe that those in football will press upon the Minister the fact that more exemptions should be made. I realise the reticence of the Minister and his advisers. The more exemptions which are made, the more criticised the scheme may be because many people will not be affected by it.

The Government would be well advised to give in to the pressure from clubs. We are not talking about irresponsible people but about football clubs which have at heart their own credibility and financial status. They wish to see these provisions developed. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I have accepted the principle that young children accompanied by an adult member of the scheme or otherwise authorised by the scheme should be exempt. We introduced an amendment to this effect even though we had not previously promised to do so. Such an exemption makes good practical sense in the context of the scheme. The Opposition's counter-proposal could be highly damaging to the scheme.

In the first place, I am afraid that 16 is too high an age at which to set the level of exemption. This is one point on which the Government now part company from the report of the Minister for Sport's working party. Of course we hope that teenagers will join the scheme. It will be open to clubs to issue cards free of charge to teenagers if they wish. But I am afraid that it is a deeply distressing aspect of modern life that teenagers are involved in crime. Even among 10 to 13 year-olds in 1987, 35,000 boys were found guilty of or cautioned for indictable and summary offences; 1,200 of them involving violence against the person. Among slightly older teenagers, the picture is much worse. Among boys aged between 14 and 16,100,000 were found guilty or cautioned for offences in 1987, nearly 7,000 for offences involving violence against the person.

If the level of exemption were set at 16, we would be encouraging 16, 17 and even 18 year-olds to pretend to qualify. A 16 year-old thug can pretend quite easily to be 15; he cannot pretend to be under 10. If the age of exemption were to be 16, there would be a very strong case for requiring those who claimed exemption to prove their age. We can avoid that need and the danger of attracting teenage hooligans if we set the age at 10.

The second important difference between the Government's approach and the Opposition's is that we propose that the children concerned must be accompanied by an adult member of the scheme or authorised by it. This exemption must not be a loophole to allow hooligans disqualified from membership to enter the ground. Above all, we do not want to encourage hooligans to pick on children and persuade them to act as their "passport" into the ground. Nor, come to that, do we want teenage hooligans to pick on innocent adults and use them as a passport into the ground. The effect of the Opposition amendment could be an open invitation to hooligans to turn designated family areas into the most dangerous, not the safest, parts of the ground.

The way to avoid this abuse of family areas is to limit the exemption to young children accompanied by responsible adults. I recognise that this means that the adults concerned will have to join the scheme or be otherwise authorised by it. But this is a price that must be paid if we are to avoid a serious risk of abuse. It is precisely because the Government want to encourage families to attend football matches that we cannot accept the Opposition amendment.

In the first place, we want families with teenage children to join the national membership scheme and to benefit from it. At the same time, we accept that small children should not be required to join the scheme. So we have an exemption for them in family areas. But those family areas must be kept safe from hooliganism, not provide an open invitation to hooligans as the Opposition amendment would do.

The Government have made a significant move to deal with the position of children under the scheme. I believe that we have moved the right distance, as I said earlier this evening, and that the Opposition is trying to go much too far. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Graham, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the Minister sits down perhaps I may correct him on a matter of accuracy. He referred to the danger of 16 year-old children pretending to be younger if this amendment is agreed to. The amendment refers not to 16 year-old children but to children under the age of 16 years. Therefore, no child over the age of 15 would benefit if the amendment were agreed to.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I find it difficult to understand the Government's objection to this amendment and I heard their objection to a similar amendment in Committee. It seems to me that the purpose of this amendment is to encourage the provision of family enclosures at football grounds. That seems to me to be a very helpful development and one which should be encouraged.

I understand the noble Lord's objections to some of these amendments and I listened carefully to his earlier answer and this one was the same; namely, that the Government believe that hooliganism at football grounds is unacceptable. I agree with him entirely on that. The Government believe that the way to get rid of hooliganism in football grounds is to exclude the people responsible for hooliganism.

Here we are talking about family enclosures. I do not know of a single case anywhere in the country where hooliganism has arisen among people in family enclosures. Therefore, if there is no hooliganism coming from family enclosures, why does the scheme apply to those people—because one is not reducing hooliganism but merely stopping something which does not happen?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, that kind of argument will cut no ice with this Minister. The fact that there is no hooliganism, that individuals do not need protection and that the clubs have no record of violence does not cut any ice with this Minister, the Minister for Sport or the Government.

The Government are petrified at this possibility —and I took careful note of what the Minister said—that our amendment would be an open invitation to hooligans. Nothing more ludicrous has been said by the Minister than that. It is inconceivable that there would be marauding groups of people, excluded by one device or another from watching a football match, who would be looking for loopholes to exploit. The Minister undoubtedly has his own experiences and his advisers undoubtedly consult a range of people. We know that they do not consult football authorities otherwise the football authorities would tell him that the amendment is what they want.

The Government should decide to examine their premise for this Bill; that is, to encourage the return of family attendance. Incidentally, there never has been a history of family attendance. It is a myth. However, if the Government wish to encourage families they should build upon what Millwall, Luton, Doncaster and Southend—there are dozens—are doing. All we can do is once more expose the shallowness of the responses given to the Minister to read out to the House tonight. It is a very sad way in which to have a parliamentary debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 4. line 16, leave out paragraph (e).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 37. 38 and 82. In essence, these amendments are designed to improve the appeal procedures for people who are judged to have transgressed the maxims of the scheme. Clause 5 deals with the membership scheme, the contents and penalties. We want to determine a better tribunal procedure.

These amendments—it may be a fatal flaw—have been given to us by people at the sharp end; that is, the supporters and people in the football world. They have not been dreamed up by someone out of touch with such matters. What do we say in this series of amendments? The essence is that we want to have an element of independence in the tribunal. We also want to make sure that the evidence which is sought is of a wider nature than that which is enshrined in the Bill.

I am not at all certain how far the Minister will have to go, but we simply want to improve the procedure under which football fans can be deprived of what for many of them is a lifeline. They may have acted foolishly and deserve punishment but we want to be fair. The amendment is designed to ensure that. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, we debated this group of amendments during Committee stage. I said then that the Government regarded it as an essential element in the National Membership Scheme that the FMA should have the power to disqualify, at its discretion, people who misbehave at football matches but who have not necessarily been convicted of a criminal offence. I made the point that individual football clubs already have, and exercise, the right to ban people from their grounds. But, as things stand, someone who is banned from one club is able simply to go to another and cause trouble there. Bans imposed by the FMA at their discretion, on evidence received from the clubs, will apply throughout the league.

It is for this reason that I argued in Committee, and do so again now, that these discretionary powers for the FMA were an invaluable component of the Bill. But I accepted that there was a case for our dealing with these powers in a rather different way from that which the Bill uses at the moment. I undertook to look again at the appeals procedure and at the possibility of limiting the FMA's discretion more clearly on the face of the Bill. I promised to consider bringing forward amendments at a later stage. I regret that it has not been possible for us to reach conclusions on these points in time to bring forward amendments for consideration today. We regarded it as essential that we should consult the Council on Tribunals before doing so. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, also considered this to be important. I am afraid that it was not possible to arrange these discussions in time for us to decide on appropriate amendments before today. I can assure the House, however, that these discussions will take place in time for us to reach a view on what amendments we should propose to your Lordships at Third Reading. If we decide that amendments on these issues are necessary—and I fully expect that we shall—then they will be tabled in time for your Lordships to consider them at Third Reading.

The Government's position on these amendments has not changed since Committee. We accept that there is a case for looking again at the appeals procedure provided in the Bill. As I said in Committee, if we have too elaborate a procedure the FMA and the clubs will not use it; and it will mean unacceptable delays for the appellant. I hope that we can produce a better and simpler approach. I also repeat that I am willing to consider spelling out certain restrictions on the FMA's discretion perhaps by limiting the maximum ban that can be imposed to two years; by providing a right for people to be notified of the reasons for their disqualification, and by requiring that the FMA's criteria for disqualification must be reasonable.

The Government remain willing to consider all these possibilities. It is appropriate that we should consult the Council on Tribunals on them. We will do so in good time to come back to your Lordships on Third Reading. In view of these repeated assurances, I invite noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, unhappily I did not have sent to me by the Minister's department the letter received by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. Fortunately, the noble Lord showed me the letter. I very much hope that in future I shall also receive copies of letters, particularly regarding matters on which I have spoken and on the issue dealt with by the Minister of the Council on Tribunals. I am glad to hear what the noble Lord said concerning the reasons for disqualification. That is absolutely essential. It would be quite monstrous if the reverse were to be the case; for example, if membership were withdrawn from a member of the scheme without having an explanation given for that decision. Were that to be done, I believe that the tribunal itself would face some difficult issues by way of a judicial review were such a policy adopted. I am glad to hear that the Government are thinking of certain moves in that direction.

Given the fact that the noble Lord said that these matters were being considered between now and the Third Reading, I shall now deal with the composition of the appeal tribunal. I am extremely uneasy about it. Let us be clear about the situation. Perhaps I may describe the football club concerned as. the plaintiff. It would say that Mr. X should have his membership of the scheme withdrawn for a specific reason. The member so dealt with shall have the right of appeal to the tribunal. However, who are the members of the tribunal? Strangely enough, they are members of football clubs. In a number of cases they inevitably have close relations with the club that is the plaintiff in the case. As a matter of fundamental justice it does not seem right that the tribunal should consist exclusively of people who are themselves directly involved in football. It may be argued that they are not independent when they are adjudicating on a case, however unfair that belief may be.

The fact of the matter is that a number of people appearing before the tribunal will feel that there was not much chance of obtaining justice because the judges will all be associated with the club that had brought them before the tribunal in the first place. That is why I put down an amendment which, given the fact that the Government are considering these questions, I do not propose to move later. It sought to establish that the majority of the tribunal would not be involved with the Football Membership Authority or indeed even with football.

These are difficult issues. On the basis of what I have been told, I do not believe that the football authorities are overwhelmed with excitement at the prospect of taking on this responsibility. None, inevitably, has had any direct experience of sitting on tribunals of this kind. I am quite sure that they would be prepared to help it as much as they could, but they have serious doubts whether they could carry out this responsibility by themselves. I hope that the Government will look at this question. There is a case for someone involved in football being a member of the authority—I do not deny the need for that—but it is necessary to ensure that the majority of the members of the tribunal are not directly involved with the FMA or even with football itself.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the issue of arranging for dealing with appeals, including the membership of a tribunal or review body, is one of those which we wish to discuss with the Council on Tribunals. I take the noble Lord's point on the importance of the independent members, but I hope he will not press me to say any more at this moment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the Minister has made a fair offer to the House. We are anxious that consultations and discussions are able to proceed unimpeded by any dispute about what he intends to do. What he says he intends to do meets with the generality of what I have said tonight and on a previous occasion. It is an absolutely crucial point to those who may lose their national football identity cards. For the real football fan—I am not talking about the football hooligan—who has transgressed and deserves punishment, the possibility of being deprived of that lifeline is a serious matter.

We do not want to prejudice or anticipate what the Minister may bring forward. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, are very much in line with my own thoughts. The Minister has invited me to withdraw the amendment against the background that he has promised to bring forward at Third Reading something that will meet these points. The Minister smiles. Have I misinterpreted what he said?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am not sure that I said exactly that I had promised on every point. The noble Lord would be well advised to read in the Official Report tomorrow what I said.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I do nothing else but read in the Official Report what the noble Lord has said. I shall most certainly do that. If I larded what he said, that is the kind of licence which an opposition spokesman is entitled to. It may not be very effective but it is all that we have. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to Amendment No. 27, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 27, Amendment No. 36:

Page 4, line 30, at end insert— ("( ) providing for the exercise of the rights accorded to members of the National Football Membership Scheme under Schedule (Rights of members of the National Football Membership Scheme) to this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 80. This amendment deals with the rights of membership of the scheme. The Minister has said that if one is a member of the scheme one will be entitled to free mail shots. One will be on a computer. It is possible that one's details will be sold to the highest bidder by someone who says to the club, "If you allow us to instal equipment it will cost you nothing because we will get back our money and more by selling the information to other organisations". When I listen to Mr. Colin Moynihan I wonder whether the purpose of the scheme has more to do with the opportunity of exploiting that avenue than with protecting the innocent from the ravages of the hooligan.

We are concerned not only about the rights as regards information to be sold but also those in relation to other matters. Those other rights are set out in the new schedule proposed under Amendment No. 80. If the Minister says, "You must be a member of the scheme", then we are saying to him, "Give membership of the scheme some status and authority".

By means of Amendment No. 80 we are saying that if you are a member of the scheme, then you have, (a) the right to participate in the election of representatives to a body". You also have, (b)the right to participate in the election of a committee to monitor the operation of the scheme". And you have, (c) the right to call a meeting of members of the scheme; (d) the right to be notified in writing of the reasons for any proposed withdrawal of membership; (e) the right to present a defence before any decision regarding membership is made; (f) the right to appeal against any withdrawal of membership and the right to be represented at such an appeal". In other words, if there is any value or worth in being a member of a scheme, it should carry with it not only responsibilities but also benefits.

We are also most concerned about this aspect. We may be talking about half a million people here, or perhaps nearly a million, who are members of a national membership scheme. It is a colossal organisation. It is not created just for the convenience of the football clubs, the FMA, the Government or for some direct mail order organisation. If you are a member of the scheme you should have certain rights which go with that membership. Indeed, that is the basis of the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, we discussed this amendment in some detail during Committee. The provisions in the schedule focus on the right of members of the scheme in the management and operation of the scheme and in having the FMA's decision reviewed in cases where membership is withdrawn. I said in Committee that I have every sympathy with the sentiments which lie behind the noble Lord's proposals for members' rights in the running of the scheme. It will be for the FMA and the clubs to run and monitor the operation of the scheme. But they will wish to take fully into account the interests of members of the scheme. It is in their own interest to do so. Consultation with members is vital to the success of the scheme, but just as important is the need for the FMA and the clubs to be free to settle the most appropriate way of taking account of members' interests. It would not be helpful to attempt to spell out detailed arrangements like those in the proposed schedule on the face of the Bill.

The other proposed provisions centre on the important right which must be extended to anyone who is disqualified from membership by the FMA to have the authority's decision reviewed. During Committee I said that I would wish to take another look at the FMA's discretionary powers and the rules and procedures to be spelt out in the Bill by which the authority will exercise that discretion to disqualify people from membership. Having made it clear that I have a good deal of sympathy with the principles which lay behind the noble Lord's proposals, I undertook to consider the possibility of bringing forward amendments at a later stage.

I have explained that it has not been possible for us to do that in time for today and that we will be consulting the Council on Tribunals. I have given an assurance that I shall return to this matter on Third Reading. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, will do so. However, without in any way wishing to be ungracious to the noble Lord the Minister—who is not, I recognise, in any way responsible for the absurdities contained in the Bill—all I say to him is that the discussions with the Council on Tribunals should of course have taken place before the Bill was ever produced in Parliament.

We accept what the noble Lord said; namely, that these discussions are now taking place and that the Government will put forward their proposals on Third Reading. However, it must be said that all that is taking place at a very late stage in the Bill's proceedings. Moreover, when the Government complain—as, indeed, they have—about the slow progress of the Bill, I should just like to point out to them that if these matters had been handled properly and professionally we would not have had to have two separate debates on the one issue.

Having said that, I should like to ask the noble Lord one further question. Moreover, I am emboldened to do so by the arrival of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, who of course we welcome to our proceedings.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, he is going now.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I wonder how much longer we shall be kept here tonight. It is now 10.40 p.m. and we have made substantial progress on the Bill. The Government owe us some explanation as to how long we shall he asked to sit here.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the witching hour is a matter of agreement although it has not yet been reached. The witching hour and the agreement are fast approaching. We try to terminate the proceedings at a point which is convenient to the Government and to your Lordships' House. A timescale needs to be observed. If I withdraw the amendment, as I did the series of amendments in Committee, will the Minister say that when he receives the report he will table an amendment on Third Reading which will take account of the gravamen of the matters contained in the schedule relating to the rights accorded to members under the national membership scheme? I am not asking the Minister to say that the matter will be enshrined in the Bill, but, if I withdraw the amendment, I should like to feel that on Report the Minister will bring forward an amendment which relates to the points I am making in this series of amendments.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Airedale)

My Lords, is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am asking for some clarification from the Minister first.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I do not believe that I can go further than I have already gone. We are looking closely at the matter. I cannot say any more than I have said.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, on the basis that the "matter" includes the content of the amendments, I am willing to withdraw the amendment. I hope that the Minister will take careful note of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that when we see the words on the Marshalled List we shall have to decide whether we need to add something further on Third Reading. I am grateful to the Minister for what I consider to be an assurance that these matters may be covered on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 not moved.]

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 4, line 34, at end insert— ("and in this subsection "accompanied children" means persons under the age of 10 years in the charge of an authorised spectator;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords the amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 4, line 34, at end insert▀× ("(2A) In the application of subsection (2)(e) above, the Authority shall not make use of police records on individuals, nor shall clubs be given information about such records.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wondered whether the Government spokesman might have indicated that this was a convenient hour at which we could finish. There is a voice coming from I know not where behind me which says that we should take Amendment No. 42.

The amendment relates to the use, misuse or abuse of the police records of individuals who find themselves in some difficulty with clubs. The Government previously said: The FMA will not have access to police records"—[Official Report, 14/3/89; col. 132.], but the Government insisted that the clubs might need to use information supplied by the police when recommending disqualification.

We believe that the disclosure to clubs of police records would fall outside the current Home Office guidelines (Circular 45/1986), which relate mainly to applicants for certain kinds of employment, especially where access to children is involved. There is also a provision for automatic disclosure to bodies responsible for maintaining standards in certain professions.

There is certainly no precedent for disclosure of police records in connection with an individual's leisure activity involving no duty or responsibility beyond obeying the common law. The purpose of Amendment No. 40 is that under subsection (2)(e) of the Bill, the Authority— that is the FMA— shall not make use of police records on individuals, nor shall clubs be given information about such records". We think that is a very sensible and protective amendment. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, I think and hope that I shall be able to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Graham. The amendment in his name would prevent police records being taken into account or being passed to clubs for the purposes of FMA disqualification.

I explained in Committee that the general principle is that information which is held on police records is confidential and may only be released where there are pressing considerations of public interest. Lord Graham's concerns are that police records should not be taken account of or disclosed to clubs in the context of FMA disqualification. I think that is based on a misapprehension. The disqualification in this clause will arise from a request by a club to the FMA. The club will obviously have to put forward grounds for such disqualification and the case may include information which is supplied by the police to them about the behaviour of a certain individual. That behaviour might well have caused offence but might not have been so serious as to justify a charge.

The behaviour may well have resulted in the individual's ejection from the ground and details of such circumstances are routinely made known to club officials. I think it is right in these circumstances that a club should be able to seek disqualification especially if the behaviour was persistent. Clubs should be able to use appropriate information which was supplied by the police in support of it.

However, that is simply a report about a specific incident. It is not general intelligence and it is not confidential criminal records. These amount to entirely straightforward, sensible and practical reasons why that kind of information might justifiably be disclosed by the police to clubs. It ought then to be available to them to use in support of an application to the FMA for someone to be disqualified under Clause 5(2)(e).

I confirm that there is no question of the police providing anything other than the information which is relevant for this purpose. I repeat what I said in Committee: the FMA itself will not have access to police records.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, just so that I am entirely clear as to what the noble Earl has just told us, I shall obviously look at Hansard tomorrow, to study what he said. As I understand it, he stated that the clubs and the FMA will not receive any Criminal Records Office information from the police. That is the first point. The second point is that they will also not be given any criminal intelligence information from the police. The only information they will receive from the police, again as I understand it from what the noble Earl told us, is information directly related to happenings at a football ground, and nothing else.

I hope that I have put what the noble Earl has just told us accurately. If I have done so, then no doubt he will confirm it. Perhaps I may also ask him whether he has consulted the Association of Chief Police Officers and whether it has indicated its agreement to this course of action. That is, given the fact that it is its information.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I would prefer the noble Lord to take my interpretation of my words rather than his interpretation of my words. From what he has said, I think that he has gathered the gist of what I tried to intimate correctly. In other words, the police will be able to supply information relating to a certain incident that happened at the football ground, but they will not be able to give police records of any other confidential information. I can assure the noble Lord that ACPO has been consulted.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for teasing out the problem and to the Minister for responding very fairly to a genuine point. We are entitled to seek those assurances. We and those outside the House who advise us in these matters will read what the Minister has said. In those circumstances, I am pleased to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 4, line 34, at end insert— ("(2B) In the application of subsection (2)(j) above, the personal data recorded on a membership card shall be limited to the holder's name, address, national and club affiliations, the date of issue of the card, and if necessary, the date and place of the previous match attended and a photograph.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 41 deals with the personal data recorded on the membership card. In his letter to me of 4th April the Minister talked in terms of continuing discussions with the registrar with the possibility of amendments concerning data protection. The Minister stated: I can assure you, however, that we will bring forward any amendments which we consider necessary in the light of those discussions for Third Reading.". The Minister is saying that the generality of this amendment is part of the ongoing discussions and that we can expect to see something coming out of the discussions for Third Reading. We look forward to those discussions. I shall be very happy to withdraw the amendment in due course.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, as usual the answer is "yes and no". The noble Lord has moved a revised amendment taking account of points made in Committee. It provides for personal details to be included on a card. It provides that those details should be limited to name, address, photograph, national and club allegiance and date of issue and, if necessary, the date and place of the previous match attended. It would appear not to preclude the inclusion of advertising material. This amendment is an improvement on its predecessor. But I am still not convinced that spelling out the form and content of the card in the Bill is a sensible thing to do. The fact that this amendment suggests to the House more categories of information to be included on the card serves to underline the difficulty of attempting to put the details on the face of the Bill. The amendment would preclude the inclusion of the owner's date of birth. This could be a useful check on validity and is something that the FMA will wish to consider. In the light of experience, the FMA and the clubs might wish to include some additional information on the card. For these reasons I think it would be better not to spell out the detail of the card in the Bill.

We remain firmly of the view that the FMA should be free to consider the form and content of the card and settle on what best suits the needs of football and members of the scheme. I emphasised in Committee and do so again today that there is no question here of attempting to ride roughshod over the important issue of data protection. It is our intention that the Data Protection Act shall apply to all aspects of the scheme and we are in discussion with the registrar about this at the present time, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has said.

I commend this approach to your Lordships and hope that in the light of what I have said about the need for the FMA to have some flexibility and the assurance that I have given about data protection, the noble Lord, Lord Graham, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I shall study what the Minister has said to see whether it coincides with what we seek to achieve. I accept without reservation the Minister's genuine desire to make sure that individuals will have their personal details protected, whether or not they are covered by the Data Protection Act, and his desire to ensure that membership of the scheme will not mean that their details are generally available. We shall wait to read what the Minister has said. We shall take advice from others—not least the National Council for Civil Liberties, which has been giving us its views on these mattters. We may come back again to this matter at Third Reading. I am grateful to the Minister for his courtesy and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 42:

Page 4, line 38, leave out ("administrator of the scheme") and insert ("Football Membership Authority").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at four minutes before eleven o'clock.