§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Hesketh.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Scope and interpretation of this Part]:
Lord Harmar-Nicholls moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 8, after ("applies") insert ("whether or not in relation to any initial stage").
§ The noble Lord said: I agree with the grouping of Amendment No. 1 with Amendments Nos. 44, 65 399 and 86 to 89. They run together and indeed, if the Government accept or the Committee approves the first amendment, the others will almost automatically drop into place and will be implemented. Therefore, the grouping is effective and acceptable from every point of view.
§ I am trying to decide whether one should say that the Bill in its present form is unique or unprecedented. It is one or the other and perhaps could be both. It is unique in the sense that the implementation of the terms of the Bill that we shall examine is left in the hands of an implementing committee made up of football leagues, an administrator, other people and to some extent the Secretary of State. The implementation is left in the hands of those other than the normal machinery which comes into operation when a Bill becomes law. I believe that that is very wise and I accept it. The problem with which this Bill endeavours to deal carries with it practical difficulties. It is very sensible that the implementation of the general terms which Parliament gives for dealing with it should be in the hands of people with practical knowledge of what it is all about and those who know how to organise thousands of people going through football turnstiles to watch a match, with the emotions which sometimes go with that.
§ In moving my amendments, Members of the Committee will find that I am very much in sympathy with the Bill, the way in which the Bill is drawn up and the proposals for its implementation. Having established the need, which is a matter for Parliament and Government, for regulating the entrance to football grounds on match days, the decisions as to the form of the regulation and its practical implementation should be mainly in the hands of practical people who are aware of the practical problems which arise.
§ In introducing this Bill to Parliament in its present form, although we have criticisms of many of the details found within it, the Government have done their duty and it is right that they should have done so. It is now for Parliament to do its duty in making the Bill as sensible and acceptable as possible consistent with doing the job which it sets out to do in the most effective way. In the absence of other people outside being able to find an answer to the problems which have arisen, I believe that the Government should be congratulated on saying that it is their duty to do something. This Bill is the result of their considerations.
§ Up to that point, the Government are on strong ground. They have the whole Committee and, indeed, most of the country with them on the generalities of the matter. I do not believe that anybody is unaware of the dangers of the hooliganism which is being allowed to grow. There is no argument or difference of view on that. Society has to find a way to deal with hooliganism; otherwise we shall deteriorate into anarchy and there will be such unpleasantness that life will not be able to carry on as at present. Therefore, we are all at one in wanting to deal with hooliganism.
§ I believe that we all agree that football crowds are not the reason why we have hooliganism. It is not 400 football matches or crowds which have caused hooliganism. Nobody says that. To try to suggest that by bringing in such a Bill we are thereby blaming the problem of hooliganism upon football matches is not the aim of anybody dealing with it. However, I believe that it is also generally accepted that, while football crowds and their management are not the reasons for hooliganism, which takes place in places unconnected with sport and in other sports, sadly, football crowds have turned out to be a magnet for an element of hooliganism—and I believe a very small element. At this stage I do not believe that anybody is oblivious of the great efforts which most of the clubs have made. Television cameras and extra facilities have in many instances been able to minimise the problem.
§ Therefore, we are agreed that we must do something about hooliganism. We are agreed that it is not the fault of the football clubs that we have hooliganism. We are also agreed that football crowds have turned out to be a magnet which, whatever its significance, has something to do with keeping hooliganism alive and making it worse. At this point we must start examining the Bill itself to see whether, in acknowledging what the football clubs have done, it will help or hinder the clubs in the next step that has to be taken—that is, in removing the magnetism from the magnet as regards the contribution of football crowds to hooliganism.
§ My amendments, running together, do not in any way interfere with the Bill. They do not give instructions as to how the implementation of this general idea has to be carried out. The Government's Bill is left almost intact. What is attempted by some of the other amendments that we shall be dealing with later is another matter. My amendments—at the opening stage of the Bill and therefore perhaps the most important—leave the Bill intact. All that my amendments propose is that the committee, the administrator and the Secretary of State, in working out whatever scheme is to be implemented, should take into account when giving advice the value of confining application of the Bill (in whatever form it is when we finish with it) to trials in a small segment of the country rather than it operating universally. Many people who should know say that the Bill is impracticable; that however good in theory it may seem, in practice it will not work. If it is tried out at a microcosm of grounds that may well produce the answer.
§ The Government will find that nearly all the criticisms in the innumerable amendments they have to answer during the Committee stage say that however strongly Ministers may feel that their Bill, in theory, will do the trick of removing the attraction from the magnet and that the measure may look and sound all right, in practice it will not work. The critics of the Bill say that the amendments have not been tabled out of prejudice, bias or any anti-Government feeling. Indeed, criticisms come from all parts of the Committee. I have worked in association with noble Lords who sit on all Benches. The Official Opposition, the Cross-Benches, the Liberal and the SDP Benches have all looked at this Bill. The Committee is saying that the theory may look fine, but in practice the Bill will not work.401
§ Whose view should we accept as to whether the Bill is practically as well as theoretically possible? There are those who say, yes, let us have the Bill all at once. That is what is implied: the Bill says that it automatically becomes available for application on enactment. My amendment proposes that before that happens the Bill should be tried out in various segments. The amendments do not even spell out in detail the segments that should be chosen for trial purposes in the preliminary stages. It will be for the Committee to do that.
§ In suggesting to the Committee that my amendment will assist the Bill and make it more worthwhile I have to put this argument. The Government, with all the experienced civil servants who make up the department—they are good, experienced and know their work—seem to be saying that the Bill must be applied as soon as it is enacted. All the football clubs—not just a few or a majority, but all—who for years have had to cater for crowds through their turnstiles say that the Bill as it stands will not work. The practicalities of that view are there.
§ My amendments do not seek to alter the Bill. The movers of other amendments say that the Bill is not practicable, but if the Committee accepts my amendment we shall be in a position to say whether or not the Bill is practical before it is universally applied. We shall have had a testing on the ground. That will show whether or not the Bill will work. It seems the correct way to proceed in view of the dangers that could otherwise flow.
§ What are those dangers? It is not a matter of conjuring up emotive words. The people who have experience of organising crowds say that, however efficient these clever machines may be, however efficient are the people on the turnstiles in carrying out the measures within the Bill as it stands, and however efficient are the police who will be on hand to bolster the general control, if, a quarter of an hour before the match, there is a hold-up affecting those who are eager to see the match and who are emotively affected by what they think they are about to see, then the proposals in the Bill will not work. In the feeling that they are being denied what is their right the apparent hooliganism that will result from that disruption will do immense harm.
§ I should like to put this point. The theatre has to deal with crowds. The quality and the success of any show is always reflected by the time given to rehearsals. There is a final dress rehearsal. Previews are held to obtain reaction before the show is presented to the public. That usually indicates whether or not the show is a good one.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
Perhaps I may finish this point before the noble Baroness intervenes. The threatre has to deal with crowds and the previews show whether it will be a success or a failure. How many noble Lords would buy an air ticket if a new aeroplane had not had a test flight first? How many 402 noble Lords who have gone through military training of any sort have not had the instruction that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom, if ever, wasted? All that my amendments do—they do not interfere with the Bill—is to suggest or to give an indication to the Committee, the administrator and the Secretary of State that in working out the scheme that they have in mind for implementing the Bill they try it out in segments, as a rehearsal, before applying it throughout the country.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
I am seeking information. I am prepared to admit that I am probably slow on the uptake. If the noble Lord's amendment is carried can he tell me whether it will mean that no Bill shall come into force unless it is first tried out in segments and that it will not apply to the country as a whole?
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My amendment does not go that far. I thought about that. When I first decided that this was a Bill to which I should pay attention, my first inclination was to do that. I wanted to write into the Bill that it should be tried out in the first or second divisions. If I had tried to do that through my amendment the Bill would not have remained as it is. It would have become a hybrid Bill by sectionalising the people who would be affected by it.
The suggestion to which the noble Baroness referred passed through my mind. It was not a bad idea but it would have altered the nature of the Bill and slowed it up. It would have made it more difficult for the Government and I do not want to do that. I do not wish to delay the time in which something can be done to deal with hooliganism.
I expect some sympathetic response from my noble friend on the Front Bench and I hope that he sees the point of my amendments. The committee, the administrator and the Secretary of State will alone have the power to decide what shall be done. My amendments insist that when other considerations are taken into account they bear in mind the possibilities of the advantages by applying the regulations in sections. If they with their special knowledge and all the information that they will receive from their inquiries say, "It is a nonsense and we believe that these measures should be implemented together and it would cause harm to do otherwise" then I am not altering their powers.
My proposal is to use the knowledge of Members of the Committee and those in another place because many of us have dealings with football clubs. We have seen them built up and we know of the problems at the turnstiles and the difficulties in dealing with crowds. We are not telling the Government what to do; we are merely saying that when they decide what should be done under the Bill we want them seriously to take into account whether applying it in sections would not be safer and better.
It is really an insurance policy. How many Members of the Committee have not insured something or other of their possessions? These measures are merely to try to provide insurance against the practicalities proving insuperable though 403 the theory looks all right. This is insurance and I believe that the committee, the administrator and the Secretary of State would be wise to follow that course. It is no more than that. My noble friend cannot suggest for one moment that with any of my amendments I am wishing to alter the Bill as it now stands. I am not taking anything out; I am not removing any powers and I am not insisting that they use any new powers. I am merely saying that the Government should accept the guidance and should take seriously into account the good sense of having a rehearsal before they put on the show.
I could refer to the details of my amendments but that will take up time and other Members of the Committee wish to make a contribution. I ask noble Lords to take my word that if they read the words of my amendments they will find that they mean what I have just said and no more and no less. Everyone who has to run football matches has said that the practicalities are as I have described them. We should take the precaution of taking out an insurance policy. I hope that, when my amendments are put to the Committee and if my noble friend has not already accepted them, these remarks will give him the opportunity to do so. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mellish
I support the amendment that has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. I declare at once that in my view this is not a party political matter. I beg all Members of the Committee clearly to understand that. This Bill is about the best interest of football. It has nothing to do with the Conservative or Labour parties or the Liberal Democrats or whatever they call themselves. This Bill is about football and what is best for the clubs.
As I understand the Bill at the moment, it is to bring in a national membership scheme in which every single club in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Divisions will have to comply whether it likes it or not. That is the Bill as it now stands. What this series of amendments is proposing is that we agree with that part of the Bill that sets up a specialist committee that will implement the Government's proposals. We are saying that that specialist committee shall have certain considerations before it prior to implementing a national membership scheme. That is all that we are saying.
We are not denying the Bill. I do not deny that there is hooliganism at football matches and I never have done so. I am president of Millwall Football Club and I know something about hooligans. I know more than enough. But the truth of the situation is that we have to get down to basic hard facts. No club has tried harder than my own to eradicate hooliganism. It has spent a fortune and it has been eradicated. The club has dozens and dozens of police and crowds of people watching everything that is going on. I speak as one with a great deal of personal knowledge. It is not true to say that every game is full of hooliganism. It used to be but it is not so now. For example, last week, Barnsley, which is not a notable team to many people—
§ Lord Mellish
I appreciate that it is to the noble Lord, Lord Mason. Barnsley played Everton and there were 32,000 people there. I imagine that it was the biggest crowd that they have had for a long time. The Minister may be interested to know that there was not a single incident at the game, and that was achieved without the provisions of this Bill. I am saying to the Committee that the Bill should not be applied to every single club in the four divisions. It would be mad to do so. You cannot say to clubs like Crewe, Darlington and Hartlepool and other smaller clubs, "Whether you like it or not you are to have a national membership scheme". We have tabled these amendments to enable the Government to think about the terms of reference that they will give to the specialist committee.
My parliamentary experience tells me that if the Government Front Bench has decided, whether we like it or not, that this Bill is to become the law of the land then I am wasting my time and I do not know why I am speaking. I do not know why these amendments are to be moved or why anything should be said on this side of the Committee. That is why I began by saying that this is not a party political matter. Will the Minister please get that into his brain—I almost said "thick head"—but I would not dream of saying that. The fact is that the Bill affects all of us; it concerns all clubs and the vast majority of them do not deserve it.
There are top clubs such as Liverpool and Arsenal which will take the Bill in their stride. They will have no trouble in implementing a national membership scheme. But I believe that the Crewes and Hartlepools of this world and the rest of the tiny clubs at the bottom who form the backbone of football, will find it impossible. I wonder whether Members of the Committee realise that the vast majority of support for clubs comes from what is called casual support. For example, if Leyton Orient win away, which is fairly rare, it gets about 500 extra people at the next home game. Those supporters are called casuals. The average attendance of Leyton Orient which is a Fourth Division team, is about 2,000 to 2,500. It is being suggested that it should be told "Whether you like it or not you are to have a national membership scheme. You have got to be in it in the same way as Arsenal and Liverpool and the rest". I say that is rubbish and absolute nonsense. This measure cannot be applied to all the clubs. They do not know what hooliganism is about and they have never heard of it. Such clubs may have read about it concerning Chelsea but it is nothing to do with them.
The Government are saying that every club should conform. I support the amendment on that principle and that basis. I do not quarrel with the Bill and the Government's intentions. I readily accept Part II of the Bill which is to control the characters who go overseas. I do not deny, and have never done so, that there is hooliganism in the game and it has to be eradicated. I was asked by a very distinguished noble Lord "What will happen if your plans go through and some clubs try the experiment? Will not some of the gangs go to other clubs?" I do not believe that that will happen. I do not believe that the so-called organised gangs will ever bother the Leytons of this world because their football is so lousy.
§ Lord Mellish
That is the truth. It is all about football. The Government are making a general sweep. I do not suppose that these villainous gangs will go up to Hartlepool and muck them about. I ask noble Lords to agree with me that this is not a party political matter. Secondly, will they agree with me that this specialist committee should be established in such a form that it can introduce a trial scheme? Let it be applied to those clubs where it is needed but not to the vast majority of clubs which have nothing to do with hooliganism and should not have the Bill imposed on them.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
On these Benches we very much appreciate the manner in which the two prime movers of the amendment have sought to engage the attention and support of the Committee. I join them in saying that we are desperately anxious to deal with the problem at a football level and not at a party political level. That is a genuinely held view. Many noble Lords will have come to the Chamber today to hear the arguments. I very much hope that when they come to vote, whether on this amendment or on the others, they will acknowledge that there is a problem to be tackled. On that point, there is literally no dispute in this Chamber, in another place or in the country.
We have a dispute about how it is to be tackled and in what manner the scheme is to be imposed. Having heard the noble Lords, Lord Harmar-Nicholls and Lord Mellish, speak, I cannot believe that there can be a more gentle way of examining the seriousness of the Government's intentions. The Government are being invited to accept that lessons must be learnt before the whole panoply of the Bill is visited upon football. As I said at Second Reading, the Minister has his own store of unique experiences as a former director of a football club. He must be proud of the fact that at that level he is more closely in touch with the realities of football than many. Members of the Committee. However, he is not alone. Other Members of the Committee can bring their experience to these matters.
We must listen carefully to the Football Association, the Football League, the clubs, the police, the supporters and other organised groups. They have told us of their fear of what could happen. The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said that we should see whether the system will work. The Committee has been well served because there have been two demonstrations in Committee rooms upstairs of the manner in which the football membership scheme will operate. One was a computerised scheme and the other scheme, presented by a concern called Check-In, does not rely on computers but operates in a different way.
The Committee needs to be aware of some of the pitfalls. The Minister for Sport has said more than once that he will not bring in a scheme until he is satisfied that it will work. However, we all know that we are not talking about one piece of machinery or about something that can be adjusted. We are talking about what happens at ten minutes to three or at five minutes past three on a Saturday afternoon, not just 406 at one football ground but at perhaps 30 football grounds. That is when the provisions of the Bill will stand or fall.
Perhaps I may be allowed to tell the Committee what has happened in practice. The Minister has said that we have already had the experiment—the experiment was at Luton. We are told that because Luton works, it is a good blueprint. Luton has little relevance to the Bill. The Luton scheme specifically excludes away-fans. If we are thinking in terms of the Luton scheme writ large in the Bill, that means banning away-fans. However they are dealt with, we are talking about two different things.
Perhaps I may tell the Committee what Plymouth Argyle has told us and the football world about its attempt to have an experiment:In March 1986 the Second Division club embraced with enthusiasm the principle of entry by identity card, commissioning Aquix to implement a 50 per cent. membership scheme at Home Park. The intention was to introduce controlled access to all sections of the ground well ahead of the Government's proposed deadline. Instead the scheme has been abandoned as unworkable with Aquix writing off nearly £19,000 of their invoice for £60,000. Cliff Hartley, the Plymouth director responsible for crowd control, said 'We thought the Aquix system was just what we were looking for and we went for the full package, exactly what the Government is insisting we should all have. They told me everything would be handled by their computer, not just card reading at the gate but season ticket sales and turnstile returns, everything. It never worked. The card readers supposed to reject and exclude known troublemakers were faulty and a second lot were impracticable. At several matches I had to say to the turnstile operators 'Forget it, let them all through'. There were massive queues and that was with gates of only 8,000.Members of the Committee need not listen to me saying what I think will happen. I am inviting them to listen to what the man in charge of Plymouth Argyle said did happen. I am not even saying that that will happen at all matches. I am saying that that happened in his experience over a number of matches.
Perhaps I may tell the Committee what has happened at the grounds which attract crowds of around 38,000. There are not many but they are part of the picture. Last November I was on my way home from this place. I normally travel by Clissold Park and go through Arsenal territory. At about 7.30 or 8 p.m., I came upon thick traffic around Green Lanes. The roads were full of cars. It took me a long time to manoeuvre. I could not understand why at 8 p.m. the roads were crowded. I realised afterwards what had happened. Arsenal were playing at home to Liverpool. The traffic had gradually been pushed out and instead of the match starting at 7.30 it was delayed until 7.45 in order to let the fans in. My report says:Because of the crush the start was delayed by a quarter of an hour but thousands, including ticket holders, were still struggling to get in when the game began. In spite of this everybody remained good humoured. Add the nuisance of computerised turnstiles to the situation and the mood might have become ugly. One piece of strategically placed chewing gum could well gum up the works".Computers, as travel agents, air traffic controllers and newspaper sub-editors know, have a habit of breaking down when they are most needed.
We are asking the Government this: "Are you prepared to listen to the voice of experience? Are you prepared to say to the Football Association and the Football League—which are the prime administrators of football in this country and which in any guise will be the football membership 407 authority, either enlarged or added to; they will be the people concerned and are the people who have expressed their displeasure—that there is a need to ensure that the scheme will work in practice?"
I say to the Minister with all due candour that we are concerned about getting the matter right and not about getting it quick, even if it means that there must be some delay. Moreover, although the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said that the amendment was not designed to delay, if the idea is taken on board it will delay complete implementation. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, said, on the same day as Arsenal and Liverpool have to carry this scheme out, who is talking about imposing it on the tiny clubs?
Is this not something which deserves to be worked in gradually? Perhaps by working it in gradually the other lessons will be learnt. Quite frankly, I believe that there will be some wrinkles which can be ironed out. The answer which will come forward is that there may be powers. If the Arsenal situation happens again and those concerned suddenly find that they must let the fans in, then subsequent amendments in the Bill are designed to give a police officer and the football club powers to do so. However, you do not have to do that; you must be able to take your courage in both hands.
Before I sit down I say this to the Minister. This is the first opportunity upon which he and his colleagues can indicate to the Committee, and the other place, and, indeed, millions of fans outside this place, that their ideas are not set in stone, that they are prepared to listen to the voice of experience and that they are prepared to come some way towards those who, like myself, intensely dislike the concept of an ID card.
However, if the Government are not prepared to accept what is a modest amendment, modestly moved, the implication of which can be taken on board very gently, and if the Minister and his advisers are not prepared to move even in that way, this Chamber may be in some difficulty, not only on this amendment but on many others. It does not have to be like that. What we want is a manifest sign from the Government through the Minister that they are prepared to listen and to learn.
§ Lord Wolfson
I support the aims of the Bill but I share the practical reservations expressed by the noble Lord who so ably moved the amendment. I especially agree that there should be a phasing-in process and that there should be a selective approach. I am rather concerned about certain aspects which I hope Members of the Committee will allow me to mention briefly. Indeed, I am sure that I am not alone in my concern.
First, I am not clear why all age groups must be included when most of the hooliganism is coming from a very small group of youngsters. Secondly, what are the fall-back arrangements in the event of equipment failure? Thirdly, what arrangements are proposed to combat violence in the street, which could easily arise, as has already been mentioned? Fourthly, what arrangements are proposed for international games and cup finals? 408 Finally, the position of small clubs has been made very clear. However, what is the position of casual or foreign visitors? After all, you cannot tell someone coming from our European partners or elsewhere that they cannot get into the ground because they are not a member when they are not aware of how to become one.
The question of late arrival has also been mentioned. I am unhappy about how that will be dealt with. I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will take such matters into account and possibly rethink some of them in order to come forward perhaps with some compromise proposals.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
I must confess that before I came here today I had no doubt in my mind that I should support the amendment. However, having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, I begin to wonder whether I should. I wonder whether by supporting it I should be wasting my time. In his opening remarks he seemed to be trying to persuade people like myself who are opposed to the Bill that the amendment meant something: before the Government embarked on the whole panoply of a membership scheme, they would have to bring in a pilot scheme. That was my understanding of the amendent before I heard what he said.
However, during his speech the noble Lord seemed to be saying to the Government, "Look here, this amendment really won't hurt your Bill at all; it won't matter if we pass the amendment, because your Bill will not be injured". Quite clearly, if we passed the amendment and if he had convinced me that it meant something, it would be bound to hurt the Bill, if only by delaying its application. But, as I understand it from the remarks he made, even if we pass the amendment all the Government have to say is, "Well, we have considered your proposal and we throw it aside". Then the whole process as outlined in the Bill will continue. I do not wish to delay a vote if there is to be one, so I shall sit down. No doubt at a later stage the noble Lord can explain to me whether I am right in my assumptions.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
I freely admit that I am no expert at all on football. But having listened to the discussion on the amendment I cannot help wondering whether those who have spoken have made themselves absolutely clear to the Committee. Indeed, we have been talking about the amendment for 43 minutes. It seems to me that it is simply saying, "We do not like the Bill; we want a pilot scheme and we consider that that is what the Government should have".
My understanding of public feeling on this issue is that it is a serious law and order matter. People are extremely worried about what is going on at football matches. Moreover, the Government feel that they have a duty to ask clubs to do something about the situation. If a pilot scheme is all that is wanted, and if, as the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, said, it is a matter for football and not for the Government, why have the clubs not been able to do something already? It is because they have not been able to do anything about it that the Bill has been introduced. In my view, 409 whatever my noble friend says, the amendment is saying "We don't want the Bill'. It is a wrecking amendment and I shall not support it.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
Pehaps I may just say a word or two at this point. We have heard a great deal of discussion this afternoon and I do not think, with respect, that it has addressed the point which I thought the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, was making. In my view we are not discussing whether this is a good Bill or a bad Bill in this regard; we are discussing something which I think is a wrecking amendment and which, if it were carried, would wreck the Bill. It would do that simply because, as I understand it, the proposal is that whatever scheme is ultimately decided upon, it should be carried out in sections.
In the first place I think that that proposal is nonsense. I say that because if you are discussing rough play or hooliganism, it is not confined to any particular division; it might be in any of the divisions. It is not feasible to suggest that any scheme which might be agreed upon should be applied sectionally. Indeed, I was glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Graham, said. I remember the Minister saying in his winding-up speech that he would not be prepared to adopt a scheme which had not proved technically feasible. I asked him about that because I think it is a very important aspect.
I suggest that if we vote for a scheme at the end of the day, it must be one that the Government have guaranteed will be technologically possible. I think that any scheme would be wrecked if it had to be carried out in sections. Therefore, if my interpretation is right, I too shall vote against the amendment.
§ 4 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
I am a supporter of the Bill, but I believe that it should be confined to certain age groups; and we shall come to an amendment on that point later. However, that is not the point upon which I wish to address the Committee now. There was a nasty incident on a train last night between some Tranmere Rovers fans and some others. I forget the name of the football club. If the scheme applied only to, let us say, Plymouth Argyle and Manchester United, I cannot see how it would have any effect on the Tranmere Rovers fans and the other fans who were having a punch-up on the train. If we are going to apply the scheme—there may be better arguments for not applying it, but I do not happen to agree with them—surely we should apply it universally to those people who are liable to take part in the mayhem and violence.
I should like my noble friend to discover whether any people other than young men are involved in this type of trouble. If they are not, we should like to know at a later stage. On the whole, I am against the amendment and I shall support my noble friend in the Lobby.
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran
The temptation to support the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, 410 makes it irresistible for me to intervene briefly in the debate. I must declare an interest because I have been a life-long supporter of Cardiff City and Chelsea.
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran
I thank the Committee for that support. I was at Chelsea a week or so ago. Chelsea won 3–2, although Swindon, their adversaries, had scored four goals. The Committee can work out how that happened.
A few weeks previously I was at Cardiff City. There was no trouble at either of those matches because of the organisation that had been developed. I must declare a further interest. I hold a perhaps unique position in this place because for seven or eight years after coming down from Cambridge I was a Football Association referee. If there is any other Member of this place who was a Football Association referee, I should like to join him in one of the hospitality arrangements that we have in this place to talk over past events.
When I became a referee I was told by a distinguished headmaster of a great school that whenever a player suggests to a referee that one's parents are not married because of something one may have missed or done in the course of refereeing, one should take no notice. If he says it a second time, speak to him. If he says it a third time, treat him roughly. When I was refereeing in the then Isthmian League down at Plough Lane a fullback did that. On the third occasion that he referred to my ancestry quite improperly, I gave a free kick against him for ungentlemanly conduct. As a result a goal was scored against his team. I expected to be roughed up and mobbed by the team because a goal had been scored after I had given a free kick. Not at all. That team's players mobbed him and told him to keep his mouth shut while I was refereeing.
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran
I am grateful for that applause, because in the course of discussions on the Bill the players' attitude has not been adequately mentioned. It is a great pleasure for me to be able to speak in support of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, because when we were at an international conference in Paris he said something against my party. He was then in the other place and so I asked him what his majority was. He said that he had a majority of three and so I told him that I would soon sort that out. I said that I would get a Liberal to stand against him. As a result, the noble Lord is in this place. I hope that the Committee will not hold that against me on this occasion. I support the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, because he is talking practical common sense. As he said, all he is saying is that the amendment provides a kind of insurance policy and that is all. I hope that all Members of the Committee will support him on this occasion.
Lord Wallace of Coslany
The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, made a remark which deserves to be challenged. He referred to the set-to between 411 Liverpool and Tranmere supporters. That was nothing to do with a football match. It took place outside the ground. Liverpool and Tranmere are not in the same division. The incident was an indication of the general hooliganism and violence that occur outside grounds. It concerns us all, but it has nothing to do with football.
§ Lord Mishcon
I knew that we had a great deal to be grateful for in respect of the presence in this place of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. I had not realised that he was responsible for the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, being here. If there were a division of support for the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, on that matter I am not quite sure how the voting would go. I hope that it would be in support of him.
I wonder whether in the presence of the right reverend Prelate I might quote what the Almighty said through one of his prophets:Come, let us reason together".I should like to do that now, because otherwise the Committee may gain a wrong impression of the amendment and the way to vote.
Anyone who tried to propose a wrecking amendment would not be in consonance with the traditions of this place. The Bill was announced in the gracious Speech and properly, in accordance with our traditions, received a Second Reading. A Second Reading means that one agrees with the principle of the Bill. I hope, like the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, that silly party partisanship will not enter into this matter because we should be failing in our duty if that actuated our minds, especially on this amendment.
We are trying to see that the measure goes through this place with dignity and propriety and in conformity with the principles of accepting the Bill. I note with great respect the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson. Of course on Second Reading some of us expressed the doubts that he has expressed, and the matters must be covered. We will come to them in Committee. He was right, if I may say so, to point out some of them. The amendment has nothing to do with such issues except possibly to cover all the difficulties that there might be.
I have heard so often, as the Committee has, from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I have heard him say that the reason for having statutory instruments in legislation is so that, without putting forward an amending Bill, this place can feel sure that it has kept its sense in legislating by allowing flexibility.
The principle of the national identity card is not in front of us. We are dealing with an identity card for members of football clubs which are designated under the Bill. That principle, for the purpose of the amendment, must be accepted. Many of us, perfectly properly, want flexibility in this sense: we want to see whether the police were right or wrong in their fears; we want to see that no mistakes are made and therefore we say, "Accept the principle of the Bill. Do not legislate in mandatory terms so that the committee, the administrator or the Secretary of State has to do something. Merely point out that he has a duty to consider something".
412 When has this House objected to somebody considering something in legislation? When? I can think of no example where we should have stood up and made valiant speeches saying, "We don't want the Secretary of State to consider something. We don't want an administrator to do so." We have never had an administrator before, we are going to appoint one but we do not say, "We don't want him to consider something". Nor do we say, "We have never had this committee before but we do not want it to have on its agenda to consider something".
All this does is to say in the legislation, "You may come to a contrary view. You may decide that it is not sensible to limit this to the First Division in the first stage and the Second Division in the second stage or to separate it into divisions. You may come to that view and if so, God bless you; you have considered it." All we are saying is: for the sake of flexibility and so that we do not make a cardinal error in carrying out a scheme which we have never had before but the principle of which we are admitting for the purpose of this amendment, please consider it. If the Almighty can say:Come, let us reason together",cannot we also?
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
I speak as an ex-member of staff of a Football League club. Among other things I was also a referee of both codes, along with the husband of the present Prime Minister. I wish to answer directly the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. In doing so, I wish to bring to the attention of the House an incident even more recent than that quoted by my noble friend Lord Graham. He spoke of what happened outside and in the neighbourhood of the Arsenal ground last November. I wish to refer your Lordships to what happened at Old Trafford, a club with which I have been familiar for the past 60 years. This happened just two weeks ago. It is an answer to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and also a warning of what can and very likely will happen. It is what many of the police fear will happen if consideration is not given to the way in which the Bill is applied.
Manchester United were playing Queens Park Rangers at an evening match with a 7.30 kick-off. Before the match started, the police asked the management of Manchester United to close all the turnstiles. At Old Trafford there were 92 turnstiles and outside there were 8,000 to 10,000 people. The crowd inside was reduced by that number and there was absolute chaos around the Old Trafford area. Traffic snarled up and there were crowds of people milling around.
Just consider what would have been the position if, in addition to the crowding of the area with fans going to the game, there had also been hold-ups at the turnstiles. I suggest—and this is where I am in opposition to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow—and the belief of the police is that in those circumstances there 413 would have been mayhem. That would have had nothing to do with football. It would have been mayhem among supporters who were not inside the ground, who had not had anything to do with the ID cards. It would have been mayhem because there would have been a crush of people at the turnstiles and outside, infuriated by their inability to get into the ground.
The incident which took place on Saturday night between Liverpool and Tranmere Rovers fans had nothing to do with football. If the people who were involved had had ID cards, it would not have stopped the fights on the train. That was where the violence occurred.
I support the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, and his co-signatories to the amendment because unless an opportunity is given for the experiment to be tried out, however it is decided to try it out, and unless there is a pilot scheme, I fear that when it comes into operation in something like 40 to 50 grounds every Saturday afternoon, there will be real mayhem right across the country. That will have nothing to do with football but will result from the frustration of fans who are held up outside the grounds.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
These amendments seek to make mandatory the phased introduction of the membership scheme.
§ Lord Hesketh
They would make it a requirement on the Football Membership Authority to investigate and report to the Secretary of State on ways of achieving this. Amendment No. 65 would provide that, as part of this process, the Football Membership Authority would have to examine basing the phased introduction of the scheme on the criteria of ground capacity, present club membership and average attendance at home games over the past three seasons. Amendment No. 88 makes trials mandatory. Amendment No. 89 would require the Football Membership Authority to look at the desirability and feasibility of implementing the scheme in the Football League in four stages beginning with Division One clubs and ending with Division Four clubs. This would have to be done before the provisions in Part I of the Bill could take effect. Indeed, as they are drafted they would appear to make no provision for Part I of the Bill ever to come into effect.
Let me deal with two concerns which I believe lie behind the noble Lord's amendments. Noble Lords have expressed concern about whether the technology involved in the scheme will work in practice and about the possibility that the scheme might be introduced before the equipment has been tried and tested. We do not need to introduce complicated phasing arrangements to address these concerns. The Government have already made it clear that the key issue in settling the timetable for introduction is the need to be satisfied about the availability of the right technology. We shall not 414 implement the scheme until we are satisfied that it will work effectively and efficiently. We accept that this means that the equipment will need to be tested at individual clubs before the scheme is implemented in full. Indeed we understand that the football authorities have it in mind to test equipment available from alternative suppliers before making their choice about the supplier they think should be awarded the contract. They may test different types of equipment in one ground for the sake of comparison. To take the analogy of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, we are not intending that anyone should have to buy a ticket on an aeroplane that has not been on a test flight.
Concern has been expressed about equipment failure. It is clearly essential that the technology to be employed should be robust. Many noble Lords will have had the opportunity to see the GEC demonstration arranged in this House before our Second Reading debate. One of the features of that system is that the readers are independent of one another. The readers are those pieces of equipment over which a membership card should pass. So if one of the readers failed it would not mean that the whole system would break down. Nor is there any need for the individual readers to be linked to some single great computer.
We should also bear in mind that the technology and experience of running membership schemes is not new to football. Some 90 of the 92 clubs run membership schemes, backed by a range of technology, some of it advanced. Of course, the national membership scheme will make new demands on the technology but much has already been learnt about the conditions of use and about membership cards in match-day conditions. It is simply not the case that this experience is new to football. I have no doubt that the football authorities and the Football Membership Authority will draw on this experience in the implementation process. As soon as the equipment has been chosen, individual clubs will be able to begin testing it at their own grounds.
The other concern that I believe exists is that of the financial impact of the scheme on smaller clubs. There are fears that the scheme will impose a financial burden on clubs and that they might lose support. But there is no good reason to believe that the scheme will have an adverse financial impact on clubs, even the smallest clubs. A number of companies have already offered to set up and run the scheme at no cost to clubs or supporters. Even without commercial development, a leading company has said it could put the scheme in place at a cost to the member of about £3 per annum. This is less than many clubs charge for admission to one match now. If the football authorities and the clubs take a positive approach to marketing the scheme, financing it will not be a problem and it will produce income to football. It will not be a cost upon football.
On attendances, the scheme brings with it the real prospect of attracting back to the game the many tens of thousands of spectators who have been lost to it because of hooliganism or the threat of it. The hooligan problem has been endemic since the 1960s and during that period support for the game has fallen dramatically—from a total attendance at 415 league and cup matches of 35 million in 1967 to 1968 to 21 million last season. Hooliganism has been a major factor in this decline in support. There is a real chance of getting many of these fans back into the grounds. Surely it is in the interest of clubs to take a positive attitude to the scheme and seize this chance.
The hooligan problem is not confined to Divisions One and Two of the Football League. There is trouble too at matches played in the Third and Fourth Division. The opening of the last league season was scarred by the ugly scenes at the Scarborough versus Wolverhampton Wanderers Division Four match. Wolverhampton's away fixtures continue to be subject to all ticket restrictions.
Sadly, there is much more recent evidence of the problems which can occur in the lower divisions. Today's press carries reports of a clash on the Intercity Newcastle to Liverpool train between Tranmere fans returning from a York versus Tranmere Division Four match and Liverpool fans travelling back from their cup tie at Barnsley.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I hope very much that the noble Lord will not make generalised statements about hooliganism or violence in the lower divisions. He must be aware that on 10th January 1989 in response to Mr. Tony Marlow, Mr. Douglas Hogg stated in a Written Answer in another place that in Division Four there had been 543 arrests up to 31st October 1988. Yet when my honourable friend Mr. Pendry challenged those figures on 2nd February 1989, Mr. Hogg replied in a Written Answer:Following my reply of 10 January, ACPO was informed of a substantial error in the return from one police force".—[Official Report, Commons, 2/2/89; col. 389.So the Minister needs to be very careful before he pleads in aid statistics which are often found to be erroneous.
§ Lord Hesketh
I am not referring to statistics. I am referring to what I and many millions of other people saw on television news last night. Fighting broke out soon after the train left Manchester Victoria Station. The train was extensively damaged and the British Transport Police have set up an inquiry. The argument that the Third and Fourth Divisions of the Football League are unaffected by hooliganism simply does not stand up. If the national membership scheme had been in place, anyone who may be convicted following those incidents would lose his or her membership and be unable to attend future matches. The scheme is relevant to incidents of this kind.
I have another concern about the concept of phasing the introduction of the scheme. It could create the danger of displacing hooligans from clubs in the scheme to those outside it during the phasing process. That was the view of all the members of the Minister for Sport's working party which reviewed the principles of the scheme last summer.
Many Members of the Committee have said that this Bill is not political. It is not a political Bill; it is a Bill which has been introduced because the football authorities felt it was impossible to introduce a 416 voluntary scheme. The Bill has been introduced in response to an urgent problem. The Bill is based on the views of the experts who were in the Minister for Sport's working party. I have explained why I believe that phasing is unnecessary and unhelpful.
§ Lord Mellish
How can the Minister say that when practically every football club and all the police authorities are against this present scheme? That is rubbish!
§ Lord Hesketh
I believe that what I have just said is not rubbish. I invite the Committee to reject the amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I have one or two questions to ask on the basis of what the Minister has just said. The Minister referred to the working party and the very distinguished members who served on it. I have no doubt that the members were deeply distinguished; but can the Minister explain to me why none of the names of those members has been disclosed? The working party's report, published by the noble Lord's own department, gives no names of the group of people who made the recommendation. I find that one of the more surprising things about the report.
If the Minister will forgive me saying so, a number of specific points have been put to him by Members of the Committee in various parts of the Chamber, not least the noble Lords, Lord Wolfson and Lord Mellish. I did not hear the Minister on a single occasion refer to a point which had been made in the debate. I hope he will change his style during the rest of our discussions.
§ Lord Hesketh
With regard to the question of names of members of the working party, it was composed of the organisations who after all are the important parties representing the clubs, and various other interested parties. These included the Football Association, the Football League, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
Will the Minister take on board the fact that both the Football Association and the Football League stated at No. 10 Downing Street that they were opposed to an identity card scheme? As recently as 1st February this year, in response to a letter from the Minister for Sport, those bodies said they had grave reservations about the efficacy of the Bill. Nevertheless, they said they would work with the Government. So the Minister needs to be very careful about spreading around the rumour that people who are opposed to the Bill, but who are members of a working party, are tarred and feathered with the outcome of that report.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I have never been more puzzled by a government reply than I was by the reply of my noble friend. I have only one complaint. The noble Lord's opening words were so long. He said that my amendment made it mandatory that certain things would have to be done. He heard that I was chastised by Members on the Benches opposite because we had not made the provisions mandatory.
417 I made it crystal clear—the words of the amendment itself will confirm that—that to try and make the provision mandatory would have made this a hybrid Bill which would have meant that it could not go through the normal procedures. It was because we wanted to avoid the amendments being in the nature of wrecking the Bill that that line was not on. I hope that if my noble friend impressed anyone with his opening words, they will discount them now.
What puzzled me was that my noble friend then went on in his speech, in examining what had been said, to say that he agreed with all of the things that I claimed that my amendment would do. He said that the Government had undertaken to carry out pilot schemes to see whether the scheme worked. He further said that the Government had undertaken to carry out tests before the scheme was implemented throughout the Football League to ensure that the scheme was suitable.
The only reason that my amendment is now more essential than ever, in view of my noble friend's speech, is to make sure that what the Minister said the Government intended to do in any case will be done. All that my amendment will achieve is to make certain that the football committee that has to decide this matter, the administrator who will be appointed, and the Secretary of State who will designate all this, will take into account, in some form or another, the very problems that my noble friend said the Government are very keen to see tackled. The nature of the reply means that if the amendment is not accepted by the Government we must see as a Chamber that that sort of message is taken into account. It gives me no joy; nor, I am certain, does it give my noble friends on this side any joy for the Committee to have to defeat the Government. It gives me no joy again to have reported, in the press, "The Lords defeat the Government on a major matter of interest to the nation". But, in view of the speech of my noble friend, we have that duty.
I know that we on this side of the Committee—I do not know about the other side—have what is known as a strong two-line Whip. I should like to explain to noble friends, who are not as fully acquainted with parliamentary procedure as some of us who have been at it for 39 to 40 years, that the Whip is not an instruction on how to vote. The Whip is for the government of the day, very properly, to indicate how important they think is the measure under discussion. Once we have obeyed their Whip and attended, so recognising the importance of the debate, it is for us as individuals—in the light of the debate, in the light of the arguments, and in the light of the facts—to say how we use our attendance. On this occasion, having listened to the arguments and having examined the amendments as they stand on the Marshalled List, and putting those considerations alongside the very puzzling response of my noble friend on behalf of the Government, I think we should go into the Lobby to say in the kindest, most sensible way that we think the Government would be well advised to allow Parliament—and this Chamber in particular today—to provide them with some strength for what they have in any case said they want to do.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Before the noble Lord sits down I should just like to say, in spite of the perfectly reasonable views held to the contrary, that before we vote against the Government we ought to realise how very strongly people outside this Chamber feel about football hooliganism. They are fed up to the back teeth with people creating mayhem and rioting; they want something done. That is why I intend to vote for the Government.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
The noble Earl expresses his view in the form of a question to me. I should like to say that if he examines his life style and mine, both before we came to the House and he will find that I am just as likely to know the feelings of the rank and file people of this country as he is.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 124; Not-Contents, 121.419
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Airedale, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Hughes, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hunt, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Hutchinson of Lullington, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Ilchester, E.|
|Aylestone, L.||Irving of Dartford, L.|
|Banks, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Birk, B.||Jay, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Brain, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Carter, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Liverpool, Bp.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B|
|Craigavon, V.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Cudlipp, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Mclntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||MacLehose of Beoch, L.|
|Derwent, L.||McNair, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Mais, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Mellish, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Mersey, V.|
|Falkender, B.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Mishcon, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Monson, L.|
|Foot, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Galpern, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.[Teller.]||Northfield, L.|
|O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.|
|Grey, E.||Peston, L.|
|Grimond, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L. [Teller.]||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Rathcreedan, L|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Reilly, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Hirshfield, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Russell, E.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Sainsbury, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Seear, B.||Trafford, L.|
|Seebohm, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Serota, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Shackleton, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Shaughnessy, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Shepherd, L.||White, B.|
|Soper, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Stallard, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Stedman, B.||Wilson of Rievaulx, L.|
|Stewart of Fulham, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L.||Wise, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Kaberry of Adel, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Killearn, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Arran, E.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Knights, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Knutsford, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Bessborough, E.||Long, V.|
|Blatch, B.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Luke, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Manton, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Marley, L.|
|Camden, M.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Merrivale, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V|
|Cockfield, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Munster, E.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Newall, L.|
|Croft, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Onslow, E.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Orkney, E.|
|Dundee, E.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Pennock, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Reay, L.|
|Elles, B.||Rees-Mogg, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Renwick, L.|
|Erne, E.||Rodney, L.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Rollo, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Romney, E.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||St. Germans, E.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||St. John of Fawsley, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Gridley, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Halsbury, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Hanson, L.||Somers, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Henley, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Hives, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Hood, V.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Tranmire, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Jessel, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Joseph, L.||Windlesham, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.420
§ 4.43 p.m.
Lord Brooks of Tremorfa moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 9, leave out ("and Wales").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I should immediately declare an interest. I am president of the Cardiff City Football Club and I am very pleased to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, that he is a supporter of the club. Looking at the speeches made at Second Reading, I was astonished that there was clearly no case whatever made out for including Wales in the Bill.
§ Moving the Second Reading, the Minister referred just once to Welsh people. He then went on to talk about preventing convicted hooligans from travelling to English matches abroad. A little later, he referred to the disgraceful scenes involving so-called English football supporters. In the Second Reading debate, there are constant references to "the English disease" and the shame that English Members of your Lordships' House felt at the frequent news about the way in which English football supporters abroad behaved.
§ As I understand it, this Bill is aimed primarily at the 92 clubs in the Football League. The result of my amendment, if it succeeds, will merely take three clubs out of the Bill; namely, Swansea City Football Club, Cardiff City Football Club and Wrexham Football Club. Until very recently, there were four Welsh clubs in the Football League. Unfortunately, for financial reasons, Newport County has left the league. I am not sure of the result of today's court proceedings, but we may well hear the unfortunate news that Newport County Football Club has disappeared altogether.
§ It may not be well known in England that, although the results of the three league teams that I have mentioned are carefully studied each Saturday evening by Welsh football supporters, it is not the most important competition for soccer supporters in Wales. The most important competition is the Welsh Cup. It is the most important competition because the winners of the Welsh Cup automatically enter the European Cup Winners' Cup. Two seasons ago, the whole of Wales was rooting for Merthyr Town to beat the famous Italian Team, Atalanta. Unfortunately, it did not win, but to tell you that Merthyr was in the European Cup Winners' Cup gives some idea of the vast difference between soccer in England and soccer in Wales. The three league clubs that I mentioned strive very hard to win the Welsh Cup, which puts Wales on the international scene.
§ The draw for the 1989 Welsh Cup semi-finals has been made and little Barry Town in South Glamorgan has been drawn against what may seem a soccer giant in Swansea City. Quite frankly, knowing the rivalry between Cardiff and Swansea—I might add that it is friendly rivalry—I hope that Barry will beat Swansea, reach the final, win and play in European Cup football.
§ There is a reference in the Second Reading debate to Scotland not being included in the Bill. As I understand it, it has not been included in the Bill because it is already in Europe. So is Wales; Wales is 421 in Europe. I wonder whether what will happen to those three Welsh clubs if they are included in this Bill is generally realised. Obviously, it will mean that the very small gates that they now have—between 4,000 and 5,000 and sometimes even fewer at their league games—will almost certainly drive them to the wall. Swansea escaped bankruptcy very recently almost at the doors of the bankruptcy court. It has dragged itself up by its bootstraps.
§ I also see a reference in the Second Reading debate to Cardiff City being offered £100,000 for one of its players and there was a suggestion that there must therefore be plenty of money in the game. It is true that that money was offered and the offer was in fact accepted last week. It was accepted because Cardiff City, like many other clubs with attendances of 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000, cannot continue in professional football unless it occasionally sells a player. However, if this scheme is imposed on clubs they will be in dire financial straits.
§ There is another dimension with regard to Wales—the international matches that are played back home. The Committee may remember that England and Scotland no longer play Northern Ireland and Wales in the home championships. I think that that was a disgraceful decision. As I understand it, with regard to England, the decision was taken because the English Football Association has a contract with Wembley under which all England's home games should be played at Wembley. Why on earth England and Wales cannot play each other at Anfield or Hillsborough is beyond me. It would be an evangelical way of letting the people of the north and other parts of England see their national team play. It would also help the finances of Welsh and Northern Ireland soccer.
§ All the evidence is that, when Wales plays at home, particularly at Ninian Park in Cardiff, it is not in the main the supporters of Cardiff City, Swansea and Wrexham who buy the tickets. It is the people from mid-Wales and from the rural areas. That is the evidence that we have. What will happen to them? In the normal course of events these people would not join a membership scheme because they are not in an area where Football League is played. Will they be banned from watching Wales play, say, West Germany in the European Nations Cup at Ninian Park? That would be the effect.
§ I see no justification whatever for including Wales in the Bill. It would mean excluding three league clubs from the scheme. As I understood it, a number of Members of the Committee opposite, supported the Government on the last amendment because they felt that it would be a wrecking amendment. Whatever can be said about my amendment, no one can say that it is a wrecking amendment. It simply takes three clubs out of the 92 clubs involved and leaves 89. If the Government insist on going ahead with the scheme, they can have the 89 English clubs with pleasure.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I certainly support the amendment just moved by the noble Lord. As we heard from the noble Lord the Minister at Second Reading, the Government intend to exclude Scotland from the provisions of this Bill. It therefore seems 422 perfectly reasonable to look at the case for excluding Wales.
There were three clubs in the Fourth Division in 1987/88. There was a Written Answer by Mr. Moynihan relating to those clubs on 19th December of last year in the House of Commons. I am taking these statistics from col. 58 of the House of Commons Written Answers. The statistics show this. The average gate at Newport—to which the noble Lord has just referred—is 1,750 people. Are we seriously suggesting bringing in this massive bureaucracy for 1,750 people? The number of arrests—not convictions—in the season was 35.
We then come to Swansea City. An average attendance per match was 4,389. How many arrests were there? There were 10. That means that in the case of Swansea City there was one arrest—not conviction—for every 10,000 people who attended. That is of course not necessarily an arrest within the ground. They might well have been arrests at a local railway station which are, despite what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said earlier, totally irrelevant to this Bill.
We then come to the figures for Cardiff City. The average attendance there was 4,424. There were 43 arrests—where we know not. There were therefore four arrests—again not convictions—for every 10,000 people who attended.
I hope that the Government will show some sense of proportion. Are we going to load these substantial costs on to these small clubs? It is easy for the noble Lord to say, "We have a wonderful scheme, and as a result of the wonderful scheme there will be no costs", because he is not responsible for the financial management of one of these small football clubs. Those who are responsible have indicated their very serious concern about the implications of this legislation. It seems an extremely moderate and reasonable amendment that is put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Brooks. Even the most impassioned enthusiast for this legislation cannot describe this as a wrecking amendment. I hope that the Government will for once show some degree of graciousness in this matter and will indicate that they are prepared to accept the amendment.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, this amendment seeks to exclude Wales from the requirements of Part I of the Bill. It would mean that matches played at the grounds of the three Welsh clubs which play in the Football League—Cardiff City, Swansea and Wrexham—would not be subject to the requirements of the national membership scheme.
It has always been our intention that the national membership scheme should apply thoughout the Football League to all of the 92 clubs which play in it. To exempt matches played between some clubs could severely threaten the effectiveness and integrity of the scheme. There is a real danger that matches outside the scheme would become a target for hooligans banned from attending matches at clubs in the scheme.
The designation of matches in Wales to which the scheme will apply is a matter for the Secretary of State for Wales and he has established a working 423 party to advise him on the matter. It is very unlikely that designation will not include the Football League and FA Cup Matches played in Wales when the home team is one of the Welsh League clubs. Excluding Wales would have some odd effects on the Welsh clubs. Supporters of the Welsh clubs would still need to join the scheme if they wished to attend their side's away matches in England. But they would have no protection from visiting hooligans at matches in Wales.
I do not believe that the analogy with Scotland is a fair one. Scotland has its own league. These three clubs in Wales are playing with the other 89 in England south of the Border. The Secretary of State for Wales is consulting about the designation of matches.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, on low attendance, of course there are Fourth Division clubs in England which also have low attendance. As I stated in the previous debate, we believe that the costs will not be insupportably high. However, I believe that it would be quite wrong to exempt Wales from the Bill altogether. I ask the noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I listened very carefully to what the Minister said. It is rather sad. He started by stating that consultation has taken place, but he tells us in advance of the outcome that that consultation is unlikely to exclude the Welsh clubs. I do not know what kind of consultation is taking place or who is to be included, if the Secretary of State for Wales is already under some remit from higher authority that whatever the consultation produces it must he ignored unless it is of a certain view.
Members opposite—and there are still some in the Chamber at this time—need to consider very carefully what the Minister is saying. Of course there will be problems. There are difficulties now when a club with no problem is visited by a club with a problem. The clubs overcome it very easily by making the match an all-ticket affair. One club, which I shall not name, has a reputation. It has recognised that its fans cause problems. Whenever the club plays at another ground it is an all-ticket match. These difficulties can be overcome.
There are later amendments which do not relate geographically to Wales, as this amendment does, but to clubs which have a record of non-violence. Where there are two such clubs, the later amendments asks: why make such impositions? Reference has already been made to casual supporters. At clubs such as the one which I occasionally attend, Tottenham Hotspur, one-quarter of an attendance of about 30,000 people is recognised to have come along on spec on that day. That is the position now. If the Minister is going to be so rigid—I am sorry to feel this way on only the second group of amendments—if there is no flexibility in these matters and he states that the Government believe that the legislation should be applied universally, I am very much afraid that we shall have a long and tedious Committee stage of the Bill. That is not wished.
424 The Minister mentioned costs. He and his colleagues have more than once referred to the way in which the costs can be defrayed. Reference has been made to the commercial opportunities that are open. One has to question whether one of the raisons d'être behind the Bill from the Government's point of view is commercial exploitation and not the best interests of football. I very much hope that the Minister, given the opportunity of saying something else, will be prepared to take this amendment away. To start on the premise, as the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, did, that everything has to be fought for with the Government, is not the way to do it. Members of the Committee in all parts of the Chamber genuinely want the Government to think again about these very important matters.
The practical outcome for clubs in Wales is easy because the Government can concede that they are not right on every issue all the time. I hope the Minister will be kinder in his second bite at the cherry.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
The noble Lord, Lord Graham, is well aware that it is an absolute cornerstone of the Bill that the 92 clubs must be included.
§ Lord Hesketh
Because the Government's advice was that the way to tackle the problem was to try to tackle it with the four divisions, and the three Welsh clubs are part of the four divisions. Were we to do otherwise we would start interfering with the fundamental basis of the advice that the Government received on this matter. That is why I am unable to concede to the noble Lords, Lord Graham and Lord Brooks, the commitment that they would like me to give.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
The noble Lord has made a quite interesting statement. From whom did the Government receive the advice that every club had to be included, irrespective of the different problems or absence of problems associated with those clubs? Is he referring to the working party or to some totally different group of advisers? We should all be immensely in the noble Lord's debt if he were to tell us why he is being so inflexible on the matter. His argument, in so far as I understand it, is that the Government have received this advice from an unknown source. Can he tell us the source?
§ Lord Underhill
Before the Minister replies will he take cognisance of the fact that the House has passed an important amendment which allows for flexibility? Surely this is a matter which the Government ought now to reconsider, because it is suggested in the amendment we have carried that there should be a phasing-in process and that the scheme should be introduced in an orderly manner. Surely the Government have changed their brief.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
Before my noble friend replies, will he take up at once the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, about flexibility? If the 425 amendment is passed and Wales is excluded there will be no flexibility whatever on this point.
§ Lord Hesketh
As I said earlier, the Government were advised by the Minister's working party. As I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is aware, we continually have discussions both with the League and with the Association, but the key feature is that we should have an odd situation if three clubs in the League are not parties to the scheme.
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran
May I press the Minister a little further? I do so in my capacity as senior vice-president of the Cardiff Business Club and also as a member of the Institute of Directors management committee. I have asked people in Wales who advised that the three clubs should not be excluded. I have not been able to find out who gave that advice—whether it was Welsh advice and whether it was anybody who knew anything about the circumstances of soccer in Wales.
I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Brooks, that I missed the first minute of his presentation on this amendment. I heard him mention my name as I entered the Chamber although I do not know in what capacity, but I am sure it was on a friendly basis. I say this with some diffidence. Once again I have heard a member of the Government—it happens whatever government is in power—misunderstand the position in Wales; something which occurs as regards any Bill before this Committee. Once again the Minister, who has read his brief most carefully and positively, has totally misunderstood the difference between how soccer is dealt with and managed in Wales and England. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Morris, refer to the Welsh Cup. Wales is in the European Cup. Why cannot even that simple parameter be worthy of recognition and not to descend on Welsh clubs the panoply of English dogmatism? The Welsh position is so often forgotten. I should like to support this amendment very strongly.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
I briefly follow the persuasive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. The noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, is making the very best of a bad job. I feel a good deal of sympathy for him, because I feel sure that if it were left to him he might come to a different decision.
However, the time is long past when committees in London make important judgments about what takes place in Wales. As the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has said, this is an issue which is of considerable interest throughout Wales, not only south Wales but north Wales as well.Therefore I plead with the noble Lord to take this away again and to think carefully about it.
I wish to ask him one question. Has this matter been put to the Secretary of State for Wales? If so, what judgment did he make upon it? If he was not consulted I believe the Minister should take this away and make sure that the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Peter Walker, is given the opportunity to make a judgment. He is there to make a judgment on this kind of thing. I am sure he would wish to do his best for Wales in these circumstances. On behalf of my colleagues—I am sure that there are a number on the 426 other side who feel as deeply as we do on this issue—I plead with the noble Lord to think again about this. The Government have nothing to lose by thinking very carefully about it. I am quite sure that if further discussion is needed with Ministers and particularly with the Secretary of State for Wales, a number of us would be glad to meet him to underline our arguments once again in favour of treating Wales separately. I appeal urgently to the noble Lord to say that he will take this away.
§ Lord Hesketh
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, as I stated earlier the Secretary of State has a working party. The problem is slightly more complicated than Wales itself because the three clubs we are talking about—Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham—are playing in a transnational league. This is where the real difficulty arises. We are not talking about three clubs playing in the glorious and beautiful isolation of Wales, but three clubs who are playing in a transnational league whereby they are exposed to the activities of the other 89 clubs. Because of that it makes the situation very difficult to remove those three from a transnational league. I can give no commitment, but I can take it away for consultation.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
I can understand the problem faced by the Minister, but I am seriously disappointed by his reply. I was hoping that there might be two compelling reasons for him to accept the amendment. First, I had hoped that he would have pity on us after what happened to us in France last Saturday and, secondly, the Tory candidate in the Pontrypridd by-election might save his deposit if he can say that the Government have accepted the amendment. However, in the light of what the Minister has said I am happy to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 9, after ("Wales") insert ("in the first division of the Football League").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 4, 8 and 11. In one way or another they deal with the central issue: that of experimentation, primarily in the First and Second Divisions. Amendment No. 3 deals with the First Division of the Football League. Amendment No. 4 deals with the First or Second Divisions of the Football League. Amendment No. 8 deals with an experiment for two seasons of a scheme which rests on the premise that the police already categorise matches as A, B or C in relation to their experience of the level of policing required. Amendment No. 11 deals with events involving clubs which have no record of violence.
§ The Minister has made a sensible proposal in respect of the last amendment. He has indicated that in certain circumstances, such as the possibility of defeat, he is prepared to take away and consider amendments which he dislikes. He has made plain the 427 fact that the Government have a blueprint or master plan embracing all the clubs in all the divisions, and that there is no room for experimental or pilot schemes.
§ I beg the Minister to remember in particular the comments which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and my noble friend Lord Mellish. The cases which they made for experiments in respect of the amendment which was carried against the wishes of the Government are open to interpretation, yet they give clear indications of what we have in mind. The amendments indicate the fact that there is a world of difference between clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and those in Manchester and Liverpool. There is a wide gap between clubs in the Second and Third Divisions, and clubs in the Fourth Division are very small. The chairman of Colchester United is on record as telling the Minister that if the scheme as unamended was passed it would mean the death of the Fourth Division. That comment was made not only in the light of the knowledge of his own club, but of other aspects.
§ I understand that the Minister is not in the business of damaging clubs or causing them unnecessary expense or worry. He is in the business of eradicating the element of violence inside football grounds which can be eradicated as a result of such a scheme. The amendment which rests upon restricting the application of the scheme to the First and Second Division is realistic. Earlier in the debate it was said that First and Second Division clubs are more likely to be able to carry it. The large clubs could be at the risk of losing a large proportion of their attendance from casual supporters. However, they have land, money and ambition.
§ Tomorrow night my home-town club of Newcastle United will experience a boardroom battle. Millions of pounds have been mentioned not only as being at stake but as having been spent by rival factions which seek to control the destinies of the club. I wish the club well. It is distasteful to people such as myself to see such a fine club in the middle of that battle. However, I make the point because in the case of many clubs we are talking about large sums of money.
§ Those clubs will be able to begin to operate some kind of scheme if the Minister insists. However, we are raising the question of the small clubs which do not have the time, money or support from their townships. The Minister knows Northampton better than I. As a director of the club for several years he will remember the struggle which he and his co-directors experienced in raising enthusiasm for the football club inside the town. I have seen the statistics—and perhaps the Minister will enlighten the Committee—but I imagine that in small clubs such as Northampton which do not have a thriving supporter-club nexus, or access to millions of pounds, there will be a real struggle.
§ The Minister knows more about football management than I who envy the opportunities that he has had. Undoubtedly, he has experienced some headaches and perhaps a raid upon his bank balance. I have not and do not wish to experience that. 428 Football management does not provide a cachet or bring instant glory; it brings many headaches.
§ When the Minister speaks in terms of advice and consultation, I hope that he will be even-handed in accepting it. In relation to some of the amendments he has stated, "This is after consultation. This is what the working party has recommended". He can take it from me that the clubs in the Third and Fourth Divisions do not want the scheme, are not in favour of it and are very much agitated by the fact that it will be visited upon them.
§ It is a spectator Bill but little consultation has taken place with the spectators. I know of the problems which arise in consulting an amorphous mass. They are not organised as well as the management or players and are unable to respond. However, people speak on behalf of supporters' clubs, and in the lower divisions there still exists the kind of atmosphere which we know as "the old spirit" of football.
§ If the Minister can provide the evidence or show that there is as much a problem in the Third and Fourth Divisions as in the First and Second Divisions, I am prepared to look at that and change my attitude. The noble Lord and his Ministerial colleague, Colin Moynihan, have said that they wish to break the link between football and violence. He needs to produce the evidence that there is a need to do so. One finds that the empirical evidence does not exist in relation to the Third and Fourth Divisions. The Minister may say, "You have forgotten what happened at this match and that match", and he will produce the evidence. Some of the evidence which the Minister and his noble friend Lord Caithness have circulated related to matches which were played by clubs in and out of the divisions. Therefore one must be exceedingly careful when quoting such evidence.
§ I hope that the Minister will indicate that he is prepared to examine the possibility of applying the scheme to the First Division or to the First and Second Divisions. Guidance will be given to a body, the composition and powers of which the Committee will consider later. However, the Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that what will be embraced by the scheme will be left to the FMA and at the same time resist this or the other House having the temerity to give advice to the FMA before it is agreed.
§ It was said earlier that once the FMA is set up and, under the Bill as currently constructed, it produces a scheme approved by the Secretary of State that is the end of the matter. We shall test whether the Committee believes that that is the end of the matter because the application of this scheme is sufficiently important for the Committee to know what is the final scheme before it becomes law. Therefore, I believe that the Minister has an opportunity to help the Committee and I look forward to hearing from him. I beg to move.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, always speaks with a deceptive appearance of reasonableness and he certainly gave a very agreeable illustration of that this afternoon. First, he referred to the desirability of experiment. I imagine that few Members of the 429 Committee disagree with him about that. However, these amendments which he moves will exclude experiment in all the areas which he seeks to cut out of the Bill. Whatever the results of investigation, it will not be possible to apply the provisions of the Bill to the clubs expressly excluded by these amendments.
Therefore, it is not a question of talking about experiment; it is a question of whether, at this stage, one is to cut out of the provisions of the Bill the clubs below the First Division on Amendment No. 3 and below the Second Division on Amendment No. 4. Equally, it is no use saying that the FMA will have to consider that. It will be excluded from consideration of applying the Bill to the clubs expressly excluded by the legislation. However innocently presented, these amendments will cut out of the effects of the Bill a large number of the clubs in this country.
I wonder whether the noble Lord has considered one possible effect of that. Once the scheme is in operation, there seems good reason to believe that the hooligans will be excluded from the clubs covered by the scheme. Where will those hooligans go? They will not go home and play ludo but will almost certainly go to football matches to which the provisions of the Bill do not apply. Therefore, they will go to clubs to which the provisions of the Bill have been forbidden to apply by amendment of the Bill.
I believe that this applies to some extent to what was said on the previous amendment. The fact that clubs are not at present troubled by hooligans is no guarantee that when the protection of the Bill is applied to some clubs, those hooligans will therefore not go deliberately to clubs which do not have that protection. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will not fall for the seductive cadences and apparent reasonableness of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I hope that he will appreciate that the proposal is to cut out a very large number of the clubs from the protection given by the Bill.
I remind the noble Lord that whatever the clubs may say—and of course from the clubs' point of view there is no doubt that the introduction of this scheme is a nuisance and an expense—I am perfectly certain that the great majority of the public and those members of the public who like to go to football matches and to take their children safely to football matches, welcome the introduction of a system which gives a good chance of rooting out the very real evil of hooliganism. Therefore, I hope that Members of the Committee will not deliberately deprive a large number of excellent football clubs and the crowds who attend them in this country of that protection.
§ Viscount Craigavon
I have put my name to Amendment No. 4 and I should like to speak in support of most of these amendments. My amendment draws the line after the First and Second Division clubs and will therefore exclude the Third and Fourth Division clubs. In my opinion it is not a wrecking amendment; it is a reasonable balance to draw in terms of sheer practicality. I believe that that is likely to make the scheme work and enable the scheme to solve more problems than it will create.
430 In answer to a previous amendment regarding Welsh clubs we have had the argument that the league should be regarded as a whole. There is obviously a problem when non-league clubs play league clubs or, in the case of my amendment, when First and Second Division clubs play Third and Fourth Division and non-league clubs. In the working party document there is provision for such an occasion. Paragraph 4(a) on page 17 in the chapter entitled "Designated Football Matches" is headed:Matches between League and non-League teams".Obviously the working party had to take account of that kind of occasion.
The working party favours the second option which will allow non-members access to the ground for such matches. The document goes on to state:Supporters of the League team would be encouraged to use turnstiles at which their cards would be checked according to national membership scheme procedures but supporters of the non-League team would not have to produce membership cards at the turnstiles allocated to them (though they would have to buy tickets, in advance, from their own clubs)".We come back to the system of all-ticket games, which is a well-known existing procedure. The next paragraph goes on to say:The working party recommends, therefore, that option (ii) should be followed, at least initially. The matches concerned would nonetheless be designated, so that members will be required to produce membership cards on request and risk losing them if they misbehave (the scheme would allow for an appropriate variation)".As I say, one is mainly trying to deal with cup matches. As Members of the Committee will know, there is a stage of the FA Cup when First and Second Division clubs start to join in.
When one examines the figures of attendances and arrests in the Third and Fourth Divisions, the results are rather startling. The total attendances for the Third Division in the 1987–88 season—and these figures are in an Answer to a Parliamentary Question tabled in another place—was 2,751,275 and the arrests per game were 1.57. In the Fourth Division the arrests per game were 1.68 from a total attendance of 1,772,287.
We mentioned at the beginning of this afternoon's debate a couple of clubs in the Fourth Division. Perhaps I may give two examples. Hartlepool had a total attendance of 48,972 last season and a total of 12 arrests. As has been said before, some of those arrests may quite easily have been outside the ground. Leyton Orient had a total attendance of 90,322 and eight arrests. I agree that I have given good examples but in my view to deal with that scale of problem in that way is bureaucratic overkill and sets up a very top-heavy bureaucratic machinery to deal with a relatively minor problem.
Perhaps I may turn to the matter of costs. There has been a claim that cards will be free, or at least free to football clubs. They are only free in the sense that Green Shield stamps are free. At the end of the day someone has to pay. Under this scheme spectators are likely to have to pay £3 per annum for three years. That is the suggested figure. Often in lower division clubs there are existing membership lists which provide the basis for social activities and existing schemes like lotteries. Because of the additional cost the benefit of those schemes will be taken away from 431 the clubs and given to the managers of the commercial schemes.
Moreover, the poorer Third and Fourth Division clubs will be in a much less advantageous position because of their small number of spectators to make any ground alterations required. The unit cost per spectator will be so much higher than for clubs with a larger spectator base. Third and Fourth Division clubs are the clubs which can least afford the estimated drop-out in casual spectators. That has been estimated at approximately 20 per cent. They will suffer in that respect.
An example has been given today. We had the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton. She said that she wanted the whole scheme operating for all divisions at once. I remember that the noble Baroness made an impressive speech on Second Reading basically in favour of the Bill. However, she also said:The question has been raised of bankruptcy for some clubs. I think we must accept that some clubs would not survive"—[Official Report, 2/2/89; col. 1267.]That is not an acceptable consequence. I hope that the Government appreciate that there are these uncertainties and that there is a better chance of getting a scheme working if they concentrate on a narrower target.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ The Earl of Swinton
I had not intended to speak on the Bill but I have been somewhat frightened by what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said. Here I should declare an interest as a patron of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club. Rugby League is not affected by the Bill, thank goodness. However, the thought that if we passed the Bill in toto all the marauding hooligans who cannot beat up people at soccer matches might come to Rugby League matches frightens me. I am fast becoming convinced that I should perhaps support the opposition and endeavour to scupper the Bill. To be serious, I cannot believe that football spectators will join Third and Fourth Division clubs because they can have punch-ups there and cannot at First and Second Division clubs. That is somewhat far-fetched.
I wonder whether there is a way out of this difficulty. I am endeavouring to give a lead to my noble friend who is not having an easy afternoon. Perhaps following earlier events this afternoon he might agree to take the amendment away to see whether it would not fit in with a phasing-in of Third and Fourth Division clubs at a later stage, thereby first seeing how it works with First and Second Division clubs. That might be an acceptable way round the problem.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
In general, I am more anxious to understand from the Government what they have in mind and for the Government to understand what we have in mind than I am in forcing Divisions. The ball is in the Minister's court.
§ Lord Knights
I shall speak briefly. I sympathise very much with some of the views expressed by the proposers of these amendments but I am concerned 432 about some of the practical results. I have in mind the area which I know best, Birmingham. There is Birmingham City in the Second Division, Aston Villa in the First Division, Walsall in the Second Division and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Third Division. All those clubs are within easy bus rides of each other. If some are to be included and others excluded from the Bill we shall certainly see hooligans who are, for example, banned from Aston Villa making their way to Wolverhampton or even Coventry.
Equally, it should be borne in mind that one of the few successful prosecutions of gangs of football hooligans for conspiracy, and so on, was in respect of Wolverhampton Wanderers, a Third Division club.
§ Lord Knights
That is true. It indicates that hooliganism centres round some of the smaller Third and Fourth Division clubs, which is where Wolverhampton Wanderers were when all the conspiracy started. Therefore, I would find it difficult to support amendments which seek to exclude some clubs and not others.
§ Lord Underhill
I hope that noble Lords were impressed, as I was, with the information given by the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon. I declare my interest. For over 50 years I have been a supporter of what is now a Fourth Division club. It is a club which in the early 1960s was promoted to the First Division but did not like it very much and came out at the end of the season.
§ Lord Underhill
I am referring to Leyton Orient. I looked at the club's programme last Saturday. It is interesting to see how attendances vary according to the visiting team. It is a fact that there are casual spectators attending football matches who are not regular supporters of a particular club. In the past 10 or 15 years Leyton Orient has had successful FA Cup runs. What has happened? The gate for one week is 3,500 and the next week it is up to 15,000 or 18,000 because people can see the prospect of an exciting Cup match and the possibility of a favourable result. Over half the turnstiles at Leyton Orient are not used for every home game. They are only used when an attractive club is visiting.
There was a meeting of all the club chairmen. I should like the Minister to tell the Committee the attitude of the chairmen, particularly those of Third and Fourth Division clubs.
Some years ago if my club was not playing I would go to Arsenal, West Ham or Tottenham. Frankly, I am not interested, and nor are many hundreds of other Leyton Orient spectators, in going anywhere else but to Leyton Orient to see the team play, despite what my noble friend Lord Mellish said about the standard of football. However, there are casual spectators to be considered.
433 We must consider the financial pressure that there will be on Third and Fourth Division clubs. They are already having difficulty in keeping their heads above water. If Leyton Orient had found it possible to retain some of its best players it could have been in the First Division. They had to be sold to keep the club going and to keep one of the finest playing surfaces in London in decent condition.
I hope that the Minister will realise that this is important for football. If Third or Fourth Division clubs go out of existence and we have only the two super leagues, it will be a tragedy for football. I should like to hear from the Minister exactly what information was given at the meeting with club chairmen, particularly those from the Third and Fourth Divisions.
§ Viscount Mersey
Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has got the cart before the horse. As he may well know, I supported him and my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls on the first amendment. However, there is the problem of Murphy's Law on which all sides of the Committee agree—the malfunctioning of computer systems. It is normally reckoned to be about 3 per cent. It follows that 3 per cent. of a very big gate is far worse than 3 per cent. of a small gate.
Everton has an average gate of about 35,000. That will mean 1,200 legitimate complaints at every Everton home match. I should have thought, therefore, that the First Division is at extreme risk perhaps more so than the lower divisions. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, I do not think this is a good amendment.
§ Lord Monson
I hesitated before putting my name to Amendment No. 4 because I have a marginal preference for Amendment No. 11, but I believed that Amendment No. 4 might be more acceptable to the Government. If I am mistaken in that assumption then I shall gladly transfer my allegiance to Amendment No. 11. The attendance figures for league games last Saturday, that is two days ago, may have been slightly atypical for two reasons. The first was the exceptionally fine weather. Normally when the weather is bad the less popular clubs are affected to a greater extent than the popular ones. The second reason was the fact that the fifth round of the FA Cup was also being played on that day.
Nevertheless the attendance figures are most instructive and highly relevant to the amendments that we are discussing now and in particular Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. The average gate at the three First Division matches was just over 15,000; the average gate at the seven Second Division matches was just over 10,000; the average at the nine Third Division matches was just under 5,000 and at the eight Fourth Division matches it was only 3,360. The First and Second Divisions combined had an average gate of 11,615 whereas the Third and Fourth Divisions combined had an average gate of only 4,196. In other words the average attendance for the Third and Fourth Division matches was only just over one-third of that for the First and Second Division matches: 36.13 per cent. to be precise. One can appreciate the terrible administrative and 434 financial burdens that this scheme would impose upon the Third and Fourth Division clubs.
There is another factor to be considered. I have with me a cutting from a local newspaper which serves a cathedral city and the surrounding area and which has a population of about 80,000. It has a Fourth Division football club, albeit that it was once in the Second Division. The report reveals that pensioners are suffering "terror and torment". They fear that they will live the rest of their lives "in misery". They are suffering "endless abuse and harassment". Some of them do not even dare to walk to the end of the street to go to the pub. Many of them keep their doors locked for the entire evening.
This has come about because hooligans jump up and down on their cars, damaging the bonnets and the roofs. They also urinate upon their cars. To be more specific they urinate on the cars of those pensioners who can afford to run them. They have thrown bricks through the windows of their houses, and some of the pensioners in question have had heart attacks—indeed some of them have had more than one heart attack—as a result of what is happening. The important point to recognise is that none of this has anything whatever to do with football: I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is bearing this in mind. The behaviour in question is described by the authorities as due to "boredom and frustration". Doubtless it has also a lot to do with the anti-disciplinarian attitude that was inculcated in their parents during the 1960s.
The point is that this Bill will do nothing whatever to help these people. I suspect that making it more difficult for the teenagers who are causing the problem to get into football matches will actually make the lives of the old people worse rather than better. Football provides an outlet, but more a verbal than a physical outlet, for these bored young people. It is an occasion to let off steam, partly by yelling at the tops of their voices in support of their own team. Let it also be admitted that they let off steam by boisterously barracking the opposing team and by indulging in a certain amount of minor rowdiness.
Even minor rowdiness is distasteful and certainly not something to be encouraged or welcomed. But for better or worse young male aggression has been a feature of life in Britain for hundreds of years, as many Members of the Committee pointed out at the Second Reading of this Bill. It is better by far that this aggression and surplus energy should be dissipated and absorbed within the confines of the football ground rather than for it to be bottled up and used later on pubs, shopping precincts, cafes, the homes and cars of elderly people or at other sporting events. (The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has just referred to the dangers of this kind of behaviour spilling over into Rugby League.) That is always provided that the rowdiness within the football grounds is of a relatively minor nature, which it normally is in the case of Third and Fourth Division clubs—where such a problem exists at all. Many clubs have no problems whatever.
The expensively dressed men in their mid-twenties and older about whom we read travel long distances in first-class railway compartments to matches carrying Stanley knives and other dangerous 435 weapons with which to scar their rivals. They normally concentrate upon the important and major games in the First and Second Divisions. They consider the Third and Fourth Division games with their small attendances beneath their dignity, if one can ascribe dignity to such people. In other words. for the Third and Fourth Division clubs the scheme is not only financially and administratively burdensome, but also unnecessary.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
These amendments are designed to limit the application of the scheme to certain matches. I would like to make clear the Government's general position on the principle of excluding certain matches from the scheme. It is our intention that the scheme should apply to all matches between the 92 Football League clubs and to include other matches as the Secretary of State considers it necessary to designate. It is important in the interest of preserving the integrity of the scheme that it should apply to all the clubs in the Football League.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, asked me what was the position as regards the chairmen of the Third and Fourth Division football clubs. He will not be surprised when I tell him that they made strong representations to us that they wanted to have the scheme phased in. The Government's position is that to exclude certain matches could create the danger that hooligans prevented from going to those games covered by the scheme would be displaced to those games outside the scheme.
My noble friend Lord Swinton asked whether people would just go to look for a punch-up. That is what we feel. We believe the position is that if you have a choice of going as a known hooligan to try to get into a First or Second Division football game where you must have a membership card or of going to a Third or Fourth Division game where you would not be in the same situation, it is obviously easier to go to a Third of a Fourth Division game.
We want to see an efficient and effective scheme in place. The more you move away from the premise that the scheme should apply throughout the Football League the more complicated and less effective the scheme becomes. Life gets difficult for both the clubs and the spectators. We must avoid the position where potential spectators are confused about whether or not they have to be a member of the scheme to go to a match. We must take care also to ensure that the job of the police does not become needlessly difficult.
It is against this background that we may consider the idea of restricting the application of the scheme to the First and Second Divisions of the Football League. As my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpetner pointed out, we cannot expect to beat the problem of football hooliganism by introducing a membership scheme only in the top two divisions of the League. The hooligan problem is not confined to Divisions One and Two. There is trouble too at matches played in the lower divisions. If the scheme were to be applied only at the top, we could increase the possibility of creating a bigger problem lower down. 436 The sad fact is that football hooliganism can strike at any club, at any match, and at any time. These arguments also apply to the proposed amendment about restricting designation to police category A matches for the first two seasons of the scheme's operation. There would be major practical disadvantages too. The amendment could result in the spectator being confused about which matches were and were not covered by the scheme.
I do not think that Amendment No. 11 presents a workable proposition. It seeks to restrict the application of the scheme to clubs which have a history of violence. The Secretary of State would have to consider each individual match played throughout the season to see if one of the participants had had hooligan problems over the previous three-year period. This looks like a recipe for chaos. Clubs and spectators would not know where they were. The more complicated you make the scheme the less effective it will be. There is another sad but important point I should make here. No club can be safe from the threat of hooliganism. Trouble can strike at clubs which have experienced long, relatively quiet periods.
I should make one additional point about Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. My advice is that if accepted, they would make the Bill hybrid. I do not need to tell the Committee what effect hybridity would have on the Bill's passage through Parliament. Various noble Lords including the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and my noble friend Lord Swinton, mentioned what essentially this problem is about as they perceive it and what the opponents of the Bill perceive it to be. The Third and Fourth Divisions will be vulnerable financially to this Bill.
One can take that view or a more positive one. Support for the game has fallen from 35 million people in 1967 to 21 million last year. The Bill will result in people being able to go back to football. I am a parent of young children. As things stand, when they are a little older I am not sure that I would be too happy for them to go unattended to a football game; but once one knows that football will be safe, people will flood back onto the terraces. It is important to consider what the Bill can do that is positive rather than say that we want no change. I hope that the Committee will be able to resist the seductive cadences of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, and that the movers will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
The noble Lord has told us, rightly, that there can be trouble outside the First and Second Divisions. That is true, and no one has ever denied it. According to the Written Answer given by his honourable friend Mr. Moynihan in the other place—I gave the Hansard reference earlier this afternoon—trouble, as defined by the noble Lord, in the case of Aldershot in the season 1987–88 amounted to six people in every 10,000 who attend matches. In the case of Blackpool, the figure was four in every 10,000 people who attend. Those are not people arrested within the grounds. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and I had a minor disagreement on how many of these arrests take place within football grounds. It is argued by many that a relatively small minority of the arrests take place within football grounds.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
Is the noble Lord arguing that the only people who cause disturbance and behave as hooligans are those who are arrested? Is he not aware of the fact that when there is widespread hooliganism, the limited number of police available are able to arrest only a small proportion of the malefactors?
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Of course, in some cases only a minority of those involved in disturbances are arrested. That is the case if a large number of people are involved in substantial disturbances. I am talking about very nearly non-existent disturbances at a number of football grounds. In a ground such as Aldershot which will be adequately policed by the chief constable of Hampshire, how can one say when the disturbances are on such a small scale that it would be impossible to effect arrests? That is not a serious proposition.
One can go through one team after another in the Third and Fourth Divisions of the English league and find the same story—tiny numbers of arrests. When the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, spoke a little earlier he said that there would be immense enthusiasm for this measure among large numbers of football supporters. I think he said that. I found it a little hard to believe that what he said is correct, but that certainly was his view.
I have a report of a public meeting that took place in Bury in January of this year. I am told that it was one of the largest public meetings to have taken place in Bury outside the period of a general election. A principal speaker was a local Conservative Member of Parliament, Mr. Alistair Burt. There was a full discussion at the meeting, dominated undoubtedly by people who had a close interest in the game. They heard Mr. Burt's view and in a ballot which took place at the end the voting figures were as follows: "I support the Government's ID card scheme for football supporters"—three votes; "I do not support the Government's ID card scheme for football supporters"—246 votes.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
If the noble Lord believes that that is evidence of immense enthusiasm for the Bill among football supporters, I would be rather surprised.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
If the noble Lord had given way a moment earlier he would have saved himself and the Committee a couple of minutes' time. The point I was seeking to make—and reference to Hansard will show that I did make—was not that in the welter of propaganda from clubs there is any enthusiasm among supporters now, but that what supporters will be immensely pleased with will be the good and orderly conditions which the operation of the Bill will produce and the possibility, as my noble friend the Minister said, for them not only to go peacefully to matches but even to take their children to them which many people dare not do now.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
In the cases which I have cited where the amount of crowd trouble is minimal 438 and has been for many years, there is clearly no deterrent at the moment to people taking their families to football matches. To be absolutely frank, I was going to quote the Bury example because I thought it was a helpful one in terms of the amendment which we are now discussing. In the case of Bury, it is perhaps wholly understandable why the people at that meeting voted as they did. Here are the figures for Bury in terms of disturbances which took place within and outside Bury football ground. In 23 matches, five people were arrested. That figure is for an entire season. Yet on the basis of the Bill that we have before us, that club, which has a difficult financial position, will be compelled to introduce this huge bureaucratic machinery. I sometimes wonder whether the Government have not lost their sense of proportion in this matter.
Of course we are all against hooliganism, whether it takes place at football grounds, on the London Underground, on British Rail, on housing estates or as an isolated or a more substantial act of vandalism. All that most of us would say is that in the examples I have just given the idea of trying to control entry to the Underground or in some way the admission to housing estates by some strange procedure would receive a great deal of derision in this Chamber. As concerns this proposal, anyone who believes that there will be a substantial reduction in the amount of violence at football grounds if the Bill becomes law will be unpleasantly surprised.
At Second Reading I reported to the House a conversation that I had with six senior police officers of superintendent and chief superintendent rank. All of them had been directly involved as police commanders at football grounds during the past 12 months. Of those senior officers, all believed that those who were barred from entering grounds because they were disqualified from membership of the scheme would still loiter in the streets outside, and then become involved in acts of violence. As senior policemen, their view was that they would not transfer their allegiance to a Third or Fourth Division club. They may be right or they may be wrong.
As the noble Lord, Lord Knights, said on a previous occasion, police views differ on this question. I would not suggest for a moment that there is unanimity of opinion in the police service. What I do say is that these experienced senior police officers did not believe that there would be a transfer of loyalty to other clubs. They believed that once disqualified many of these young men would become involved in other acts of violence outside the grounds. In their view, that was one of the problems associated with the passage of this measure.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, feels strongly about the fact that the figures for arrest in the Third and Fourth Division are low. We should keep very much at the forefront of our minds that that is achieved with very high and heavy levels of policing. That cannot lightly be cast aside. It is important that we remember that two of these amendments could well hybridise the Bill.
439 The decisions which are taken here today represent two different views. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, believes that the problems will transfer out of soccer and that such problems extend beyond clubs within the League. However, from this Dispatch Box we believe that there is a direct link between hooliganism and League soccer. If that difference is irreconcilable, so be it. We believe that we must have the four divisions and without the four divisions the scheme begins to fall apart.
Finally, as regards the matter of Bury, which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, drew to the attention of the Committee, as I was not present at the meeting, all I can say is that I suspect in terms of the variation of the supporters it may be rather similar to asking the College of Cardinals to vote for the Reformation.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I wish to make one or two cardinal points. The noble Lord has been very fair and consistent. I mean that most sincerely. He restated the Government's view and said that it is their intention that this proposal should be universally applied to all 92 clubs. Even though we have had reference to consultations which take place in Wales in respect of the Welsh clubs, and even though we have had indications from the Minister and his colleagues that they are prepared to look at some suggestions, I simply invite the Committee to consider the matter very carefully.
If the Government's view was that they have produced a Bill which is not capable of being amended in any shape or form and there is no way in which it can be amended—for example, revised or improved—we should have a very arrogant Government. However, I do not make that charge. I believe that the Government must be prepared to listen to the arguments.
Reference was made to the meeting at Bury. Indeed, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for giving us what was undoubtedly a factual, unembellished, account of what took place. Of course there could be other meetings at which other people who would be affected might say that they would prefer to have that kind of Bill. It was not stage-managed; all the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is saying is that a group of people who are passionately involved in football were invited to state a view on the Bill and they said, "We do not want it".
We do not have a national referendum. But the next best thing is this Chamber and the other place. Both places are trying to interpret the reaction of people outside.
The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, wondered where the potential or active hooligans would go if they were excluded from the First and Second Division. The noble Lord, Lord Knights, speaking from his great experience, which I acknowledge, drew our attention to the situation in a major conurbation. He did so, quite rightly, by mentioning clubs in different divisions. However, there are many conurbations where there are simply football clubs and if people were excluded from one of them under a scheme they would perhaps go to others. But we do not know that. The surmise is that they might.
440 The noble Lord used the interesting analogy of Wolverhampton. He used Wolverhampton to illustrate fairly that violence is present at some clubs which are not in the First and Second Divisions and that it needs to be dealt with. Having regard to his previous professional commitments, thanks to proper and adequate policing and determination by the clubs, those people were dealt with properly by the courts without any ID card scheme. Indeed, 25 people were brought before the courts, convicted of football-related violence and duly dealt with. I have the details here with me but, I shall simply say that they were dealt with by the courts. That can happen now. Violence at Fourth Division grounds can be dealt with by the police and the clubs now; we do not need an ID scheme.
Reference has been made to the situation inside our grounds. Perhaps I may tell the Committee about an outstanding situation. The other day I went to Watford to see the team play Leeds United. It was my first visit to the ground. We know that Watford is in the Second Division. I was sitting in the area where the directors sit. It was not a box, it was a bench in a sense. I looked down and below me was the family members' area, where there were families and many children. I do not mean only seven and eight year-olds; two year- old and three year-old children were running around inside. My attention was then drawn to a young mother with a baby in a pram; she was pushing the pram. I said to my colleague, "That is astounding". She said, "Oh yes, she has been a football fan all her life. She has a child whom she brings along and there is no problem. There is no problem in getting to the ground, no problem in getting in and no problem in sitting down".
There are situations where the full rigour of an ID scheme is not necessary. The Minister might say, as he did in reply to the first set of amendments about Wales and upon this one, that it is necessary. However, I invite him to consider very carefully that if the Bill leaves this Chamber and goes to another place—whether or not amendments are won against the Government—it will be on the premise that the Government are not prepared to consider the possibility that it can be improved. I think that that would be a most dangerous situation.
The noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, quite rightly raised a point in the light of earlier amendments and Divisions. However, when you put down the amendments you do not expect to win or lose; you put them down with all of the variations in mind. Indeed, I was not the progenitor of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. However, I heard him speak on Second Reading; I was consulted about it and I liked it. Therefore we supported it. But we do not know the outcome. We put down these amendments to exclude the Third and Fourth Divisions because we genuinely believe that there is a case to be made out.
I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said about Amendment No. 11. In the haste of agreeing to groupings, the amendment has slipped in. I can honestly say, on reflection, that it should have been out of this grouping because it deals with a separate principle; namely, the situation where to the satisfaction of the authority there are two clubs 441 such as those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, which have no record of violence. In such a situation we are asking why the Government should want to impose the full rigours of this, with the resultant damage which the noble Viscount, Lord Graigavon, mentioned, even to a small percentage of a small gate.
If a large club such as Tottenham was to lose 5,000 or 6,000 casuals it would mean the loss of a lot of money. However, the club could manage because it would still have 22,000 or 23,000 people. But to a small club which has only 3,000 spectators and which loses the same proportion—for example, 500—it could make a big difference. It could be a loss of, say, £2,000 or £3,000. Therefore when we come to Amendment No. 11 in its proper order I hope to have the opportunity to debate that as a separate issue.
The Minister said that there are bigger problems lower down the League. Of course he is making the case for the four divisions. But why does he stop at the four divisions? There are other leagues and there are clubs within those leagues which are aspiring to move up. Indeed, my local team is Enfield. The team has ambitions. One of the categories of violence which the Minister mentioned in a circular to his colleagues in this and another place concerned a match at Enfield. We must say that the Minister has had no difficulty in excluding by leagues some divisions and some clubs. In other words, the Minister can make arbitrary cut-offs but this place cannot suggest refinements to those arbitrary cut-offs.
The Minister made a poor point when he said that it would be difficult to make exclusions from the scheme by looking at clubs' records; it would be difficult to decide that a club had a poor record, and that some consultation would have to take place. That would not be an onerous task. To be fair to him, the Minister published the information in response to a Question. There is a great deal of information available. A case cannot be made out to suggest that the operation of an exclusion scheme for such clubs would be onerous.
The Minister has said as much as he can on this point. We are not satisfied but there are later stages to the Bill. I have said that we intend to come back to Amendment No. 11, and in those circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 1, line II, leave out ("such") and insert ("league or domestic cup").
§ The noble Lord said: The amendment relates to League and cup matches only. The purpose of the amendment is to exclude international fixtures played at Wembley Stadium, Ninian Park and the Racecourse ground from the scope of the national membership scheme. Fixtures such as the League and FA Cup finals would not be affected by the amendment. As regards matches at which visiting supporters from countries without membership schemes, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, 442 would not have membership cards, supporters of the home team would not have to show membership cards to gain admittance to such matches.
§ On Second Reading the Minister dealt with the application of the scheme to Scotland and the visits here of Scottish supporters. He will no doubt be well briefed and will be able to satisfy this place about the problem that we raise in the amendment. There will be serious practical problems at Wembley and other stadia if membership schemes are imposed on international fixtures. The Minister has an obligation to tell us what he and his colleagues believe to be the answer. The Government have not made it clear as to what conditions would be enforced at, for example, a match at Wembley between England and Scotland.
§ If Scottish supporters are not required to have membership cards what is to stop English supporters without membership cards entering areas of the ground allocated to Scottish supporters? There may be a match between England and Scotland at Wembley. Scottish fans, alleged Scottish fans or pseudo-Scottish fans would be able to enter the ground without a card because the scheme does not exist and yet English fans, who are registered as such, would need to have a card. What is to stop those people who decide to enter those areas allocated to Scottish fans? They would be able to say that they were following Ayr. However, let us suppose that they are the hooligans who are looking for trouble and that they want to get into the enemy camp. They can get in among the Scottish fans and if they are the hooligans who travel about looking for trouble what will the situation be? If the Government require Scottish supporters to be members of a membership scheme how will it be administered when the scheme does not extend to Scotland? The Bill at the moment does not extend to Scotland. Will the police be happy if a large number of Scottish supporters arrive at Wembley without memberships cards and are denied admission to the game?
§ The Minister understands that there are many people outside this place who will look at the Bill and from their practical experience will ask how it will work. The Minister must say something about the matter.
§ It is believed that the Government envisage that foreign visitors should use their passports to obtain temporary membership cards or directly to obtain entry to the ground. How will the German, Austrian, Dutch or Spanish supporters be admitted to an international football match at Wembley? If the passport is to be the identity card how will it work? One assumes that the passport will have to be scrutinised. Otherwise what is the point of the passport? One can envisage elderly gatekeepers—many of them are—at dimly lit turnstiles—many of them are—having the problem of examining the passport to decide whether it belongs to the man or woman in question. There must be some kind of scrutiny, but it will be done under pressure as the people come through the door. The Minister must look at that matter.
§ The alternative which was canvassed, and upon which people have gone silent, was the issue of temporary membership cards earlier on match days. 443 If the foreign visitor must queue at the ground in the morning to obtain some kind of temporary admission and then return in the afternoon, he is not going to come back. It is difficult to say that people must come twice. If he does not have to queue, there will be some bureaucratic device which will mean that the foreigner can enter the ground without any trouble whereas the man or woman who lives around the corner, who decides on match day that he or she wants to go to the match, will have to go through some bureaucratic process. That is not on either.
§ I hope that the Minister will help the Committee, I have explained the basis and the raison d'être upon which I have moved the amendment. I beg to move.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
The amendment seeks to restrict the power of the Secretary of State to designate the football matches to which the requirements of the membership scheme must apply. It would remove from him the ability to apply the scheme to any matches other than those played in a league or domestic cup competition. However, it appears that it would leave him free to designate a match in any domestic league or cup competition—not just those organised by the Football League or Football Association. I suspect that that last effect was not intended.
The intention may have been, however, that none of the provisions of Part I of the Bill would apply to international matches, friendly matches between League sides, and matches played in European competitions. If such matches are excluded from the scheme, they would provide an open invitation to hooligans banned from attending games to which the scheme does not apply. Inevitably, such matches would become a target for banned hooligans.
I cannot accept that such matches should be excluded from Part I of the Bill. We recognise, however, that applying the scheme in full to some of those matches could cause problems. In particular, it is not realistic to expect everyone attending an international match in this country, including foreign nationals supporting their teams, to join the membership scheme.
We accept that international matches raise unusual issues. There is not only the problem of foreign nationals living abroad and visiting this country for the match. I understand that a significant proportion of those who attend international matches at Wembley may be people who never go to domestic matches.
We cannot exempt international matches from Part I of the Bill altogether, or, as I have said, they will simply become a focus for hooligans banned from other grounds. We must also recognise that international matches can provide a particular focus for trouble. The England-Scotland game is the obvious example but it took 1,000 police at Wembley alone to avoid the risk of violence at the England-Holland match last year.
International matches must therefore come within the Bill. Wembley, and any other ground which holds them must have a licence under Part I. The licensing 444 authority must be satisfied that the ground authorities have taken every possible step to avoid trouble. This does not mean that everyone attending a match will be required to join the scheme. It does mean that if there are to be arrangements for people to attend such matches other than as members of the scheme, those arrangements must be as secure as possible. For that reason, the matches must be designated and the ground licensed. In working up a draft scheme to submit to the Secretary of State, this is a matter to which the football authorities will need to give the closest attention. In the case of the England-Scotland game, my honourable friend, the Minister of State in the Scottish Office has made entirely clear that Scottish supporters who buy their tickets in Scotland will only be exempt from the requirement to join the national membership scheme if the Scottish football authorities can devise effective means of preventing those tickets falling into the hands of troublemakers. The Wembley authorities are very well aware of the overriding importance of making their segregation arrangements as secure as possible for England-Scotland matches.
We must also look at the issue of friendly matches between league clubs and matches with European clubs. The Government's present instinct is that friendly matches should be fully part of the scheme; if two league clubs are involved, the word "Friendly" has only too often been entirely inappropriate. The question of matches with European clubs will not be a significant issue until English clubs are re-admitted to European competition. It seems reasonable that the arrangements worked out for international matches should then be applied for matches against European clubs.
The Government take the problems of international and other matches seriously. We recognise that special arrangements will be needed within the overall framework of the scheme. But it must be within that overall framework or there will be no protection for such matches at all. If they are exempt from the requirements of Part I of the Bill, they can only become a focus for hooligans. I hope that the noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendments.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I think a number of us will want to read what the noble Lord has said. Frankly, I found it quite impossible to follow the argument which he deployed, particularly in relation to the position of Scottish football supporters. That is not a totally irrelevant issue, given the fact that at the last Scotland versus England match at Wembley, twice as many Scots were arrested by the police as English. Of course the scheme does not apply to Scotland. The Government or the noble Lord used the phrase that there were a number of "unusual issues". That is something of an understatement. What he was really saying was that the Government have not the faintest idea of how to bring international matches into their scheme.
In so far as I was able to follow the point he made in relation to Scottish supporters, as I understood it he said something like this. The Minister of State at the Scottish Office has told the Scottish football authorities that they will have to give some broad 445 undertaking about the behaviour of Scottish fans when they go to Wembley. If the authorities give some broad understanding or commitment or something of that kind, they will be excluded from the scheme. I may have got that absolutely wrong, in which case the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, will, I know, be anxious to correct me.
I find the concept extremely difficult. If the Scottish supporter who travels with a ticket from Scotland to watch his national side play at Wembley, presents himself at Wembley Stadium, presumably there will be some arrangement whereby Scots go in at certain entrances and people with foreign passports will go in through other entrances. Some people will have the privilege of having their membership cards scrutinised, with the possibility always that if they try to enter the ground without being a member of the scheme, they will be committing a serious criminal offence. That, as I understand it, is the Government's position. Englishmen— and perhaps Welshmen, we do not know about them at the moment—will be treated in one way; Scotsmen will be treated in a totally different fashion, and others will perhaps be required to show a foreign passport.
During Second Reading I asked the noble Lord, as he may recall, the position of the Irishman who lives in Manchester but has an Irish passport, as many do. How will he be affected by the scheme? I should be immensely grateful if the noble Lord can clear that matter up.
§ Lord Hesketh
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, presents a seductive argument of why this is already rather superfluous, but I must answer him in this way. The object of the Bill is to create a successful scheme. There always was and there always will be a problem with any scheme to improve the state of hooliganism in English soccer when it comes into contact with any outside body. One of those bodies could be a Scottish football supporter coming to an England Scotland game or a German supporter—at the moment it could not be the latter but one hopes that in the not too distant future it might be a German supporter coming to see an England?West Germany game. We understand that there are problems. That is what I tried to explain in what we are hoping will be the outcome. But it is very important that the Football Membership Authority is able to address the problem in what it thinks is the most sensible way of dealing with it.
It would be entirely hypothetical for me to answer the noble Lord, Lord Harris, concerning the gentleman of some fame now: the Irish football supporter in Manchester. Perhaps I may answer in a hypothetical way because I cannot speak for the FMA. If a foreign national wished, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, pointed out, to go as a regular attender with an Irish passport to, let us say, a Manchester United game, it might be that the FMA would stipulate that anyone who applied for more than one game or two or three games in the passport holder category, might have to become a card holder member. However, that is an entirely hypothetical suggestion, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will appreciate that I cannot speak for the proposed FMA.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
The more the noble Lord says about the proposed FMA, the more concerned some of us become. At the moment this is an entirely non-statutory body, the scheme will not be presented for any form of parliamentary approval. Therefore there is no way in which the noble Lord will be able to shuffle the responsibility for answering some of those questions onto a non-existent body; namely, the FMA.
We are entitled to ask the noble Lord what the Government want done in these cases. There are many Irish citizens who live in Manchester and Liverpool. Some of them possess Repub tic of Ireland passports, and there is nothing hypothetical about that at all; it is a practical fact. We want to know whether these people will have privileges over and above going to international matches at Wembley. Let us forget league football and talk about matches at Wembley, it is once-and-for-all in any season, so far as concerns that national team. Regarding these matches at Wembley only, what is the Government's view? First, does the existence of a foreign passport on that single occasion guarantee someone admission to the ground, or does it not? What is the Government's expectation in this matter? What do they want the FMA—their own creature, I may say—to do?
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, that quite substantial questions of European law are involved in this which could easily become a matter of some dispute in the courts. We simply want to know whether or not foreign passport holders are to receive special privileged treatment. I do not think there is anything hypothetical about the question. I should be immensely grateful if the noble Lord can answer today; but I quite understand if he cannot do so.
§ Lord Hesketh
I did not say that the question was hypothetical, I only said that my answer would be. After three and a half hours of debate in the Committee, this is the first time that I have mentioned the FMA in all truth. It is an occasion on which it is suitable to mention the FMA because one of the main intentions of the Bill is that the scheme will be supervised by and for football. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has raised a point which must be discussed and that the conclusion will be achieved by that route.
§ The Earl of Onslow
As the Committee knows, I am a supporter of the Government on the Bill, but I am very worried by the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. It seems extremely odd that for international England v. Ireland and England v. Wales matches somebody who is an Irish supporter who lives in Guildford may have to obtain an identity card to go into the Irish or Scots supporters' part of the ground. If he is a Scottish supporter who lives in Oban he does not have to get an identity card. Either everyone should have to get an identity card—on the whole I think that is impossible in view of the European dimension—or there will have to be extra police to overcome the problem that way. International matches will have to be exempted. In spite of being a major supporter of the Government,
447 I see that this particular dilemma is an extremely difficult one for the Government to get themselves out of. I cannot see a way that that can be done, but then I am only a humble Back-Bencher and I do not have the advice of civil servants behind me.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
As I said at the very start of this debate, there will always be a problem when an interface occurs with an outside source. The Government take the view that if we exempted certain grounds—I take Wembley as an example—from Part I of the Bill, they would act as a honeypot for hooligan bees.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Is there any hope that the Government will be able to clarify this matter between now and Report? I very much hope that the Minister, particularly after the contribution of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, will be able to tell us that we shall be given a far clearer indication of answers to questions that I and others have raised. The Minister will appreciate that those questions have not been answered. If he is prepared to undertake to look again at this matter between now and Report, I hope that we shall not press the amendment because undoubtedly there are some difficulties involved, although some of them are of the Government's own making. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, feels the same way. I hope that the Minister will give some indication that he is prepared to look again at this matter because, frankly, in its present form the Bill as drafted is most unsatisfactory.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I hope that the Minister will be able to say something further on this. This matter is undoubtedly a hot potato. It has been recognised as such ever since the scheme was conceived. The Minister rests his case upon Clause 5(3)(c) which states that the scheme may provide:for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme, of descriptions of person specified in the scheme in such circumstances and subject to such conditions as are so specified".That is one of the remits of the football membership scheme. The Minister is really saying that the Government recognise that there is a problem. He gave what I think, with great respect to him, was a wholly inoperable means of dealing with the problem. However, the Minister then said that a solution was up to the Football Membership Authority. Clause 5 states that:The scheme must include provision".The clause is very specific on many matters. But as regards the matters we are discussing, it becomes unspecific. The Minister must understand that when Members of the Committee on this side of the Chamber—and on the other side too I hope—get up, we are asking questions on behalf of very important people who are doing a very important job. I ask the Minister what the reaction of the Wembley authorities has been to this measure. Is the response of the Wembley authorities on record? I am not privy 448 to that and this is not a catch question. But clearly Wembley must be one of the clubs that will have something to say about this.
When this Bill becomes law the Wembley authorities, like all other law abiding citizens, will try to make it work. But before the Minister makes this Bill into an Act, he must be satisfied that it is workable and enforceable. I noted what the Mnister said as regards Scotland. I believe he said that it would be expected of the Scottish football authorities to make as secure as possible the arrangements for Scottish fans to travel to England. The Minister also suggested that the same safeguards should apply to buying tickets in Scotland. Perhaps 10,000 people with mixed attitudes and intentions will be affected by those provisions. So are we saying that somebody is going to have to say either to the Minister, the FMA, the administrator of the scheme or to Parliament that he has tried to make sure that those 10,000 people will behave themselves?
The Government have already made sure that English fans behave themselves because the Government believe that possession of a card is, ipso facto or prima facie, a passport into a football ground at which there will be no violence. I should like to hear the views of the Scottish Football Authority on this matter. I do not mean the views of the Secretary of State for Scotland; I mean the views of the Scottish Football Authority. Is that authority really going to accept this kind of responsibility? It is unfair to label Scotland in this way, but Scotland serves as an illustration of the damage that has been done and which, regrettably, because of the nature of football, will be done by some fans on some occasions. A school of thought exists which states that the fewer fans there are the better things will be and that the best way to avoid violence is to have nobody inside football grounds who can cause violence.
But the Minister must understand that part of the joy and passion of football is non-violent confrontation, passion and partisanship between two sides. That is what it is all about. At one time there was no violence at football matches, but regrettably today there is. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that we should not press this amendment at this stage. But if the kind of flesh that is to be put on the bones is the kind of thing that we have heard tonight, or very little more, I can see that at a future stage we shall have to ask what course is open to us. Although we in this Chamber are very limited in our powers, and although the other place is very limited in its powers, as the Government have a majority and certain intentions, we still have a duty not only to ourselves but also to people outside to raise these kind of questions.
The Minister did little more than sketch in the possible details of the scheme. That was all he could do tonight. But what would happen if the FMA came up with a scheme of its own designed to ensure that Wembley remained a designated ground and therefore had to comply with the arrangements? Is the Minister saying that he and the Government will accept a scheme worked out by the Football Association, the Football League and those bodies that compose the FMA? The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, raised the very valid point that 449 we have a long way to go before we discuss who appoints bodies, the powers of those bodies and their composition, and who those bodies arc responsible to, not least Parliament.
I should be grateful if the Minister could help the Committee at this stage by answering some questions. Has Wembley been consulted? What are its views? Once the Bill becomes an Act, will the FMA and the administrator have the power to devise their own scheme, or is the Minister really saying that at every turn of events although people will be free to do what they like, they will be advised by the Government as to what will be acceptable to the Government? At the end of the day we know that the scheme, in whatever form it may appear, must be accepted by the Secretary of State. It has to be not only acceptable to him but also be capable of amendment by him.
If these good people produce a scheme which they think is workable and the Secretary of State does not agree and says that he is going to amend it, what is the purpose of Parliament in effect? We are here as parliamentarians trying to do our job. But if the Minister rests his case on the words of the Bill as it is drafted at the moment, that the Secretary of State has power not only to appoint the administrator but also to remove him, and not only to call for a scheme but also to amend it, reject it and to dismiss the FMA, what powers are left to parliamentarians?
We understand the political realities of this Chamber. But we are saying to people outside the Chamber who are involved in football that their house must be put in order. We are telling them that we want them to put it in order as they are in charge of it. But before they do, they can do nothing of their own volition that is not approved by the Minister. Can the Minister and his colleagues accept that there may be some circumstances where people who run football know more about football than the Minister and his colleagues? I am not talking about law and order alone. Although this is a law and order issue, it is also a football issue. So I think the Minister could help the Committee in its intentions if he answered some of those points.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Before the Minister replies, there is one question that I should like to put to him in connection with the debate which we have just had, to which I have been listening very carefully and with growing concern and bewilderment. The fact of the matter is that we are being asked as parliamentarians to pass a measure which distinguishes the treatment of one citizen of the United Kingdom from another citizen of the United Kingdom, in that if you are Scots you may very well be able to get into a football game at Wembley without an admission card, but if you are English you will not be able to do so. I further understand that the Scots will be able to buy their football tickets, presumably in Scotland, and it is only a ticket that they will need for admission.
We hear a great deal about such persons as ticket touts. Let us suppose that the ticket touts are able to get hold of a number of tickets which they then bring down to England, south of the Border, to sell to the Sassenachs outside Wembley football ground. What 450 then? If the English are able to buy a Scottish ticket then they will be able to get into the match, even though they are not members of the football admission scheme. What measures are we to expect the Government to take about that circumstance? The Minister will not, of course, wish to see the law circumvented in such a way. Does that mean that the Government will now bring forward a Bill to forbid the selling of Scottish football tickets outside Wembley football stadium?
It seems to me that this Bill has not been thought out. I hope the noble Lord will take note of everything that has been said in this debate and take very seriously the request—indeed the plea, the entreaty—that was made to him by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to think very carefully about this Bill, about this clause and about this amendment. He would be well advised to do so. He would not just be helping Parliament and the people of this country, but he might very well be helping the Tory party as well.
§ Lord Monson
Before the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, sits down, does he not agree that an unfortunate precedent has already been set for discriminating between citizens of different parts of the United Kingdom in the Prevention of Terrorism Act?
§ Lord Mishcon
I promise the Committee that I shall say only one sentence and it is this. In relation to what the noble Lord who has just spoken has said in regard to football ticket touts, will the Minister consider making all the activities of football touts a criminal offence? Indeed he may get a lot of support in the House if he does.
§ Lord Carter
It is not just the football tout. It is the Scottish supporter who comes down with a spare ticket which he sells in the pub on the way to the ground.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
May I ask one very brief question? We have talked a great deal about the Scots, but some similar problems can be associated with Northern Ireland football supporters. No doubt the Minister will take that into account at the same time as he is considering the Scottish issue.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
The noble Lord, Lord Graham, accuses the Government of acting like a steamroller, but he has only to think of what happened earlier this afternoon to find that that is not entirely the case.
§ Lord Hesketh
I have listened with interest to the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart, and Lord Mishcon. I do not think my position entitles me to direct new legislation with regard to the abolition of ticket touts, desirable or not as that may be. We have always been aware that there would be difficulties when people, countries or groups who were outside of the scheme were coming into the scheme. Wembley stadium are 451 keen to see that sensible provisions are made and the discussions between them and my right honourable friend will continue with the formation of the FMA. I mention the FMA because the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, talked about the people who run football. The objective of the FMA is that it will be run by the people who run football, and that is why we believe that in this area, which is difficult, that is the best answer.
But perhaps I may add that if we exclude these grounds or particular games from Part I of the Bill, what effectively will happen is that we shall be declaring open season for a particular type of game. I have worries that if that happens we may be opening a very nasty Pandora's Box which we may come to regret at a later date.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
Is the Minister telling the Committee that the scheme divised by the FMA to deal with this matter, even though it is contrary to the views of the Secretary of State, will prevail?
§ Lord Hesketh
At the end of the day, I believe there will be a satisfactory and amicable agreement on this, because everyone at this moment wants an agreement. The point that I am trying to make is that we really do not think that we can have an open season at Wembley.
§ Lord Northfield
On the previous occasion I declared an interest as a director of Wembley. Although I am no longer a director, I have listened with some incredulity to the exchanges this afternoon. I wonder whether the noble Lord realises the problems created for Wembley by the sort of examples that have been bandied around the Committee this afternoon. The problems are enormous. It is not good enough to come to the Committee today and say to noble Lords that the Government really do not know what they want at this stage, and then to ask Parliament and this House to give a carte blanche to go ahead with all sorts of powers over the situation.
We are legislating here and Wembly stadium, like anybody else, will do its best to apply the Government's legislation. But it cannot be fair to ask Parliament at this stage to trust that this will all work out. We ought to be receiving guidance from the Government as to what they expect. We ought to be having answers to the sort of questions that have been asked today; for example—the noble Lord has not yet answered it—what is to happen to foreign visitors? Will they get a special card? Will Wembley have to issue that card? Will they have to make two trips to the stadium to get that card?
We cannot go on with legislation of this kind on a very important national basis and with a national institution, respect for which will be at risk throughout the world if it is forced into a ridiculous set of provisions. I plead with the noble Lord before Report stage to come some way to make some announcement about what is expected. Otherwise Wembley stadium dirctors will need very much to reserve their position, much though they want to co- 452 operate with the Government. I find the exchanges absolutely disheartening and almost incredible.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I say to the Minister, with great respect, that substantial questions have been asked that he has failed to answer to our satisfaction. He has given answers, but I hope that when he and his colleagues reflect after this stage he will see that this House will not be satisfied with the answers that it has had. What powers we have, and how we can seek to support our premises in these matters, remain to others and myself to consider between now and the next stage.
The Minister has a great responsibility because there are people inside and outside this House who will try to make the law work. I beg the Minister to consult meaningfully with the people outside the House who know more about football and its administration than I do. If the scheme causes a problem that is not of our doing or of theirs. They dislike the scheme, but if there is to be a scheme they say, "How can we make it work?" The scheme may fall down in any event because it cannot be made to work. We believe that we can demonstrate that it cannot work, but those are major political considerations.
The Minister has tried to do his best. He has failed to satisfy the Committee, but I certainly give him notice in withdrawing this amendment and the others related to it that it is not because we are satisfied but because we genuinely want to test the reality of the Bill and the scheme in the spirit that I have described. He has failed to satisfy us so far. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 6 to 9 not moved.]
Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 1, line 14, at end insert—
("2A) No football match falling within section (Community Football Schemes) shall be a designated football match within the terms of subsection (2) above.").
§ The noble Lord said: I venture on this amendment for two reasons which I shall state before referring to the wording of the amendment itself. First, I wish to seek to show to the Committee that the Government have not used the authorities available to them when trying to think through the problem of football hooliganism. Secondly, I want to draw attention to what many local authorities and many football clubs which will be designated if the Bill goes through have done to deal with football hooliganism and the improvement of facilities for football on their grounds and for the patrons of the various football clubs.
§ It may be astonishing to many Committee Members that, although the Football League has been mentioned as having been consulted with regard to voluntary schemes and been found wanting, with the result that this Bill has become necessary, no mention has been made—I ventured humbly to draw attention to this point on Second Reading—of any consultation with the local authorities, which know so well the population in their midst and the football clubs in their areas. I remember well, as I said on 453 Second Reading, the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, from the Benches opposite. He was not only a distinguished Minister of a Conservative Government, but a distinguished leader of the opposition in a place that I used to frequent; namely, County Hall in London. He drew attention—not on Second Reading but on another occasion—to the Government's dismal way of not allocating to local authorities the responsibilities and respect that they deserve if local government is not to perish completely in this country after a long and honourable tradition and history.
§ This amendment states—I hope that I put it in simple terms—that there should be exempted from desgnation any football club that has gone into a community football scheme which is to be submitted to the authorities after consultation between the club, the local authority in which area the club is situated and the police, and then submitted to those who would have jurisdiction if the Bill were passed.
§ It may be asked: what have local authorities and clubs done? They have had all the time in the world. Football hooliganism has been with us in a tragic degree for quite a time; a degree so tragic that I believe all of us carry almost a feeling of shame regarding the way in which we have as a result been banned from international events of a certain character. That shame attaches to the whole of the membership of Parliament, whether in the House or the other place, wherever we may be sitting. The Government have made almost an allegation: here are the Football League and football clubs. They had all the time in the world. There were the local authorities. When did they speak? Why was their voice silent?
§ I hope that I shall not bore the Committee and I promise to deal with the matter as briefly as possible. I mention it because otherwise not only is the public misled as to what has been done and what could be done with regard to the very matters that the Bill is designed to fight, but we too could be misled. From what the Government have said, we would not have been aware of efforts that have successfully been made.
§ I turn first to Millwall, a club that has been mentioned in our discussions. What has Millwall done? And what has Lewisham done? After all, Millwall comes within the bounds of Lewisham as a local authority. They signed a contract in June 1987. The cost to the council in 1988 was £70,000. That is what Millwall had done by way of co-operation between a club and a local authority. I again stress the fact that a local authority knows its club and its people. What we are doing here—Heaven knows why we are doing it!—is to introduce a supposedly uniform national scheme in which the administrators do not even know the local problems or benefits.
§ What has been the benefit of the co-operation between local authority and club with regard to Millwall and Lewisham? What have they done? They issue 150 free tickets for every home game. Do we know where they go? They go to children's homes, people with disabilities, the homeless, schools—so that youngsters are trained in the way to behave at a 454 football match—and to youth groups. The pitch and stadium are used for council events. There are schools' and women's football festivals. There is a club involvement in the council's holiday programmes for young people, again to train them how to behave and to show them what debts they owe—so to speak—to the local authority and their football club. Local schools are encouraged to visit the club and to do research work as part of a project to illustrate the changing face of football. There are schemes to tackle racist chanting on the terraces.
§ What about violence? I shall tell the Committee what the club and the local authority have done about violence directly; I have said what they do indirectly. Violence at home and away has declined. They have recruited John Stalker to advise on police matters. They have reduced entrance fees for pensioners, students and the unemployed, a creche which operates during Saturday games and a family enclosure. All those measures are designed, thought out and carried out between a local authority and a football club—a situation not provided for in any way under this Bill.
§ I could go on. Sheffield Wednesday has similar schemes although I shall not detail them. Luton Town, Coventry City, Manchester City and Stoke City football clubs have similar arrangements, as has Barnsley Football Club, which was unnecessarily vilified in a joking way by one Committee Member. Its reputation was immediately championed by another whose title contains the name of Barnsley. I am as yet unaware whether that was done for personal advancement or from loyalty to the Barnsley Football Club.
§ In the Third Division, Southend United and Preston North End have such a scheme. In the Fourth Division, Doncaster Rovers and Halifax Town have such a scheme. Let it not be said that the football clubs individually have not taken this matter seriously and have not tried to do a creative job. Let it not be said that local authorities have universally been absent-minded in these matters and have not co-operated where possible with the clubs in their areas.
§ It is astounding that the Government's investigation of this problem should result in a diktat about a national scheme, as we have just seen, that was not thought through. Vital details were left out of consideration. In tackling this problem, nobody has said to local authorities, "Try to put a scheme forward in consultation with the police and your local football clubs and we shall look at it at government level to see whether it meets the case in your area." I have moved this amendment in order that the Committee and the Government may consider whether these schemes of co-operation between local authorities and clubs in their area can be given a chance. If the clubs take advantage of that chance and opportunity, they could cease to be designated under this Bill or brought within this national membership scheme. I beg to move.
§ Lord Hesketh
These amendments seek to exclude from the scheme matches at those clubs operating a community football scheme. The proposed new clause tells us what the noble Lords have in mind as 455 constituting a community football scheme. I am entirely unaware that we have ever held local authorities responsible in any way for the problems. I make that absolutely clear. I should like to make it clear straight away that the Government fully support the concept of community football schemes. I applaud the success of those clubs which are developing community involvement schemes. Nothing but good can flow from clubs getting closer to the community of which they are part. However, we must remember the sad fact that hooliganism is indiscriminate. A successful community scheme, laudable though it is, is no guarantee against the threat of crowd disorder. As with other amendments seeking to exclude certain matches from the scheme, these amendments would also bring with them practical difficulties.
The more one moves away from the Government's basic premise that, to be effective and capable of being operated efficiently, the scheme should be applied across the board to all football matches qualifying for designation under the Bill, the more complicated and less effective one makes the scheme, and the more difficult one makes life for the clubs and the supporters.
I fully appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is trying to do. However, I know that he understands that the central tenet of the Government's position is the principle of universality. It is for that reason that I hope noble Lords will agree to withdraw this amendment.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
Although the Minister does not dismiss the schemes—he welcomes them—I am sad that he is not prepared to accept what we suggest: a substitute for the application of a national scheme in certain circumstances. Let us bear in mind that this is not a cosy relationship between the club, the local police and the council. It has to be a pretty good scheme to get all three to work together. It then has to be submitted to the FMA. That is the body which has yet to he created under this Bill. That body has to look at the scheme, which has to be supported by the Secretary of State. The Minister seems to be saying time and again that the reason the Government cannot accept sensible proposals is because they have already decided to exclude anything other than what is already in the Bill. If that is the situation, why does he not tell us that we are wasting our time?
We wish to eliminate bad behaviour. One of the charges against the football fraternity by other Ministers is, "Your have had your chance. You have failed to put your house in order. Now Parliament will make you put your house in order." Against that background, there are clubs with these schemes where the incidence of violence pro rata is lower than in other clubs. That is part of the evidence. The Minister has not taken it into account. Much difficulty is being built up for the Government. That does not displease me but it is unnecessary. I can name one or two chairmen of clubs who I know do not share my political views. They are aghast that the Government are not prepared to give credence to 456 what the clubs are doing. It is costly, time consuming, and it works.
I visited Millwall. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, knows more about Millwall Club than anyone here. He has made reference to it earlier. I can honestly say that where I was sitting—and the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, will know where that was—there was an atmosphere and ambiance on the terraces created by that club. Millwall has had nasty problems caused by some groups of people over the years. However, the problem has been reduced.
We are asking the Minister to recognise the genuine efforts by groups of people which ought to be rewarded. Otherwise, the Minister is simply saying, "We hear what you say. We do not intend to do anything about it".
§ Lord Hesketh
Perhaps I may say two things briefly. There is a real difference of view between the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Graham, about the principle of universality. The noble Lord also referred to the lack of flexibility by the Government. I draw his attention to the fact that we have reached only Amendment No. 10.
§ Lord Mellish
Will the Minister answer this question? Amendments have been passed earlier today by the Committee which do not agree with the universality about which the Minister speaks. Will the Minister say what the position now is, or does he not know?
§ Lord Carr of Hadley
Perhaps I may ask the Minister to give some further thought to this principle between now and Report stage. I draw an analogy from experience in another field. For the greater part of the last decade until a year ago I have been intimately involved in helping to form local business partnerships in an attempt to tackle in the first place youth unemployment, and then adult unemployment also and inner city problems. That was first in my capacity as chairman for about four years of the CBI Special Programmes Unit, and, for three years ending just over a year ago, as chairman of an organisation called Business in the Community.
We have had considerable success although there is a long way to go. However, the fundamental lesson that we learned after the first year or two is that in making progress with these problems—and they are social as well as economic—one must build from the bottom up and not from the top down. I am desperately nervous that the Government are tackling this entirely from the top down. I realise that because of the awful situaton that has arisen with hooliganism at football it may be necessary to start that way. However, I beg the Government to consider at least providing a way out. We cannot go on in a free country in this way for the next hundred years. There must be a moment when people can escape from the system that will unfortunately be forced on them because of the record of troubles we have to deal with.
One must provide local clubs and local communities with the opportunity to escape from this system as soon as possible. Therefore if, for reasons that I think I can understand, the 457 Government are not prepared to allow such provision from the beginning, I hope that at the next stage the Government will be able to say to us, "Yes, but we are going to put forward provisions which will allow local clubs, local grounds, to work their way out of the straitjacket into which unfortunately necessity forces us to put them to begin with." I beg the Government to give consideration to that point.
§ Lord Northfield
I wonder whether I could add a point in support of the noble Lord, with particular reference to Wembley. One of the problems that Wembley has—it must be easily understood by the Committee—is the immense impact of Wembley on its local community. When hundreds and thousands, and tens of thousands, of people begin to turn up at Wembley games there is an enormous disadvantage for the local community in terms of the clogging of roads, the danger of hooliganism outside and so on. But in the past couple of years, Wembley has built up a very good ongoing relationship with its local authority. It now has a very good understanding of the importance to the community of Wembley and the importance of community relations.
The better way to have solved the Wembley problem was to build on that and to give that opportunity, as the noble Lord, Lord Carr, has said, so that Wembley, under Amendment No. 69, can escape at a crucial point from the net that the Government are trying (not very successfully) to erect. I think the complications will be hideous for Wembley. I hope that Wembley can agree a scheme with its local authority, the local people and the local police that satisfies everybody. I have to keep saying this to the Committee: Wembley has hardly had any violence in its years of history. Why should it not eventually—if not now—be able to escape from the clutches of the Bill?
This is the right way to tackle the problem. If the door is closed by refusing to listen to this kind of amendment, I fear for the worst when the time comes to implement this complicated Bill.
§ Lord Mishcon
I am much encouraged by the speeches that have been made on the amendment, and I am deeply grateful for the way in which they have appeared from various parts of the Committee. To encourage the Government to adopt that spirit I ask for the view of the Committee to be taken.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-Contents, 80.458
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Banks, L.||Davies of Penrhys, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Donoughue, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Dormand of Easington, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Elwyn-Jones, L.|
|Carter, L.||Ennals, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Ewart-Biggs, B.|
|Ezra, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Falkland, V. [Teller.]||Monson, L.|
|Foot, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Gallacher, L.||Nicol, B. [Teller.]|
|Galpern, L.||Northfield, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Grey, E.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Rea, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Seear, B.|
|Jay, L.||Stedman. B.|
|Jenkins of Hillhead, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Whaddon, L.|
|McNair, L.||White, B.|
|Mais, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Masham of Ilton, B.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Mason of Barnsley, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Liverpool, E.|
|Arran, E.||Long, V.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Belstead, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Margadale, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Camden, M.||Mountevans, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Munster, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Cox, B.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Croft, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Oxfuird, V.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Reay, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Rees, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Rodney, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Romney, E.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Hanson, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Henley, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Hesketh, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hives, L.||Trafford, L.|
|Hood, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Ullswater, V.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Joseph, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Kimball, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Knights, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume. I suggest that we return to the Committee stage of the Bill at 8.20 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.