HL Deb 22 March 2001 vol 623 cc1534-6

3.17 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they intend to ensure that. the recommendations contained in the report of the working group on football disorder are implemented.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the report of the working group on football disorder identifies the key agencies in respect of each of the 54 recommendations. The Home Office will monitor progress and will convene meetings with all agencies concerned on a regular basis. We also intend to hold regional seminars involving all the key players—if that is not a pun—including the fans.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I as a veteran of numerous inquiries, task forces and working groups looking at football disorder over the years pay tribute to my noble friend and his officials in the Home Office for the leadership they gave, the expeditious way in which this inquiry was conducted and the fact that it managed to come to an agreed set of conclusions in under six months? Does my noble friend agree with me that two of the most important recommendations are, first, that the Football Association has agreed to disband the existing England Members Club and intends to relaunch it with the exclusion of people who have records of violence or racist activity? That is a significant step forward in dealing with the problems of the England team travelling overseas. Secondly, will he confirm that it is the Government's intention that the involvement of supporters will be maintained in the implementation of the remaining recommendations?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind words about my stewardship of the working group. As regards the recommendations, the agreement of the Football Association to take apart the England Members Club and reconstitute it with much improved standards of membership is a significant improvement and recommendation which we should all welcome. The England Members Club needs to reflect much more broadly our wider society. It ought to be more multiracial and to reflect the broad range of interests that now support English soccer. As to consultation with supporters' organisations, that was, and will continue to be, a key feature of the implementation of the report.

Lord McNally

My Lords, will the Minister tell us what has happened to the idea of an American style soccer commissioner to drive through reforms in the game? Will he also take this opportunity to disassociate himself from the absolutely barmy idea of the Minister of Sport to bring back terraces to football grounds, which would be a recipe for further hooliganism?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I understand the nature of the controversy over terracing. I believe that the situation that we have developed in our football grounds over the past decade or so, with an increasingly larger number of all-seater stadia, is greatly to be welcomed and has made a major contribution to the reduction of hooliganism and violence in our football grounds. Reflecting on the statistics, it appears that this year the number of arrests has fallen, as it has over the past decade or so, and that is to be welcomed.

With regard to the idea of an American style commissioner, although I am not sure that that is how I would describe it, I believe that there would be some merit in that approach. Nevertheless, that is not necessarily a matter for me; it is a matter for wider debate in the sport itself.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds

My Lords, does the Minister recognise the warm welcome that will be given to this report throughout the football industry by supporters, clubs and football organisations for the thoughtful and long-term view that it takes of the problems? Meanwhile, will the Minister tell the House how many orders to date have been made against individuals under the Football Disorder Act? Secondly, will he assure the House that all necessary arrangements will be in place for the three away international games that England has in the World Cup during the course of this year?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am again grateful for the noble Lord's support for the report. I hope that the report will be widely welcomed by supporters' organisations. We certainly intend to work very closely with them.

I do not have precise figures for the number of orders made under the legislation that we put in place last year. However, I understand that approximately 40 such banning orders are in place. The police believe that they have played an important part in curbing the attendance of those intent on hooliganism at away matches involving English clubs in European competitions and, of course, the England side itself. We believe that the legislation has had a salutary effect and will continue to do so. It will be kept under review as per the requirements of the sunset clauses.

With regard to the policing of future international matches that take place abroad, we are in close contact with the countries against whom we shall be playing. I recently visited Germany to look at the arrangements that are likely to be in place for the England v Germany match in September. As a product of that visit, we shall no doubt make a number of suggestions which I believe will necessarily improve the level of security for that match.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I understand that a Written Answer was recently provided on the number of orders. With regard to the matter of terracing, was the Minister or the Minister of Sport expressing the Government's view?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I was expressing my own view, which also happens to be the view of the Government.