HC Deb 18 July 1985 vol 83 cc206-7W
Mr. Gerald Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met the football authorities; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Macfarlane

I met the Football Association and the Football League in my working group on measures to combat football hooliganism on 17 July. We continued the discussions between the Government and the football authorities on measures to be taken, jointly and separately, to deal with the problems of crowd control and safety confronting the game. The Football League presented a memorandum and reported specifically on membership cards.

The issue of membership cards is one which concerns the responsibility of football clubs for ensuring safety and security within their own premises. The Government expect them to take that responsibility seriously, and regret the delay. I am glad to note that the Football League has established a working group to give this option the full but speedy consideration it requires. I look forward to seeing an early report, which will be completed by early September.

In the meantime, a Government-football authorities package is being constructed for the new season. The Government have already announced a range of actions, within their responsibilities, to reduce and contain hooliganism. The police role should be strengthened in particular with new powers to be proposed under the Public Order Bill to be introduced next Session. I hope that Parliament will approve our legislation to restrict alcohol at matches and on journeys to and from them; we know alcohol can incite and inflame trouble. I took the initiative to agree binding measures with European Governments and with UEFA. A convention has been agreed upon and should be adopted very soon; discussions have started with UEFA. To meet public concern about safety, divisions 3 and 4 Football League clubs are to be designated under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act; chief fire officers have been inspecting all sports grounds; and there is a full inquiry under Mr. Justice Popplewell. His interim report will be available very soon.

The football authorities are developing plans for more all-ticket and morning matches. Known hooligans will be banned from grounds. CCTV will be installed quickly at as many grounds as possible. Problem matches are being identified early so that effective precautions can be taken.

The resolve and the effort are there. The Government are determined that all possible steps will be taken to restore the good name of football and our country. Our discussions of possible actions with the Football Association and the Football League will continue with the same sense of urgency.