HL Deb 07 March 1989 vol 504 cc1382-467

4.13 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Hesketh)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Hesketh.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 5 [National membership scheme: contents and penalties]:

Lord Harmar-Nicholls moved Amendment No. 44: Page 4, line 4, at end insert— ("(aa) for its implementation in stages, following an investigation and report by the administrator on the best method or methods of achieving a phased and orderly introduction of the scheme;").

The noble Lord said: The grouping means that we need not spend much time on Amendment No. 44. That amendment, along with Amendments Nos. 65, 86, 87 and 89, were included with the paving amendment, Amendment No. 1 on the Marshalled List, when we opened the Committee stage. As a formality at this stage, I beg to move Amendment No. 44.

Lord Hesketh

I wish to say a few words before we pass on. I accept that this amendment and the other amendments, Nos. 65 and 86 to 89, follow on Amendment No. 1 which stood in the name of my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls and the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, and on which the Committee has already voted. Naturally we shall not object to their being moved formally today.

However, there has been some confusion about the precise effect of this group of amendments. It may be helpful if I set out briefly our understanding of the position. It is our belief that taken together these amendments make the phasing of the scheme compulsory. This is not the moment to debate the issue, but I believe that the Committee would like to be aware that I intend to discuss this point further with my noble friend and with the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, with a view to bringing forward amendments at the Report stage which give effect to what I believe were expressed as the wishes of the Committee; that is to say, that the Secretary of State should be obliged to consider taking into account advice from the administrator whether there should be a phased introduction of the scheme but that it should not be mandatory for him to implement the scheme in stages.

Furthermore, Amendments Nos. 86 to 89 have repercussions for the Bill that go much wider than the proposals that they can have intended. In bringing forward amendments on phasing we shall need to consider what to do about these amendments too.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I believe that my noble friend is saying that, if the words mean what I interpret them to mean, he does not find them in any way unacceptable. He has a feeling that he might be advised that the words will not mean what I have interpreted them to mean. I am as convinced as ever that my interpretation of the words is as I explained at an earlier stage. I shall be delighted to meet my noble friend to discuss any details as to an actual word that will come to mean the same thing. Beyond that, I believe that accepting the amendment at this stage would be the best way of proceeding.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

In the short speech that the noble Lord has made I do not believe that there is much doubt as regards what Members of the Committee were voting on on the last occasion. I am mildly mystified that anyone has any doubts concerning what we voted on. I very much hope that an attempt will not be made through the processes of negotiation to negative the effect of the decision which the Committee took on the last occasion. I must warn the noble Lord that we are extremely watchful and suspicious about what is going on.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

It is helpful of the Minister to speak as he has done. He has not spoken in an aggressive way. I believe that he has given voice to what was said after the Committee stage—certainly in another place—by some of his ministerial colleagues. What is most unfortunate is the gloss and the interpretation that have been put on by his ministerial colleagues immediately after the passage of the amendments.

When the Minister dealt with this matter at the Committee stage he had no doubt about it. He said on 20th February at col. 413: These amendments seek to make mandatory the phased introduction of the membership scheme". That was his view, which I respect. It was put to the Committee, which rejected his advice and supported the amendments.

I note very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has said. We are not at the stage where we are literally scrapping about. We are trying to make progress through the Bill and to get it out of this Chamber and into the other place. The Bill will be something that will run and run. If the Minister is to have consultations with the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, and his political colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, I have no objection to that. As he knows, I have offered myself for consultations at any stage that may be suitable to him in order to discuss the generality of the amendments and to see whether there is any common ground.

I wish to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Harris. We are mindful of the fact that, though it is hoped that the Bill will be non-political, some people may see political significance in various victories and defeats. The only aspect that will suffer victory or defeat is the name of football, and the people who support it. I very much hope that all Members of the Committee who take part in these debates will bear that very much in mind.

Lord Brightman

When I heard the debate on 20th February my clear impression was that the intention of the amendment was that the staged introduction of the scheme was to be discretionary and not mandatory. The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said at col. 402 of the Official Report of 20th February: 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". If the amendment stands as drawn, the staged introduction will be mandatory and not discretionary because the clause will read: The scheme must include provision for its implementation in stages". I suggest to the Committee that, to carry out the intention of the amendment, the clause should read: for its implementation in stages, if thought fit". It would then be clearly discretionary. Had I spotted this point in time I would have put down an amendment to the amendment. But as I did not, I felt the appropriate course for me to take was to say a word on the matter and to perhaps lay down a marker which could be picked up at Report stage.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble and learned Lord has raised a consideration which I thought would be left until we had completed the Committee stage. The question of whether or not the scheme can be deemed to be mandatory must take into account the final powers of the Secretary of State. The noble and learned Lord will find nothing in the amendment which in any way interferes with the final powers of the Secretary of State. It can mean only that both he and the special committee must take into account the possibility of it being beneficial to apply the scheme in stages rather than as a whole.

My noble friend made his offer with good will and I should like to think that he wants to arrive at the same conclusion as I do. We want the words in the Bill to mean what we think they mean. After our discussions I am certain that we can provide for that. At this stage I feel that it would be better to approve the amendment as debated with the first amendment and see what develops from that.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

There has been a great deal of public misapprehension about the amendment that was passed in Committee on 20th February. Shortly after that, to give one example, I had a debate on television with the chairman of Luton Town Football Club, who is a Member of another place. The whole discussion was based on the assumption, until I tried to correct it, that the amendment laid down that Parliament was to insist that the scheme would be introduced division by division. No reading of the amendment that we passed could legitimately be interpreted in that way.

I hope that with this amendment, which stresses the function of the administrator and of an investigation, the public belief that that is what we were trying to force through on 20th February will be destroyed and that the real purpose of that amendment and of this one—to open up the whole matter to investigation before implementation—will be seen to be what we are asking the Government to agree to.

Lord Hesketh

I should never be able to exemplify as well as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, has done the position the Government have taken on the matter. I would not even attempt to do so. I welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls understands that this is done with the best of intentions.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I am sure that we are all reassured about the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, and I look forward to the outcome of the discussions. I noted that the noble Lord warmly welcomed what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, said, although what the noble and learned Lord said was exactly the opposite of what the noble Lord said during the Committee stage of the Bill. The noble Lord said at col. 413 of the Official Report of 20th February: These amendments seek to make mandatory the phased introduction of the membership scheme…They would make it a requirement on the Football Membership Authority to investigate and report to the Secretary of State into 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 so on. What we have is the Minister warmly welcoming the speech of the noble and learned Lord, who is saying precisely the reverse of what the noble Lord said.

Noble Lords


Lord Harris of Greenwich

Yes, of course. The noble Lord's words have only to be examined for one to recognise that there is a total contradiction in the position. However, there are to be discussions. We wish them well, but I repeat that we shall look carefully at the outcome to see that the Government are not trying to negative a clear decision of this Chamber.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Before we proceed, the Minister may wish to consider carefully that, although properly the dicussions will take place with those whose names were attached to the amendment, it might be for the benefit of the Committee and of the Bill if he widened those discussions to include one or two others whose views might be helpful. I leave that suggestion with the Minister.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 45: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing 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 concitions as are so specified;").

The noble Lord said: I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 61. Clause 5 covers some of the detail with which the FMA will have to deal. It lays down that the scheme must include certain provisions. Another part of the clause says that the scheme may include other provisions. Amendment No. 45 seeks to move subsection (3)(c) from the part of the Bill where the scheme may include other provisions to the part of the Bill where the scheme must make provisions. That is a crucial point.

What the football authorities and the FMA say will make very little difference because the Secretary of State will have powers under the Bill to accept, amend or reject any scheme which is put before him. He will also have power to dismiss the FMA or to change it. As with many pieces of legislation, at the end of the day it is not Parliament but the Secretary of State who is all powerful.

What does my amendment seek to do? It is worth taking a little time to explain it because it is a linchpin on which other aspects and other amendments lie. The amendment says: providing 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". The Minister will take no exception to that drafting because it is a straight pinch from subsection (3)(c) on page 4 of the Bill.

We are moving from the discretionary into the compulsory. In other words, when the FMA meets we want to see it make provision for a range of categories of people. The Minister may very well say that he takes no exception to that, bearing in mind that the Secretary of State has the stop-gap of being able to accept, reject or amend any aspect of the scheme when it is put to him.

At this stage I should like to remind the Committee that the Minister, in what he has said in another place, has rested very heavily as have his ministerial colleagues here, on the report of the working party of the Minister for Sport. So we have a scheme which at the moment makes no exceptions, but the Minister has said—and I certainly accept his word because what he said in this respect makes sense—that the case could be advanced for exempting some categories of people from the obligation to be a member of the scheme.

So what we will be doing for some considerable time, is arguing and, I hope, persuading the Minister in some instances, perhaps by force of argument or by weight of vote, to put on the face of the Bill that certain categories of people who currently are treated no differently from anyone else, ought to be removed from the obligation to be a member of the scheme.

I should like to turn to page 11 of the Minister's working party report. This is a paragraph which I think sets it all out. Paragraph 14 is headed "Exemptions from Membership," and reads: The working party believes that consideration of possible exemptions from membership should start from the premise that exemptions should be allowed only if there is a very good reason for them and if arrangements can be made to ensure that they do not create an unacceptable loophole in the scheme. I certainly accept that, although the Minister and his supporters may very well use the argument that any break in the totality of the scheme will provide loopholes. We already have the assurance of the Minister that he could see a break in the scheme for certain categories.

So I hope that I have at least persuaded the Committee that this amendment is crucial. We do not want this to be left to the FMA. A great deal is left to the FMA. What we want to say to the FMA is that we want a scheme which includes exemptions for a number of categories, always against the background that noble Lords opposite may very well ask, "What does that mean in reality?" I am saying that if the Secretary of State does not like what this House does by trying to exclude certain categories, and if the FMA produces a scheme for that, then the Secretary of State will amend the scheme accordingly.

This is one of a number of matters on which noble Lords will have an opportunity to express an opinion. That is the way in which I shall be asking noble Lords to move on a series of amendments. We raised earlier in this Commitee stage the point that when the Secretary of State has approved the scheme he should bring it back to Parliament and have it approved or disapproved by the House. The Government do not like the possibility of Parliament saying to the Secretary of State, "You have got it wrong". So we are saying to the Secretary of State, "If you do not trust Parliament, will you trust the good sense of the FMA, the people on whom you will be keeping a close eye, the men and women, primarily from the Football League and the Football Association, who will be on the FMA?"

We are asking him to trust those people who know football better than any Minister or perhaps any other person in this Committee. They are the people whose livelihood depends upon football, who have worked for it, who have played for it and who are involved in it. Not least, there are the supporters. We are asking the Secretary of State to accept from the FMA that there are certain exemptions from the scheme that are sensible.

I have not sought to argue about exemptions perse, but they are all laid out. Some of them are approved obliquely by the Minister's working party, though some are not. But whether or not this amendment is accepted, we will still be arguing the case for the exemptions. This amendment seeks to put a little more stiffening into the possibility that those exemptions will be carried into effect. I say that mindful of the debate we have already had about what was meant by the earlier amendments.

It is quite clear that there is a long way to go in getting the Bill through this House and through another place. Even after that, when the FMA is established and the Secretary of State begins to work, there will still be a long way to go. But I am inviting the Committee to approve this amendment, because for the first time this House is saying to the Minister and to the FMA that there are groups of people who ought not to have to bear the burden of paying money, of having an obligation and perhaps of being guilty of an offence which could lead to a term of imprisonment, when by trying to get into a ground they are proved to have not been in possession of a valid card, etc. There are many groups of people who, in my view, ought not to carry that burden. I beg to move.

Lord Northfield

As my noble friend said, we are here dealing with the whole issue of exemptions and it might be worth just having a general debate about this issue, because it goes to the heart of the complaint that a number of us were making when this Bill was last before the Committee, that we are not clear what is the Government's thinking about this matter. I remember all the issues that were raised last time of foreigners, of Scotsmen, of Irishmen living in Manchester and goodness knows what, and of the possible chaos that all this could cause, unless exemptions and requirements for membership of a scheme were made clear and the Government's thinking was announced in advance on the issue.

I speak, as I did last time, about the Wembley situation. This is crucial to this amendment. I want first to make clear, which was not made clear on the last occasion, that Wembley was not consulted in the drafting of this Bill. I find that incredible, and even more incredible because the Minister was asked quite directly by my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton at col. 449 of the Official Report of 20th February: 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"? When the Minister came to reply—I saw him take advice on it, to be as helpful as he could—all he said at the top of col. 451 was: Wembley Stadium are 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". That was not an answer but it was indirectly, and I am sure unconsciously, misleading. It seemed to indicate that there had been real discussions with Wembley. I can say that there have not been, as I understand it from the general manager of the stadium. This is quite incredible, given the breadth and depth of the problems that Wembley will have to face. I am very sorry that the noble Lord did not make more clear when he replied to the debate that there had not been real consultations with Wembley. However, let us go on from that point.

The Minister himself, at an earlier point on 20th February, had made clear that in respect of Wembley there would be need for a considerable number of exceptions. He said: 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". The Minister was building up his own case and saying that there would have to be a number of exceptions. He then most intriguingly said: 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".—[Official Report, 20/2/89; cols. 443–444.] The Minister said that there would have to be exemptions and so I join my noble friend in saying that they should be mandatory. We should all know in advance that places such as Wembley will be protected and will not have to carry out some straitjacket of a scheme—those are not my words; they are the words of the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, who I am sorry is not here today because I shall refer to what he said on the last occasion—without some exemptions and an understanding of the problems that will occur.

The Minister listed some of the people who visit Wembley—the foreign nationals visiting this country, and the people who do not attend any other matches. There are the guests of Wembley who include the Royal family. Do they have to be members of a scheme to get into Wembley? Do not they need to be covered by some mandatory exemption? It is one of the great occasions of the year. All kinds of people who are not members of the scheme go. They are welcome, and they adorn the proceedings at Wembley. Furthermore, there are the people who own boxes at Wembley who never go near the pitch and can therefore never create a disturbance. The heart of the Bill's intentions is to prevent disturbances. The owners of boxes and their guests will also have to be exempt. I could continue with the list.

There should not just be a mandatory subsection relating to exemptions; the Government should now tell us what is in their mind so that Wembley—which, I repeat, has never been consulted—will know what is in store for it and can begin to make realistic plans.

I come to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carr. I repeat that I am sorry that he is not here. I supported him at the previous Sitting of the Committee, when he said that the Government should introduce some escape means into the Bill. The Government should say that there will be locations and occasions when it would be best to allow a locally agreed scheme to take the place of the Bill. I make the simple point that Wembley is capable of reaching agreement with the police and the local authority as to the means of controlling what happens at that ground. Wembley is doing its best to build up that relationship. In view of all the complications that will arise in exempting so many people, would it not be better to have an escape clause of the kind suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley? It should be something which allows some locations, once they have a good local scheme, to escape from the straitjacket, as he called it.

The Minister might say that that all could be done under the Bill as drafted, because of course under Clause 1(2) the Minister will have to designate the places to which the Act will apply. That subsection provides: 'Designated football match' means any such match of a description for the time being designated for the purpose of this Part by order made by the Secretary of State or a particular such match so designated". Subsection (3) provides: An order under subsection (2) above may designate descriptions of football matches wherever played or when played at descriptions of ground or in any area specified in the order". Will the Minister say that Wembley could be considered as never being designated by using the power contained in Clause 1? We should all then be out of trouble and Wembley could produce its own sensible scheme in consultation with the local authorities and the police. I am asking the questions that we all asked last time. Please may we have some clarification of the Government's thinking, because until now places such as Wembley have only been able to see chaos on the horizon?

4.45 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

Perhaps I may jump from Wembley to Dunfermline. About 45 years ago I attended a match at Dunfermline Athletic. I lived there and supported the local club. I was pushing a pram in which was my nine-month-old son. This is the right age to start to learn about football. I am aware that Dunfermline is in Scotland and therefore does not come within the terms of the Bill; but, as we are talking about the principle of exemptions, I should like to know whether, when I come to be pushing a pram with my great-grandson in it—I should now be more likely to be pushing a pram at Carrow Road, Norwich—he will need to have a membership card.

What has been unforgivably neglected by the working party, and in what has been said on behalf of the Government in this place and throughout the country, are the efforts that have been made by numerous football clubs to clean up hooliganism inside and around their grounds. I shall refer, first, to a club which I mentioned at a previous Sitting of the Committee—Manchester United.

There was a time when I, as a supporter of Manchester United, was ashamed of the record of the Manchester United fans. Today, I can go to Old Trafford with my grandson—I am still waiting for my great-grandson!—in absolute safety. One reason for that is that Manchester United, like other clubs, has opened family enclosures. They bring people into the ground. I remember going to Old Trafford on the Saturday before Guy Fawkes day. The club had brought firemen and people dressed in fancy uniforms to talk to the children about the dangers of firework night. That is one example, but it is not the only one. Many football clubs have deliberately set out to become family centres. The family enclosure method has been widely adopted. If I take my grandson to Old Trafford under the scheme, he will have to have a membership card. There are many families where a son and daughter go to matches on alternate weeks. If the family is large, has every child to have a membership card?

I turn from Old Trafford to the club which I now support, having moved to Norwich—Carrow Road. Norwich City is a club with a family atmosphere. Every Saturday when Norwich City is playing at home, I sit not among the old -fashioned football fans with whom I grew up, with the cloth caps, pipes and walking sticks. I sit among families; mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of all ages. I have seen no trouble whatever.

The important issue which we are debating is whether there shall be the principle of exceptions. Those exceptions have been listed and I wish to persuade the House that many of the clubs whose matches I have attended—I do not know them all—have recognised today that hooliganism could be fatal to football. It has been very largely driven out of their grounds.

As I said at the previous Committee stage, hooliganism could increase outside the grounds if frustration was caused by the use of the membership card. But inside the grounds there are places for certain categories of people such as the disabled. In my experience, every Football League ground in this country has a place for the disabled. Does anybody suggest that the disabled will create violent trouble? Football grounds are now attracting more and more women and children—girls as well as boys.

Is there not then a case for an age-limit? Is there not a case for gender exceptions? Although some of us have been accustomed at rugby grounds to female streakers, I know of no football ground where any female has been involved in violence. Therefore on the principle of the exceptions laid down in the amendment I should have thought that both common sense and a knowledge of football supporters in the country today would lead us to take into account the valiant, constructive and social efforts which most clubs in the country have undertaken over the past few years. Therefore the least the Government can do is what my noble friend Lord Graham suggested—to make it mandatory that there should be exceptions. We can discuss the details of the exceptions later. But there is no doubt in my mind that those of us who are football supporters know that there must be exceptions if the Bill is not to ruin the support which association football has in the country.

The Earl of Onslow

I think it was Groucho Marx who once said that he did not wish to be a member of a club which would accept him as a member! I feel that I am slightly in that position because I actually agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. I am totally on the side of my noble friend on the Front Bench in that I believe the object of the Bill is to isolate and prevent as much as possible the extraordinarily unattractive hooliganism which has attached itself to football matches. For want of a better word, I shall call those people who commit the hooliganism the "yob classes". That is a fairly commonly used expression.

It seems to me that there will be a certain amount of inconvenience in buying one of the membership scheme identity cards. Therefore we should excuse all members of society who are not by their nature members of the yob classes. I do not think that any Members of the Committee will know my Great Aunt Thea, who is 100 and ipso facto she cannot be a member of the yob classes. Therefore as an old-age pensioner she should not have to buy an identity card.

I wrote to my noble friend last week asking him in advance whether he could find out the number and type of people who had been convicted of football hooliganism offences and who were not males between the ages of 15 and 40. I strongly suspect that every single football hooliganism offence has been committed within that age group. Therefore it would seem eminently sensible that those people should be forced to buy an identity card. It seems infinitely less sensible to force my great aunt, my nephew, my niece or any women to do so. I am outrageously sexist here because on the whole women are not aggressive, except when they bend your ear because you have just come into the house with dirty shoes or something similar. But that is different; it is just housepride. It seems to me silly that old men should be forced to have a card because normally they have had the aggression knocked out of them years before.

If the Government want the scheme to work—and I should like it to work—it should be confined to all 92 Football League clubs, not to the England-France or the England-Scotland international matches. There should be no exceptions for the league. The scheme should be confined to those likely to commit the offence. It is unfortunate to inconvenience people against whom no charge has been laid; by all means inconvenience the group of people against whom a charge has rightly been levelled. That is why I support some form of exception and that is why an amendment is down in my name to confine the scheme to those people. However, there should be some form of exception, which must be a universal group exception, not an exception on the grounds of place.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The argument used by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, in support of his amendment was very well placed and strong. I should have added my name to it since he added his name to my amendment if I had not satisfied myself that Clause 5(3) already deals with the matter as he would have wished. The subsection says: The scheme may make provision"—

Lord Graham of Edmonton


Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I shall deal with that. The subsection says that the scheme may make provision for people who are not members of the scheme to be allowed in. I prefer "may" in that subsection for this reason. I do not think that Parliament is the right body to lay down the detailed description. The people to do that will be the special committee which we are setting up and which will have an expertise that we do not possess. They will be able to take all the circumstances into account and I should expect them, with their special knowledge of the practical organisation of football grounds, to know those who should be excluded from the scheme and those who ought not to be excluded.

Our decisions will be pretty much hit and miss. Some will favour the disabled having a special dispensation; others children under 10 years old; and yet others women, and so on. The chances are that sections in all those categories could at some time or another be a problem. That is why I believe that the expert committee should lay down the details of who will be included or not included in the scheme.

I was impressed with the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, in support of his amendment. If he has the opportunity to continue the discussion on it, I wish him to tell me how it would differ from Clause 5(3), apart from the "may" and "must". Does it mean that he does not agree with me that the specialist committee ought to have the power eventually to make the vital decision as to which people should be exempt, if we are to allow exemptions? The clause already makes such a provision.

5 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

I wish to support the amendment. A person who does not normally attend football matches will not know whether a particular ground has made such a provision, or whether it has decided not to. If it turns out that he has gone to a ground that has not made the provision, under subsection (2) merely attempting to get into the ground would render that person liable to an offence.

Lord Hesketh

This is the first in a series of amendments dealing with the possibility of exemptions to the national membership scheme. I hope that it will be helpful to the Committee if I take this opportunity to set out the Government's general position on exemptions and on the way in which the Bill should deal with them. Before I do so however let me say at once that it is my intention to accept Amendment No. 45.

But we must put the question of exemptions in its proper context. People are not going to achieve a great advantage if they are exempt from the scheme. Membership of the scheme is not a burden. It is a means of ensuring that everyone who goes to football matches in future can do so without fear of violence, and without being subject to obscene or racial abuse. It is the law-abiding spectators who will be the members of the scheme. The only people whom we really want to exclude from membership of the scheme are soccer hooligans. They are the people whom we want to keep away from football grounds, and excluding them from membership of the scheme will achieve that objective. This is a crucial point. Membership of the scheme will confer real benefits on those who enjoy it. Their membership cards will be read quickly and efficiently by the electronic readers at the turnstiles—with the right technology in place. If the clubs take a positive approach to membership and market it effectively—as some clubs with existing membership schemes do now—members may become entitled to discounts at local shops, to other commercial opportunities; and to information about the club itself.

But, above all, members will enjoy the benefit of being able to watch a football game in peace because the hooligans have been excluded. The Government have always accepted that there were practical reasons for certain limited exemptions from the membership requirement of the scheme. That is why we included what is presently Clause 5(3)(c) of the Bill. But there is no benefit in seeking to exempt large categories of people from membership if the categories are drawn too widely. We run the risk of creating loopholes through which hooligans, perhaps people who have even been banned from membership, can sneak their way in. We also create a whole new problem of checking that people who claim to be exempt are who they say they are. I hope that my noble friend Lord Onslow will forgive me if I mention his Amendment No. 53 in this context.

I am not suggesting for a moment that there will be a serious problem of checking that women are women, but his amendment also proposed to exempt men aged 40 or over. If we had such an exemption, a club would have to check that everyone who claimed to be over 40 was over 40. People would have to provide evidence of their age. That would be a much more certain route to long delays and confusion at the turnstiles than our proposals which, with the appropriate technology, will lead to no additional time being taken up in entering the ground. As I said earlier, we accept that there is a practical case for making certain limited exemptions. But it is not in the interests of those for whom exemption is needed that the net should be drawn too widely.

I turn now to the amendments which the noble Lords, Lord Graham of Edmonton, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Mishcon, have proposed. I have said that I accept Amendment No. 45. It moves the paragraph already in the Bill concerning exemptions from the list of matters for which the scheme may make provision into the list of those for which it must make provision. This amendment leaves the question of who is to be exempted and all the details to be dealt with in the scheme itself. But it makes it mandatory that there should be exemptions. I am happy to accept this amendment and Amendment No. 61 which is linked with it.

The other amendments which the noble Lords have proposed on exemptions involve a very different approach. They propose that exemptions for a wide range of groups should be written into the Bill and offer detailed definitions of the groups to be exempted. I have accepted Amendment No. 45. I shall listen with interest to comments on the detailed amendments which we come to next. I do not believe however that it would be helpful to write into the Bill detailed definitions of the groups to be exempted. It will not help the Football Membership Authority in drawing up the scheme if we allow it no flexibility about the way in which the exemptions are to operate.

As the Committee is aware, the football authorities have said that they wish to take up the Government's proposal that they should run the Football Membership Authority. They are the people to make detailed arrangements in such a way as to allow for the range of circumstances of all the 92 League clubs. That should be done in the scheme and not in the Bill.

I am, however, willing to consider the possibility of an amendment to the Bill to refer by name, but not in detail, to the strictly limited groups for which the scheme will need to make exemption, subject to the terms and conditions to be specified in the scheme. I shall listen to the arguments to be advanced on the amendments to follow, and we shall consider the possibility of bringing forward an amendment of our own on Report. I should emphasise that we believe that the categories of exemption should be strictly limited and should be identified for practical reasons.

We shall consider the possibility of an amendment that would specify exemptions for disabled people in designated areas, recognising that some clubs have such areas for use by disabled people. It would be practically difficult for certain disabled people to enter grounds through a turnstile. We shall consider an amendment to specify exemptions for guests of the club to whom the club would issue temporary membership cards valid for one match only. The clubs would take responsibility for the guests.

It would be in the interests of the clubs to make sure that these arrangements are satisfactory. The licence that they will need to admit spectators to designated matches may be at stake if their arrangements are not satisfactory. Guests of the club could include, for example, organised school parties and foreign visitors. The terms and conditions of these exemptions would be left to the scheme, for the Football Membership Authority to draw up. But these are groups for which we accept there are good practical reasons for the exemptions. It is in this context that I accept Amendments Nos. 45 and 61.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

We all welcome the fact that the Government have accepted the first of these amendments. It is always wrong to be difficult in circumstances of this kind. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, found it necessary to make a few observations about the merits of the scheme, I am sure he will not be surprised that it is necessary for some of us to comment on what he said.

Without trying to raise some of the issues which we had the opportunity of discussing on Second Reading, I must tell the noble Lord right at the outset that none of us on these Benches, and this applies to quite a few Members of the Committee sitting behind the noble Lord, really believe that there will be a massive change in the public order situation within football grounds as a result of the passage of this Bill.

I have already indicated that there is a very substantial number of senior police officers who share that view. Indeed, they go further. They say there is, in their judgment, a likelihood of increased public disorder outside football grounds as a result of the passage of this Bill. So much for that element of the argument. Will the noble Lord be good enough to comment on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, who raised a number of specific questions about Wembley stadium to which the noble Lord has not replied? I very much hope he will choose to do so because Wembley stadium is of course the ground on which our great national matches are played.

The Government have not thought it fitting to consult Wembley in any detail. I find that astonishing. A number of fundamental questions arise here, some of which were discussed on the first day of the Committee stage. Let me add another issue that was put to me by the Wembley stadium authorities. It is the question of the interface between this Bill and the Sunday observance Acts. As the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, will be aware, there is an obligation on Wembley stadium, when a match is played on a Sunday, to have a free gate. People have the opportunity of entering the ground without any form of payment. That is a statutory obligation. How will this requirement on Wembley stadium be varied to take account of the passage of this Bill? These questions could have been discussed between the Government and Wembley stadium months ago. But the Government chose not to do that. I think that is quite deplorable.

So much for the moment for Wembley. I hope very much that the noble Lord will be able to clear up some of those questions in a few moments.

I should like to ask him just one question. I was not clear what he meant when he dealt with Amendment No. 53 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. He said, and I agree, that it would be very difficult to make an exception for men aged 40. How would you be able to prove their age? However, as the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, indicated, in most circumstances it would not be particularly difficult to determine who was a man and who was a woman. Was he indicating that he was prepared to consider the amendment of the noble Earl if it was redrafted? The number of women who are involved in riotous activities at football grounds is remarkably small. If the Bill is to be a serious piece of legislation rather than a meaningless public relations exercise, I very much hope that the Minister will give a clear indication as to whether the Government would be prepared to accept the noble Earl's amendment if it was redrafted.

I welcome the fact that the Government have indicated that they are prepared to accept this amendment and an amendment in relation to disabled people. I hope that they will go a great deal further in order to make the legislation far more sensible than it is at the moment.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I should like to begin by saying that the Minister has made a very good start in his response to the amendments which have been tabled. He has taken the steam out of what could have been a major confrontation.

He has referred constantly to his confidence in the ability of the Football Membership Authority to take right and proper decisions. Yet, under the Bill the Secretary of State, not Parliament, reserves the right to override those wise and experienced people if the decisions are not considered to be right.

The Minister accepts that there should be provision for exemptions from the scheme. Previously that was not mandatory, and in our view that is a major concession. We and those outside the Chamber will take some comfort from that concession. The arguments that we shall deploy in favour of writing those exemptions on the face of the Bill have not been dreamed up by individual Members of the Committee from all sides of the Chamber. They are based upon their own experience or have been put to us by those who seek to represent such groups outside the Chamber. It is not simply a question of 150 or 250 Members of your Lordships' Committee following the issue with a great deal of attention; millions of people outside the Chamber are examining, through the media, the Government's attitude to the Bill. The Government are entitled to see how the scheme develops but I should like to feel that in making the concessions which he has announced the Minister is listening very carefully and responding to what has been said in your Lordships' House and outside.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, wondered why the Minister had poured cold water on the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. He recognised the difficulties in respect of the age limit. I should like to draw the Committee's attention to Amendment No. 53C in the name of my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon which addresses that issue head on. It refers simply to "female persons" who are spectators and thus removes one of the problems. When we come to debate that amendment the Minister will have an opportunity to give his views.

In relation to Wembley, I believe that the Minister is doing a gross disservice both to himself and his colleagues. He ought to be able to speak much more positively about the Wembley nexus. That point arises under Amendment No. 71, and it may be more appropriate at that stage for the Minister to say why he either accepts or does not accept the amendment—the Minister nods his head.

Our attitude towards the amendments is that in all instances we should be very happy to withdraw them in toto once we have made our case. We are obliged to make the case because there are people outside this Chamber who feel deeply about the matter. However, if the Minister were to tell us that there is a better way of achieving our objective or that he intends to bring forward a comparable amendment at a later stage we shall not press for a Division. I can see sense in the Minister wanting to consider further an all-embracing amendment which would not go into detail but would refer to a group of categories.

The Minister said that those groups could include the disabled, guests of clubs, foreign visitors and school parties. Ipso facto he is also saying that there are not likely to be other categories, although he has not ruled them out entirely. However, at the moment the Government's position appears to be that amendments which would allow exclusions from the scheme for such categories will be looked on with favour. We shall need to see how matters develop. All those amendments will be debated separately tonight and the case for them will be made. If the Minister says in connection with those amendments, as he said 10 minutes ago, that he intends to bring forward an amendment at a future stage, we shall not press the amendments. There would be no sense in doing so until we see what the Minister has in mind.

I believe that that is all we can say at present because the Minister has not so much taken the wind out of our sails—and that would have been a great achievement—but has pre-empted some of the strong arguments that we would have presented. If that is the spirit in which he intends to approach our attempts to make the scheme more acceptable, the Committee will be indebted to him and his colleagues.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Before the amendment is withdrawn I wonder whether the Minister can help us with the Wembley Stadium issue.

Lord Hesketh

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, if he felt that I had not covered the question of Wembley Stadium. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, because the reason why I did not cover the issue of Wembley Stadium was that I did not want all the amendments to be grouped together. That would have been the effect if I had tried to respond to all the amendrnents which will be dealt with later this evening in Committee. I did not respond to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, at that stage because I felt that the issue was dealt with under Amendment No. 71 and we might finish up debating all of the amendments in a rather loose and unorganised way within the first amendment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, will understand the reason.

Lord Northfield

I know that the Minister is trying to be helpful and I accept what he said. However, I wonder whether he can see that that places me in a dilemma. If he refuses to accept Amendment No. 71, that means that we should have pressed him further at this point to say something more about exemptions.

If one looks at the list of people which the Minister, my noble friend on the Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, have said would need to be exempted at Wembley, and a scheme has still to be applied to Wembley, the situation is almost unmanageable. There will be so many exemptions that there will be a danger of chaos at the turnstiles.

The aim of the Bill, which is to keep out the hooligans, may well be frustrated by people who, if they do not have a card, learn how to work the list of exemptions to their advantage. It would be helpful for the noble Lord to say whether he accepts that all the people whom we have listed will need exemption or whether it is better, as he seemed to say, to try to name one or two places. He used the word "name" in his speech. He said that the Government would accept the naming of some possible exemptions, but I did not know whether he was referring to people or places. Is it part of his case that Wembley could be suggested for naming by the Committee?

Lord Hesketh

I could reply to Amendment No. 71 now, but we are in danger of getting ourselves into a difficult position and losing control of the order of events.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

As my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, pointed out, the Minister, in answering the debate, mentioned what was in the Government's mind on the question of exemptions. He did not include the gender exemption. Is that a deliberate exclusion or one that he would now like to add to the list of possible—I do not say mandatory—exclusions? Is that in the Government's mind? Are they considering it as he said they were considering the other categories that he listed?

The Earl of Onslow

As this partly involves my amendment, I would much rather that we dealt with amendments in the normal way—namely, one at a time—rather than getting into a muddle. I believe that my noble friend has offered to answer everything as completely as possible, so let us leave matters in that order.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 46: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme, of persons holding a ticket of admission to the premises at which a designated football match is to be played, being sponsors or the representatives of sponsors of sporting events at those premises or the directly or indirectly invited guests of such sponsors in respect of whose behaviour those sponsors are made responsible;").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 46 concerns the first group of people who might wish to attend a match and whom I invite the House to exclude or exempt from being members of the scheme. The magic words in the amendment are: being sponsors or the representatives of sponsors of sporting events at those premises or the directly or indirectly invited guests of such sponsors in respect of whose behaviour those sponsors are made responsible". Sponsorship in football is very big and important business. Certainly the larger, more powerful, wealthy and successful clubs perhaps enjoy and exploit it—"exploit" is a kind word—more than others. There is not so much sponsorship available for the smaller, less fashionable clubs. Nevertheless, there is, almost without exception, some form of sponsorship in all the league clubs.

Perhaps I may simply quote what Manchester United has said to me. Some people may say that Manchester United is not typical, but it is typical of what I call the large, successful clubs. In a document which I believe was sent to every Member of the House, it states: Football at top club level has long ceased to be merely a game. It is a multi-national business, a fact which is supported by the type of companies which use the 103 private boxes and executive suite areas which cater for over 1,000 patrons. Those responsible for entertaining clients from both home and abroad would not do so if the atmosphere in and around the stadium was anything like that described by certain sections of the media".

I believe that I am grateful for what the Minister said earlier, although I cannot be sure until I see his exact words. As I understand it, the Secretary of State could be sympathetic to action in regard to these cases in which a club or individuals can be seen to be responsible and to be taking the proper steps.

I am a director of the Enfield and St. Albans Cooperative Society, which is one of the sponsors of Spurs. As such, one might say that it is the prime contact in the matter. The people who go to matches as our sponsored guests are directors, employees and customers or members of the society. I should imagine that we are no different from anyone else. Having visited Spurs more than once—I do not want to say that I am a regular attender, but I have been there more than once; indeed many times—I cannot believe that those who have the good name of their company or group at stake and whose guests often go only on one occasion would want to do other than to make sure that their guests behaved—to put it in the vernacular—as impeccably as possible.

However the Minister cares to handle it and whatever he cares to say, I shall not press the amendment if he is able to say something to the effect that this is the kind of group that can be defined more easily than we have defined it. I honestly believe that this is a crucial element in considering the impact of the Bill on the viability of football clubs at the top level where sponsorship perhaps plays a greater part than further down the football club hierarchy. Even such clubs as Manchester United, Spurs, Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal and others that are quite properly talked about as being in the top flight can be cruelly affected if there is disenchantment among those who use football matches in the same way as other sporting events are increasingly used. Bluntly, if those people who spend a great deal of money to entertain their guests find it irksome, difficult and sometimes distasteful to take their guests to a fine football match—they are not always local guests but may sometimes come from abroad—they will look for other less onerous means of extending largesse than attending a football match.

This is the type of amendment and group to which the Minister could very well nod his head. I shall understand if he does not wish to accept the amendment, but I certainly want to listen carefully to why he may believe that the type of group to which I have referred is not acceptable in any amendment that he may bring forward later. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Like the noble Lord, Lord Graham, I very much hope that the Government will indicate that they are prepared to accept not necessarily this amendment but one with a similar approach.

Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, who was not a member of the Government at the time, of a past episode relating to this question. Some years ago the Government brought in an entirely well intentioned Bill to control the consumption of alcohol at football grounds. Much of the Bill was perfectly sensible but quite a bit was remarkably foolish, particularly the approach regarding executive boxes. On that occasion a number of noble Lord pointed out the disastrous effects that that could have on sponsorship by companies of some of the smaller football clubs. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, who then represented the Home Office, refused to make any concession and they were voted down. Subsequently the arrangements were changed following an inquiry into that and related matters presided over by a High Court judge.

I hope that we shall not go down the same path again. On that occasion I believe that we were right to say that there was no conceivable case for applying the law to executive boxes. People in executive boxes do not become involved in riots at football grounds. That was true then; it is even more true now. Therefore, if we are talking seriously, as I am sure we are, about a public order situation, there is no case whatever for insisting that there should be no exclusion for guests and the categories specified in Amendment No. 46.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, referred to Manchester United. Two and a half weeks ago there was a midweek match at Manchester attended by 55,000 people. I asked the police how many arrests there were. The answer was two. They were outside the ground and they were drunks. That relates only to one match, but one of the biggest attendances at Manchester United this season. If that throws doubt on the sense of the broad approach of this Bill, as it does, it seems to me even clearer that the classes of people whom we specify in Amendment No. 46 should be excluded from the Bill.

What point is there in making guests of club directors, or guests of a commercial company that is sponsoring an executive box for the club, come into this bureaucratic nightmare of the Football Membership Authority and all the rest of it? It is a clearly defined category. These people give immense help to clubs in the Third and Fourth Divisions. It is a question not simply relating to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur and so on but to some of the small clubs in the Football League. Those clubs in my view are likely to be seriously damaged by this Bill.

I urge the Minister to indicate that the Government are prepared to exclude this category of people. If he says that the amendment is not phrased properly, I am perfectly prepared—as I am sure is the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton—to accept the point. If the Government accept our general approach in this matter, we shall be happy to welcome a government amendment at Report stage dealing with this issue. I very much hope that the noble Lord will make a concession on this question.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

This amendment makes it a mandatory requirement for the scheme to provide that sponsors or the representatives of sponsors of sporting events or their directly or indirectly invited guests for whose behaviour the sponsors would be responsible should be exempted from the scheme. I hope that I made clear the Government's position on exemption during our discussions on the previous amendment tabled by the noble Lords. We certainly accept that the scheme must provide for exemptions and we have demonstrated that by accepting Amendment No. 45 of the noble Lord. I have offered to consider spelling out on the face of the Bill certain categories of exemption—the registered disabled in designated areas of the ground being one. The exemption arrangements for these categories must be tightly drawn. Many noble Lords will share our concern that exemptions should not be so wide that they present the hooligan with an open invitation to beat the system.

I have some fears on this count about the wording of this amendment. I accept of course that sponsors of football clubs or particular matches play a very important part in the game. The money that sponsoring clubs put into clubs is vital. Of course we accept that. But nothing in the scheme need adversely affect sponsors or their relationship with the club. Naturally clubs will wish to look after sponsors' interests and I can see force in the argument that sponsors should not have to meet all the requirements of membership.

Many sponsors will wish to join the scheme. It is likely that some clubs, and the companies sponsoring them, will wish to develop their association through the membership scheme. Many employees of a sponsoring company might be only too pleased to join the scheme, especially if the company and the club have worked out some deal that is advantageous to them.

I mentioned earlier that we would consider making provision in the Bill for guests of the club to be exempted from the scheme. I think that this provides the best means for dealing with sponsors and their guests under the scheme. The clubs will issue temporary membership cards and will take responsibility for the behaviour of their guests.

I am bound to say that I cannot see how any such arrangements could be extended to include indirectly invited guests of the sponsor. If I am right in thinking that this means that the exemption arrangements should provide for any sponsor's guest to be free to invite a guest or guests of his or her own, then I have real doubts about it. I can see great scope for legal wrangles about the definitions and all too much room for possible abuse of the scheme. Nor would I be happy about providing on the face of the Bill for the sponsor to be held responsible for the behaviour of his directly or indirectly invited guests. The Bill after all does not provide for sanctions against sponsors.

What we need is for the FMA and the clubs to be able to agree arrangements for sponsors and their guests under which they will be able to attend matches as guests of the club. The club will be responsible for the behaviour of any guest to whom it issues temporary membership cards. The appropriate body responsible for ensuring that club guest procedures are properly applied, and that the arrangements work satisfactorily, is the club itself. If the temporary membership arrangements were abused, the club might then be subject to penalties under the scheme or in relation to its licences.

Rather than exempt sponsors and their guests from the scheme, a better way of ensuring that the scheme takes full account of their interests and their relationships with the clubs is for the club where appropriate to invite sponsors and their guests to matches as guests of the club. The temporary membership arrangements under which the club would be held responsible for the behaviour of its guests would apply. In this way I think that all the interests—those of the club, the sponsor and his guests and, it is important not to forget this, the security of the scheme itself—are best served. I hope that the noble Lords will be able to withdraw their amendment.

Lord Dean of Beswick

In his reply the Minister indicated that there appeared to be some support from sponsors and clubs for the scheme. For my sins I have been in close contact with the clubs of Manchester City, Manchester United and Leeds United, and I find no such support.

Perhaps I may ask the Minister this question. Is there one case on record where a person attending a football match as a guest of a sponsor in an executive box has had to be arrested by the police for his conduct? I have to tell the Minister this. Knowing people such as Sir Matt Busby and Martin Edwards, chairman of Manchester United: Peter Swales, chairman of Manchester City: and the chairman of Leeds United, the last thing that they would wish to do is even to take a remote chance that they were inviting someone who could in any way create the problem of a disturbance. The people who rent these boxes are very carefully vetted. Under this Bill, if it becomes an Act, these people would be deemed to be potential criminals who might perhaps invite someone outside the law. I believe that the Minister ought to think again. He certainly has not convinced me.

Do I understand the Minister to be saying that in order to accept the amendment in spirit the Government would be prepared to say that if the guests of all those boxes were approved guests of the club they would not need entrance cards? Is that what the Minister is saying? Before one could accept that suggestion, we on these Benches would have to learn much more about what such a proposal meant. Is he saying that a club could give blanket approval so that if people who take the seasonal rental of boxes for business reasons to entertain guests—and that has become an accepted part of funding football—were given the protection of the club, they would not need the ID card? That goes a little way towards what we are discussing.

I have found no evidence of any support for this from clubs who rent boxes for sponsorship by business and commercial concerns. We shall have to hear a little more from the Minister on this subject before I am convinced that that is the road to go down.

Lord Mellish

As one who has a little experience, I thought that the Minister's speech was very conciliatory. He went a very long way towards saying that he understood the point of view and that he was prepared to consider it. That is how I understood him. One cannot ask for more than that from the Government Front Bench of the day. I would be very willing to accept that assurance.

I hope that my own position is all right. I am president of Millwall Football Club. Do I have to join the scheme?

Lord Hesketh

I believe that, as an officer of the club, the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, would be excluded. I must first make one point very clear, that we are not suggesting for one moment that there would be endless riotous assembly in respect of executive boxes. The position of the Government is quite straightforward: that the scheme will become more and more complicated with more and more exemptions. We are not trying to suggest that there is something worryingly wrong with executive boxes. Far from it. I must make that clear. The noble Lord was right in his assumption. The proposal is that the temporary membership scheme should apply and the responsibility will be taken on board by the club itself.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish. The Minister went as far as he could. It is not my intention to press the matter to a vote, but we are left with a number of questions. We have another opportunity for clarification between this stage and the next.

The first thing I want clarified is that if the people covered by the amendment are to be subject to a temporary membership card issued by the club, that means that they are not members of the football membership scheme. That is the first significant point. A club does not want people in this category to feel that they have to join that club with the £5 or £10 membership fee, with the suggestion that they might have to queue up on the morning of the match. I am thinking aloud to the Minister.

Let us take it that Luton decides in its operation of the scheme that it will have vetted its sponsors. As my noble friend Lord Dean has said, no club worth its salt will be cavalier in giving sponsorship or executive box status to people with whom it is not comfortable. There will be a good relationship between the club and the people who are pleased to have this facility. The club will be giving people the facility to have a box to entertain 10, 20 or 30 guests, and the club will be prepared to take from the sponsor a list of its guests and to tell it that they are happy with the men and women they have invited. The sponsor will be on trial and will be responsible for the behaviour of his guests.

I appreciate what the Minister has said but, if that is the way it is to work, other people besides the Minister and I must sit round the table to put the flesh on the bones. If that is how the scheme is to operate for executive boxes that may be acceptable.

I believe the Minister said that we did not want any aspect of exemption to be used as a loophole to get round the Bill. We must be clear that there are people in football who will take seriously their responsibilities to the Government and to the game. If there were a dreadful incident which stemmed from a loophole being abused by somebody who was careless, that would damage the image of football, the good name of the sponsor and the club in general. We must ensure that everyone will be careful.

As the Minister has said, it will be down to the FMA to work out the details of this as well as other schemes. It is amazing how at one time the FMA was to have a lot of power, influence and authority and at other times it will not. If I could be satisfied that it is the Minister's view that the nitty-gritty of working the scheme will be left to the good sense of the FMA, and that the Secretary of State will not say afterwards that he likes one bit and another, I should be happy. But if the Minister is to say: leave it to the FMA and then, when it is done, he reserves the right to change it, I should not be so happy. We are trying to give the FMA more idea of what Parliament wants.

Someone said earlier in the debate that we do not want to spell out every aspect of the Bill at every stage. We are not trying to do that but as Parliamentarians, we all have some responsibility as has the Committee. We must take advantage of every opportunity to say what we want. The opportunity is before us now. This stage of the Bill will never come before us again because the Report stage and Third Reading have certain constrictions. Once the Bill leaves this Chamber the opportunity will have gone.

I have had many letters from many people and Members of the other place will have lots of approaches from their constituents. Nearly every constituent lives somewhere near the ground of a major football team. There will be a great deal of pressure from constituents with a view one way or another. We must not shirk our responsibilities to tell the Minister, without carrying this to a Division, how we want to see it operating.

Once more I echo the words of the Minister in anticipating the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, who asked about his own position as a president. In Amendment No. 47, which we have yet to reach, we are concerned with directors and officers of a body corporate. That is where Lord Mellish would come in. If the Minister is suggesting that Amendment No. 47 will be accepted—that was the inference behind what he said—I look forward to moving Amendment No. 47 when I have withdrawn Amendment No. 46.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 47: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme, of persons holding a ticket of admission to a room in the premises at which a designated football match is to be played from which the match may be directly viewed and to which the general public are not admitted, being—

  1. (i) persons concerned in the management of the premises or in the organisation of the match; or
  2. (ii) directors or officers of a body corporate which is so concerned; or
  3. (iii) the directly or indirectly invited guests of those persons, directors or officers in respect of whose behaviour those persons, directors or officers are made responsible;").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 47 is designed to persuade the Government to accept the amendment or to allow the record to show that they agree that there are groups of people, as set out in Amendment No. 47, who in our view should be relieved of the responsibility of being members of the FMA. I shall spell out the three categories. The first group involves persons concerned with the management of the premises or in the organisation of the match. We mean those people who helped to run the club, the management. There are those who know football far better than I do, and one is always amazed at the number of people who are affected. In the document that I received from Manchester United I was amazed at the number of people needed at every football match to run the turnstiles. There are no full-time professional turnstile operators, but those people need to be exempted from the scheme. There are other people, those who make the tea, those who sell programmes, security staff and others.

The next category involves the directors or officers of a body corporate which is so concerned.

Those clearly are people like the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, and other Members of your Lordships' House who are presidents or patrons of football clubs. There are others of equal distinction in another place who come into that category. The Minister has been a director of a football club. He knows that it is not all sunshine. There are financial worries and concerns about the position of the club. We believe that people who carry that responsibility ought to be relieved of FMA membership.

The third category involves directly or indirectly invited guests of those persons, directors or officers in respect of whose behaviour those persons, directors or officers are made responsible. I believe that that is in line with the Minister's earlier comment about sponsors and indirect sponsors in executive boxes. If the Minister tells me that he has in mind the later amendment dealing with the exemptions and making specific references to the groups which I have mentioned, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Northfield

I suspect that in his reply the Minister will say that the best way of dealing with the matter is to define guests of the club, as he did in relation to Amendment No. 46. If so, is he prepared to accept an amendment to put that on the face of the Bill, or is he saying that it is to be left to the FMA to define it?

I should be grateful for a clear indication. Is the Minister prepared to accept an amendment to cover the term "guests of the club", similar to his reply to Amendment No. 46?

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I do not believe that there is any need for the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is giving an excellent example. He is being open-minded and helpful and the response from the Minister is in keeping.

I should like to repeat my opinion that, as regards the exemptions where we are giving examples of what should be viewed with sympathy, it is not the Minister whom we wish to leave in but the Committee which will work out the scheme. Its members will be experts and will have a practical knowledge of the game, which people outside do not have. We wish to listen to their advice in the form of the various amendments.

In that regard my noble friend has been most helpful. Can he indicate where his sympathy lies with the general points that are being made, so that when the football committee makes its decision it will be able to take heed of the view expressed by Members of the Committee and the Government?

The general atmosphere that has so far been engendered this afternoon will be helpful to those who matter; they are members of the commitee which will work out the scheme. Heaven knows! it will be difficult enough. I should like to urge my noble friend to play his part so that when members of the football committee read the proceedings of this Committee they will know exactly what is required by the Back-Benchers (who express a view as a result of their contact wth football clubs) and the Government (who wish to ensure that the general principle behind the Bill is not diluted).

Lord Harris of Greenwich

When we were last in Committee on the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, indicated the fact that he would introduce a substantial amendment dealing with the Football Membership Authority. We welcome that.

The debate that has taken place so far indicates the fact that other Government amendments may well be tabled at the Report stage of the Bill. I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that a number of noble Lords have been involved in discussions outside the Committee and that we shall require a reasonable period between the tabling of any Government amendments and the Report stage. It will be the last opportunity for your Lordships to have a detailed discussion of the merits of the measure and we may wish to table amendments to the Government's amendments.

I am sure that the Minister will appreciate the importance of the Government making clear their position as early as possible. We can then consult those in the football authorities and others with whom we have had discussions. Therefore, when the Report stage is reached, we shall have had reasonable time in which to consult such people.

The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, appealed to the Committee to leave the matter to the experts, as he did in respect of Amendment No. 45 which was accepted by the Government. The experts are to be members of the authority about which we know little because it does not appear on the face of the Bill. If one assumes that the Government have the same approach towards the authority as they had towards the administrator of the scheme—and who now appears in the Bill—it appears that the Bill provides that the Secretary of State will have absolute discretion to accept or reject the scheme. There will be no parliamentary process of any kind, save laying the final scheme before Parliament. That is an abuse of parliamentary procedures on an epic scale. For that reason we cannot accept any such approach as "leave it to the experts".

The Bill affects the civil liberties of a large number of people in this country. In our judgment it is necessary for Parliament to debate the exclusions so that the Bill is not so widely drawn as to affect an unnecessarily large number of people.

The Earl of Onslow

I believe it to be perfectly reasonable that employees, directors and so forth need not be members of the scheme. However, I hope that my noble friend will resist the proposal put forward in the amendment as regards "indirectly invited guests".

Indirectly invited guests of a temporary programme seller could easily fall into the category of one's old chum, the "yob" classes. It is they whom we wish to keep out, so surely they should be excluded. The term "indirectly invited guests" leaves too vague the border between who can be excluded and who cannot. An indirectly invited guest of a junior employee is someone to whom I suspect we must apply the scheme.

Lord Hesketh

The amendment would mean that each club would be required to provide a room where club directors, officers or others concerned with the management of the ground or organisation of the match, or their directly or indirectly invited guests, would be able to attend designated matches by producing a ticket for the room from which they would view the match but from which the general public was denied entry. The person inviting the guests would be responsible for the guests' behaviour.

I hope that I have made clear to Members of the Committee where the Government stand on the policy of exemptions. We have accepted the fact that exemptions should be a mandatory feature of the scheme. We have undertaken to consider placing certain categories of exemption on the face of the Bill.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, one of those categories is that of guests of the club. That category appears to provide the necessary scope for the FMA and the clubs to agree sensible arrangements for guests and club directors and for officers, as proposed in the amendment. We envisage that clubs will be able to issue temporary membership cards to their guests. The club will be held responsible for the behaviour of the spectators concerned. If the arrangements were abused—for example, if someone banned from membership of the scheme was able to exploit the temporary membership arrangements to attend a designated match—the club may be subject to penalties under the scheme or in relation to its licence.

I believe that that represents the best way of accommodating guests, directors, or officials within the framework of the scheme. Special arrangements will not be necessary in respect of club officers and employees. Clause 1(5) defines an authorised spectator—that is a spectator authorised to attend a designated match—as a person who is a member of the scheme or who is authorised by the scheme to attend. It exempts those who attend matches principally in order to provide services; for example, club employees, caterers, policemen and ambulancemen.

As regards the directors of football clubs, I am not at all convinced of the need to make provision for their exemption from the scheme. I envisage that club directors will wish to join the scheme. Indeed, I believe that they will wish to be among the first to do so.

I hope that I have said enough to convince Members that, rather than introduce specific exemption arrangements for the occupants of the kind of room at the ground covered by the noble Lord's amendment, it will be much better to make the appropriate categories of spectator guests of the club itself. In that way we can ensure that the scheme is not open to abuse, that the hooligan cannot cheat the system but at the same time the clubs can look after their own interests. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

6 p.m.

Earl Russell

The noble Lord said something which may be helpful to the Committee and perhaps he will forgive me if I ask for further clarification. We have before us a whole string of amendments which are essentially concerned with the rights of the casual spectator. Can the noble Lord tell us whether either full or temporary membership can be taken out on the day of the match?

Lord Hesketh

The answer to that is that that is certainly possible, but of course the controlling factor on that will be the convenience of the club involved. It is impossible for the Government to give a categoric assurance on that but it is technically possible and I am sure that it will be possible in the event.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

If I understand the Minister correctly, in dealing with this amendment he relies on what he said earlier; namely, he envisages that among the exemptions which the Government favour, bearing in mind that it is up to the FMA, is an exemption for clubs to issue temporary admission cards to guests for whom they will take responsibility.

Let us be clear what that means, as I see it. It will be in the hands of a club on any given match day where a match is played in a designated football area to issue tickets to those with whom the club feels it can be comfortable and for whom it will take full responsibility. I know that the Minister quite properly said that one must be careful about abuse. However, I am not talking about abuse here or loopholes or about people laughing and saying, "We got away with it". I very much take the point that one does not wish to see someone at a match who was ejected, arrested and convicted of an offence. He will be breaking the conditions of the penalty imposed and no one will be more aggravated than the club to find it has been hoodwinked by a person who has gained entry by the back door.

I do not intend to press this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is absolutely right. We seek an opportunity to come back with our amendments because that is another form of consultation. However, it is right and proper that people outside this Committee will wish to have an understanding of what the Government seek. They will tell us what they think of what the Minister said—and I do not mean that in a derogatory sense. They will tell us whether it is sensible and workable. Although at the end of the day we, as parliamentarians, reserve our right to say what we think, we are guided by the reaction of people outside who have to judge how it will work given the possibility that the Bill will become an Act. I believe that what the Minister said is prima facie helpful in this matter.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Before the noble Lord, Lord Graham, sits down, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, can assist us on the point about temporary cards. We should much appreciate guidance from him on that matter because it is obviously of great importance to the football authorities.

Lord Hesketh

I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, refers particularly to whether or not there is a limit on numbers. The reason I referred earlier to the FMA is that in this amendment and the preceding one there is a particularly appropriate example of where the FMA should make the decision rather than having it on the face of the Bill. The reason is that we have talked about the commercial relationship between football clubs and their sponsors. That is a very personal relationship between the club, the sponsor and or commercial figures. For that reason, the decision on whether there should be a limit will be made by the FMA. I believe that is particularly appropriate because as the FMA is run by football it will decide on an issue which is particularly important with regard to football, namely, the commercial application when one talks about executive boxes, which provide a very substantial amount of cash to the clubs. There must be a limit otherwise one might end up with every card in the ground being a guest card. For that reason, the FMA is the best body to decide that limit.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

But of course the Secretary of State and not the FMA will decide the issue—to use the words of the noble Lord. That is the point which concerns us. There clearly have been a number of provisional decisions made within the noble Lord's department about what should be the essentials of this scheme. No doubt the FMA will be asked to look into those questions and make its recommendations. However, it will not decide the issue, which were the words used by the noble Lord. His right honourable friend will make the decision and Parliament is deliberately excluded from any rights in the matter thereafter. That is why we are pressing the noble Lord because if we do not press him today we shall have no other opportunity to do so. That is the first point.

Secondly, the noble Lord will recall what I said about the Report stage of the Bill and government amendments. I hope that he will be able to say something about that because we do not wish to have a number of complaints made on Report that government amendments have been tabled so late that we have not had an adequate opportunity of consulting the football authorities and others who have an interest in this Bill.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

That speech carries with it many dangers. I come back to the point where the noble Lord and I disagreed a few moments ago. To denigrate the FMA in the way his speech does—

Noble Lords

No, no!

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I think it does. We know that the ultimate power is in the hands of the Secretary of State if he wishes to use it. Of course that is right and I understand that. That is why I argue that the steps taken so far should not interfere with the ultimate powers of the Secretary of State.

To go further, as the noble Lord seems to—and I hope he does not because we have been partners on a number of matters until now—and to give the impression that the FMA will not have influence and power because the Secretary of State will have made up his mind quite outside anything which it may recommend, is dangerous. I believe that we should be reasonable on this. We should approach the matter on the basis that the FMA—a meeting of experts which is why they are appointed—understands the practicalities and will give an objective and practical suggestion when this machinery is set up. If the Secretary of State wishes to veto what the FMA has done, then he can do so; but the chances are that he will not want to do that. There is no sign that the Secretary of State wishes to take on the full responsibility of determining who sets up those various narrow points.

I approach this matter very clearly. The FMA is an authoritative body with knowledge and the power of influence. I guess that the number of occasions when the Secretary of State will use the ultimate power to override the recommendations of the FMA on practical points will be very few, if at all.

I agree absolutely with the argument used by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, as I said; and I agree with the point of view put by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. However, when one carries that to the point of suggesting that the Secretary of State has the ultimate and full power and that the FMA has none at all, then I believe that we are defeating the real object behind it.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

In responding to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, my point was to question his use of the words "decide" and "determine". Of course, the Football Membership Authority will decide nothing. It will only decide to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. That is what it will decide. However, thereafter it is entirely and exclusively a matter for the Secretary of State. Parliament, I repeat, will have no further rights in this matter whatever. I regard that as quite intolerable. Certainly I do not for a moment question the public spiritedness of people on the FMA, but at the moment we know very little about that body except that the Government have indicated that they intend to bring forward an amendment on Report. That is why I press the Government yet again to give a clear indication that they will publish those amendments in good time so that we can consult all those who will be affected.

Earl Russell

I support what my noble friend has just said. I did not hear him say anything that I could take as denigrating the FMA. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, said about its potential expertise in this matter.

Our concern on these Benches is that we should know before this Bill goes through exactly what we are being asked to approve. The temporary membership provisions in this area are quite frightening. Unless we understand what they are, I do not see how we can know whether we are for the proposal or against it.

Lord Underhill

So far I have remained silent on this amendment and I have appreciated the conciliatory attitudes of the Minister and those who have put forward the various amendments. I also appreciate that we are to take these amendments one by one to see what is the Government's attitude and I believe that that is the right course to adopt.

However, I feel that we should go further and ascertain from the Minister how the Government visualise the relationship of the FMA to Parliament. Surely that is a most important point which has been put forward by a number of noble Lords on this amendment. Can the Minister say how he visualises the arrangements between the FMA and Parliament?

Baroness Phillips

I too have remained silent—rather an unusual role for me. We are constantly hearing about the FMA, the new magic body. I can discover only one reference in the Bill, which is to the licensing authority. Who are the people who will sit on this magic body? Will they be operating under the old pals' act?

The Government should be warned. They are putting forward very unpopular legislation. Their support is slipping due to certain events. The Government have upset the farmers and a number of other people. They should be warned that they will be judged on the way in which they deal with this very unpopular Bill. If the Government can be seen to be taking logical steps in relation to the designated guests it will be a plus in this unpopular piece of legislation.

I have been too long in Parliament to like the idea of leaving responsibility to a body when we do not even know its membership or how it will be constituted. We know very little about it except that it is constantly referred to as the almighty provider of rules and regulations. Perhaps the Minister will be a little more forthcoming on who is to sit on the FMA. It is only referred to in Clause 10. We want to know much more about it as it is to determine certain important matters.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

First, I give an assurance to the Committee, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that I accept entirely that we must provide reasonable notice of Government amendments at Report stage. I am happy to give that assurance.

We are drifting slightly off the amendment but I must reiterate the Government's position at the outset. The Government want football to run football. We propose that the league and the FA will run the FMA. That is why in my earlier remarks I said that I thought it important—particularly in relation to this and the previous amendment which were pertinent to the relationships of the clubs themselves—that the scheme was a good example of something that should be run by the FMA for football and by football, and not by the Government.

The Government's view is that the FMA, being run by the league and the FA, will produce a scheme with which everyone will be happy. I do not envisage the problem arising where the Secretary of State says that he is not happy with the scheme. I am certain that the football authorities will produce an entirely satisfactory scheme with which the Secretary of State will be extremely content.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The final sentences of the Minister will be reassuring to the embryo FMA. I should like to believe in the Minister's confidence that its decisions, in the best interests of football, will be seen by everyone else, including the Secretary of State, as the best decisions. However, the Minister must be aware that there is at present some slight friction between the Minister and the league and the association on making progress. I said "slight friction" and I note that the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, looked aghast as if that were an impossibility.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble Lord said that I looked aghast. Is it not a fact that the league and the FA have written a letter saying that they are eager to co-operate and to participate? The noble Lord acknowledged the existence of that letter. All of us who have shown an interest received a copy of that letter.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Lord will find that he has taken that statement slightly out of context—indeed, I would say more than slightly out of context. The football authorities made it quite clear that they detest this Bill. They are referring to the situation which would arise if the Bill receives approval by both Houses of Parliament, which they have been pressed remorselessly to do by Mr. Moynihan.

I welcome what the noble Lord said about the admirable relationship which will exist between the football authorities and the Minister. Unfortunately it appears to contradict slightly the increasingly feverish denunciations of the football authorities by Mr. Moynihan in the months preceding this debate today. It is astonishing that we now hear that there is to be tranquillity and goodwill from a group of people that Mr. Moynihan and his colleagues have been denouncing at every opportunity.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who, by intervening, allowed me to find the letter from the Football Association to the Minister. I believe it would be helpful to quote from it. One sentence states: We should make it clear that we still have reservations about the efficacy of your proposals"— that is reservations about whether or not they will work. There are doubts and those doubts are contained in the report of the working party which states: The president of the Football League and the chairman of the Football Association told the Prime Minister that they disputed strongly the necessity for the scheme. In other words, at the first opportunity to say something they say, "We do not like the idea of a scheme". The next time the opportunity is taken to say, "We do think that it will work". Do we accept that as a good basis on which to make progress? The next quote from the letter is also interesting and I put this point to the Minister: We are sure you will agree that until the Football Spectators Bill has passed certain points in its Parliamentary progress and until the responsibilities of the Football Membership Authority have been debated by Parliament, it would be rash of us to make irreversible plans or to commit ourselves to significant expenditure.

The Earl of Onslow

Perhaps I may briefly interrupt the noble Lord, and it is not because I do not agree. We have the substance of the membership authority in Clause 10. We are now dealing with a different amendment. It seems sensible that we keep vaguely to the point that we are discussing. I know that it is a novel idea in Committee, but can we try it as a new idea?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

In his first speech tonight the noble Earl went straight to an amendment that we were not discussing. I know that he can teach us all a few tricks, but that I can forget what has happened over the last few hours is not one of them. I take the point and the long night is approaching. There are other stages in the Bill. This letter will bear not only re-reading by myself but also requoting by me as selectively and helpfully as possible. I believe that the Minister has gone as far as he can as regards this amendment. We rest on the premise that the people covered by this amendment may very well be those who are accepted by the FMA as worthy of having issued to them a temporary card for which the club is responsible. Those outside the Committee will hear what we have to say. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 48: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme, of persons holding a season-ticket for use at the premises at which a designated football match is to be played who have previously held such a season-ticket for at least one football season;").

The noble Lord said: I am advised by the Football League and the Football Association that they look upon this amendment as crucial to the financial viability and the welfare of football in general. This amendment is seen by them to be very important indeed. We are looking at the nexus in football with the season ticket holder. I have done a little research but, like all research, it is not complete. I am told by the Football League that in excess of 30 per cent. of those who attend football matches are season ticket holders. That does not mean to say that they attend every match or that they are members season after season. I hope the Committee will accept that in seeking this information I simply asked what was the percentage. They said that it was 32 per cent.

Then I sought another illustration for a matter that I believe will be helpful. I went to Tottenham Hotspur, as the Committee would expect me to. There I was told that they have a total of 10,448 season ticket holders. The Minister knows that that is three times the size of the attendance at many league matches. I believe that the Committee needs to understand that we are talking about a group of people who must love football very much because they pay dearly for it. I am not saying that they pay exorbitantly but they lay out a good deal of money. For example, a season ticket for the current year with Spurs costs £254.88p and I believe that figure includes VAT.

For that sum they can watch 25 First Division matches and one or two others. They are obviously people who have the money to pay and who want to pay. In this context prima facie they are people whom you would not expect to misbehave either in their boxes, their seats or in the ground. In speaking to this amendment, the Minister has to tell us whether he has evidence of wild activity by those who carry season tickets. We are trying to exempt as many groups of people as possible for whom, sensibly and without abuse, we can make a case.

The Minister said that he wishes to break the link between violence and soccer. We categorise that as hooliganism. My noble friend Lord Stoddart will be making a case later for the exclusion of women. We have been arguing earlier about groups of people for whom we say there is no evidence that they contribute to some of the statistics that we dispute in any event. The Minister has also to take on board the fact that we are talking about people who have already joined a membership scheme. They have had to fill in a form and, in certain instances, they have had to submit photographs. They have to send in their money and they have to give their name, address and telephone number. I do not know whether a membership scheme card which may be approved later, would carry as much or even more information than that. The card itself has not been designed and the Chamber has not discussed it. We have not discussed what should be on it or to what uses it can be put.

As regards season ticket holders there is a very powerful case. I sought the views of Watford Football Club. I received a letter from Eddie Plumley who is their chief executive. I asked him for some idea of the number of season tickets issued. He said that until just recently their average attendance was 12,881. They have issued 4,442 season tickets. That works out at marginally better than 32 per cent.

I hope the Minister will not say that if you exclude one-third of the people who attend a football match that blows a very big hole in our scheme. I say to him that if that one-third has an unblemished record—and I maintain that in the context of hooliganism season ticket holders have such a record—I have not got to make a case for excluding them, but the Minister has to make one for including them. On the evidence I do not believe that he can. I hope not to be accused of elitism or separatism. A football fan is a football fan. The people who are able to enjoy the facilities of a season ticket are no better supporters of their clubs than millions of others who may be unable to afford or may not want a season ticket.

I say to the Minister that by virtue of the decisions of the Football League every football club in the land already operates under what are called ground regulations. They are very very strict and they are for everyone. I wish to read out one or two of them that I believe are most important. Regulation 17 says: All persons entering this Ground are admitted only subject to the above Ground Regulations and the Rules and Regulations of The Football Association and The Football League. Entry to the Ground shall be deemed to constitute unqualified acceptance of all these Rules and Regulations". This is not a second reading point but a point of detail. I must accept because the Minister speaks sincerely and from experience in these matters that if he genuinely believes that there is a problem that needs to be tackled, then I am saying that whatever the solution season ticket holders are not part of the problem. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

I have explained the Government's general position on exemptions. While we accept that there should be mandatory provision for exemptions in the scheme—I have undertaken to consider placing specific categories of exempted spectators on the face of the Bill—I have also explained our concern to ensure that whatever exemption arrangements are made under the scheme they should be tightly drawn. I know that many Members of the Committee share our concern that exemptions must not be allowed to become a series of loopholes in the scheme and open invitations for people to beat the system.

I have grave doubts about the amendment on that score. It would make it a mandatory requirement of the scheme that anyone who has been a season ticket holder for at least one football season should be exempt. There can be no question that a group of this nature and size cannot be exempted from membership. Any such exemption arrangement would be far too wide and would create an unacceptable potential loophole in the scheme. Anyone can become a season ticket holder. It would not be possible for the individual club to undertake the kind of checking processes which we envisage the FMA carrying out in respect of applications under a national membership scheme, and we could not rely on possession of a season ticket as a gurantee against hooliganism. Exempting season ticket holders would create an inviting loophole for hooligans to exploit.

I am not suggesting for one moment that many season ticket holders are hooligans. But if we exempt season ticket holders from the membership requirement we will be inviting hooligans to buy season tickets in order to avoid and evade the rules of the scheme. The cost of a season ticket would certainly not deter many committed hooligans. As drafted the amendment goes further than this in the damage that it might do to the scheme. It would allow a convicted hooligan who had been banned from membership of the scheme to buy a season ticket and resume going to matches as if his conviction and disqualification had never happened. This is not acceptable.

Once again the implication of the amendment is that people should be excused from having to join the scheme, but it is precisely the law abiding regular spectators, the season ticket holders, who will benefit most from the scheme and from the protection that it provides against hooligans. For this reason, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I say in the most amiable spirit that the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, sounds rather like a junior Minister in the immediate postwar Labour Government defending one of the more ill-judged and detailed economic regulations imposed by that Government. We are told that there must be no loopholes and that there are risks of the firm line being broken at some stage. It is a great tragedy for this and many other reasons that the late lain Macleod is not alive to make a speech taking this Bill apart and taking apart the whole structure of the argument. The noble Lord is doing the best he can in intolerably difficult circumstances with the appalling briefs which have been served up by his officials to justify the contents of the Bill.

What did the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, say? He asked whether evidence exists to show that people who have purchased season tickets have become involved in acts of violence. It is a simple question. The noble Lord went through his brief and made no effort to answer it. Is there an answer? Is there any evidence of a major public order problem? He then went on to say that the provision must be tightly drawn, that there must be no loopholes and that there must be adequate checking of the names—all this to justify this extraordinary bureaucratic procedure. It is astonishing that a government of the right of centre should be introducing such a procedure.

The noble Lord has only one question to answer. Have the police been asked to submit reports to the Government on how many season ticket holders have been arrested in acts of violence? What is the evidence? I hope that on that specific question the noble Lord will be able to reply.

Lord Dean of Beswick

The Minister has given sympathetic and cogent answers on previous amendments but I think he has failed to do so in respect of this one. My noble friend Lord Graham referred to the 10,000 season ticket holders at Tottenham Hotspur. I have not checked the details but I think the noble Lord will find that Manchester United has far more season ticket holders. Some clubs have waiting lists. It is not the easiest thing in the world to become a season ticket holder at a well supported football club. People apply year after year and are turned away. At some clubs people have to wait until others die in order to become season ticket holders. I cannot conceive of someone queueing to pay £250 to become a football hooligan. The Minister suggests that somebody will be waiting in the wings to sign a cheque for £250 just to become a football hooligan on a Saturday afternoon.

The Minister will have to do better than that in arguing that this amendment is unworkable. He has not made a case in answer to my noble friend Lord Graham. I should like him to deal with my point about paying £250 to become a football hooligan. I do not see it happening at all. I do not think it is on.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My noble friend's mood on this amendment is different from his mood on the other amendments with which we have dealt so far. It is very sad. I can understand why he cannot accept the words of the amendment. There are many reasons why the words may not fit in. I expected him to say that because that may have been the advice he was given. However, the wholesale refusal to recognise the distinction between a season ticket holder and the ordinary member is surprising.

Could he not be a little more constructive? The noble Lord, Lord Graham, explained how one becomes a season ticket holder. One has to till in a form with particulars of one's address, one's business telephone number and so on. Would it not be possible for the form to be amended so that it would answer all the questions that are asked in order to obtain a certificate? Could not the answering of one fulfil the other? I am certain that the clubs would be happy to go to a great deal of trouble to have a season ticket form which incorporates all the knowledge of the membership form.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, at the beginning of the debate is an important one. The income from season tickets is an important part of the income of a club. We want to have successful football clubs. This is an important source of income. We should not give the impression that we want to discourage season ticket holders just because some might be hooligans. Perhaps it could be put on the season ticket form that if a spectator is convicted of a breach of the peace the season ticket will be withdrawn. I am certain that the clubs would agree to that. Such a spectator would lose both his season ticket and his certificate if, by remote chance, he was excluded from the ground.

I hope that my noble friend will be a little more considerate. By all means say that the words in the amendment will not do, but can he not give the impression that if the clubs can find some way of giving the same information on the season ticket form that is necessary for the normal certificate form, that will meet the requirements of the Bill; and that if a season ticket holder deviates from those conditions he will have both his season ticket and certificate withdrawn? That would surely meet my noble friend's concerns and would give the clubs a chance to maintain their finances.

Lord Hesketh

Perhaps I may answer the small but important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. He asked about records. The police do not have records concerning the relationship between conviction and season ticket holders. I accept the point entirely, in exactly the same way as I pointed out to the Committee our view regarding sponsors' and executive boxes. We are not worried about sponsors' boxes and executive boxes. I am sure that no one is worried about the season ticket holders. It is the principle of making the scheme work and having everyone within the scheme that concerns us. That is why we believe that it is impracticable to exempt, as this amendment hopes to do, all those who are holding a season ticket and have held one for a year preceding. I personally have nothing but admiration for the season ticket holders who support their clubs. However, it is a fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has pointed out, that in certain clubs they represent 30 per cent. of the gate. It is a huge block to exempt.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean, as did the noble Lord, Lord Graham, drew noble Lords' attention to the fact that it would cost £250 to become a soccer hooligan. The average price of a season ticket at Spurs is £200, at West Ham it is £135, at Wolves—as my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls will no doubt know—it is only £40; and at Halifax Town it is £37—

Lord Graham of Edmonton

For 25 matches.

Lord Hesketh

That is the information which I have. And tremendous value for money that represents! The noble Lord, Lord Harris, drew attention to the fact that, like some early post-war junior Minister, I referred to loopholes. All I can say is that this amendment will not be a loophole; it will be leaving the farmyard gate open.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

But why does it matter if the barn gate is open (as the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, said) if the people concerned are not involved in acts of violence? I asked the noble Lord whether he had information from the police or from some other body which indicated that there was a propensity, so far as concerned these people, to become involved in acts of violence. The noble Lord frankly replied that there is no evidence at all because the police have never felt it necessary to maintain records. Why have they not found it necessary? It is because there is no relationship at all between these people and acts of violence.

The amendment is drawn in an even more restrictive form because it obliges the person who is to be excluded from the scheme to have been a season ticket holder for the previous season as well. So the likelihood of people of this category being involved in acts of violence is trivial.

The Government's attitude becomes more and more perplexing. In many of the clubs in the lower divisions of the Football League there is negligible violence already. On the basis of what club chairmen have said to me what is also clear is that there are few, if any, examples of violence among season ticket holders. What the noble Lord is saying is "All that is absolutely irrelevant, because in order to have a beautiful, bureaucratic scheme which satisfies us we insist on them being part of the scheme". It no longer is a question of whether there is violence. It is "We are now becoming in love with our own scheme". This is the Government's attitude.

I say to the noble Lord—and I say it in a spirit of no ill whatever—that everybody on both sides who has spoken on this amendment has urged the Government to reconsider this question. I do not ask the noble Lord to make any commitment, but I urge him to discuss this matter with his colleagues in the department to see whether some form of amendment in this area could be devised. Neither the noble Lord, Lord Graham, nor I would insist on the precise terms of this amendment, and we would be perfectly open-minded to any suggestion from the noble Lord. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord whether on the basis of that he will at least undertake to consider the arguments—no more than that—between now and Report stage to see whether we can get some area of agreement?

6.45 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

Surely if we exempt season ticket holders it creates the difficulties that my noble friend on the Front Bench mentioned. Equally it follows that if you are applying for a season ticket you are also almost applying for membership. So I cannot see what the argument is about. The point is simply that if you fill in a form saying "Please may I have a season ticket?" they will send you an identify card anyway. So I cannot see how you can possibly have an exemption or what is the necessity for an exemption. My noble friend is right on this score. I do not know whether that will be any comfort to him.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

If what the noble Earl is saying is that there is no difference between applying for a membership identity card and applying for a season ticket, you are applying twice—

The Earl of Onslow

You are not.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

If you can get a season ticket by applying for membership of the FMA, that is a surprise to me. What you have are people who pay £250 at Spurs and at Halifax they pay £40 for 25 matches—that is £1.25 per game—to be guaranteed a place. I have not seen Halifax play lately so I do not know whether it is value for money. But the Minister has been given a piece of paper with some words written on it which he has faithfully read out. Let us hope the information was correct.

But we have this ludicrous situation that there is a group of people who are attending football matches and the Minister has said, "I have no evidence that they as a group are violent or are hooligans. But in order to make sure that I have a scheme which is as all-embracing as possible, whether it is true or not"—and the Minister cannot tell us whether or not it is true—"they will be included". The Minister has said that he wants to leave a lot of details to the FMA. If we thought that one of the things that the FMA would be free to put into its scheme was exemption for season ticket holders, I would be happy. I am not saying that it should; but if the people who know football and know the calibre of the people we are talking about believe that from the integrity aspect they ought to be exempted, I accept that.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked a direct question. I am not in the business of testing the view of the Committee. If there is a chance that the Minister and his colleagues will look at this amendment without commitment, we shall not press it. If they are not prepared even to look at it, then obviously the Committee will share my view that the amendment ought to be tested.

Lord Mellish

The attitude of the Government today is entirely different from that adopted a week ago. It is no longer rigid and so stern that, no matter what you say, you are talking to yourself. The Minister has done us the privilege of lifting his head away from his brief and is talking now as a Minister should talk, as well as listening.

He made one point to me today that matters a great deal. I want to get it on the record and I hope it will go out to those who support my view. This Government have said that football must be run by football. Here I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, with great respect to him. I do not expect this Government or any other government to write in, or to accept, amendments exempting this one, that one and every other one that you can talk of and say, "They shall be exempt". If they do that, we shall have a Bill so huge that it will be ridiculous. That is the point of having a specialist committee because you must allow people who know something about football to say who shall be exempt. I speak with a lot of experience. If you ask for this to be written in, you are asking for madness. Take it to the vote and I bet that you lose. I for one will not vote for the amendment. I am sure that you will lose and you will get nothing at all.

We are now getting concessions. This Government are not being as rigid as they were. They are now saying that they understand. The first idea was of a national membership scheme which included everybody, wherever they came from. That is not their view now. They are now saying, quite rightly, that football has to be run by football. That being so, we ought to say to the Government "All right". The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has been putting the case very well indeed. These amendments are down for discussion, and we have had some assurance from the Government. Also the expert committee will read the report of this debate.

Lord Dean of Beswick


Lord Mellish

If the noble Lord says that that is rubbish, what I say is take it to the vote and see what happens.

Lord Northfield

The noble Lord was not in the Chamber and he did not therefore hear the Minister say that the Government would not accept the proposal even if football recommended it. He said that the Government are against allowing season ticket holders to be exempt. He has said that no matter what football recommends the Government will not accept it.

Lord Mellish

I have a simple view. I am closely associated with the running of football. A person has to apply for a season ticket. It does not come from heaven. If one applies for a season ticket it is certain that the club involved, if it is part of the scheme, will send the application for the membership scheme. Is that asking too much? The person can send both forms back.

Lord Northfield

Let him say it.

Lord Mellish

It does not matter whether he says it or not. What he says does not matter. That is how the scheme will operate. This is not a party political matter. We are talking about the best interests of football. The Minister has already said that football is to be run by football people. If that is to be so, that is all I am asking for.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Perhaps I may put the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, right. He was kind enough to refer to me. The statement he has made is entirely inconsistent with what was said earlier, as the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, pointed out. Football is not going to run football. I am astonished that the noble Lord believes that it will.

Lord Mellish

It is now. It was not going to do so a week ago.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The Secretary of State will run football. Everyone concerned must accept the reality of that. The Football Membership Authority can make recommendations. There will then be argument and discussion, but in the final analysis football will not make the final determination. It will be the Secretary of State who will do that.

Lord Mellish

If the football specialist committee, which is being set up under the Bill, makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State—whoever that may be—and he turns it down, that Secretary of State will be stark, raving mad.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Dean of Beswick

The Prime Minister thinks so too.

Lord Mellish

I do not think that the Secretary of State will do that. I happen to have had 37 years' experience not just in government but in opposition. If one sets up a specialist committee and ignores its advice one is asking for trouble the like of which one has never seen. The Government know that as well as anyone.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is not doing justice to the case that we are trying to put. We are trying to get through Parliament a Bill which will make a contribution towards ending hooliganism. The ruler will not be the Secretary of State. I said on Second Reading that this is one of the few Bills that I have seen where the Government are prepared to hand over a power which they normally retain. Parliament normally adds to the statute book and the Government are responsible for seeing that the law is carred out from A to Z.

Having once established the principle that we must do something about football hooliganism, the Government have said that they recognise that they do not have the practical knowledge to carry out the day-to-day control. It is the Government who have written into the Bill that they will set up a Football Membership Authority made up of footballers who will work out the details that must be applied.

The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, was right to hook onto the phrase used by my noble friend. The Government want footballers to manage football. That is what I want. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, made out a good case. The way he presented the point about the separation of season ticket holders was good. I do not accept that the words of his amendment are necessarily the right ones, but the spirit is right. If he possible can, I should like my noble friend to say that they will see whether the application for the certificate can be incorporated in the application for a season ticket so that one and the same thing would do both jobs. In all our legislation someone is the long-stop. It is unfair to describe the Bill as being completely under the control of the Secretary of State.

Lord Hesketh

It is rare that I have ever been known to say anything categoric, but I can assure the Committtee that the Secretary of State has no intention of running football. The Government would love to exempt season ticket holders. They are probably best described as the backbone of the game. However, those in the working party who considered the scheme said that if we exempt season ticket holders we are removing such a large proportion of the people that we might as well not have the scheme. If one takes the position, which the Government do, that the country wishes to have a scheme and to do something about football hooliganism, the scheme must have universality.

The last point I want to answer is about the identity card and the season ticket holder. If the Smart Card is selected as the appropriate technology, it is possible for that card to incorporate the season ticket within the membership card. For the reasons I explained earlier, I am afraid that I cannot make any commitment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The Minister has not deviated. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, is right. The mood now is different from the mood on the first amendment, because the Government were beaten on the first amendment. That is why they are listening. They are sensitive to defeat. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that I have been generous in appreciating what he has done so far. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, and I have known and respected each other for a long time. We are looking at this matter differently.

The FMA will he made up of the Football League and the association. The working party was not the league or the association. If it had been, its report would have been different because it would have started with a preconceived premise—it would not agree with the scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, and I are saying that football should decide the detail of the scheme. I am prepared to accept that, but the Minister is not because he said that it is possible that it would produce a scheme which would not fit his view of what the scheme should be, never mind the reality.

The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, and I are in some difficulty. He shares my view that the Minister should say sufficient to enable me to withdraw the amendment; but he has twice been categorical and said that he is not prepared to say one word of help on the amendment. I also accept the view of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish. He has told me what will happen to the amendment when it is pressed to a vote. Let us see.

6.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 48) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 72; Not-Contents, 109.

Airedale, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Alport, L. Mayhew, L.
Amherst, E. Meston, L.
Blease, L. Mishcon, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Monson, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L
Buckmaster, V. Nelson, E.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Nicol, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Northfield. L.
David, B. Ogmore, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Peston, L.
Donoughue, L. Phillips, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Elwyn-Jones, L.
Ennals, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Raglan, L.
Falkender, B. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Gallacher, L. Rochester, L.
Galpern, L. Ross of Newport, L.
Gladwyn, L. Russell, E.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Seear, B.
Grey, E. Sefton of Garston, L.
Hampton, L. Shepherd, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stedman, B.
Hylton, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Jeger, B. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Kilbracken, L. Underhill, L.
Kirkhill, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. White, B.
Lockwood, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Winstanley, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Wise, L.
McNair, L. [Teller.]
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Ampthill, L. Gisborough, L.
Arran, E. Glenarthur, L.
Ashbourne, L. Goold, L.
Astor, V. Grantchester, L.
Auckland, L. Gray, L.
Barber, L. Greenway, L.
Bauer, L. Gridley, L.
Belstead, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Bethell, L. Grimthorpe, L.
Blyth, L. Havers, L.
Borthwick, L. Hemphill, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Burton, L. Henley, L.
Butterworth, L. Hesketh, L.
Caithness, E. Hives, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Holderness, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Hood, V.
Colwyn, L. Hooper, B.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Cork and Orrery, E. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Cross, V. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Joseph, L.
Davidson. V. [Teller.] Kaberry of Adel, L.
Denham. L. [Teller.] Kimball, L.
Dilhorne, V. Kimberley, E.
Dundee, E. Kitchener, E.
Ellenborough, L. Knutsford, V.
Elton, L. Lauderdale, E.
Faithfull, B. Lawrence, L.
Ferrers, E. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Fortescue, E. Liverpool, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Long, V.
Loudoun, C. Rees, L.
Lurgan, L. Renton, L.
Lyell, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Malmesbury, E. Rodney, L.
Manton, L. St. Germans, E.
Margadale, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L
Mottistone, L. Shannon, E.
Mountevans, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strange, B.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Strathclyde, L.
Onslow, E. Swinton, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Thurlow, L.
Orkney, E. Trafford, L.
Pender, L. Tranmire, L.
Penrhyn, L. Trumpington, B.
Plan of Writtle, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Quinton, L. Weir, V.
Radnor, E. Wynford, L.
Rankeillour, L. Young, B.
Reay, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.5 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 49: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme, of persons in receipt of a retirement pension from the Department of Social Security:").

The noble Lord said: When the Minister gave us an indication of possible exemptions, I did not detect that he said anything helpful about old-age pensioners. The amendment deals with retirement pensions. The reason why we are moving it is because the Government have adopted the view that people are guilty until proved innocent. There is one group of people who already, in my view, have been found guilty until they are proved innocent—season ticket holders. Now we have another group of people, old-age pensioners. The case which the Government have sought to put to Parliament and the country is that there is a relationship between violence and soccer. They have produced some evidence to support that, but the evidence has been challenged not least by football supporters and the football clubs.

When the Minister was invited to tell us what evidence he had in respect of the season ticket holders mentioned in the previous amendment, he had to say that the police were unable to give him a breakdown. Previously he has been very happy to quote police statistics globally about arrests, ejections and so on. It is a great puzzle to many people that the Minister is proving to be inflexible, even though I believe that he would argue that it is damaging the concept of the Bill. If he and I are at one in that we want to exclude from football grounds not only hooligans but potential or suspected hooligans—provided there is evidence of that—then we shall make progress. I want the Minister to tell us on what evidence he includes old-age pensioners. He will be invited later to tell us on what evidence he includes other categories.

I have a letter from the Aldershot Football Club to my honourable friend in another place, Harry Barnes, giving a breakdown of the ejections from the ground during the previous year. The list is very detailed: failing to comply with a police officer's direction in response to ground regulations 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10. I have a list of those regulations and the offence is quite clear. There is also listed: jostling or interfering with the comfort of spectators; obscene gestures; being drunk; assaulting a police officer; assault occasioning actual bodily harm; entering a designated sportsground while subject to an exclusion order; use of obscene language; taunting opposing supporters; entering the ground without paying an entry fee; possession of an air horn. All those details can apparently be assembled and are available.

When it comes to age, what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said was a truism, that to the best of his knowledge there was little or no evidence that people above the age of 40 figured largely or even to a very remote extent in the statistics.

I made my own inquiries, albeit of two modest authorities—the Football League and the Football Association. I asked them whether they could help me as regards old-age pensioners. They cannot do so. When one considers old-age pensioners, one must take two other factors into consideration. One is cost and the other is convenience. Members of the Committee, and certainly many other people, may not regard cost or inconvenience as relevant factors. But I envisage that at the Spurs ground and many other grounds people will find the inconvenience and the irritation of the need to apply for membership of the scheme not only an offence in their eyes but as something not to be put up with. They will consider that if that is necessary to get into a football match, they will not do it.

I am not making a heavy point about cost, except when the Minister argues, as he will do, that there need be no cost at all because the information can be sold commercially. We shall have something sharp to say about whether or not that is one of the prime reasons for the whole scheme. Perhaps the scheme is not so much concerned with keeping out hooligans as with providing something out of which someone will be able to make not just a fast buck but a fast and regular buck. The Minister looks a little puzzled at my daring to make the aspersion that some people will make money out of an identity card scheme. The Minister will know that that aspersion is not too far fetched.

I am asking the Minister why the elderly are included in the membership scheme. The Minister may say there is a difficulty in definition. I readily agree with that. While some people look older than their years some look younger than their years. When some people mention their age one sometimes says, "You could have fooled me." But at Spurs, for example, if one is applying for membership of the scheme which is restricted to the under-sixteens, it is necessary to send one's birth certificate. Spurs have a scheme at the moment whereby the elderly enjoy certain facilities. If someone wishes to be a member of that scheme, he must either send in his pension book or take it in. So those things are not impossible to do. It is a question of having the will to do them. We are testing the Minister. I am prepared to withdraw the amendment if the Minister is prepared to say that he and his noble friends will consider, when they are drafting their list of exemptions, the possibility that the elderly—I define that simply as those in receipt of the state pension—may be exempted. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

I hope that my noble friend will listen to this proposal with considerable sympathy. After all, we can give people free trips on the buses if they are over 65, so I do not see why they have to buy an identity card for a football match. Old-age pensioners are certainly not likely to go around waving brickbats or kicking people in with leather boots, or go rushing down the street hurling bricks through shop windows. They are not members of that group of people about whom we are seriously worried. I do not expect to see this provision on the face of the Bill, but I sincerely hope that when the FMA produces its regulations which exclude old-age pensioners, my honourable friend will not see fit to turn this provision down. There can be no question of difficulty of identification as there are things called pension books.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

I wish to speak on this amendment. I must disclose a personal interest, as indeed most Members of this Chamber would have to do. My point is quite simple. This amendment would be quite easy to operate because the great majority of clubs have a special rate of admission for old-age pensioners. Norwich City, for example, provide seats for old-age pensioners for £4. That applies to many clubs. Surely the Government, with all the necessary information behind them, can accept this amendment. I hope they will. If they do not, the whole scheme will become derisory.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Underhill

I, too, wish to declare an interest. Apart from being a season ticket holder, at 74 years of age I totter down to my local football club with my neighbour who is 78. I cannot imagine either of us getting over the barricades and committing hooligan acts. To reject this amendment would be nothing less than bureaucratic. Before I was a season ticket holder, I used to go in the 4,000 seat stand. That sounds a curious thing to say. In that stand there were no reserve seats. When I looked around me, I used to see many old-age pensioners enjoying the match at reduced prices. They used to sit in special areas. If the Government do not like the wording of this provision, they should nevertheless agree to consider it. They should realise that very few people over 65—I would say none—are going to commit acts of hooliganism.

Lord Hesketh

I have explained the Government's general position on exemptions. We accept that there should be mandatory provisions in the scheme. We shall consider putting specific categories of exempted spectators on the face of the Bill. It is essential, however, that these should be strictly limited, as I have said before, because of the danger of wide-ranging exemptions and also because in this case there is a possibility of confusion and chaos at the turnstiles.

This amendment would provide for the exemption of people in receipt of a retirement pension from the Department of Social Security. I recognise of course, that it is unlikely that retired people would become involved in acts of hooliganism, far from it. But I do not recognise that retired people will suffer in any way if they become members of the scheme. Membership is not a burden. It is a means of ensuring that everyone who goes to football matches in future can do so without fear of violence or threatening behaviour. It is the law-abiding spectators who will be the members of the scheme. The only people whom we really want to exclude from membership of the scheme are hooligans.

This is a point that I have made before. Membership of the scheme will confer benefits on those who enjoy it. There may be commercial benefits if members are entitled to discounts at local shops and other things. Above all, members will enjoy the benefit that they can watch football games in peace because the hooligans have been excluded. I see no reason why we should seek to deny these benefits to retired people. Exemption is not itself a benefit. It is something that we will look at for practical reasons. But the practical consequences for retired people may be far from desirable.

I am afraid that it would be necessary consequentially for there to be some form of check on another form of identification, other than the card that will exist within the scheme. Checking is bound to cause a delay. There are 10.5 million people in this country who are over pensionable age. That is 20 per cent. of the total population. I do not know what proportion of football spectators are pensioners, but if it is anything like the proportion they represent of the population as a whole, it would clearly be a very sizeable group indeed.

Clubs could not deal with the problem by simply allocating one or two turnstiles to retired people. For one thing, the queues at those turnstiles would be much worse than elsewhere. For another, turnstiles at many grounds give access only to certain parts of the ground. It would be most unfortunate to force retired people to queue up and watch the game separately from younger relatives or friends.

These are crucial points and so I will repeat them. It will be open to the clubs and to the FMA to make no charge for membership for the elderly, if they so wish. It may also be possible for them to have a simplified application arrangement for the elderly, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, mentioned existed at Tottenham Hotspur. I accept, of course, that old people may find it difficult to meet the cost of a membership card, low though I hope that cost will be. But there will be nothing to stop the clubs or the Football Membership Authority making cards available free to retired people or to other groups, such as the unemployed if they so wished. I also accept that it might be appropriate for a simplified application procedure to be available for retired people, if that would be helpful.

There are several ways in which the scheme can be of help to retired people but exempting them altogether is not one. Membership of the scheme will be an advantage for people attending football matches; not a burden on them. I see no reason why retired people should be denied the benefits and exposed to the inconvenience that a separate checking arrangement might involve.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, drew a parallel with a free bus pass for a pensioner. The difference is that the bus pass denotes a benefit to the pensioner; the scheme we are introducing denotes a benefit to the whole of football. Therefore we want to keep pensioners within the scheme so that they benefit from the protection which we are trying to achieve with the Bill.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Until I heard the noble Lord plod through that brief I had always assumed that he had a sense of humour. However, if he had he would have burst into hysterical laughter at the quality of his own argument. I have rarely heard such nonsense from the Government Front Bench on this or any other issue.

What is the noble Lord suggesting? Will there be horror among old age pensioners that they are to be excluded from the benefits of the scheme? No doubt there will be large-scale demonstrations with old age pensioners rioting outside the Department of the Environment. They will carry banners reading, "Why have we been excluded from the scheme?"Does he not recognise that that is fantasy? Did he not say when offered that absurd brief by his officials, "I cannot say that in the House of Lords; they will laugh at me"?

The noble Lord went through the immense benefits of the scheme: it would be quite wrong to deny them the privilege; they would be deprived of the so-called commercial benefits (whatever they may be); they will be able to watch in peace and tranquility as a result of being members of the scheme. They will have exactly the same amount of peace and tranquility if they are not members of the scheme because pensioners do not commit the criminal offences which lie behind the introduction of the Bill.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, quite rightly said that the majority of those people who commit offences at football matches—and outside football matches, on Friday and Saturday nights in public houses—are young men between the ages of 15 and 30. The number of people of pensionable age likely to be involved in any acts of violence is minuscule. Yet they are to be dragged into the scheme without any intelligible argument having been put forward, save one. That is, presumably, the objective of making the membership lists as long as possible so as to make them commercially attractive to the sponsors.

That is one good argument which I offer the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh. However, it is not one that he will introduce in this debate. He will repeat points of a degree of foolishness, which, I must emphasise, I have never before heard in this Chamber from a member of any party sitting on the Government Front Bench. I very much hope that in the later stages of the Bill, if he is offered nonsense of that kind, the noble Lord will tell his officials to get somebody else to read it out for them.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Harris. What the Minister has just said exposes the hollowness of the scheme as it stands. I have been listening in peace and tranquility to the arguments on the various amendments dealt with so far. In virtually every case the Minister has replied that of course there will be no trouble from that particular group. There will not be any trouble from the directors, nor from their guests, nor from the guests of high grade employees of football clubs. The Minister has agreed that season ticket holders do not constitute a threat. It is understood that they are well behaved and pay a reasonable amount for their season tickets. Their names are on record in the clubs. He also agrees that no retirement pensioner is going to leap over fences to smash somebody on the nose or stab them with a knife.

If one considers the proportions that those groups represent one finds that season ticket holders constitute about 30 per cent. of football attendances. If one accepts the Minister's own figures about the proportion of the population who are retirement pensioners, one comes to 20 per cent. Assuming that the same ratio will apply to those who go to football matches, the total is 50 per cent., at least, of very law-abiding football spectators. Then of course there are the women, and we shall come to them shortly.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Yes, please.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I know that my noble friend is very partial to the human race, of both sexes.

Noble Lords


Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I meant that in the nicest way.

If one adds the 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. of women who attend football matches and who have never caused any problems through violence one has now reached 65 per cent. Add to that the children who attend and do not commit acts of violence and one is very near 100 per cent. All those people, who the Minister has agreed constitute no problem at all, have to apply and pay for a football membership identity card and belong to the scheme simply and solely because of the activities of .09 per cent., if the figure is as high as that, of those who attend football matches. That is not good enough, is it?

I know that the Minister is committed to the scheme. I know that the Government are committed to their silly scheme. Nevertheless, if they are committed they ought to listen to the reasonable arguments for exemptions which have been put forward in Committee this afternoon. Of all the exemptions suggested so far, this must be the most reasonable. We ask the Minister to listen to the arguments not only from this side of the Chamber but also from his own side of the Chamber and to show a modicum of concern for that section of the population.

The Earl of Onslow

I am sorry to be so unkind to my noble friend but I think that his answer left a considerable amount to be desired. The object of the Bill is to make sure that hooliganism at football matches is reduced to an absolute minimum. We know the hooligans; they are males between the ages of 15 and 30.

I accept that there are difficulties in excluding certain groups of people because they meld with others. However, old age pensioners, as has been stated frequently, do not commit acts of hooliganism. They tend to be the more respected members of society. They are also easily identifiable. For the life of me I cannot see the slightest benefit to them from having to buy an extra ticket. Surely my noble friend can see that. I am on his side on the use of the identity card to stop as much hooliganism as possible, which we know is deeply offensive to most people, especially to old age pensioners. However, the answer he gave made one despair, and he had been doing so well.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Let me try to encourage the Minister do do even better. If he stops where he is, we shall have the same kind of impasse as before. I do not want him to say that he is prepared to take away this amendment and look at it to see whether he can accept it; I want him to tell us that he is willing to take it away, without commitment, and study what has been said in the debate. That is one side of the argument; it is the other side to say, "I am not even prepared to entertain the possibility that I or my advisers might be wrong".

The Minister can listen to people from all around the Chamber and certainly to colleagues on his own side. I say to all my colleagues in the Committee, with great respect: This is not a party issue. The Government will not fall if you decide that an old-age pensioner can get in to see Newcastle United or Spurs without going through the rigmarole of obtaining a ticket. You will not damage the Prime Minister's credibility unless she herself wishes to make this an issue of credibility. You are looking at how you can make a scheme work and be credible; in other words, sensible in the eyes of the people involved.

I wish to make two points before I sit down. When I pick up a national newspaper and look at the events that have occurred over the last weekend, I see no references to groups of old-age pensioners who have been involved in violence. I have here a newspaper cutting the heading of which states: youths clash with police in chip shop brawl". The article goes on: A police van was overturned and several officers were injured when more than 100 youths fought outside a chip shop in one of a series of brawls over the weekend … On Saturday night, police arrested 15 people at a series of incidents around Weston-super-Mare and in Cambridgeshire, a police car was damaged and two officers injured after clashes with 120 youths at St. Neots". That is the kind of incident that happens rather than incidents involving rioting football fans, aged between 15 and 40. There is no mention of such incidents. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that one is more likely to find hooligans in the age category 15 to 40.

We simply say to the Minister that the task is not as onerous as he makes out. I have here an application form for Fulham Football Club. It refers to specially reduced terms for old-age pensioners. The club has managed to adopt a scheme which differentiates for old-age pensioners. I also have an application form for Huddersfield Town Football Club which refers to ticket applications for adults, children and old-age pensioners and provides for reductions. I have yet another application form for Notts County Football Club which refers to standing prices for adults, juveniles, junior magpies and old-age pensioners. I have similar forms for Spurs and Manchester United.

With no disrespect to the Minister, I honestly believe that a great deal has been happening in those clubs that the Minister's advisers either know about and have ignored or not told him about. What is happening in football is not what the Minister and his friends have told us. This is what is happening: the clubs are dealing with the problem of trying to be kind to our senior citizens. What is wrong with that?

I make the Minister a genuine offer: is he prepared to allow me to withdraw the amendment against the premise that he will, without commitment, look at what has been said? He need not even say that he will come back with something at the next stage; he need say only that he will write to me. That will leave us to take action. I am prepared to withdraw the amendment if he is prepared to say that he will look at what has been said, but if he is not—and I shall not rise again—I shall press the amendment to a Division.

Lord Hesketh

The proposers of the amendment have presented an attractive argument which slightly misrepresents the Government's position. Perhaps I might explain their argument in this way: quite rightly, pensioners are a special group of people in this country and because of that the result of the Bill is in some way an imposition upon them. That is neither the case nor the position from which the Bill started out.

The Bill started out as a response to a problem and the scheme in the Bill is an answer to that problem. It may not be the whole or best answer, but it is the only answer on offer. The object of the Bill is to make the scheme, when it is introduced, a success. Those people who consulted on the best way of making the scheme work said that, if it were to have a chance, exemptions must be strictly limited. The difficulty with this amendment is the same as with the previous one. I should love to be able to say that the Government would like to agree to it, but we believe that, like the last amendment—in this case, we are talking about an amendment which involves 20 per cent. of the population—it will make the scheme fail. We are trying to introduce a scheme that will protect the weak more than any other group. The object is to introduce a scheme that works. It is for that reason—not for some flint-hearted reason—that I resist the blandishments of the noble Lord, Lord Graham.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, has made not the slightest effort to answer the point made by his noble friend Lord Onslow. He did not even refer to the argument during his remarks. I find that remarkable.

The noble Lord told us two things. First, 20 per cent. of the population are old-age pensioners; so what? What has that to do with the matter? The real question is a different one: do our old-age pensioners become involved in violence at football matches? That is what we are discussing. As I understand it, that is the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is not to create a scheme; it is to deal with violence at football matches. The first question that we should ask is whether old-age pensioners are involved in violence at football matches. The answer is no; they are not, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, pointed out. What was the answer of the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, to that? His answer was that the scheme will fail if those people—none of whom is involved in violence—are excluded from the scheme. But why will it fail? Can he give us one coherent reason why it will fail?

In his earlier speech the noble Lord told us, "There are all sorts of problems. We are very worried about old-age pensioners being made to queue up". That anticipates an interesting argument which we shall have later about the length of the queues that will be involved when people present their FMA cards or smart cards. I am told by the police that there is a real prospect of substantial queues.

As the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, pointed out, old-age pensioners have a clear method of identification—an old-age pension book. There could quite easily be separate entrances for old-age pensioners as there used to be at football matches and as there still are in some cases. What conceivable administrative problem is involved in that?

The noble Lord. Lord Hesketh, went on to say, "I am very worried about what would go on inside the ground", but what would the problem be? If a police officer or security guard asked someone, "Do you have a right to be within the ground?", the person concerned would show either his scheme membership card or his old-age pension book. Such people would not have to be segregated in different parts of the ground unless the club itself wanted that.

I make this appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, in a spirit of reason and, I hope, with a fair degree of good will. When he makes such declarations as "The scheme will fail without that provision", he must give arguments rather than simply exchange pieces of rhetoric of that kind. We should be grateful if he would justify the conclusion that he has reached, which appears to many of us to be extremely far fetched.

Lord Hesketh

I draw the Committee's attention to the Second Reading debate in which many speeches were made concerning the confusion and complication of entering a ground with just one card.

With regard to a point with which we shall deal later, and in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, let us accept the argument made by many Members on this side of the Committee. The implication that we shall now introduce a second form of identity to enter a ground means, by definition, that it will become more complex and difficult to enter the ground.

As was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, the alternative is to have a special gate or number of gates at a bigger ground for old age pensions. That will eliminate for them the choice of where they wish to go in the ground because it will have to be a defined area.

Lord Underhill

Has the noble Lord any evidence from the football authorities of the number of clubs that do not have special gates for old age pensioners and young children? Has he any evidence of anywhere where old age pensioners who go through a separate turnstile are made to go in a certain part of the ground? I am certain that he has no evidence whatever to back those two statements.

Lord Hesketh

Of course I do not have any evidence because we are talking about the future when the scheme comes into play rather than the current state of affairs. It would be under a new regime.

Lord Underhill

I am sorry to intervene again, but clubs will not withdraw their special turnstiles for old age pensioners if this new scheme comes in. That system will still operate.

The Earl of Onslow

Once the principle of exemptions has been conceded—which it has—one automatically has to have separate entrances or some method whereby a choice is made by somebody manning a turnstile. Once that concession has been made it follows that it is easy to make any number of exemptions. It follows as night follows day. There can be no argument on that.

Therefore I can see no difficulty whatever in identifying a block class of people. I admit that there is a great difficulty in differentiating between people who live in odd or even numbered houses in a street, or something silly like that, where the type of person is very similiar. But one has a very readily identifiable group called old age pensioners to whom the state quite rightly gives enormous privileges. But it is not prepared to allow them to go to football clubs without having this identity card.

Lord Hesketh

Again, those are seductive arguments from my noble friend Lord Onslow. However, a case is being made that: denies the existence of the problem and why we have the scheme. There is a complete difference of opinion. We believe that the scheme and the membership of the scheme is a protection and not an inhibition.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

How can it be a protection? The noble Lord must not use empty rhetoric without explaining what he means. What form of protection is involved if an old age pensioner has to be a member of the scheme? How are the interests of the old age pensioner improved? That is the question that I should like to ask the noble Lord. I should be grateful if he would answer it.

Lord Hesketh

Protection is provided very simply on this basis. The purpose of the Bill is to introduce a scheme that will rid the game of hooliganism. That by definition will protect those who are members of the scheme.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Lord is simply repeating points that he has made earlier and which have singularly failed to convince a single noble Lord in any other part of the Chamber. It has been pointed out to him by myself and others that the fact that one makes an old age pensioner join this scheme cannot possibly make him any safer because old age pensioners as a group do not riot at football matches. The point could hardly be clearer. Yet every time we have this rhetoric from the noble Lord without any justification for the stance that he is adopting.

Lord Hesketh

I must answer that. I have conceded—everyone has conceded—from the very start that no one was saying that any old age pensioner had been or ever was seen rioting. On the principle of protection—the noble Lord, Lord Harris, may not like it—the objective of the scheme is to reduce hooliganism. We believe that the best protection lies within the context of the scheme. That is why we feel that it is a benefit and not a disadvantage as it is being portrayed.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The Minister has dealt as fully as he can with the arguments. I say that sincerely. He has responded to the points that have been made to the best of his ability on the advice that he has been able to receive.

However, the Minister for Sport has said more than once that the objective of the scheme is this. The possession of the card is necessary if a disturbance takes place and there is trouble. If someone is involved in the trouble, at least he will have a membership card on him with all his details, because he will have entered legally. The authorities can nab him. I can; understand that position. One can have a football ground full of people without any identity cards and if there is no trouble that is all right. However, if there is some trouble then the people involved in it have to prove who they are.

We are led to believe from the evidence of our own eyes that old age pensioners do not get into trouble. They do not need a card. All they need to have is a form of identity that they are old age pensioners—for example, their pension book or something else. If they go into the ground as an old age pensioner and they have forgotten their card they are in the same position as anybody else who gets in. We shall come later to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on what happens in the Manchester United/Arsenal situations where something has to give. One has to allow a lot of people in without looking at their cards. That is perfectly safe provided there is no trouble. We are speaking of a group of people—old age pensioners—whose record shows that they do not get into trouble.

I have made the Minister two offers tonight. I shall make him one that he cannot refuse. I shall not press this amendment to a vote, not least because I am very good at arithmetic. However, while withdrawing this amendment we are urging the Government and their advisers to think very hard about how they can meet the points that we are making. The time can be well used between now and the next stage.

I understand the constraints on the Minister to say no more than he came prepared to say. However, there are many unhappy faces behind him. He does not see them. If they are to be driven into a Lobby simply to support the Government on issues of this kind then I believe that it diminishes the quality and worth of our decisions. There are few people who might be driven into the Lobby on the other side who could justify a belief that in 1990 it would be right and proper in this free land for old age pensioners to pay money and go through the procedure of carrying a card to watch something that they have seen all their lives. We are talking of people who have stood on the terraces at matches during the past 50 years. In the case of my noble friend Lord Wallace it has been during the past 60 years. He is proud to call himself president of the Capital Canaries. These people have attended matches for over 60 years, yet they have to go through this business.

I am sorry that the Minister has been unable to be more accommodating. He has been helpful at other stages during this evening. I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment. However, unless we have some concession on this matter between now and the next stage we may well find other means of bringing the amendment back before your Lordships.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Arran

I suggest that the Committee stage be now adjourned and begin again at 8.50 p.m.

(The Sitting was suspended from 7.49 to 8.50 p.m.)

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 50: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being membes of the scheme, of persons who are registered as disabled under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944;").

The noble Lord said: With this it may be convenient for the Committee if I take Amendment No. 53D. The Minister and his advisers will have noticed that Amendment No. 53D is a little more expansive in its definition of the disabled. The Minister referred to a willingness in a future amendment to write on the face of the Bill the kind of exemptions which we feel the FMA could usefully incorporate. He referred to the disabled, for which I am grateful. Thousands of people outside will also be grateful.

The purpose of the amendment is to try to exclude from the full rigours of the Bill a group of people for whom there is no evidence of their being remotely involved in the kind of violence which quite properly the Minister feels needs to be tackled, although we on this side of the Committee do not feel that it is being tackled in the best way.

Not all clubs have designated areas for the physically handicapped. For example, I have an excellent book here called Help: Football and the Community which was issued by the Thames Television "Help" programme. It brings together the facilities available in a number of grounds. For example, at Aldershot for disabled supporters a small number of wheelchairs are admitted by prior arrangement. At Arsenal wheelchairs are accommodated in the disabled section on the lower tier of the cast stand and commentaries are available for the blind. At Brentford, wheelchairs are accomodated in the disabled section where commentaries are available for the blind. At Chelsea wheelchairs are accomodated within the east stand complex where toilet facilities are also available. At Charlton Athletic wheelchairs are accommodated and commentaries are available for the blind. At Crystal Palace wheelchairs are admitted through the Park Road entrance free of charge and accompanying helpers may obtain seats for £2.

I do not want to weary the Committee because I am sure the Minister is well aware of this booklet. It is a disparate situation—it is not uniform. Some disabled groups of supporters are better looked after by their clubs than others. But we believe that the amendment is sensible. We do not want to see the scheme ending up by discriminating between clubs instead of between people. In other words, some clubs have good facilities and others do not.

I should like to say a little about the physically handicapped who require a special entrance. They cannot go through the turnstiles, which cause problems. That needs to be investigated. Then there are the blind and the mentally handicapped. I acknowledge that if it is the Minister's intention simply to refer to this in one or two words and then to leave it to the FMA, much consultation will obviously need to be undertaken. I should like to hear the Minister confirm to the Committee my understanding of his earlier helpful remarks that he hopes that the FMA will consult meaningfully with the various bodies such as the League for the Blind and other organisations that have special knowledge.

I have no detail of the numbers involved. I have been to Millwall, Watford and Spurs in the last few weeks to familiarise myself with background material for the Bill. All those clubs had some provision for the disabled. I await with pleasure what the Minister may be able to tell us. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

I am against the Bill. I make no secret of the fact. Also for obvious reasons I am a great supporter of the disabled, which the Committee may feel is a very strange reason for me to be against the amendment. Many years ago when my noble kinswoman was actively partaking in international paraplegic sport, I remember going to the games where a certain country in South America sent a very strong team of people in wheelchairs who, to everybody's amazement, won everything. All was revealed at the end of the week at the celebration party. The athletes who had been competing in wheelchairs all week threw their wheelchairs away when the dancing started and danced the Samba and the Conga like mad.

I am not suggesting for one moment that a crowd of yobbos will borrow wheelchairs to get into a ground and start rioting from there. But I should point out that the disabled prefer to be treated like normal people as far as possible. I do not see why they should miss out on the great advantages of this wonderful scheme like the poor old-age pensioners. It seems to me that they are being discriminated against if the Government accept this. I think that that is a bit much. I am all for genuine cases being able to get in in their wheelchairs. I think it is a good idea if they have to go through special entrances, and I am all for that. But I hope that my noble friend will consider this very carefully and not give carte blanche to all the disabled who, as I have said, like to be treated like normal people. I do not want to see positive discrimination in that way so that they do not have to do things that normal people have to do.

Lord Gisborough

I wonder whether my noble friend can enlighten me about one matter. Now that subsection (3)(c) has been included with subsection (2) as being an obligatory provision, does that not cover all the cases about which we are talking? Surely that means that the provision must be made for anybody, such as the disabled, by the football club. Is it not a waste of time going through all these individual cases?

9 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

Amendments Nos. 50 and 53D will provide mandatory exemption for people registered disabled under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 and will extend the exemptions to people registered under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 who are registered blind and who are in receipt of mobility or attendance allowances.

I have every sympathy with the sentiment behind the amendment. The Minister for Sport's working party which reviewed the principles of the scheme last summer considered the issue and recommended that exemption arrangements should be agreed for disabled people in designated areas with special access. We agree that that would be a sensible way forward. I have therefore agreed to consider spelling out on the face of the Bill that that exemption provision must be made in the scheme for disabled people in designated areas. It will be for the Football Membership Authority to draw up the appropriate arrangements for ensuring that the exemption procedure works well to the benefit of both the disabled and the club and that it is not open to abuse.

I make no apology for repeating the argument that it is the members of the national membership scheme who stand to benefit from it and not those who are exempted by it. Exemption will sometimes be desirable for good practical reasons, and that is particularly relevant for disabled people. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has pointed out, many clubs already make special arrangements to enable disabled people to gain admission to grounds without having to go through turnstiles and climb steps. Membership schemes must be drawn up in such a way as to build on existing arrangements and not cut across them. Where a disabled person does not normally go through a turnstile he should not have to do so when the membership scheme is in place.

That is the way in which we should look at the case for exempting disabled people on a practical basis rather than spelling out a list of the groups who may be exempted on the face of the Bill. If we specify a long list of different types of disabled people, some of whom can go through a turnstile but some of whom cannot, we involve the clubs in a complicated checking procedure which is of no help to them and still less to disabled people.

People who are registered under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act are issued with a green card as proof. Those who receive a mobility allowance have a notice of entitlement and a payable order book, as do people in receipt of attendance allowances. In each case they are separate documents. Under Section 21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act disabled people are issued with orange badges for their motor cars.

Clearly it would be difficult to require all those people to produce such documents to show that they are entitled to admission to a football match without a membership card. It is much better to look at the case for an exemption for disabled people in designated areas and build on the arrangements which the clubs have already taken on their own initiative.

I have said that we shall consider the case for spelling out on the face of the Bill a specific exemption for disabled people in designated areas. I shall consider further what Members of the Committee have said, but it is essential that the practical details should be left to the FMA and the clubs. I do not believe that it will be of help to present them with a long list of people, each with a separate means of identification. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Am I right in understanding that the Government will make an exemption in this case and will present the House with a form of words? The noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, indicates that that is so.

I welcome that provision. If I wished to be provocative, which is far from my mind, I should agree with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, because, even though the Minister has indicated that he is being as helpful as possible, he has repeated the extraordinary arguments about people being deprived of benefits of membership of the scheme. If he took his argument seriously he would say that, as a matter of principle, the Government would not look at the position of the disabled because in doing so they would be discriminating against them in a monstrous manner. Fortunately, it is probable that the Minister has by now lost any form of confidence in that part of the argument.

Everything that he has said is acceptable to us and I thank him. I am sure that my noble colleague will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am grateful to the Minister for spelling out the manner in which the FMA will have the major responsibility for putting the flesh on the bones. We wanted to hear the Minister say that those who can be categorised as being disabled are a special case to be dealt with outside the generality of the football membership scheme. We did not want the Minister to go any further than that and I am grateful to him. I look forward to seeing the small print—

The Earl of Onslow

Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment I should like to voice concern about the possibility of designated areas. There are some disabled people who do not have to be herded into corrals. I accept that people who cannot get out of wheelchairs cannot go on the terraces and therefore there are unavoidable acts of discrimination. However, persons who are partially blind could be with their children on the ordinary seats. I hope that that aspect will be borne in mind.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I believe that the Committee will welcome my repeating the experience at Crystal Palace. There wheelchairs are admitted through Park Road entrance free of charge and accompanying helpers may obtain seats for £2. An accompanying helper is not necessarily someone who is interested in football but he is passionately interested in the welfare and wellbeing of the disabled person.

I believe that the Minister will wish to leave the FMA to produce a scheme acceptable to the Secretary of State. Provided that there is no loophole and that it is not discriminatory, I am satisfied that the Secretary of State will consider it.

At Leyton Orient football ground, for example, a dozen wheelchairs are accommodated on the stand behind the goal. Is that the stand where they scored the goal last year? At Gillingham football ground, blind supporters are seated, when possible, within earshot of a hospital commentator. Such examples will be known by the seven or eight wise men and women who form the FMA and will be taken into account. I am grateful and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 51: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) prividing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme, of members of families to be accommodated in family enclosures;").

The noble Lord said: This is an important amendment. The Minister has often said that he wishes to return to the days when families went to football matches. My recollection is that it is only recently that families have wished to go to football matches. There may well have been cases of a father and son or other male relatives attending matches. However, it is only comparatively recently that clubs have recognised that within the community they not only have the job of winning the cup or winning the league but they also have a social job to do. Thus, the concept of family membership areas has grown. Most clubs and groups have that in one form or another.

Perhaps I may turn to Luton Town as an example. That has 1,972 seats in a family enclosure which is self-contained with its own entrances. Away families are not admitted unless they are guests of Luton. What a pity. Each member may take up to three guests, and we shall come later to the amendments which allow members of the scheme to take guests. I do not believe that I can give a better example than Luton. I am sure that there is nothing which Luton does which the Minister will say is bad. However, we shall come on to that later. At Luton there is pre-match entertainment.

Perhaps I may take Millwall as a further example. There are 500 seats in a separate section of the stand with its own entrance and there is a plan to enlarge the facilities. Reading has a section situated in D stand which is shared with season ticket holders and Coronet Club members. There is sponsorship and so on. However, there is a lack of family room in many cases and I imagine that family room is a good provision. At Watford there are 500 seats in front of the director's box and a family terrace with a capacity of 1,200 both physically separated with their own entrance, toilets and catering facilities.

I went to Watford and while looking over what is laughingly called the "directors' area" I looked into the family area. I was astounded to see not only children aged three or four who were running about in a family atmosphere but also a young mother who was rocking a baby in the pram to sleep. That was a real, unsolicited demonstration of the atmosphere of a family area where this lady had obviously been a supporter for some time and was still keen. She took along her baby and there was no problem of hostility or violence.

I can see great social benefits in that atmosphere. A great club like Watford tries to encourage schoolchildren and old age pensioners and others to go to watch the match. Perhaps I may also cite the classic case of Millwall. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Mellish, who knows more about Millwall than anyone here and is proud of it, is not in his seat. I am wearing the Millwall tie. I do not mean that there is only one tie! I wanted to strengthen my ties with Millwall! Millwall Football Club has gone to a great deal of trouble to ensure that there is a family atmosphere and uses a very nice phrase. It describes itself as, "the club which gave itself back to the community".

I hope that the Minister will be able to say something helpful on this amendment. I agree that one needs to be sure that potential hooligans are not able to use a family membership scheme in order to gain entry. As the Minister said, potential hooligans could use the season ticket device in order to gain entry through the back door. However, I do not believe that that will happen. I believe that the Minister must trust not only groups of people but also individuals who genuinely want what he wants; namely, the removal of violence from football. Practical people come to us and say, "We believe that one can trust the generality of family membership patrons". I shall not ask the Minister but I doubt whether there has been a punch-up or violence or hooliganism in or around a family membership area or participation in any such violence by its members. Therefore, I hope that the Minister may be able to help on this matter so that we can move on to more contentious amendments. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

I believe that my noble friend will be surprised that I do not think that he should accept this amendment. The reason is simple. A family area is not a sufficiently easily identifiable block of people. There is nothing to stop unaccompanied males—and it is unaccompanied males by which we are irritated—going into a family area. Those people have to be controlled. I believe that this amendment will produce a loophole by allowing that exemption. It is too loose.

As Members of the Committee will be aware, I am very much in favour of a large number of exemptions. I have spoken to certain exemptions and in a later amendment I shall speak to another block of exemptions. Those are all easily identifiable blocks of people who can be easily segregated. However, with season ticket holders and family members one gets into the problem of lack of proper identification. Therefore, I hope my noble friend will be as intelligently robust in his defence of this amendment as he has been for the rest of the Bill.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Winstanley

I understand the objections put forward to this amendment by the noble Earl; but I should like to say to him and to the Committee that if this amendment, or one similar, is not accepted it will be inevitable that those clubs who have these special family enclosures—I know a number of them—will abandon them. How else can they maintain and operate them?

I accept that there are difficulties. I have seen groups of people going into family enclosures united as a family, so far as one could tell, by total mutual hostility; but they nevertheless went in as a family. However, I am bound to say to the noble Earl that without such an amendment we are saying to all those football clubs which have reserved an area with special facilities and provision for families, "Do not provide them any more, they are not needed". That would be regrettable.

Lord Dean of Beswick

The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has made a very positive point. I take issue with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, on his views. My noble friend who moved the amendment was right to say that family areas, designated as that, are a new feature of football.

I recall watching my first matches at Maine Road, Manchester in the early 1930s. I am somewhat long in the tooth because I can remember watching Hughie Gallagher. I watched from the boys' corner, as it was termed. My father took me in there. It was a part of the ground where the terracing was slightly steeper. I believe that part of the ground is now part of the family group arrangement.

I can see no reason why the amendment should not be acceptable. I do not watch much football these days; certainly not as much as I used to. If the Bill is enacted, I will have to join the membership scheme. The last time I went to Maine Road was a few weeks ago when I took my two grandsons aged five and eight. If the Bill is enacted how do I then take my grandsons to a match?

I should like to know that there is a part of the ground which is completely covered and without regulations having to be met. As my noble friend Lord Graham said, there is a developing theme within football to encourage family activity. Wherever it has been encouraged there has been a diminution in violence and aggravation. This is because families are families. They may argue among themselves but it is usually after the match and when they get home.

On that basis, if the Minister cannot give my noble friend a positive answer perhaps he can indicate that that facet is worth looking at. It would be delightful if we could encourage the growth of a family atmosphere in football. Families should be able to go to a match and make it, so to speak, a social occasion. As the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said, if the Bill is left unamended, it could act as a brake and a discouragement to the clubs who are doing their best to involve families and eliminate the problems now existing in football. I hope the Minister will be sympathetic in his reply.

Lord Monkswell

In supporting this amendment I find myself in a somewhat curious position. The only reason for supporting the amendment is if the Bill goes through to become an Act and we end up with identity cards for football supporters. One aspect that we must bear in mind is that if the Bill is enacted we must set up a scheme which will not destroy the game of football as we know it, largely because of economic reasons and falling gates.

A couple of months ago my son had his 10th birthday. As a treat he wanted to see Manchester United play. I went to the ground to buy the tickets and I noticed that there was a family enclosure at Old Trafford. I specifically did not buy tickets for that enclosure because I felt that my 10 year-old son would want to obtain the full flavour of a First Division match without being segregated or discriminated against. Therefore, we bought ordinary stand tickets and had a terrific afternoon. Millwall were the opponents and Manchester United beat them. Everyone enjoyed the match.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Except Millwall.

Lord Monkswell

"Except Millwall" somebody says. On one side of us we had hardened Manchester United supporters and on the other we had very strong supporters of Millwall who had come up from London to watch the game. At the end of the match there was general agreement that it was a good one. There was plenty of activity with goals scored and that kind of thing. I am sure that the Millwall supporters were a little downcast because they had lost, but we saw a bloody good game of football.

The point I am getting at is that I took my son on the basis that I could buy a couple of tickets and go to the match. If I had had to go through the process of getting identity cards for myself and my son, there is no way that he and I would have gone to the match. I would have said "I am sorry, son, we shall have to watch it on the box and that's it". Manchester United would have been denied the support of we two at least. I suspect that that will apply to many thousands of supporters of British football who go maybe only once every 10 years. That is my record.

I hope that my sons might take a little more interest in football. The point is that unless we write into the Bill exemptions such as the one that this amendment calls for, we will deny the game of football to ad hoc spectators; the father who takes his son along and develops an interest in the game. It may be that in future years the son will take out a full subscription or an annual season ticket. If it is to become law there must be some exemptions from this scheme to enable the casual football supporter to go to matches. That is why I support this amendment.

The Earl of Arran

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggested that the Minister might look on this amendment in a kind way. I hope to demonstrate that we look on it in a kind, practical and sensible way. As the Committee already knows, my noble friend has explained the Government's general position on exemptions and why we accept that there should be mandatory provision for exemptions in the scheme. We have undertaken to consider placing specific categories of exempted spectators on the face of the Bill.

We are not convinced that families in family enclosures should be one of those specific categories of exemption. We are aware that this was one of the possibilities, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, said, recommended by the Minister for Sport's working party in its report of last November. We do not believe that it is at all clear that the way to encourage the family audience for football matches is to exempt family groups from the scheme. Quite the reverse: it is by realising the benefits which the scheme offers that we will encourage families into football matches. By ensuring that the hooligan is kept out of football, law-abiding spectators will be able to watch matches in peace. That is a vital consideration in the context of families going to football matches.

There is also the matter of how you define and distinguish family groups. Arrangements would have to be made to ensure that hooligans—perhaps even people who have been banned from membership, though I know that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, doubts that—cannot use the family group to beat the system and attend designated matches. At too many matches we see aggressive and provocative behaviour, with the threat of violence never far below the surface. That is the view of the police. Let us remember too the segregation—

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I ask the Minister on what basis he says that that is the view of the police?

The Earl of Arran

I firmly understand that that is the view of the police. Perhaps I may continue with the points that I wish to make.

Let us remember the segregation arrangements at the ground; the video surveillance at the grounds and the huge police resources devoted to football. There are about 5,000 officers deployed on match-day Saturdays. None of this makes for the kind of environment and atmosphere that is likely to attract families. The scheme will mean that we have a sure way of keeping hooligans out of football. The atmosphere at the match can improve and watching the game can become a more pleasant and enjoyable experience.

Far from being exempt, families will wish to be part of this process. We welcome measures designed to attract a family audience to football matches. Wihout the protection of the national membership scheme family enclosures offer one of the few ways to improve the atmosphere at games. The membership scheme will provide an effective means of keeping troublemakers away. The scheme will bring real benefits not only in terms of banning the hooligan and improving the general atmosphere at matches, but also in the commercial opportunities it will present to the clubs. We want to see the clubs seize those opportunities. It is in their interests and in the interests of members of the scheme that they should do so. I hope that clubs will take a positive approach to developing the scheme.

There is not the same practical argument in relation to families as there is in relation to the disabled in designated areas. There is no practical reason why family groups should not go through turnstiles like everyone else. At the same time there will be nothing to stop the clubs exempting children or even parents and children together from any charge made for the scheme. I imagine that many clubs may wish to do so. As to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, clubs would still be able to have family enclosures. Families would go to them as members of the scheme rather than, as now, as members of the enclosure.

In conclusion, families will wish to join the scheme and enjoy the benefits membership will bring. I hope that noble Lords will share and understand these sentiments and feel in their wisdom able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I do not know who has briefed the Minister but the noble Earl appears to have misled the Committee regarding the views of the police on the Bill. I have been at Old Trafford and at Maine Road when the attendance has been around 50,000. The police superintendents at those games were absolutely emphatic that they had total control of the situation.

The Minister said that the police had indicated that violence is always just below the surface. I have never heard that from chief superintendents in charge at those grounds. That is a slanderous remark to make. It is not true to say that violence is just below the surface at those football grounds. I could stand in the crowd at Old Trafford, Maine Road or Elland Road and be completely safe. Most football clubs are trying to eliminate standing room at grounds and to provide seating for all spectators. That in itself tends to eliminate friction and violence. The Minister is on dangerous ground when he refers to the views of the police. I should like to know who said that violence is simmering just below the surface at football grounds. I have not noticed it when I have been at football grounds. I have also walked around outside the grounds.

I went recently to Old Trafford as an ordinary spectator. I left my home in Denton on the outskirts of Manchester by bus at a quarter to one. I went to the centre of Manchester and caught the football bus, paid my return fare, went to Old Trafford, watched the game, stayed a while afterwards and then got the football bus back to the centre of Manchester. Then I had to get a bus from Manchester to Denton and by then it was half-past six. It took nearly five hours to watch a football match and get home.

Every football bus that I went on was completely full of bona fide spectators. Nobody knew who I was and at no time did I ever think there was any threat of violence from any of those lads on those buses. So it is an absolute slander for the Government to put that forward here today as part of their defence for what they are trying to do.

I did that five or six weeks ago. It took me five hours to do it and I never felt in danger, intimidated or under any duress whatever. If we are to listen to the Government's case, they should not quote the police when they cannot produce the police who are supposed to have said certain things. That is an indication that the Government are misusing somebody's statement. It is certainly not coming from the senior police who are in charge at football grounds. They are content with what they have. From the way in which the record has improved lately, it is obvious that they are doing their job and they could well get on with it without being trammelled by the additional duties that they will have to perform because of this Bill.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I wish that the Prime Minister was sitting next to the Minister on the Front Bench. What on earth would she say? We have had lectures, we have had statements—and, as a matter of fact, I agree with them—about the value of family life. Indeed the Prime Minister, rightly in my view, believes that the family unit is the best unit we have and the unit most likely to instil and encourage good behaviour, both in husbands and indeed in children. Yet here we have the Government rejecting the opportunity to write in an amendment which would improve the Bill in a way which the Prime Minister herself is bound to agree with.

Indeed, what the Government ought to be seeking to do is not to discourage this sort of thing but to encourage it; to encourage attendance at football matches by families. Not only would those families, because they would be in the family unit, be well behaved, whatever their age or sex, but they would encourage others and be an example to others to behave well and properly also.

So I hope that the noble Earl, if he will not listen to this side of the Committee, will bear in mind what the Prime Minister believes about the sanctity and value of families keeping together, of families doing things together, and about the family unit being the prime source of decency in this country. If he does that, then I think he will accept this amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I wonder whether the noble Earl will help us. I asked him specifically to justify the statement he made about the police. Will he now do so?

The Earl of Arran

To take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, he is of course absolutely right about the family unit. But the whole point of this scheme is to encourage the family unit to return to the game of football. We hope that by this Bill that is exactly what will happen. As I said before, clubs will still be able to have family enclosures. The only difference is that families will go to them as members of the scheme rather than, as now, as members of the enclosure. To take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Before the noble Earl does that, does he not realise that to have to enter the membership scheme at a cost of perhaps £3, £4 or £5 for each member of the family is a discouragement? What is more, the bureaucracy of joining the scheme is also a discouragement to the family and to the family unit. That is why the Government should give serious consideration to the amendment.

The Earl of Arran

The answer is that it would not be as great as the discouragement of violence. As I said originally, the cost of taking a family into a designated football ground might be helped by some relaxation of the club rules.

I regret the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, took the view that he did of the police. There is no doubt that the police view is that at too many matches we see aggressive and provocative behaviour with the threat of violence, which I repeat again is never far below the surface. That is borne out by the deployment of some 5,000 police officers to control football supporters on an average Saturday. Can anyone say with confidence that if we took the police and the segregation fences away there would be no trouble? I do not believe that that would be the case.

Lord Dean of Beswick

The Minister repeated in his answer to me what he said to my noble colleague who moved the amendment. Does he say that if the Bill becomes an Act the need for the police will be dramatically reduced? As a Mancunian—a northerner—who has also been a Yorkshire Member of Parliament, I have to tell the Minister that the only time that I feel threatened during the later years of my life is travelling on the Underground at night in London, not watching football matches at Leeds, Old Trafford in Manchester or even Arsenal. I have been to Arsenal and I have never felt threatened there.

It is strange that the Government should be hell bent on saying that violence is always just below the surface at a football match. If the Minister dares to travel home from here at night on the London Underground he will find that violence is not just below the surface; it is on the surface. He may well want to transfer the police from football matches to that goal.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, who knows how police forces operate from his duties as a Minister in the department, asked the Minister a question. Will the Minister tell us which police force he is talking about, because I have heard no evidence from the police who control the ground which probably has the biggest average gate outside Glasgow in the United Kingdom? I do not know where the Minister gets his information from. I do not believe that it comes from any of the associations which represent the different grades in the police. I have not heard the information before. He must produce hard evidence and name the people or associations that have made the assertion. The Minister should not say in a blasé way that the police have said a certain thing. It has not been said. The information has been introduced without any names or evidence to back it up. It does neither the Minister nor the Government's case any good to proceed along those lines.

The Earl of Onslow

I should like to support my noble friend a little. First, there is no doubt that there has been violence at football matches. There can be no argument about that. The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, has put forward a good argument against my noble friend's refusal to accept the amendment. He is making a bad case. It is almost as bad a case as the case my noble friend is making for turning down a bad idea. My noble friend has produced all the wrong arguments. We have known each other since about 1951. I still hope that he will resist the amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I asked a specific question of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, about the attitude of the police. He then answered a totally different question. If the noble Earl does not know the position then his advisers will and I now urge him to consult them. I am asking him again: in relation to the statement he made about the position of the police, from whom did he hear this? Who told the Government that that was the position of the police? The noble Earl made the statement, he must now justify it. Will he please do so?

The Earl of Arran

Perhaps I may specifically answer the question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. We see the Bill as offering a prospect of reducing the amount of police time and effort devoted to policing football matches.

Yes, the threat of violence appears elsewhere but we are dealing especially here with football. The Association of Chief Police Officers believes that too much violence exists at football matches. Yes, the association has some reservations about how the scheme will work in practice but no doubt about the nature of the problem. Why else should there be segregation, CCTV, escorts of crocodiles of away supporters to protect them from attack? The problem exists. The Bill tackles that problem.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Earl has now told us for the first time, and only after being asked an embarrassing number of questions, that he has received a letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers. I think we are all extremely interested to know what the reservations are. The noble Earl has been good enough to inform us about the reservations of the police in regard to the Bill, which is a public order Bill. It is truly astonishing. I repeat that if the matter had been handled by my former department, even though we might well have had deep differences of opinion, at least the department would have been able to answer simple questions of this nature.

I should like the noble Earl, if he would be good enough, to answer this question: what is the character of the reservations held by the Association of Chief Police Officers to which he has just referred? We are entitled to know the answer. All the more so, because earlier the noble Earl was trying to tell us that there was strong police support for the Government's position. Now we hear that there are reservations on the part of the police. I very much hope that the noble Earl will be candid with the Committee and give us the information to which I believe we are entitled.

If he cannot give us the information this evening, perhaps he could place a copy of the letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers in the Library of the House so that we can all be well aware of the reservations to which the noble Earl has just referred. He has just made a major statement and I hope that he will be able to assist us.

The Earl of Arran

The reservations concern the ability to move people through turnstiles without risk of congestion and disorder outside. The police are happy to be consulted about the mechanics of the scheme so that these concerns are addressed.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I apologise to the Committee for continuing on this matter, but is that the only reservation introduced by the Association of Chief Police Officers? Going through the turnstiles is of course an important issue. Obviously, if the system does not work, there could be major public disorder. Will the noble Earl tell me whether that is the only reservation made by the Association of Chief Police Officers, or are there others? I should be very grateful if he could help us.

Lord Hylton

Before the noble Earl replies, may I ask whether or not it is the case that there are widespread fears that violence which is prevented within the football grounds will simply be transferred to the adjoining streets? That will be very much to the detriment of the inhabitants of houses in those streets, even though it may be of benefit to the spectators inside the ground.

Lord Gisborough

What has this got to do with families? Are we not talking about the family? We have gone right off the subject.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I am sure the noble Earl will be assisted by his noble friend in answering the question which some of us have put to him. We have been discussing a question involving public order at football matches. The noble Earl has been good enough to indicate for the first time that he has in his possession a letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers. He has now told us one of the reservations of that body. I have asked him, I hope, a simple question. Are there other reservations, and if so, what are they?

The Earl of Arran

I understand that the only other reservation that the association has is the possibility of the scheme being abused.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

What exactly does that mean? By whom will it be abused? I do not understand what that means.

The Earl of Arran

That stands for itself. The abuse refers to people trying to get into grounds when they are not legally entitled to do so.

Lord Dean of Beswick

The Minister indicated, in more than one reply, that when the Bill becomes an Act it will result in a diminution of the police forces needed outside and inside football grounds. How does the Minister make such a deduction when new laws are coming into operation and the only people who can apply them or see that they are observed are the police forces in the areas concerned? The Minister must understand that he is standing experience on its head.

We are in a situation where the police will be involved in applying the law in certain circumstances which could involve a substantial number of people outside a football ground. The Minister is saying that the police will accomplish that task with a smaller force than they have at present. Whenever has a law been made, involving the police as the direct contact point, that has diminished the role of the policeman and not increased it? If the Government are proceeding on that basis, once again the premise is wrong. If the Bill becomes an Act, I can only see it involving the individual policeman at a ground in far more activity because no one else will have the authority to deal with the law that is being broken. Whoever is advising the Minister is advising him grossly incorrectly. However, do the Minister and his advisers draw the conclusion that at a very busy time, perhaps on a Saturday afternoon at a football match where the police presence is crucial as the contact point with the public, the role of the policeman will diminish and a smaller force will be needed? To me that is absolutely bonkers.

The Earl of Arran

I am disappointed that the noble Lord takes such a pessimistic view about this matter. If the legislation is to work properly, one of its byproducts will be that eventually, and hopefully in not too long a time, the number of police deployed on a Saturday at a designated football match will decrease. Hopefully, the figure of 5,000 will come down.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I was going to develop a number of other points earlier, but I thought it helpful to have the clarification which the noble Earl has given us concerning a communication of some kind that he has received from the Association of Chief Police Officers which indicates concern on two issues only. I hope the noble Earl will be quick to correct me if I am wrong. The first is an anxiety about what could happen at the turnstiles. The second concerns abuse of the scheme, by which is meant people illicitly entering a ground. Those are the only two concerns expressed by the Association of Chief Police Officers. I put it to the noble Earl that if I am wrong I look forward to him correcting me and I shall of course give way. Otherwise, I shall continue with what I propose to say.

I have a further point to make. As has just been pointed out, the noble Earl, Lord Arran, at the beginning of his speech drew attention to the number of police officers who are used every Saturday afternoon. He gave the number as 5,000. The implication of what he said is that following the introduction of the scheme fewer than those 5,000 police officers will be involved because all will be tranquility. Is that a professional judgment made by the police? Has the Minister been told by the Association of Chief Police Officers that that is their view, or is it the view of politicians in the Department of the Envronment whose policing skills are probably rather limited?

I should be grateful if the noble Earl could assist the Committee on those two matters.

The Earl of Arran

I understand that discussions are taking place with the Association of Chief Police Officers through the Home Office on the whole problem. It is hoped that those discussions will produce sensible ideas. Discussions are currently under way with the ACPO.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Once again the noble Earl has declined to answer the question which I asked him. I apologise for troubling the Committee, but when a Minister consistently declines to answer a question one assumes that there may be some explanation for that. He was the man who introduced the letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers. It was the noble Earl who referred to reservations being expressed by the police commanders of England and Wales. Until he told us we were unaware of those reservations.

During the course of what has become a protracted cross-examination, the noble Earl has said, first, that police anxieties are centred on admission to the ground and delays at the turnstiles, and, secondly, he has referred to abuse of the scheme. Those are his words, not mine. I am asking him not whether valuable discussions are taking place between the police and the Home Office—I am sure that they are. I am asking him a different question. Are there more than two issues on which the police have expressed reservations? The answer is either yes or no. Which is it?

The Earl of Radnor

Perhaps we can get back to the amendment as it is written instead of listening to endless Second Reading speeches which are quite out of place.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

This is disgraceful. A Minister of the Crown has made a statement which he has been asked to justify. Will he do so or will he not?

The Earl of Onslow

This is not the time for the noble Earl to answer such questions. We are talking about families being exempted from the scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has a valid point but it is not relevant at this stage. Otherwise he could go on to discuss drainage in Nigeria or trips to the moon.

The whole situation could get totally out of hand. Please can we keep to the point rather than chasing after hares. The noble Lord has a point but this is not the time to raise it.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The gallantry of the noble Earl is, as always, commendable. However, the Committee has heard a statement made by the representative of the Government about the attitude of the Association of Chief Police Officers. He is the man who introduced the argument. He is the man who said that there were anxieties in relation to two limited areas of policy. I have asked him a simple question. Are those the only concerns or are there others?

The Earl of Arran

Perhaps I can simplify the issue and bring this debate to an end by saying that if the Association of Chief Police officers has more than two reservations I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Furthermore, I shall place a copy of my letter in the Library.

Lord Dean of Beswick

In that case, why did the Minister introduce into the discussion of this amendment the inference that the government proposals had the total support of senior police officers? From what he has just said it is obvious that that is not the case.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Perhaps I may be allowed to speak to my own amendment. The past 36 minutes have not been wasted. They have revealed a degree of uncertainty in the Government's case that must worry the Minister's supporters behind him—and there are still some left, although not many—as to his ability to satisfy perfectly simple and straightforward questions.

The two noble Lords who spoke from the government side are quite right: this is a debate about family membership schemes. I shall not go over matters that have quite properly been introduced. When the debates are read, the interventions of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and my noble friend Lord Dean will reveal considerable disquiet. That will not be the end of the matter. We shall need to study the debate and we have our own methods of ascertaining the veracity of all that has been said, much of which is very disturbing.

Perhaps I may take the Minister back to the central premise upon which so much of what he and his colleague have said this evening is based. That is the report of the Minister's working party to which we must pay due regard. When we discussed season ticket holders, the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, was quite happy to quote from that report which said that, in its view, season ticket holders were not a satisfactory group to be excluded; in other words, the report of the FMA working party was sensible and sound. However, on the issue of designated family areas, the report said: The working party considered, in the interest of encouraging families to attend matches, that children under 16, accompanied by an adult member of the scheme, could be exempt from the scheme provided that:

  1. (i) they view, the match from a designated family enclosure; and
  2. (ii) there is direct access to that family enclosure, not allowing transfer to other areas of the ground".
That is what the Minister's own report said. I should tell the Minister who will answer the debate that that is what the Minister for Sport has said in another place and in other ways. He is on the record as saying that he favours an exemption that will allow such a step. When the Minister replies, he must tell the House why there has been a change of ministerial thinking in that matter. It is a change for the worse. When we look at what we are asked to do, we see that the Minister has fallen back on loopholes and attempts to deceive when it is unnecessary to do so.

We are asking the Minister to encourage families. It is not a case of bringing back families. That was the very first point that I made 50 minutes ago. It is a myth to talk about bringing back a family atmosphere; the creation of family membership areas is a modern phenomenon. It has come about only in the past few years—and not thanks to any government initiative, either a Labour or a Conservative government, but thanks to the way in which social cohesion has developed. Football clubs have recognised that it is right and proper to create a family atmosphere. The creation of such an atmosphere is to the credit of the clubs, which I believe have been given far too little credit for what they have been doing over the past 10 years and, more importantly, over the past three or four years.

Let me take a look at the document that I have received from Watford. That club has family enclosures, a family terrace and a family block. It has achieved that by itself. The Minister has an opportunity to rescue what I believe has been a sad episode in debating this Bill. If there is any merit in this House having an opportunity to discuss and influence matters, surely the Minister must recognise that there is a case to be answered or at least examined. I have before me a great deal of detail from a great many clubs with which I shall not weary the House because we have already spent a long time on this amendment.

However, the Minister must recognise that on this side of the Chamber we are becoming more and more exasperated by the reliance of ministerial spokesmen on arguments that we do not accept. The position is bad and becoming worse. The argument is not only that something should be done but that it should be done through this scheme. When we talk of individual incidents of hooliganism that the Minister says we want to take out of football, we are talking about one spectator out of 10,000. We are talking, in an average match, of one spectator being taken out of the ground—either ejected or told to get lost—or arrested and perhaps subsequently convicted of an offence. We are talking of one person in 10,000. We are asking the Minister this question. Why subject various groups of people to payment for a card, and the necessity of carrying it?

More importantly, we have to come to the part of the Bill—I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is in his place—when we look at some of the aspects of punishment for the alleged heinous crime of trying to get into a football match without a membership card. We shall then enter a whole new ball game with this Bill.

A noble Lord said that this is not the time to raise certain matters: that we are somewhat limited in the amount of time we have to deal with the Bill properly. I am not talking in terms of the Government harrying us, but of our sense of propriety in taking a reasonable time. Millions of people outside the Chamber—with no disrespect to other Members of the Chamber—rely on Members on this side of the Chamber to put their case. If, when we put their case, we receive the answers that we have done, we are obliged not to leave the matter alone. At the end of the day, we recognise that the Minister has his weapons and his opportunities. We shall not become upset about that. However, we need to put all the points.

When one talks in terms of arrests., we already know that the Minister for Sport has had to backtrack upon published information which he gave to the other House and which was publicised internationally. Already some of the statistics that he gave have had to be revised. The Minister's statistical record therefore is wrong. The evidence about the people who attend the matches is wrong. Let me tell the Minister about spectator incidents. Those are events which cause everyone to realise not that one man or woman has been taken out but that there has been an incident. In 1980 there were 47 during the whole season; in 1981, 24; in 1982, 42; in 1983, 42; in 1984, 41; in1985, 41; in 1986, 20; in 1987, 19; in 1988, 19, and to date this year there have been seven. I say that because the position is improving, thanks to the better policing, the better expenditure of money on closed circuit television and better segregation.

In my view, the clubs have been treated very badly by the Government by their failure to acknowledge that they have been working hard. They have spent millions of pounds. The football trusts have a first-class record of aid and assistance.

I do not believe that the Minister will alter what he has said. I do not think that he has the power or authority to do so. The sad aspect that Members must reflect upon is that on these Bills the Minister comes into the Chamber with a brief and is unable or unwilling in the face of prepared arguments to consider what we are saying—not to concede, but to consider. That is very offensive.

On the basis that there will be a scheme—and that has been accepted by the House at Second Reading—we are trying to improve it. We are asking the Minister and his colleagues to listen to what we are saying. It is very sad. The Minister may have made some of the debates more protracted. If all that we have is not victories but opportunities to present arguments, then he is driving us to put those cases forward and not to let go until we are satisfied that there is nothing more to achieve. I am very disappointed with the reply of the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 52: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing for the admission as spectators at designated football matches, without their being members of the scheme of school parties;").

The noble Lord said: I can short-circuit this debate because at an earlier stage the Minister made a reference which I want to acknowledge again was very helpful in starting us off in a reasonable temper. That has slightly evaporated as the night has gone on. He had in mind that he would produce an amendment of this kind to lay on the face of the Bill the obligation on the FMA to consider bringing in exemptions for, among others, school parties. Many clubs have special facilities for encouraging schools to visit the clubs and, what is more important, players and others to do with the clubs to go out into the schools. That is a worthy objective.

The school party will obviously be accompanied by adults. The Minister was right that any deviation from the scheme needs to carry with it someone accepting responsibility for ensuring that that deviation is adhered to. He made a point about guests and I repeat that. If he says simply that he has in mind writing on the face of the Bill that school parties, or a phrase which means school parties, can be considered by the FMA, we need to know how that is to be done, but the manner will be left to the FMA. I beg to move.

The Earl of Arran

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, will find the Government in a somewhat more conciliatory mood on this amendment, purely because we think it is a sensible amendment. I should make it quite clear why we believe this is a sensible amendment.

We have explained the Government's general position on exemptions. We accept that there should be mandatory provision for exemptions in the scheme and we will consider including specific categories on the face of the Bill. This amendment would provide for the mandatory exemption of school parties from the national membership scheme. We have sympathy with the principle behind this amendment, but we have to consider carefully how school parties can best be catered for.

I think the Committee might agree that, in order to ensure that the arrangements for school parties work smoothly and are not open to abuse, it would be sensible for the clubs and their local schools to discuss such issues as arrangements for entry, how the school party would best be accommodated within the ground and what supervision it should have. This latter aspect strikes us as particularly important. Arrangements for catering for school parties under the scheme must spell out that the parties should be properly organised and supervised. Clearly it would be unacceptable for groups of young people to come together in unorganised groups and be considered a "school party" in this context.

Arrangements for school parties to attend matches will not present a problem for the club or the schools. They must of course be made in advance. That is how arrangements are currently handled.

For these reasons, we do not think that it would be appropriate to spell out an exemption arrangement for school parties on the face of the Bill. We are not for one moment suggesting that school parties are gangs of hooligans. Of course we want to encourage young people to attend matches and see the club and its neighbouring schools develop good relationships. It is in everyone's interest that this should happen. We welcome clubs making arrangements to make the match an attractive day out for schoolchildren. From the club's point of view it is very important to remember that today's young people are the adult spectators of tomorrow if the game has the right appeal.

We have undertaken to consider placing guests of the club on the face of the Bill as a mandatory category of exemption. I suggest to the Committee that this is the route by which the organised school party could best be fitted into the framework of the scheme. Clubs and schools could work out appropriate arrangements and the clubs could make the members of the school trip temporary members for the day. Though a matter for the clubs, we envisage that temporary membership cards would be issued free. Certainly we would expect clubs to take this view in respect of organised school parties. As with all temporary membership arrangements the club will be responsible for ensuring that arrangements for school parties work properly and are not open to abuse.

We commend that approach to the Committee and hope that Members will see it as a reasonable basis on which to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Does that reply mean that a Government amendment will be tabled on Report? I welcome the noble Earl's general approach, but at the end of his speech I was entirely mystified as to what happens next. What will happen next?

The Earl of Arran

We have already made that particular commitment, in case there is doubt in the noble Lord's mind.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The noble Earl says "commitment" and I understand he is saying that school parties will be excluded from the membership scheme. He then says that he does not want that to appear on the face of the Bill and that maybe we shall have a mandatory exclusion.

I admit that we are only beginning to fight our way through the tortuous language of the Bill. However, at the end of the noble Earl's speech I was entirely confused about what will happen next. Is the noble Earl saying that on the basis of his oral undertaking that will be the end of the matter, or is he saying that at the Report stage he will bring forward a proposal which we shall be minded to accept? What is the case?

The Earl of Arran

As I have already said, they will be fitted into the framework of the scheme.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

What does that mean? The noble Earl does not appear to understand his own brief. I am asking him as courteously as possible to explain an answer to a relatively simple question. If the noble Lord, Lord Graham, withdraws his amendment, as I am sure he will wish to do, what will happen next? Will there be any provision in the Bill dealing with the issue, or will it be left entirely on the basis of the noble Earl's statement?

It appears that the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, knows the answer to the question. If the noble Earl cannot follow the point perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, will explain the answer.

The Earl of Arran

I should like to make absolutely clear what was said by my noble friend on the first date as regards exemptions. He said that the scheme should provide for school parties as guests of the club. The Government will consider an amendment to refer specifically to guests of the club to be tabled at Report stage. By that means we propose to deal with school parties. I hope that the issue is now clear to the noble Lord, Lord Harris.

Lord Winstanley

I do not wish to create difficulties at this late stage. I have always understood the word "guest" to imply someone who does not pay. It is my clear knowledge that many football clubs make a great deal of money out of school parties. If they are suddenly to be told that school parties are guests some will have second thoughts and say that they are not guests but must pay in the same way as everyone else.

What does the noble Earl mean by "guests"? Does he put that interpretation on the word "guests"? Are they to be non-paying or can they pay in the same way as other people?

The Earl of Arran

We are not speaking of guests per se but of guest cards.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I made a note of what the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, said earlier. I noted four categories of exemption from among the eight or nine which we requested and they were the disabled, guests, foreign and school parties. That was my note of the groups which would be taken care of.

I understand that the Minister is saying that school parties will be brought within the ambit of guests. How that is achieved is another matter. Is the Minister saying that those who can be categorised as guests will be in the gift of the FMA, or is the FMA to be told by the Minister who it should include and who it should exclude from the list of guests?

That begs the question: what is the purpose of the FMA and groups of people wishing to be considered? I believe that the Minister should say more about the freedom of the FMA to interpret the meaning of the word "guest". We on this side saw it as a concession that rather than have groups of people fully exempt, the club should take the responsibility for issuing guest cards to certain categories. I should like the Minister to say that that means freedom as to who and how many should be included and the conditions of inclusion. We do not want the Minister to tell us that all those details will be given to the FMA.

We know that whatever the FMA does, its scheme must be approved by the Secretary of State. Therefore, perhaps I should ask the Minister why he does not let the FMA present its scheme to cater for what it believes is wanted and needed. If the Minister then wishes to strike out or amend the Bill, he can do so. We do not want good men and women with some sense of maturity and responsibility to sit down and look at each other and say, "The Minister has told us what powers we have and has circumscribed them in such a way." This is a genuine plea to the Minister.

At the end of the day, we know that under Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill there is an overriding authority given to the Government through the Secretary of State. Therefore, why should not the FMA decide how to deal with this matter? I believe that the Minister can be helpful.

10.15 p.m.

The Earl of Arran

As I believe my noble friend said on previous occasions, we want the scheme to be run by football for football. This amendment concerns schoolchildren and therefore will not be under the aegis of the Secretary of State. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, says, this matter is to be in the gift of the FMA. As regards the technical points and details he mentioned, those will be for the FMA to decide.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

As I understand it, we are now quite clear—and I hope that the noble Earl will follow this question because I have perhaps been rather dense—that the Secretary of State will have no role in this matter whatever. Those were his words. This will be a matter exclusively for the FMA. Is that right?

The Earl of Arran

I believe that it is highly unlikely that the Secretary of State will disagree because here we are dealing with schoolchildren.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

That is a totally different answer. The noble Earl must do more homework on his briefs before he speaks to the Committee. He has now contradicted himself within the space of 30 seconds. He said that the Secretary of State will have no role in the matter and it will be up to the FMA. When pressed he gave a totally different answer; namely, that he feels it is highly unlikely that the Secretary of State will interfere. The noble Earl does his department no good at all by giving conflicting answers within the space of between 30 and 60 seconds. I again ask him—and I should be grateful if he will be good enough to confirm this—whether his latest answer; namely, that the Secretary of State could intervene, is correct or do we go to his first answer in which he said that the Secretary of State will have no role in the matter? Which of those answers does he wish us to take seriously?

The Earl of Arran

The FMA will present the scheme for the Secretary of State's approval. I repeat that it is highly unlikely that the Secretary of State will involve himself in this particular recommendation.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

We have to be satisfied with what the Minister said. However, that is not satisfactory because the FMA, which is the league and the association, will listen very carefully to what the Minister said. The FMA is not irresponsible and is not out to wreck the Bill or the scheme. Because it has to have a relationship with the Minister and other Ministers—and it may very well be those who are answering here tonight—it will not wish to make such a flagrant abuse of its opportunity that the Secretary of State will strike out something. Therefore, I accept that it is highly unlikely that the Secretary of State will want to interfere in the method and the manner whereby school parties are able to go to the grounds.

We ought to be absolutely clear, too, that the Minister and his colleagues must not try to dot every "i" and cross every "t" of every aspect of the Bill. The noble Earl appears to wish to intervene. He does not! Well, I repeat what I was saying and that will teach him. If the Minister is saying that this is an area that he believes the Secretary of State can have confidence in leaving to the FMA, that is satisfactory.

There are other areas where the Secretary of State and the Minister for Sport have demonstrated their great reluctance to trust highly responsible people. I refer to the administrators of football in this country. A chink has appeared in the whole paraphernalia of argument that we have had tonight. It appears to me that the FMA has fair licence to produce a sensible scheme accepting the caveat, as the Minister said, that when the scheme is produced and the nitty-gritty is looked at it has to be approved by the Secretary of State.

Sadly, Parliament will play no part in the matter because it is up to the Secretary of State. We should have liked to see the scheme because there are parliamentarians in both Houses who have a genuine interest and will want to make a genuine input. However, the Minister has done his best and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 53: Page 4, line 6, at end insert— ("(aa) providing for the admission as spectators, without their being members of the scheme, of women and of men aged 40 or over;").

The noble Earl said: As the Committee will know, I support the general thrust of this Bill. Despite assertions to the contrary, we know that there is a football hooligan problem. We know that if we can keep those who are involved in hooliganism away from football matches football hooliganism should be diminished. Therefore, it seems totally logical to me that the target—those who should be asked to carry identity cards—should be those people who are likely to commit football hooligan offences.

The Government take the view that everyone will rush out to buy identity cards because the scheme is the best thing since sliced bread or Sky Television. We know that is not the case. We know that the scheme is to stop problems and troubles. In that I am totally, completely and utterly on the side of the Government. Therefore, I ask myself how I can help Her Majesty's Government.

It seems to me that the way to do that is to cause the minimum amount of aggro to the law-abiding football attending populace. If my noble friend—I say that in its personal sense since my noble friend Lady Serota is not here—were to go to a football match she is unlikely to be a football hooligan. My great aunt Thea is unlikely to be a football hooligan—she is 101 this year. I do not think that three-year-old babies being rocked in prams in the family enclosure are, if they are feminine, likely to be football hooligans. On the whole, I do not think that the feminine sex takes the view that it is fun going down the streets putting in the boot and generally behaving with mayhem and in the riotous way by which we are all deeply offended. Therefore, I suggest that women should be excluded from the necessity to join the scheme. The minimum amount of administration involved the more likely the scheme is to succeed.

The Committee will have noticed that my amendment says: "and of men aged 40 or over". In his opening remarks concerning the first amendment my noble friend Lord Hesketh intimated the difficulties in recognising men over and under 40. I believe that the people that are likely to cause offence are aged between 15 and 30. It is in that age group that aggressive tendencies are found. By the age of 30 they have either learnt to go straight or they have become sophisticated criminals and somebody else is employed to be beastly on their behalf. I accept that the over-40 argument is not possible and I do not wish to speak to that part of my amendment.

I seriously make this plea. Women used to be known as the fair and gentle sex. Perhaps in the age of women's lib they would not like to claim that privilege. It is established that on the whole they do not indulge in such behaviour. I hope that women can be excluded. I am sure that my noble friend will read a brief telling me of the terrific advantages for a woman in buying an identity card. I shall not believe a word of it. I beg to move.

Lord Gisborough

I oppose this amendment. My noble friend said that most girls are fair and gentle, and I believe that he is right. But some are not. The girls that are bad can be very vicious. It is a very small proportion but it should not be underestimated. We have been through an era of anti-sexism when women have insisted on being equal in all respects to men. They must accept the consequences. I do not believe that they can be equal on the one hand and unequal when it suits them.

Identification is very difficult. When I see two seagulls I am never sure which is male and which is female. In some extraordinary way they themselves manage to know which is which. Many of the youngsters that I see I have no idea what they are. The fact that they may have long hair is no indication. Their clothes are unisex; dress does not give their sex away. Very often they are unidentifiable. In any event it would be the easiest thing in the world for young men to come in looking like women. I oppose this amendment.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

It might be as well at this stage if I say a few words about my Amendment No. 53C. The Committee will note that it says: providing for the admission as spectators, without their being members of the scheme, of female persons")". I am sorry if that sounds a little hard, but I was advised that it was probably the best way of tabling the amendment so that there can be no shadow of doubt as to what is meant. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that the reason I have tabled this amendment is that I believe that his amendment may be easily overcome. In the first place, what is a woman; when does a teenager start being a woman and when does a woman stop being a teenager? There may have been some difficulty about that.

My amendment is not about positive discrimination. I do not believe in positive discrimination. It seeks to exempt from any national membership scheme a section of society which is not and has not been involved in football violence. Women and girls constitute about 10 to 15 per cent. of attendances at league football matches. That is quite a significant percentage. From my observations there has certainly been no record of females being involved in physical violence at football matches. The incidence of female violence is very low in society as a whole. My impression was confirmed only this morning by a former senior police officer who advises the Football League. He cannot recall women being involved in any arrestable offence at a football match.

Women at sports events can shout as loudly as their male counterparts, but the Bill is not concerned with shouting encouragement or otherwise to the competing teams or individual players. It is about vicious physical assault on people, often with dangerous weapons, and wilful damage to property. There is no reason why females should be forced to become part of a national membership scheme since it is known positively that they have not so far been. and are not likely in the future to be, involved in football violence. The Government cannot argue that this would be a difficult exemption to administer. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, admitted only today that it would be easy to recognise females—women, girls. He said that during an earlier debate. The Government cannot now argue that this would be a difficult exemption to administer.

In spite of what the noble Lord has just said, there is no problem of distinguishing between the two sexes. Even in these days of so-called unisex in clothes and hairstyles, women are easily recognised by their stature, gait, complexion and other attributes which belong exclusively to the female of the species. It may be argued that males may impersonate women to evade the necessity to produce an identity card. This argument cannot be sustained. In the first place, any male seeking to impersonate a female for the purpose of illegally entering a football match would be guilty of an offence. Secondly, football hooligans represent the male, macho image, and would therefore hardly dress up as females. It may well be the case that women and girls will be discouraged from attending football matches if they are forced to join a national membership scheme. That is the last thing we want. Indeed, there is a need to retain and increase the civilising and calming effect that women can have on large assemblies. This amendment and that of the noble Earl will make a contribution to just that.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

In replying at this late hour to Amendments Nos. 53 and 53C I shall speak only briefly after the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, concerning men over 40.

The Government do not believe that an exemption for women is desirable. Our reason for believing that will come as no surprise to Members of the Committee opposite. I make no apology for repeating the argument that we want as many people—law-abiding spectators—as possible to join the scheme. Where there are good practical reasons for exempting groups of people, as in the case of disabled people in designated areas and guests of the club for whom the club will take responsibility, I have already shown today that the Government are willing to take a sympathetic approach. However, there is no good practical reason for exempting women from membership and there is no reason why they should not join the scheme. It is because women are unlikely to be involved in hooliganism that we want them to join the scheme, to attend matches in the company of male spectators and to help improve the atmosphere at grounds. There would be practical implications also in exempting women from membership of the scheme.

I shall not overstate the argument. It is a relatively simple matter to identify women. The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, drew attention to possible difficulties with regard to identification. He pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, the feminism in recent years. The principle that the Government have always had on this Bill from the start is that we accept the concept that we have to have limited exemptions. This single amendment would exempt half the population. We believe that in order for the scheme to succeed it has to work within the limits that we feel will make it work. I quite understand the argument of the noble, Lord, Lord Stoddart. I only say that we disagree with it and hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The reason why half the population would be excluded, as the noble Lord has said, is that that half the population does not commit violent offences at football matches. What the noble Lord is once again saying is this. So that we can have this beautiful bureaucratic piece of machinery which will hum in a most attractive fashion, women are to be brought into it without any serious argument to justify their inclusion.

Have the Government asked the Association of Chief Police Officers how many women have been arrested for public order offences inside or outside football grounds? Has the issue ever been raised? If the association said that there were no statistics, as I suppose it will have said on the basis of what the noble Lord said earlier, has it been asked to give an impression of how many women have been arrested? Surely the Government made some limited inquiries before drafting this Bill, or did they make none? Perhaps the noble Lord would tell us.

Lord Hesketh

I would go even further than the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and say that the basis of the Government's argument would be there if none had occurred.

The Earl of Onslow

If no arrests have been made at all, old age pensioners, cripples and everybody else are to have identity cards, and those who do not go to football matches. I am trying to be helpful—it does not sound like it, I know—and there is a case for the Government having these identity cards, but there is no case for giving them to people who will not cause any trouble. Can my noble friend answer this question? I wrote to him, and hope he received the letter, warning him that I would ask how many women had been arrested or convicted in the past 10 years for football or related offences. He knew that I was going to ask him that question. Please will he give me an answer?

Lord Hylton

I fail to see why the Government do not seem to trust people who can obviously be trusted. The great majority of women will not go to football matches at all. Those who do, do not commit offences. Therefore why not trust them not to commit offences? I begin to feel more and more that this Government love taking a sledgehammer to crack a slender nut. We had it in Northern Ireland where they thought, and still think, that the right to silence should be taken away from terrorists. But they enlarged that principle to take away the right to silence from, for instance, mentally handicapped people. One honestly begins to despair.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Will the noble Lord not agree that the statement he made a few moments ago is, even by the standards of our debates, one of the most bizarre we have heard? What the noble Lord said on this amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was that his view would be exactly the same if there were no offences ever committed by women. Yet what follows from this Bill? They will be required to enter the scheme. If they attempt to enter a football ground without being a member of the scheme they commit a serious criminal offence. In the final analysis that could lead them to be sent to prison. That is extraordinary.

The noble Lord the Leader of the House has been good enough to sit here during our increasingly strange proceedings. I am not asking him to intervene because that would be unreasonable. I hope that he will speak to the Department of the Environment between this debate and next week's debate to ensure that serious replies will be given to Members of the Committee who raise serious questions on the Bill.

If we are creating new criminal offences for half the country's population, who the Minister says should be brought into the scheme even if none of them had ever committed a criminal offence inside or outside a football ground, we are moving in an extraordinary fashion. I repeat that in the 14 years during which I have been a Member of this place I have not heard so many daft speeches from the Government Front Bench.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Does not the Minister's reply indicate, as was said on Second Reading, although I did not speak in that debate, that we are dealing with only a small minority of people? An earlier amendment related to season ticket holders. I have not done any totalling up, but I imagine that there is a minimum of 300,000 season ticket holders in the First Division. My noble friend Lord Underhill has produced some figures. Knowing him as I do, I am sure that they are reliable. He said that between 10 per cent. and 15 per cent. of the people who watch football matches are ladies. There has been no evidence from the police to show that season ticket holders or women watching football matches present any risk.

The Minister said earlier that if season ticket holders were eliminated from the scheme it would not be worth running. It is almost like Parkinson's Law. The Government need those people to make the scheme viable. If the figures are roughly correct, we are talking about 40 per cent. of the people who watch football matches presenting no risk. As the two previous speakers suggested, the Minister should look at what is taking place. If we add to that number the handicapped people who were traditionally allowed in to sit in wheelchairs on the touch line, we are talking about a minority of a minority of people who may create a problem.

It is a tradition that the Prime Minister be invited to present the Cup Final cup to the winners. What will the situation be with the present Prime Minister who is the author of the Bill? The Minister for Sport is not its author. In its wisdom the Football Association may invite the Prime Minister to present the cup, although bearing in mind the present relations between them I doubt it. Would she be allowed of right to go to the match or would she need to seek the permission of the Secretary of State for the Environment and ask for preferential treatment? If she did, it would go down like a lead balloon with the footballing fraternity.

Lord Hesketh

I am not aware whether my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be a member, but if she is not a member she would attend on a guest card.

Lord Dean of Beswick

As whose guest? As far as I am aware Wembley does not come within the ambit of the scheme. We are talking about Football League clubs.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

If the Prime Minister were going to a Football League club she would also attend on a guest card. The simple fact of the matter is that I know and understand that noble Lords opposite consider the Bill to be, among other things, an imposition. The position the Government have always taken is to see it as a protection. When we talk about women we—who are, after all, the weaker sex in some ways—have introduced a Bill to protect people. These are the very people whom we wish to protect. Our proposal is very straightforward. We wish to bring in the scheme as we have been advised to do. If it works, I am sure that all noble Lords will be very happy, but the fact is that it is within the legitimate desires of the Government to bring in the scheme as they have been advised. That is what we are intending to do.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may say a word. The Minister has again rested his case on the grounds of excluding the minimum number of people possible. Even when we make out a case for a large group of people who in our view are not the kinds of people whom the Minister wants to exclude—that is, potential hooligans—he says that if they go to the ground, they need protection from the potential hooligans, therefore they need a card to get in. But that is putting—not the card before the horse—the cart before the horse.

When very recently I met Eddie Plomley, who is the chief executive of Watford, I said to him, "How many women attend your matches?" He cogitated and said, "About 20 per cent." In his view, Watford has more than the average because of the atmosphere it is called "the friendly club". It has attracted the kind of ambience about which I told the Minister. I asked Eddie Plomley, "Can you recall the last time a woman was involved in an incident of violence?" He said, "Never". I said, "In the past five years", and he said, "No". The Minister must take it that Mr. Plomley is an honourable man. I did not tell him that I was going to quote him here tonight, of course; but I have quoted him and that is Watford's record.

If the Watford experience is broadly the same as that of others, what is the Minister doing? Against the premise that he seeks to protect people, they are already part of an ambience in which they do not need that protection. At Watford, less than one spectator per 10,000—and their average gate is about 10,000—merits the attention of the police.

Perhaps I may tell the Minister what he is doing to a growing band of people outside the House. They may not like the scheme, but they recognise the political and arithmetical realities of the Government's majority in this Chamber and another place. People recognise that it is quite likely that a Bill will be passed along the lines of the scheme. But they have said that they believe that when the detail is examined, the Minister and his colleagues will listen to the voice of experience. People outside already know that when it comes to season ticket holders there is no case for including them, but they are being included. People outside know that there is no case for including old-age pensioners, but they are being included. There is no case for including women, but they are being included.

The Minister says he wants to have as few people excluded as possible. I know that he and his colleagues are petrified of being accused of allowing coaches and horses to be driven through their original concept. But if the original concept was to protect the public, and if we have been able to demonstrate—as I am sure we have—that by making these exclusions the Minister will still be able to protect the public, in my view the Government show weakness in not accepting amendments to the scheme.

If this scheme, even slightly amended, is the scheme which finally sees the light of day, I believe it will not just be to the discredit of the Government—that will not displease me—but it will anger many people who will feel that the Government are not prepared to listen. Some people outside—the administrators and the people who run football and the fans—have to make this work. I want the Minister to tell his colleagues that there is no need for the scheme. I do not know what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, wants to do with his amendment, or the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, when his amendment comes up later in the proceedings. I think that the Minister again has singularly failed to show a responsiveness to what I believe is sense.

Lord Hesketh

I have just remembered that I failed to answer the point of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, concerning separate figures for female soccer violence convictions. No such figures are kept.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I have one question on that. I asked a different question, to which the noble Lord inadvertently did not reply. I asked him if he had asked the Association of Chief Police Officers whether it maintained detailed statistics of its impression of the number of women arrested for offences of violence at and around football grounds. Was that question asked or was it not?

Lord Hesketh

The very straightforward answer is that I do not have that information with me at this moment. I shall write to the noble Lord.

The Earl of Onslow

I must admit that: I am very surprised that those figures are not kept. I thought that if someone was arrested, his name, age and presumably his sex were taken down. I also thought that if someone was convicted of a crime, his name, age and sex were recorded somewhere in the bowels of police records. If that is the case, and I have every reason to believe that it is, those figures must be available. However, I think I shall withdraw the amendment.

In passing I want to say that, as a supporter of the main principle—I cannot underline this too much—I think there should be identity cards which can be taken away from what I have been calling in a rather old-fashioned and perhaps snobbish way the yob classes. I disagree with the Government in that they want to have the minimum of exceptions to this provision and I want to have the maximum. If one has the maximum reasonable exceptions, there will be a much greater acceptance for the scheme as it stands. That is what I want to happen. I want the Government's Bill to be welcomed by the public at large and to be seen for what it is; that is as a serious attempt to curb what is perceived by the public as a very unattractive blot on our society. I do not think there is any argument over that whatsoever.

The Government run the risk of doing themselves and their Bill damage by attacking the problem with a blunderbuss rather than with a .22. It is the blunderbuss element which makes me unhappy. I think, if it is possible, people should do the minimum amount of anything and should only do what is necessary. I have a feeling that parts of this Bill, by not exempting the maximum number of people and only exempting the minimum, thereby conceding the principle of exemption, are unnecessarily overactive. It disturbs people's peace of mind unnecessarily. However, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Denham

I think that we have reached the point when, by agreement, we should resume the House. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at six minutes before eleven o'clock.