HL Deb 02 November 1989 vol 512 cc392-5

13A Line 3, after ("supporters") insert (", whose entry to the ground depends upon the successful operation of the identity card verification equipment").

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 13A standing in my name. We accept that Amendment No. 13 goes some way towards assuring football supporters that their voices will be heard. I believe that the Minister rightly hit on the reason for this amendment. He said that there is no question of the scheme being put into effect until it has been properly tested. The Minister could help the House by spelling out what he and his colleagues intend to do in order to satisfy themselves that the equipment has been properly tested.

We have heard about a situation in one or two grounds in one or two leagues and over a short period of time which is wholly unacceptable. The Member for Welwyn in another place who is chairman of the Luton Club, admitted that the electronic equipment at his ground had broken down because of condensation. That can happen at any ground. I think in particular of Manchester United where there are more than 100 turnstiles at the ground all of which will have to be serviced. The equipment could break down there.

We have been speaking about the occasions when the police will have power to suspend the match without anyone trying to rush the gates or being drunk. If one finds that the orderly use of the turnstiles means that queues become longer and longer it will be the ineffectiveness of the machinery that will cause problems outside the ground. The entry of football supporters to the ground depends on the successful operation of the ID card verification equipment. Supporters are entitled to hear from the Minister what he has done in order to be satisfied that everything is satisfactory at 92 clubs in all weathers and under all circumstances.

I do not intend to be alarmist, but after a tragedy it is no use saying that we did all that we could if it transpires that the Minister has not done all that he could. All he has done is to take a sample of some grounds in some circumstances only to find —horror of horrors —that the circumstances have changed when a future tragedy occurs. I hope the Minister will accept that we want proper testing. What we have heard so far does not satisfy us on that point.

Moved, That Commons Amendment No. 13A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 13, be agreed to. —(Lord Graham of Edmonton.)

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, the only point I wish to make is that it is rather surprising, in the light of what happened only a few months ago, that not a single Member of the Government Front Bench has so far referred to the impending final report from Lord Justice Taylor. He is assisted by two distinguished assessors, one of whom is the chief constable of Lancashire, and he is going to produce a final report within the next few months. A number of those recommendations may have a most direct impact on the provisions of this Bill. That being so, what do the Government propose to do to take account of the recommendations of Lord Justice Taylor when the report is produced?

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, my name is attached to this amendment. I reinforce everything that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has said. I believe that people outside the House will be interested to know whether, as regards the testing of the scheme, the Minister can tell us what timescale he has in mind. I believe that question to be important for many people outside the House.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I made allusions to the Taylor Report at the very beginning when referring to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham. I pointed out to him that the arrangements for the Football Licensing Authority had changed very considerably when we came to discuss the matter as regards another amendment and that was because of the tragedy at Hillsborough and the Taylor inquiry which is going on at this moment.

We believe one of the advantages of the scheme is that, with the arrival of the Football Licensing Authority and this Bill, there will be a significant improvement in preventing a future tragedy. We have to await the third component which is the report itself. When it arrives we shall have to wait to see what are the recommendations. As we always said, what comes after that will come before Parliament.

A great deal has been made of testing. I know very little in this world, but I know a little about testing. I have spent many years building vehicles. The fact is that if you are planning a serious undertaking you can assess pretty accurately how long it will take to obtain a technological resolution of the problem that lies in front of you. It may take a little longer, but if professional people tackle the job in a professional way, they will arrive at a professional solution within a fairly reasonable timescale.

The key point is that we are not planning for the scheme to be tested on the basis of a summer's day, with no one who has had a drink, in perfect conditions and with the widest entrances to the grounds. Of course we have to look at grounds that are difficult on a wet night in the middle of winter. In those circumstances the noble Lord's reference to condensation will be attributable.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wish to point out that he has alluded only to one set of circumstances. I could list 20 circumstances of a changed character, and the Minister knows that. We wish to know over how long a period will the testing take place? Will it take place at large grounds and small grounds? Will the testing take place in conditions such as those at Hillsborough which were not unique? That is a ground built in a residential area with narrow roads for access. We want the Minister to bear in mind that it is for the public to be satisfied. The Minister knows, for example, that the scheme introduced at Plymouth broke down as well as that at Luton. This kind of equipment is likely to break down now and again. We want to know whether we can be satisfied by what will satisfy the Minister.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I should like to —

Noble Lords


Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I am not asking for a reply from the Minister. I occasionally get the feeling that the Government make the rules as they go along. It is difficult to know when one can intervene to make a sensible point. It is important that these machines should be 100 per cent. reliable. If the Minister travels on the Underground he will know of the confusion that has arisen since the installation of the new machines. Those machines are covered and are not subjected to varying weather conditions. It is important that the machines do not break down. I reinforce what my noble friend said. Testing is most important.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I do not think that I can usefully go further than repeat the words of my noble friend the Minister when he said that we shall not go ahead with implementation until we are satisfied that the technology is workable, efficient and safe.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, in the light of what the noble Lord said, I wish to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment No. 113A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 13, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 13 agreed to.