HC Deb 05 December 1989 vol 163 cc118-9W
Mr. John Carlisle

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress there has been on the preparation of the national membership scheme for football specators.

Mr. Moynihan

My right hon. Friend and I had a helpful meeting with the president of the Football League and the chairman of the Football Association on 14 November. They made it clear that it was still their wish that the football authorities should have first refusal to form the company that will be appointed as the Football Membership Authority. We confirmed that it was our hope and expectation that they would do so on the basis which had been agreed—that the Secretary of State would approve the composition of the authority; that the body appointed was willing and able to produce a scheme which he could approve and which satisfied the requirements of the legislation and that he was satisfied about the implementation timetable.

We propose to hold further discussions shortly with the football authorities about the membership of the FMA. The FMA will be appointed following parliamentary approval of the commencement order bringing section 3 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 into operation. We intend that the commencement order should be laid and debated in the new year, after the publication of Lord Justice Taylor's final report on the Hillsborough inquiry.

I welcome the progress which the working party set up by the football authorities has made in its preparations for the national membership scheme. I understand that it has now issued an invitation to tender to the seven companies and consortia which are bidding for the contract to operate the scheme.

I share the hope of the football authorities that it will be possible, from a wide range of financial options, to meet the requirements of the national membership scheme, on a self-financing basis, at no direct cost to football clubs. If the clubs adopt a positive approach to promoting the scheme among their supporters, there is every prospect that this approach will be pursued successfully. The Government have provided a share of the costs incurred on the preparation of the scheme in advance of Royal Assent to the Football Spectators Act. The full funding of its implementation will be football's responsibility.

It will be for the Football Membership Authority, in conjunction with the chosen supplier, to come forward with an acceptable timetable for the implementation of the scheme. The Government want the scheme to be in place as soon as practicable. We will approve its introduction when we are satisfied that it will be effective, workable and safe. Before that can happen, both the Football Membership Authority and the Football Licensing Authority will need to be confident, among other considerations: that the technology has been tested properly; that the flow of spectators through the turnstiles will proceed smoothly; that the implications for the stewarding and policing of designated football matches have been fully assessed including the methodology for handling invalid cards, and that any structural alterations which may be needed at individual grounds have been made. The Football Licensing Authority will not license a ground to hold a designated match unless the requirements of the national membership scheme have been complied with and they are fully satisfied on safety requirements.

I look forward to continuing co-operation between the Government and the football authorities in preparing for the implementation of the scheme and to the major contribution which the scheme will make to break the link between football and hooliganism.