HL Deb 29 January 1990 vol 515 cc19-31

3.36 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place about the final report of Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry into the tragedy at the Hillsborough stadium on 15th April 1989, which is published today.

"Some months have passed since that terrible event but not long enough, I know, to dull the pain suffered by the bereaved, and I wish to place on record my sympathy for them and for those who sustained injury. I am most grateful to Lord Justice Taylor for the report which sets out clearly why we have had so many major tragedies at football grounds over the years and why we have had disorder and hooliganism. As the House familiarises itself with the report, it will become clear that it is addressed as much to the football industry as it is to the Government. Lord Justice Taylor explains how in his interim report he concentrated on overcrowding because that was the cause of the Hillsborough disaster, but now he goes on to talk of a game, the image of which has become much tarnished, and of a blight over the game due to old grounds, poor facilities, hooliganism, excessive drinking and poor leadership.

"Lord Justice Taylor does not spare those who run the industry. He says indeed that the provision they make for their customers is often not merely basic but squalid, and he says that squalid conditions can have an impact on safety and that in his view they also lead to lower standards of behaviour.

"Lord Justice Taylor says that the Football Association and the Football League have not seen it as any part of their duty to offer guidance to clubs on safety matters, and he questions whether the directors of many clubs are genuinely interested in the welfare of their own supporters or their good behaviour. Players too are criticised, with Lord Justice Taylor pointing out that incitement from the pitch or bad behaviour by players, which is not confined to soccer, has a major influence on the crowd. I acknowledge that some clubs have made an effort to improve standards, but Lord Justice Taylor's clear conclusion was that the majority had not and that the game only has a future if the directors and the players can change their own priorities and give a leadership which is plainly lacking at present.

"He agrees with the Government that there must be a move towards all-seater stadia and points out that Section 11 of the Football Spectators Act specifically provides the machinery for this. The change will improve safety and will improve behaviour, and we intend to bring it about. Lord Justice Taylor makes clear that the bulk of the finances for ground improvements will have to be raised by the clubs themselves. He says there are many ways of raising the money if the clubs' management is enterprising and resourceful add he points to the opportunities presented by sponsorship. He also points to the revenue that flows to the football authorities for television rights and says that the football authorities should ensure that this valuable source of revenue is directed towards improving stadia. He canvasses the possibility of a levy on transfer fees which he says have reached a level which many regard as grotesque.

"There are a whole series of detailed recommendations set out in chapters 3, 4 and 5 on matters relating to spectator safety such as gates and gangways. Indeed, of the 76 recommendations, 43 in substance appeared in the interim report. The Government accept these proposals, some of which can be implemented immediately. Some will need further work. For convenience I have placed in the Vote Office a schedule setting out the Government's response to each.

"Honourable Members will recall that Section 13 of the Football Spectators Act provides for the Football Licensing Authority to supervise the safety responsibilities of local authorities in respect of designated football grounds. We intend to implement that provision. Lord Justice Taylor welcomes the establishment of the Football Licensing Authority but would like us to go further and extend its remit to cover other than football grounds. This would require primary legislation and we will have to consider whether it is justified.

"Part III of the report contains a number of proposals relating to crowd control and hooliganism. It acknowledges the crucial role of the police in crowd control. Lord Justice Taylor rightly reminds us that, without the work of the police, many sporting events would be chaotic and could not be permitted to take place. Something like 5,000 police officers are engaged on football duties each Saturday during the season, largely at the expense of the taxpayer and ratepayer. He pays tribute to them for their service. I want to add my thanks to the police for the way they carry out the difficult, thankless and often unthanked tasks which are thrust upon them.

"The report recognises the advances made in the last couple of years in the effectiveness of the policing of football, particularly inside grounds, and to the major impact of closed circuit television on the hooligan problem. It also mentions other measures taken by the Government such as the restriction on the sale of alcohol and the power given to the courts to make orders excluding convicted hooligans from grounds.

"Lord Justice Taylor also recognises the great potential value of the police national football intelligence unit in dealing with football-related crime and with hooligans travelling to matches abroad.

"As I have said, Lord Justice Taylor takes the view that better facilities and better treatment of fans will bring better behaviour. Beyond that, the report recommends the creation of three new specific offences to apply at designated sports grounds: throwing a missile; chanting obscene or racialist abuse; and going on to the pitch without a reasonable excuse: and it also asks for consideration to be given to extending the courts' powers to impose attendance centre orders and for the use of electronic tagging in the case of offenders convicted of football-related offences. The specific new offences suggested do to some extent seem to duplicate offences which are already available in the Public Order Act. But I shall look carefully and quickly at all these suggestions.

"I now come to the proposed football membership scheme. Lord Justice Taylor examined the invitation to tender for a scheme which was issued by the consultants employed by the football authorities. He came to the conclusion that he could not support a scheme of that kind because he did not believe the technology would work well enough to avoid the danger of congestion and disorder. He was also concerned about the call on police resources. Instead he proposes the measures to which I have referred.

"In the light of this advice, the Government have decided not to proceed with the establishment of a football membership authority, but Part I of the Act will remain on the statute book. Work will continue to see how the shortcomings identified by Lord Justice Taylor could be overcome in case we have to return to the matter again, should the problem of hooliganism not be defeated by the alternative strategy proposed in the report.

"Let no one imagine that this means there will be any let-up in the fight against hooliganism. Those who, unlike Government, have for so long shrugged off their responsibilities will now have to face up to them. The Government intend to proceed as quickly as possible to the establishment of a Football Licensing Authority and, subject to consultation, Section 11 of the Football Spectators Act will be used to direct the licensing authority to require all-seater stadia —with standing being reduced by stages and entirely eliminated in First and Second Division grounds by August 1994 and in all designated Football League grounds by 1999. The necessary steps will be taken to ensure improved arrangements for crowd control and better training for police and stewards. There will be urgent consideration of the case for new offences and for new powers to deal with those excluded from grounds by the courts.

"The clubs will be compelled to get rid of the terraces. But Lord Justice Taylor indicates how much more they can do to create a better atmosphere by improving the now often squalid conditions to which they subject their supporters —squalid conditions which can encourage squalid behaviour. Those clubs which have not faced up to their responsibility now have a final opportunity to do so and if they do not now act, the public will not forgive them."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.46 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for his courtesy in repeating the Statement and to congratulate him on his ability not to stutter and stammer with shame when he came to deal with Lord Justice Taylor's finding on the football membership scheme.

As noble Lords have heard, this is a long Statement. It consists of some eight pages and the reference to the scheme, which forms Part I —and a very important part —of the Bill fills up one paragraph of those eight pages. What a waste of public funds, football club funds and parliamentary time, all caused by sheer, blind obstinacy.

I must remind the House, if it needs any reminding, of what happened on the Second Reading of the Bill not just on the Benches from which I speak, but on opposition party Benches and on the Benches occupied by those members of the government party who also wanted to tell the Government that the scheme would cause more violence, not less, and that technically it carried with it goodness knows how many disadvantages. The Government did not listen.

At Committee stage we went one stage further to save parliamentary time and to prevent the Government from walking into an absolute mess and muddle. We, on these Benches, proposed at least a phasing in of the scheme so that there might be an experiment which we knew would show what Lord Justice Taylor found. What did the Government do? They called in the hordes to vote on that amendment. Many of those whom they called in carried with them identity cards. They were not football identity cards; they were House of Lords identity cards just in case, as happened, the attendants in the House did not recognise them as Members of the House.

It is a sorry state of affairs that through sheer inability to listen the Government have placed themselves in this position and do not have the grace to say, "We were wrong". The Statement is made by way of excuse for all the time and money wasted. Part I will remain on the statute book just in case one day in the future, if everything else fails, it must be used.

I turn now to what is in the Statement. Your Lordships are in the same position that I am. We have not had an opportunity in any way to read the Taylor Report and study it. However, the Statement highlights a few of the recommendations that have been made.

I do not suppose that anyone in this House will disagree that the condition of football grounds in many cases in the First, Second and Third Divisions is pretty deplorable. Safety and other standards have to be improved. I doubt whether it is right or even practicable to leave the funding for all that to the football clubs alone. There will have to be some co-operation between the football clubs, the football pools organisations and the Government. It may be that one way of funding is to allow some revenue advantages to the football pools which may enable them to subscribe more generously to this very important cause.

I shall not say anything more about the new criminal offences to which reference was made in the Taylor Report and in the Statement which the noble Earl repeated. When repeating the Statement, he said that it was most likely that those matters were covered by the existing law. Regarding one of the matters mentioned, which unfortunately is a sorry feature of quite a few grounds and has happened on quite a few occasions, namely, the chorusing of racial and obscene abuse, I have been told that at the moment the police find it extremely difficult to bring a charge under the Public Order Act. I know that the noble Earl, together with other Members of the Government, will be looking at the possibility of clearly strengthening that power. I should have thought that the same would apply to the throwing of missiles.

When it comes to getting on to the pitch unreasonably, I suppose that one had better exercise a little caution before making that a crime. It is not that anyone would want to encourage rushing on to a pitch in order to cause a riot or behave in a way that may occasion some kind of civil unrest on the ground. However, as I said, I feel that possibly the noble Earl will agree with me that one would have to word that criminal charge with the greatest of care.

I end by repeating that the Government have caused themselves considerable embarrassment. I can only hope that it will be a lesson to them, and when the Opposition say something so sensible, as they often do, in the future will they please listen?

3.54 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I too join the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in thanking the noble Earl for having repeated the Statement. I do not believe that any junior Minister has had a more extraordinary Statement to make to this House since I have been a Member of it. The only regret that I would express is that there was no indication whatever of any expression of regret on the part of the Government that such large sums of money held by many not particularly well-to-do football clubs had to be expended in a campaign to bring sense into this matter.

First of all, before coming to the Taylor Report itself, I should like to ask one question. I understand that the report was submitted by Lord Justice Taylor to Ministers last Friday week —10 days ago. Since then, versions of this report have been produced in one newspaper after another. The leaks could only have come from government departments because only Ministers had that report. It seems to me extraordinary that the Government have behaved in such a manner.

They have subjected Lord Justice Taylor to a series of quite deplorable attacks. Some of them have come from the members of the noble Earl's own party in the House of Commons. There have been editorials in newspapers such as The Times, all of which were written by journalists who were basing their judgment on leaked reports from Ministers. It seems to me that that has been an act of gross discourtesy to Lord Justice Taylor. I hope that we shall have no repetition of such deplorable behaviour in the future.

I turn now to some of the less controversial recommendations of Lord Justice Taylor. It would be unwise to come to any settled view about some of his more important recommendations until one has had the opportunity to read his report. Speaking for myself, I certainly think that there is a great deal to be said for all-seater stadia. On the other hand, although First and Second Division clubs can no doubt look after themselves, it is almost impossible to believe that Fourth Division clubs will be able to raise the amounts of money necessary in order to build those stadia. I very much hope that we shall not have a doctrinaire approach by the Government on this matter.

Concerning the three new criminal offences which are suggested by Lord Justice Taylor, again I believe that it would be ill-judged to come to a quick decision. Certainly in the past we have seen far too much throwing of missiles, chanting of racial abuse and running on to football pitches. It may well be necessary to amend the criminal law so far as those actions are concerned.

Lord Justice Taylor rightly drew attention to the poor conditions that exist at many football grounds. It is quite right that urgent priority should be given to improving conditions. Just as squalid streets and squalid housing conditions increase the level of violence in our society, so do squalid conditions at football clubs.

Of course the unusual language in this Statement, directed at the football authorities, is being used to disguise one of the most important recommendations in Lord Justice Taylor's report. The Government have been obliged to retreat on the central issue of the Football Spectators Act —what it was all about in the first place —namely, the foolish, ill considered proposal for a statutory football membership scheme. That was the Prime Minister's own proposal, supported loyally by a junior Minister in the Department of the Environment, Mr. Moynihan. It was introduced by that department and not by the Home Office, which is responsible for public order legislation.

The scheme never had the wholehearted support of the police, as the noble Earl is quite well aware, and some of his colleagues admitted as much while the Bill was going through this House. I believe that one of them said that the police were neutral on the question. I have never known the police to be neutral on any question involving public order legislation. Experienced police officers knew that there were risks involved in the introduction of this scheme and they said so.

The fact of the matter is that they were ignored, as were Members of all parties in this House when they spoke on this matter. At Second Reading, to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred, there was overwhelming opposition from Members on all sides of the House. Again the Government chose not to listen to any of that criticism. Now it is clear that Lord Justice Taylor has come to the same conclusion in scuppering this silly, ill thought out proposal. We all owe an enormous debt to Lord Justice Taylor.

4 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful, I suppose, for what the noble Lords have said. This is a matter of great importance. I am bound to say that I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, employed so much of his speech making, if I may say so, political points and haranguing the Government for what they had —

Noble Lords

Oh, oh!

Earl Ferrers

It is all very fine, my Lords, for noble Lords to say, "Oh, oh!" I did not say that when I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, when he said that the Government had been showing sheer blind obstinacy and referred to their inability to listen.

Let us reflect a little on what happened. The fact was that football was being subjected to the most intolerable hooliganism and the football authorities were advised to try do something to put their sport in better order. They did not do so and the Government decided that they could not see such hooliganism going on without taking some measures. Therefore the Government brought in the Football Spectators Bill.

Of course it was controversial. No one denied that. If the noble Lord, Lord Harris, believes that it is easy for any government to introduce a controversial measure, I can assure him that that is not so. However, the Government did so because they were determined to try to make football a better and cleaner sport. The noble Lord said that since becoming a Member of this House he has never heard a junior Minister make such a disagreeable Statement. If he had been a Member for as long as I have he might have found that other equally disagreeable Statements have had to be made. The Government introduced the Bill and the scheme in order to try to prevent hooliganism.

After the disaster we asked Lord Justice Taylor to look at all the circumstances of Hillsborough. However, he felt that he could not support the invitation to tender under the scheme if it was made on the proposed basis. Therefore, the Government decided to accept the Taylor Report in full. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, now turns round and blames the Government for that. If before the Taylor Report the Government had determined to go ahead with the scheme because they felt it to be right, the noble Lord could rightly have castigated them. However, we decided to accept the Taylor Report and all the recommendations with the qualifications that I have made.

Many of the other recommendations relate to the football clubs. At paragraph 26 of his report, Lord Justice Taylor states: The picture revealed is of a general malaise or blight over the game due to a number of factors. Principally they are: old grounds, poor facilities, hooliganism, excessive drinking and poor leadership". It is important to note that at paragraph 53 he refers to the clubs, upon which he puts a great onus of responsibility. He states: Boardroom struggles for power, wheeler-dealing in the buying and selling of shares and indeed of whole clubs sometimes suggest that those involved are more interested in the personal financial benefits or social status of being director than of directing the club in the interests of its supporter customers". They are fairly tough words. If Part I of the Football Spectators Act is not introduced, reliance is placed on the remainder of Lord Justice Taylor's report to ensure that football is successful. For that, much depends upon the football clubs.

The noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Harris, could not fail to refer to that. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said that the funding should not be left to football but that we should give revenue advantages for the football pools. We must accept the fact that the football business is part of the leisure industry. Football clubs invite people onto their grounds and it is up to them to make sure that they are as safe as they should be, in the same way as a cinema or theatre would be expected to be a safe place for people to visit.

It is considerably stretching a point when the noble Lord says that, in order to obtain conditions which have not been right heretofore, it, is up to the Governnment to provide funds in the form of tax relief or whatever. Of course such matters will be considered but I am bound to tell the noble Lord that we believe it to be the duty of the football authorities to put their house in order.

4 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I listened with interest to the Minister's Statement. I have spent a long time as a Member of your Lordships' House and of the other place debating a succession of Bills dealing with football. I was surprised that the Minister showed chagrin when my noble friend on the Front Bench levied criticism at the Government for the way in which they delivered the Statement.

I recall amendments which were moved in this House which may well have got the Government off the hook and which anyone in their right mind would have thought reasonable. During the various stages of the Bill through this House we attempted to exclude old-age pensioners from the ID system. Unfortunately, the Government thought it logical to class every old-age pensioner who wanted to watch a football match as a potential mugger or hooligan.

We tabled another amendment to exclude all women but that was not accepted. The Government believe that all women who wish to go to football matches must be of the Amazon type. We also wished to exclude season-ticket holders. I pointed out that it is almost impossible to obtain a season ticket for the top clubs. It is almost like waiting for dead men's shoes. Of course the Minister said that the proposal was nonsense because potential hooligans would be queueing up for the season tickets. I said that I could see no situation in which someone would queue up to pay £250 for a season ticket in order to become a football hooligan.

Many reasonable approaches were made from all sides of your Lordships' House—no particular party or group of Members had a monopoly —but they were thrown out and completely disregarded. It has clearly been shown that the Bill was brought forward totally on the initiative of the Prime Minister and that no one else wanted it. During Question Time in another place last week she made points which the Minister was almost parrot-like in repeating in his Statement.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, pointed out that as regards all-seated stadia few clubs outside the Second Division and some within could survive if the criteria repeated by the Minister are carried out to the letter. Most of the big clubs have all-seated stadia and are not overly worried. Clubs such as those in Manchester, Liverpool and London are already near to that target.

However, the Minister reflected on the way in which that could be financed. Recently in another place Mr. Joe Ashton pointed out the fact that the Government receive more than £200 million a year in taxation from football clubs. I recently tabled a written Question when the noble Lord, Lord Young, was on the Front Bench. I received the most appalling Answer: the figure was not known and had not been identified.

If the Government are concerned about keeping our national sport and making it safer —and I do not say that the clubs are blameless because some of the transfer fees paid are nonsense —then in looking at the financing of all-seated stadia they must consider returning some of the taxes that they gather from football in order that the clubs can get on with the job.

I hope that the House will have an opportunity of debating the report because I do not agree with everything said by Lord Justice Taylor—

Lord Renton

My Lords, we have a great deal of other business to get through today. I understand that questions may be asked about a Statement but that speeches may not be made.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

Before my noble friend Lord Ferrers replies to the noble Lord, Lord Dean, we must not make a Statement an occasion for a debate. I know that there are deeply held feelings on this matter but your Lordships' Procedure Committee, with the agreement of the House, has ruled that we should take 20 minutes for a Statement. Discussion has now taken 24 minutes. It is a matter for the House to decide. Perhaps I may suggest that noble Lords who wish to weigh in —and I am sure that there are some —do so briefly in the form of questions for the House.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, perhaps I may answer the points that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, made. He found it difficult to resist the temptation to rehearse some of the arguments that we used during the passage of the Football Spectators Bill. I do not wish to become involved in that. Obviously the question of a debate is a matter for the usual channels.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, will my noble friend accept our gratitude for giving us the Statement about which we have been hearing a great deal. Some of us look forward to reading the report from cover to cover, as we were advised by our right honourable friend the Prime Minister. We might learn from it if we do so. Let us not forget that 95 human beings died at the match at Hillsborough. That is the core of the Statement this afternoon. If the final report of Lord Justice Taylor is anything like his interim report, I believe that all of the football industry—spectators and everyone connected with it —will have cause to thank Lord Justice Taylor.

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend three questions. First, he has mentioned transfer fees. The figure mentioned in another place last week was £70 million. How much does my noble friend consider that a levy would contribute to the enormous bill that will be incurred by the implementation of the recommendations of Lord Justice Taylor? Does he accept that a fee not far removed from £900,000 was paid by one club last week to a Scottish club? It would quite easily have been an English club. That Scottish club proposes to spend more than 90 per cent. of that alleged fee on an all-purpose stadium for itself as well as for the use of the local community. Where would the funds for that come from if they do not come from transfer fees?

Secondly, my noble friend referred to a proposed offence of chanting racist abuse. Does that also cover religious abuse or other unattractive forms of abuse? How far shall we be able to go?

Thirdly, will my noble friend consider the slogan that has been adopted by the city of Glasgow, "Glasgow smiles better"? I believe that the tenor of much that has been said this afternoon is a replay of one aspect of the Football Spectators Bill. I believe —and I hope that my noble friend will accept it —that the work done by Lord Justice Taylor merits a smile upon the face of football as well as of government.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that. I hope that football will be able to smile better, as he puts it, as a result. I agree with him that the report should be read in its entirety and not one particular part of it.

The figure of £75 million for transfer fees is what it is anticipated will be spent during the year 1988–89. For the year before that the figure was £36.7 million. My noble friend asked what the levy would be. It has first to be decided whether there should be a levy; and Lord Justice Taylor's suggestions have to be considered on that basis. That is not the only method of funding. It is therefore impossible to say what any such levy would be.

On racial abuse, the Government have to consider whether or not it is already covered under the Public Order Act.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Earl whether he can give us his guidance on one aspect of the Government's handling of this matter that is troubling my mind. We hear a great deal from the Government these days about the need to defend the sovereignty of Parliament against depredations from outside. Is it not also the case that the football membership scheme had almost no friends either in your Lordships' House or in another place but that the Government were impervious to that and drove the provision through by whipped majorities? We then had a chance —and chance it was —in that a Lord Justice of Appeal was sitting because of the accident of a terrible tragedy. The Government's attitude is totally torpedoed by a Lord Justice of Appeal, whereas they have completely ignored the feeling in both Houses of Parliament. How does that square with talk about the sovereignty of Parliament?

4.14 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it squares perfectly well. The Government produced a Bill because they were concerned about the state of public order and the conduct of football matches where people were being subjected to the most terrifying things including death. They brought the Bill into Parliament and the Bill was passed. Parliament then had two other opportunities to discuss what was going to be produced when the scheme, as it was, was introduced. Parliament then had the right to give its views on that. When a disaster occurred my right honourable friend asked Lord Justice Taylor to consider everything. Lord Justice Taylor stated that he could not support this part. The Government accept that.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, if my noble friend takes notice of the Lord Justice will he take more notice of the Lords of Appeal on the courts Bill? It might be interesting to see the difference in attitude on the advice given.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I regard that as a frivolous interjection and nothing to do with the Statement.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, Aberdeen has an all-seats stadium. My friends and family who attend that stadium say that it has made a tremendous difference. The time that the Government are giving football clubs to provide all-seats stadia is too long. The Minister should pay attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Dean, said about the Government helping through taxation. The Minister said that it is a leisure issue and should receive no help. However, other leisure areas such as tourism receive help. The Government should not shut their eyes to that aspect.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, for at least saying that the Government are being too generous in their treatment of the football situation. I shall bear in mind what he said. When I gave my reply about taxation, I implied that it was a matter for my right honourable friend. Of course the suggestions of Lord Justice Taylor will be considered. I gave the overall view of the Government.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I have not had an opportunity to read the report. However, on the Statement made by the noble Earl, I agree with him and with Lord Justice Taylor on the strictures about the conduct of many football clubs in this country and the gross transfer fees that have been bandied about. But that is part of the socio-economic system that the Government support. I also agree with the strictures on the actions of some players. I was glad that the noble Earl said —and I believe I heard him correctly —that it was not just soccer players who were to be condemned for giving a bad example on the field of play.

Having said that, I should like to take further the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. I do that in a personal capacity. On 20th February last year, at cols. 412 and 413 of Hansard, I warned the Government against the increased dangers of the use of identity cards, dangers which had been pointed out by the police, the clubs and supporters. Unfortunately, six weeks later at Hillsborough that warning was borne out in tragic practice.

That point was made on all sides of this Chamber. It was not just those noble Lords in Opposition. The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, moved an amendment partly dealing with that very point. Lord Justice Taylor has now confirmed the warnings which we then gave to the Government. I repeat what my noble friend Lord Mishcon said at the beginning: how is it that the Government have no apology to make to this House for the amount of parliamentary time and public money which have been wasted because they would not listen at that time to reasoned arguments from those of us who had some experience of football grounds? How is it that the will of one woman was allowed to prevail—

Noble Lords


Lord Hatch of Lusby

—against the criticisms of her own supporters as well as those of us who are politically opposed to her?

This was not a political issue but an issue of experience and common sense. We warned the Government at that time of the dangers of their ID scheme. Lord Justice Taylor has now borne out that warning. The Government listen to Lord Justice Taylor but do not listen to Parliament. Apparently they are not prepared to come and say, "We were wrong. We regret the time and public money which were wasted. We shall not put into effect the scheme which took so much time in this House and in another place and which took so much money, much of which came from the clubs themselves".

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, seems to be momentarily unaware of the parliamentary processes. A Bill only reaches the statute book with the approval of both Houses of Parliament. This Bill had that approval.

He asks why the Government have not apologised. The simple answer is that the Government asked the football authorities to do something about the game because of the disasters which had occurred. The authorities did not do that and the Government brought in a Bill to try to meet that criticism. That is why that Bill was brought in. Therefore, there is no reason to apologise for bringing in a Bill which is aimed at trying to combat hooliganism. The noble Lord keeps trying to interrupt from a sedentary position. He has asked me a question and I am endeavouring to answer. Of course the Bill was controversial. Lord Justice Taylor has now looked at the matter and has advised that that part of the Bill should not be brought into effect, and we accept that advice. However, let us be clear that this Bill passed both Houses of Parliament.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, are we to have a debate on the report?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is a matter for the usual channels. I am sure that if the noble Lord wishes to pursue that he will do so.