HL Deb 02 November 1989 vol 512 cc396-8

17A At end insert ("including in particular the failure of the electronically controlled entry system").

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to seek clarification about responsibility. I can do no better than to refer to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who quoted the words of the Minister in another place. The variations on who is responsible make the mind boggle.

My amendment refers directly to a circumstance that will be unique in the sense that electonically controlled entry systems will come about as a result of the Bill. We are talking about the responsible persons, the procedures to be followed and the equipment to be used in relation to any designated football match. We must be sure what constitutes an emergency and who decides whether there is an emergency. Who has responsibility and authority in an emergency? We are especially concerned with the kind of emergency that will occur as a result of a failure of the electronically controlled entry system.

Every one involved in business knows that electronically controlled systems can occasionally go wrong. The Minister told us that until he is satisfied that he has equipment that will never ever go wrong it will not be installed. If he is not satisfied that he has equipment that will never ever go wrong, he ought never ever to be satisfied with the scheme. If he has to wait until then, what are we spending our time in Parliament for? No system is 100 per cent. reliable. We are not saying that a breakdown will produce a tragedy, but knowing as we do the nature of football and of football grounds, and, more importantly, knowing the psychology of football fans, we want the Minister to help the House by saying who will be responsible in the kind of emergency that we believe is likely to happen.

I do not say that emergencies will happen often. Manchester United has 92 turnstiles. At Tottenham Hotspur, at Arsenal and at all the large gounds there are banks of electronic turnstiles. It has been argued that these are all separately terminalled, and that just because one breaks down does not mean that they will all break down. If one can break down, two can break down. If two can break down so can more. That cannot be allowed.

Even if it does happen, we want the Minister to say who will be responsible for taking steps to negative a disaster arising from an emergency caused by the breakdown of the electronically controlled entry system. I beg to move.

Moved, That Amendment No. 17A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 17, be agreed to. —(Lord Graham of Edmonton.)

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I support my noble friend. I shall not weary the House by quoting the remarks made by Mr. Peter Lloyd, Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. I can give eight examples from the columns of the Committee stage report of another place of the complete confusion there exists over who has authority to determine what should be done in an emergency. In some cases it states quite clearly that the authority rests with the police. Later it refers to the fact that the body responsible is the club. Then further on we find that it is a question of the club and the police getting together. If the Minister disagrees with what I am saying I shall, with the leave of the House, recite those eight points which I have marked.

The important point raised by my noble friend relates to the question of the actual equipment breaking down. Who has the authority in that respect: The columns to which I referred also state that the club and the police should get together in advance and decide what could be the nature of potential emergencies —that they should make a list of all possible emergencies and consider what could be done. In an emergency nothing could be more important than the breakdown of the equipment. That is the issue with which my noble friend's amendment seeks to deal.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I suggest that Amendment No. 17A would be wrong in principle simply because, if you pick out one kind of emergency, you are thereby emphasising it in the statute and ignoring other emergencies of equal importance which might arise. It is a fundamental principle that we do not pick out one aspect when others may be relevant.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I realise the importance which the noble Lords, Lord Graham of Edmonton and Lord Underhill, attach to this amendment. However, I think that it is common ground that all concerned will do everything to avoid failures and congestions of any kind. It is of course prudent to recognise, as does the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that problems could arise and that they must be catered for. But the essential point is that where an emergency arises the right action is taken. As my noble friend Lord Renton said, I do not think it is necessary to distinguish the causes of an emergency.

Indeed, if one does so, as he said, it may cast doubt upon other emergencies which, although they are not mentioned, are still emergencies.

The important point is that any emergency needs to be provided for. After all, the failure of an electronically controlled device is only one possible cause of an emergency, and indeed not the cause of the worst possible emergency. It would be a great error to pick out one type of emergency and insert it into the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, will see the wisdom of that argument and will agree not to press the amendment.

The noble Lords, Lord Graham and Lord Underhill, asked who was responsible in the case of an emergency. That consideration does not come under the amendment. The noble Lord's amendment seeks to say that this particular emergency should be drawn out as being one which should be specially mentioned in the Bill. We are, after all, dealing with the fact that this part of the Bill allows requirements to be imposed upon responsible persons as regards the procedure to be followed and the equipment to be used in relation to any designated football match to secure that, other than in the case of emergencies, it is followed. I think that it is right to allow for all emergencies and not categorise one as being particularly more important than another.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I certainly do not intend to press this amendment. But I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that it is perfectly proper in the context of what is known as the ID card scheme that we address ourselves to the kind of emergency which can arise only as a result of the operation of such a scheme. Of course, if the noble Lord says that we are giving undue prominence to one kind of emergency by so doing, so be it; that is the purpose of the amendment.

On this side of the House we are convinced —and this may not apply only to this side of the House —that there is a grave danger of a breakdown in the electronic equipment. We have Seen evidence to convince us that that is possible. When the breakdown occurs there will be certain consequences. The fact that the machinery does not work does not of itself create an emergency. But as a result of the breakdown I venture to suggest that there will be very many different problems for the police both inside and outside of the ground. That is why we have highlighted this issue.

The Minister has not accepted either that this is a likely event or that it is an exceptional event; it is just one of the series of events which may be constituted as an emergency. In time I believe that we shall see that the kind of emergency which occurs will almost inevitably relate back to the malfunctioning of the electronic equipment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 17A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 17, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 17 agreed to.