HL Deb 02 November 1989 vol 512 cc370-7

1 Clause 1, page, 1, line 14, at end insert — '( ) The Secretary of State shall not make a designation under subsection (2) above without giving the Football Membership Authority an opportunity to make representations about the proposed designation, and taking any representations he receives into account.'.

2 Page 1, line 15, after 'above' insert — '(a)'.

3 Page 1, line 17, at end insert '; and (b) may provide, in relation to the match or description of match designated by the order or any description of match falling within the designation, that spectators admitted to the ground shall be authorised spectators to the extent, and subject to any restrictions or conditions, determined in pursuance of the order by the licensing authority under this Part of this Act.'.

4Page 2, line 2, after 'if insert — '(a)'.

5Page 2, line 4, after 'match', insert; or (b) he is an authorised spectator by virtue of subsection (3)(b) above,'.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move that this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 1 to 5 en bloc.

We are coming to the end of this Bill and its passage through Parliament. It has received a thorough examination in both Houses of Parliament. I think that it is also fair to say that the Bill has aroused a certain amount of controversy inside and outside Parliament. At the same time, I should like to echo the point made by my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State, in introducing the Third Reading in another place on Monday. Debates on the Bill have been fierce but they have generally been conducted with courtesy and good humour. I thank noble Lords on both sides of the House for that.

We are to consider today a number of amendments made in another place. The most substantial amendments to Part I of the Bill concern the status and powers of the Football Licensing Authority, particularly in relation to safety matters. There are also a large number of amendments introduced in response to requests from the Opposition. The Opposition spokesman in another place, the right honourable gentleman, the Member for Small Heath, recognised this on Monday when he said, in dealing with the first amendment before us today that: in this and in other amendments the Minister has sought to meet points that were made in Committee". —[Offical Report, Commons, 30/10/89; col. 22.1 I hope that we can proceed in the same spirit this evening.

Amendment No. 1 requires the Secretary of State, before he designates any matches to which the scheme will apply, to provide the Football Membership Authority with the opportunity to make representations about the proposed designation. The amendment was introduced on Report in another place and fulfils an undertaking to consider a similar amendment tabled by the Opposition in Committee. The amendment makes clear that any views expressed by the FMA must be taken into account by the Secretary of State before he makes a designation order under Clause 1(2) of the Bill. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the advice of the FMA should be available to the Secretary of State to assist him in reaching decisions about designating matches. This amendment ensures that this will be the case.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5 will enable the Secretary of State, when designating a match or matches, to provide that spectators admitted to a ground are authorised spectators subject to any conditions or restrictions attached to the licence. Amendments Nos. 34 and 41 provide that the Football Licensing Authority may include conditions limiting the spectators who may watch a designated football match and on the other hand may direct, in respect of a certain match or matches, the licence to be treated as including special terms and conditions about the admission of spectators.

These amendments concern the application of the national membership scheme to international matches and to matches between Football League and non-League clubs. Your Lordships will recall that this was a matter of some lengthy debate in this House. The Government have made it clear, throughout the Bill's progress through Parliament, that it is our intention that matches played at Wembley and matches between League and non-League teams played at a League ground should have special arrangements within the national scheme. As I was at pains to emphasise to your Lordships at an earlier stage of the Bill there must be special arrangements under which supporters of a foreign team playing in this country or of a non-League team playing a one-off match at a League ground are to be authorised to attend designated matches.

The Football Licensing Authority will have an essential role to play in these special arrangements. The FLA will discuss with the local police, the club, or in the case of Wembley with the Wembley authorities, just what the arrangements should be. It will be able to take full account of the circumstances of the individual match and of the ground, and decide on the most appropriate arrangements under which a particular match should be played. It may wish to make different arrangements at different matches for different parts of the ground. These amendments will enable the FLA 1.o decide on the most appropriate way of handling these matches within the scheme.

Amendment No. 34 provides that the licence issued by the Football Licensing Authority to football clubs in order that they may admit spectators to a designated match, may include conditions requiring admittance to be refused to specified descriptions of spectators. The amendment thus allows for the possibility that an individual club or clubs might be required to ban a specified group of supporters for a specific match or series of matches. This is a reserve power, to be used if, for example, an individual club was regularly experiencing serious problems with away supporters. Noble Lords will be aware that the Football Association has sometimes taken action in respect of supporters travelling to away matches. The amendment was introduced in response to a request from the Police Federation to my honourable friend the Minister responsible for sport.

The main purpose of these amendments is to ensure that the Bill provides sufficient flexibility to enable the Football Licensing Authority to deal sensibly with the range of circumstances that it may face —in particular at international matches, at matches between League and non-League teams and in the event that special problems may arise for individual clubs. I commend them to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in the said amendments —(Lord Hesketh.)

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I wish to begin by echoing the words of my right honourable friend in another place. In Committee the Minister gave a number of undertakings which are now seen on the face of the Bill. My right honourable friend acknowledged that, and I do so now. However, what we are looking at are the words that the Government have injected into the Bill. This will provide us with the opportunity to seek clarification.

In speaking to the first group of amendments, the noble Lord referred to Amendment No. 3. I am bound to say to the Minister that I still require clarification here. That may not be the fault of the Minister; it may be my fault or it may be the fault of others. In col. 23 of the Official Report of another place the Minister responsible for sport used an illustration of an Italian supporter making a one-off trip to Wembley. That is the issue that engaged the attention of this House for many hours over many amendments. I hope the Minister will be a little more precise about the likely procedure in these cases.

The Minister said that the licensing authority will, in issuing a licence, ensure that, within the terms of the licence, provisions will be made for the exclusion from the scheme of individuals in certain circumstances, in certain parts of grounds and in other such circumstances. Are we to understand that with perhaps 92 separate licences there will possibly be 92 separate sets of conditions? Are we to understand that every licence will be tailor-made to suit the circumstances of the ground? Will the football club, the licensing authority and the police, in all of those circumstances, be able to reach different conclusions as to how the licence will apply to a ground, for example at St. James's Park in Newcastle or at White Hart Lane? They are all sensible, responsible people who are knowledgeable about football, but they are to be left to come to their own different conclusions as to how to exercise the powers in the Bill. The Minister needs to tell us whether, as I understand is the case, under the Bill a wide disparity of conditions can apply within the licence.

Secondly, can the Minister say a little more about who the licensing authority will be? We had great arguments about whether it was to be the Football Membership Authority. We on this side suggested that the local authority might be the licensing authority. The Bill includes a provision for a licensing authority: this is our opportunity to ask the Minister to spell out in more detail who will be the licensing authority. If it is to be one central body then that will be another quango. It will be another body peopled with the Minister's placemen and placewomen for the purpose of ensuring that the licence provisions are carried out. Can the Minister tell us who will do that?

I understand what the amendment seeks to achieve. I cannot understand from what the Minister has said how what we have been led to believe would happen, will happen. We have the benefit of the proceedings in another place. Regarding this very amendment it was said that: No doubt the Football Licensing Authority will wish to discuss with the local police, with the club or, in the case of Wembley, with the Wembley authorities just what the special arrangements for the matches should be. They will be able to lake full account of the circumstances of the individual match and of the ground and decide the most appropriate arrangements under which a particular game can be played. They may wish to make different arrangements at different matches and for different parts of the ground. It is important that they must be free to decide what is best in any particular case".—[official Report, Commons, 30/10/89; col. 23.] I should like the Minister to help the House and the football authorities by indicating whether that means that those knowledgeable people may decide collectively that people who come front abroad —or as the case may be, from Scotland to England —are not required to be in possession of an ID card. If that is possible within the remit of the licensing authority will the Minister tell us? Does the Minister realise that that blows a wide hole in the argument that the control and management of games and grounds is as watertight as it could be.

That is my first essay on the series of amendments. As the Minister knows, I have put down amendments of my own, together with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon. We shall pursue those with a little more vigour than I am pursuing this one. I simply ask the Minister to help the House.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I do not propose to repeat all the admirable arguments which we put at the Committee stage of the Bill when we discussed it some months ago.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Graham, I welcome some of the amendments which have been made. I am glad that the Government have moved on the point which I raised in relation to the chairman of the authority and his connection with the industry.

However, without in any sense wishing to be disagreeable so early in the proceedings perhaps I may make it absolutely clear that the Bill arrived as a foolish Bill and it will leave this House as a foolish Bill. Sooner or later there will be a government, not led by the present Prime Minister, which will provide an opportunity for us to discuss the matter on its merits.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I shall be brief, because my voice is a little less reliable than I would like it to be.

I welcome the amendments, which seem to me to leave the original concepts of the Bill intact while addressing the problem that I raised at Second Reading; namely, that of my foreign visitors. It is to be welcomed that at international matches the authorisation mechanism will accommodate the considerable numbers of foreign visitors so that they can attend matches. I am also pleased that movements of groups of foreign fans coming to watch league or cup football will be accommodated by the guest membership scheme.

I believe that the industry can work with those arrangements. However, there still seems to be one problem. It relates not to those coming to international matches or to league or cup matches in groups, but to those who come as individuals to watch football in Britain. I took advice from Tottenham Hotspur on the subject this morning. The club estimates that this year its home and league cup programme might attract 12,000 foreign customers. Of those, perhaps 8,000 will come in groups and will thus be covered by the guest membership scheme. However, 4,000 will be individuals who will not be so easy to deal with.

I seek only one assurance: that as guest membership is evolved to deal with those individual travellers —who are a small but highly rated element of our tourist traffic —the systems that are developed will be as user-friendly as possible, and that they will be kept under review if they are seen to be detrimental to the traffic that I have discussed.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, before the Minister replies perhaps I could take up the point raised by my noble friend. He asked about the nature of the licensing authority. I noticed that in the column of Hansard to which my noble friend referred it is indicated that the licensing authority will discuss the arrangements for certain matches with the local police. On 18th November the first round of the FA Cup will be played. Twenty non-league clubs will take part. Presumably special arrangements will have to be discussed for those matches. Will the licensing authority travel around the country and discuss those arrangements with the local police? If not, those are just words that mean nothing at all.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the point of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, expands on a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Graham. The reason for flexibility is perfectly straightforward. There is an enormous difference between an Italy-England game at Wembley and a first round FA Cup match between Towcester Town —which by some miracle has managed to make it into a league stadium—

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Or Northampton Town.

Lord Hesketh

My Lord, I chose Towcester Town because it is an even smaller town which does not even have a grandstand.

Those examples are taken from each end of the spectrum. The arrangements which would be appropriate for those two games would be very different. I mentioned earlier three examples —an international game played at Wembley, a run-of-the-mill league game played in the divisions, and the entry of non-league clubs in cup competition. Regarding the point of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, essentially there would be three fundamental licences. Of course, there will be horses for courses and special circumstances will appertain, and I would not suggest that there will be only three basic licences. I should say that there will be three basics from which we shall work.

With regard to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, concerning the attendance of the individual, it will be for the clubs to be able to admit the individual tourist —the 4,000 out of the 12,000 at Tottenham whom he mentioned. As he knows, it is administratively easier to deal with a group, but we do not wish to disbar the individual.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, took the view that this was, to use his words, a silly Bill on the way in and that it is a silly Bill on the way out, but I believe that there are many people who take a contrary view. I must remind the House that, interestingly, the Bill has always had a tremendous amount of support in the country, perhaps from those who are not so interested in football.

The other key point that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, brought to our attention was the role of the FLA and the fact that it did not leave this House as a quango, but comes back as a quango. As the noble Lord will be well aware, there were tragic occurrences after the Bill left this House. In the light of events after the passage of the Bill, the licensing requirements, both for today and for the future, require an extension of the powers. We shall deal with that change in the FLA when we come to the next group of amendments.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I should like the Minister to be a little more helpful because I asked a direct question about who is the licensing authority. Clause 11 states that: The appointment of a person to be the licensing authority shall be on such terms as may be agreed". Will the Minister be a little more specific? Are we talking about a person? What do we mean by that? Will the man or woman who is to be the licensing authority have the function of going all over the country to consult the police forces and 92 football clubs? If that is not the case —and that is how I read it —the Minister must tell us what or whom we are talking about. We tried to be specific on the last occasion, but it was not possible. It is down to the licensing authority to discuss the issue with the local clubs. Perhaps the Minister wishes to intervene.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, with great respect, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is out of order. In answering him I said that we would come on to that point in the next group of amendments.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the Minister is speaking to Amendment No. 3 which includes the words: determined in pursuance of the order by the licensing authority". If he alludes in his amendment to a licensing authority, I should have thought that the House would agree that I am entitled to ask for elucidation of what that means. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, need not rise to his feet. I am perfectly willing to wait until later, but the point needs to be addressed.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Graham, saw me move in my seat merely to try to indicate to him that, if he had said, "Before the noble Lord sits down", he would have been in order. I am sure that he did not intend to make a second or third speech because that would have been out of order. Had he used the words, "Before the noble Lord sits down", he would have been in order.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, after the noble Earl has sat down, I should say that I am very grateful.

The Minister has failed to satisfy me on the contents of the amendment, but there will be other opportunities and I shall give the Minister the benefit of the doubt. I hope that, having passed up this opportunity and failed to obtain answers, we do not find that, when the real opportunity comes, we still do not obtain the answers. People outside the House are fed up with the fact that the Bill will lay upon them responsibilities. Yet, when they try to carry out those responsibilities and things go wrong, it will not be the Government who will take responsibility for the problems; it will be the hapless people outside who are called licensing authorities, football membership authorities or whatever.

On Question, Motion agreed to.