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Mr. Carlisle : The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the Labour party would support certain measures for certain games on the basis that they could be picked out as potential troublemakers. I have some sympathy with that view. The right hon. Gentleman must also understand, however, that unsolicited violence does occur at games, such as at Selhurst park earlier this month and during the opening game at Scarborough two years ago. How can he say that there should be one rule for some games but not for all of them?
Mr. Howell : I have a great deal of experience of dealing with these matters. As the Minister knows, a great deal of intelligence about games where there is likely to be trouble comes in from the police, and that intelligence should be used. It is certainly not being used very well at the moment.
I presided over a committee that represented all football interests, such as the coach operators, the railways and the police, but it has never been mentioned since the day that I went out of office. One of the problems is that the Government know it all ; they can do it all on their own. That is certainly not the way to solve the problems. There are two problems of great importance about which not a word was said by the Secretary of State in that most lamentable speech that he inflicted on the House--civil liberties and the practicality of the scheme. We know why we did not hear a word about those from the Secretary of State--because no man or woman living in this country has ever seen the Secretary of State at a football match. We would all be interested if we ever saw the Secretary of State at a sporting event. He has never
Column 920been to a football match. That is why he is the repository of all wisdom on the subject that he wishes to inflict upon us.
Millions of football supporters are decent people who have never been in trouble in their life ; 99.9 per cent. of all the people who go to football matches are peaceful, law-abiding citizens. The Government and the Secretary of State propose that those law-abiding citizens shall be registered, photographed, computerised and processed. That is Conservatism today. Those who believe in civil liberty and the value of freedom reject that entirely. Of course, those innocent citizens will not be allowed to take a member of their family to a football match without that person being registered. Mr. Couchman rose --
One interesting fact that emerges from the university of Leicester is that the largest crowds occur at holiday time because fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters visit their families and they all go together to a match as a family. That should be encouraged, but it will be actively discouraged by the Bill.
The Bill will outlaw neutrality in football. It will impose segregation for ever. That is outrageous. We should be moving away from segregation back to the days when people living next to each other who supported rival teams could sit next to each other to enjoy the sporting encounter. That will never happen under the Bill. That traditional sporting joy of the British people is being killed. I move to the practical objections, on which we have not heard one word from the Minister. If the scheme is imposed, it will aggravate the very problem that it is supposed to deal with at the turnstiles.
Mr. Howell : The Minister says no. Those of us who were at Hillsborough, and every sensible, intelligent person, know what will happen. The Minister arrived at Hillsborough by helicopter at midnight. Had he been there earlier he would have known what would have happened if the turnstile operators, beleaguered as they were that day, had been required to take cards and process them through a computer, as well as taking money. The problem would have been aggravated.
Under the procedure that is proposed we cannot amend the orders that will come before us ; we will have to take them or leave them. It is inconceivable that Lord Justice Taylor will tell us that the membership scheme could have assisted at Hillsborough.
Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley) rose --
Mr. Couchman rose --
Mr. Howell : I will not give way. I am dealing with the situation that is facing Lord Justice Taylor. He has been put in an impossible position by the Government. The Secretary of State is forcing through his scheme and putting Lord Justice Taylor in an impossible situation, which is a most undignified state of affairs. That is something of which we must take account. We all know--
Mr. Moynihan indicated dissent.
For the past six months the Minister for Sport has been telling us that football can make a profit out of the legislation because clubs will be able to sell their mailing lists to cover their costs. There has not been one word about that from the Secretary of State. Why is that? It is because not one of the firms that expressed interest can operate a scheme free of charge to the Football League. Not one. They all know that they cannot profitably operate a mailing list. One reason why they cannot do so is because the Minister has had to agree, under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1984, that members can put a cross in a square if they do not want their names and addresses passed on to a mailing company. The football authorities, football supporters and certainly the Opposition will advise every supporter to exercise that right. There is no reason why supporters should be flooded with advertising about double glazing or second hand cars--apparently all that is okay by the Government, although not in respect of the poll tax.
The Bill has many other deficiencies.
Mr. Howell : The Secretary of State packed in football 50 years ago. He has never been seen at a football ground since. I wish that he would not make insulting remarks after his own speech earlier today.
Mr. Ridley : Having listened to the right hon. Gentleman's flannel so far, I think he is saying that there is a general increase in violence and that football should be allowed to keep its share of it--because he is not prepared to do anything about it and has no ideas. The right hon. Gentleman's complacency is revolting to those of us who really care.
Mr. Howell : I accepted the challenge by the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) to say what should be done. I have said what should be done. Violence should be identified and targeted and then dealt with. I do not want to waste any more time on puerile interventions.
I turn to a matter of equal importance. We are in favour of the principle enshrined in part II of the Bill but we are concerned about its application. As I said earlier, unless the Minister can tell the House tonight that arrangements are being made with other European Ministers not only to apprehend troublemakers but to bring them to justice in the European courts, which has not happened so far, he will have no names to feed into his computer when he comes to implement part II. [Interruption.] The Minister may say that that is absolute nonsense but I shall give him two examples.
Mr. Moynihan : The right hon. Gentleman has stated that if we do not have such arrangements with overseas countries, we would not be able to ban anybody under part II. He is totally wrong because, as he knows, anyone convicted of a football hooligan offence by the courts in this country, with appropriate action being taken by the court, will be banned under part II from going to overseas matches for either two or five years.
Mr. Howell : I am obliged to the Minister, but he will now tell the House--[ Hon. Members :-- "Withdraw".] I am not withdrawing because I am going to justify it. The Minister will now tell the House why, in these circumstances, not one of the 300 people arrested in West Germany has ever been dealt with in courts in this country. Perhaps he will also tell the House why he has not done anything about the members of the National Front who went with the England team to Albania and to Iceland and behaved disgracefully. I am informed-- [Interruption.] this is all part of part II--I am informed by representatives of the Football Association and of Leicester university that there was the most appalling behaviour. Those people arrived in those countries appallingly dressed and assaulted other supporters. They gave the Nazi salute during the British national anthem and then left the ground before the match had started. That is the essence of the matter, but the Minister has nothing whatsoever to say about it and no proposals whatsoever for dealing with it. It is a scandal. He should join us in denouncing it and say that he will take action.
I turn now to the Football Membership Authority itself. It is ridiculous that a Football Membership Authority is to be appointed and accepted by the Secretary of State without any opportunity for the House to discuss it. I agree with the hon. Member for Ryedale that it is wrong that the Bill as drafted does not provide for any consultation about membership with the supporters, or even with the police.
The Football Membership Authority will be a figleaf organisation, provided by the Government to give them a figleaf of respectability. It will have no powers apart from those which the Secretary of State decides that it shall have. It will make no decisions except those of which the Secretary of State approves. It is not a free-standing organisation. It cannot take its own decisions. It cannot determine its own policy. It will be bound hand and foot at absolutely every turn. It must register and computerise. It cannot exempt other categories of supporters.
We know that guests, disabled people and children accompanied by adults will be exempted, but the FMA has already been told that even if it wants to, it cannot exempt old-age pensioners and women. There are hardly any examples of old-age pensioners or women acting as football hooligans. The whole thing is ludicrous, yet a great attack is being made on the civil liberties of a mass of people, including old age pensioners and women.
Perhaps the most ludicrous of all the proposals is that dealing with overseas visitors. Those who want to attend football matches will be allowed to do so on the production of their passports. Where will the gates be located at our football grounds such as Wembley at which passports can be produced? Stealing passports is one of the most lucrative businesses in our society, but the Government's proposals will encourage it.
The Government have totally rejected all the proposals and objections that have been made. In my judgment, the
Column 923scheme cannot possibly work. It will create aggravation at the turnstiles and deep resentment throughout the country. I say to my friends in football that, if they have any sense, they will have nothing to do with the scheme. We all know that those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. The Government are mad. There is no need for the football authorities to prove that lunacy is infectious. They should therefore have nothing to do with the scheme.
To show how irrelevant the scheme is, I shall cite the recent remarks of Judge Dennis Clark in Liverpool, who was dealing with people who had committed offences away from football grounds.
Mr. Howell : No, it is not ; I have another five minutes. Judge Clark noted that most of the violence described in the cases before him took place away from soccer grounds and so could not have been prevented by the Government's identification card scheme, which he described as futile and cosmetic.
The judge was absolutely right on all counts. People who vote for the scheme today will vote for a scheme which certainly is futile and cosmetic.
We must spend a few minutes on all-seater stadiums, but, Mr. Speaker, due to your ruling, we may be able to return to it. All-seater stadiums are the new panacea. We all want to work towards all-seater stadiums, but I have a relevant question to which the Secretary of State has not yet addressed himself. Do the Government intend to make it a criminal offence to stand up? Unless we have an answer to that question, we will not know whether we can enforce all-seater stadiums. The Minister has obviously not contemplated that question, but I must tell him that at many grounds this year I have seen people who have been allocated seats--at Manchester city and Leeds especially--refusing to sit down. We must not believe that an all -seater stadium is a panacea, because it is not. We must know how we can force people to sit down in such stadiums.
I have already objected strongly to the proposal that we should approve the scheme by orders. It is a monstrous proposition to Parliament. Most of us in the House have never heard of an order being defeated, as that rarely happens. The orders are to be brought before us after we have Lord Justice Taylor's report. We then either have to accept them or the Government have to withdraw them. The reality is that no Government will withdraw an order and admit that they have made a monumental misjudgment of such an important situation.
We hope that the House will vote for the special procedure resolution, which will at least give us the opportunity to have witnesses called and to hear what they have to say, because the views of such witnesses were silent in the Minister's statement. This is a Bill conceived by the prejudice of the Prime Minister--a reservoir of prejudice so deep that no man can plumb it. It is a Bill that owes its intellectual content to the Minister for Sport about whom no more need be said. It is a Bill about law and order throughout the realm, yet the Home Secretary has not taken part in the debate. It is a Bill that removes the rights of citizens. The Bill will not work. I cannot understand why the Government want to accept responsibility for it. The
Column 924Government are saying that the Bill is the answer to all the football problems. The very first time that there are problems, as there will be when the Bill is on the statute book, the Government will have to accept full responsibility for them.
The Bill cannot be brought into effect until 1990-91--that is its timetable. That year will be an exciting one in which to bring in the Bill. If the House forces the Bill on the country today, 1991 will be the year when football constituencies and others will show their contempt for the Government. They will restore to themselves the dignity and the civil rights that have long been theirs.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Colin Moynihan) : Before I comment on the points that have been madeduring this debate I would like to say how much I share the sympathy which hon. Members have expressed for those affected by the Hillsborough disaster. My visit to the stadium following the tragedy will remain with me as an occasion of great sadness. It was correct in every sense to pause for a decent period to mark our respect for those who died and who were injured and to have allowed time to consider additional measures to ensure that such an event never happens again.
This has been a productive and interesting debate, not least because of the contribution from the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms. Hoey). I congratulate her on an outstanding maiden speech. I listened carefully to what she said and I am glad that I can meet her at least on the principal point that she raised with regard to supporters. I agree with the hon. Lady that supporters must be "real members", to use her phrase, of their clubs. There is a major onus on football clubs to respond in that manner. I would like to see the European initiative of bringing them on to the boards of football clubs followed much more closely in this country. When the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) began his speech I said that I thought that it was important for us to consider carefully the case for supporters or for a supporters' organisation representative to be represented on the Football Membership Authority.
We heard a predictably long-winded speech from the right hon. Member for Small Heath. It was long on criticism of our plan to tackle football hooliganism and precious short of ideas and constructive proposals. He made six or seven points, all of them inaccurate. First he talked about the appalling behaviour of our fans in Germany and Iceland and asked why those fans were not dealt with at home. Under the present law such hooligans have committed no offence known to our courts. Under the provisions of the Bill, however, hooligans convicted of corresponding offences abroad can be subject to restriction orders and prevented from attending designated matches outside England and Wales. I am sure that, when the right hon. Gentleman reads the Bill he will welcome that move forward. Mr. Wareing rose --
Mr. Wilson rose --
Column 925minutes in the expectation that the right hon. Member for Small Heath would do likewise so that other hon. Members could make their contribution to this debate.
The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about people being required to hand over cards to turnstile operators so that they could look at them. That is totally unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the technology is available to ensure that individual members do not have to hand over cards to turnstile operators. Therefore, there need be no additional delay at the turnstile if the appropriate technology is chosen.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the "national membership association". The right hon. Gentleman could go right through the Bill without finding a mention of any national membership association. I am well aware of what he was talking about but if he was referring to the Football Membership Authority he should also be aware that there are provisions within the membership scheme that can be deployed to allow the FMA to tackle incitement to violence, racial abuse at grounds and any incident that brings the game into disrepute which does not lead to action by the courts.
Those various abject and abhorrent practices can be handled under the discretionary powers of the Football Membership Authority, which can ban individual members for two years, and there is also an appeal mechanism therein. For the first time, many of the incidents at grounds which rightly cause anger and annoyance among law-abiding citizens or--I emphasise this-- any similar incident away from grounds which brings the game into disrepute, can lead the Football Membership Authority to use its discretionary powers to ban those people from becoming members of the football membership scheme and thus from attending matches for two years. The right hon. Member for Small Heath should take a little time to look at that important provision, which he should welcome.
I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman advocated that members of the national membership scheme who join through their clubs should place a cross in the box to show that they do not wish to receive correspondence. Of the 92 clubs in Britain, 90 have partial membership schemes. Those clubs appreciate the opportunity to communicate with members so that they can keep them in touch with what is happening and inform them, not only about the success of the club but about sponsorship deals. Many such deals are associated with the cards. For example, British Rail sponsorship is associated with Reading football club's card.
The clubs appreciate being able to keep their supporters informed, because their members benefit when the club is financed by the sponsors. Yet here, the right hon. Gentleman stands at the Dispatch Box and tells clubs to stop communicating with their supporters and to put a cross in the box. That is an appalling derogation of his responsibility.
Mr. Denis Howell : I said nothing of the sort. I said that I would advise supporters to put a cross so that they would not receive an avalanche of unwanted mail. It is an entirely different matter for the football club of which they are members. Obviously, the supporters want to hear from their football club but do not want their club to disclose their names and addresses.
Mr. Moynihan : That is yet another fascinating revelation : there is a distinction in Labour party thinking between the members of a football scheme or club and the supporters of a club. It was very much our thinking that they were one and the same group of people. We thought that if clubs had an opportunity to encourage as many members as possible, they would want to find as many supporters as possible to watch their games.
The six points made by the right hon. Gentleman were all, regrettably, inaccurate. It has been made crystal clear to the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members that even with the most advanced technology available and with no commercial opportunities whatsoever, the cost would be £3.30 per annum if the card was to last three years, and possibly less if the FMA decided that it should last for four or five years.
We consider that to be a small price to pay for individual football supporters to be able to go to and from clubs safely. If the commercial opportunities are developed, it is possible that the card will not cost the football clubs anything but, in practice, will be an income stream to them. That is an important consideration which should motivate clubs to ensure that as many members as possible come to their ground.
The contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) was thought-provoking and relevant, particularly to the wider debate of the problems of adolescent law and order. We have a duty to tackle the problems of law and order wherever they exist in society. That was the background for much of the Public Order Act 1986 and the Education Reform Act 1988 to which my right hon. Friend referred. However, no one would deny that there is a major problem of disorder, violence and hooliganism associated with football which must be tackled. The best way forward is to put deterrents in place, which is precisely what we intend to do by divorcing once and for all true football supporters--the vast majority of supporters--from the hooligans.
I cannot accept the claim by the right hon. Gentleman that there was a problem in only a limited number of grounds. The very first day of last season saw problems with the newest club in the fourth division-- Scarborough--and, regrettably, only three weeks after a glowing recommendation of Aldershot's record in a BBC television documentary, there was trouble there.
We must take action to tackle hooliganism wherever it may occur, and I regret to say that there is no guarantee that it is not equally likely to occur at Hartlepool, Chelsea, Aldershot or Scarborough. Mr. Barron rose--
My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) made some pertinent comments about the view of the Police Federation, whose view he put very clearly. I welcome the federation's responsible approach to our proposals, and I am happy to give an assurance that, along with the Association of Chief Police Officers, the
Column 927federation will be consulted about the scheme. My officials and I discussed the proposals with the federation at an early stage, and I am also happy to repeat the Government's agreement to the concept of an independent chairman for the FMA. Other hon. Members have raised the same point, and we may return to it in Committee.
Hon. Members have raised the important issue of the displacement of violence. I refer them to the 100 per cent. home-only scheme that operated extremely successfully at Luton. I also refer them to the view of the Bedfordshire police :
"To suggest that football hooligans have been forced out of the ground and are now committing violent offences within the community is totally without foundation. The groups of hooligans who used to attend home matches are well known to the police, and had they been responsible for an increase in local violence this would have been quickly recognised and appropriate action taken."
The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) wrongly said that none of the police had come down in support of the concept of the scheme. Not only has it been made clear today that the Police Federation has expressed a strong preference for a home-only membership scheme, under which all away team supporters would be banned ; but the federation wishes to impose a much more radical new measure than that proposed by the Government. There was no evidence in the hon. Gentleman's speech that he wanted to pursue any new measure.
Dr. Cunningham : I am grateful to the Minister for giving way so late in his speech. I accept what he has said about the police, but the fact is that none of the police organisations supports the proposals in the Bill.
"I am pleased to inform you that this Association is broadly in agreement with the Summary of Conclusions".
All last summer was spent in consideration of a proposal which had the agreement of the working party members--the FA, the Football League and police representatives--and which formed the nucleus of the Bill. The hon. Member for Copeland would have difficulty finding a distinction between those proposals and the present ones--and the superintendents agreed with the main proposals. His was, in fact, a very untimely intervention.
Mr. Holt : My hon. Friend will recall that earlier I rather inadvisedly and unwisely called the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) a liar. I withdrew that and said that he had been inaccurate to say that 600 people had been arrested at Ascot over three days. I have taken the trouble to ring the assistant chief constable of the Thames Valley Police, Mr. Dunn, who told me that over the four days of Royal Ascot, 32 people were arrested.
Dr. Cunningham : I do not wish to withdraw. If the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) had been listening instead of bellowing abuse, as he was continuously, he would have heard that I said "last year".
The hon. Member for Copeland also made comparisons about crime statistics. I find it surprising that he comes to the Dispatch Box to make such false and fatuous comparisons between apples and cheese. The crimes committed outside the grounds are different from those committed inside. After all, no driving or speeding offences are committed inside the grounds. The most relevant and comprehensive comparison would be between the number of arrests against equivalent numbers of police hours. I doubt whether there would be any disagreement about making that comparison, and I see that the hon. Gentleman agrees. The comparison of the number of arrests against the equivalent number of police hours is six of notifiable offences in society and 130 at football matches. That appalling number of incidents is permitted despite 5,000 police being on duty--police whom my constituents, and I hope every other hon. Members' constituents, would prefer to be downtown tackling crime.
It is vital that the House recognises that the most significant step in recent weeks is the decision by the Government, accepted by the other place, that there should be two debates after Lord Justice Taylor has reported. It is vital that the House recognises, before it votes, that after Royal Assent for the Bill, no action will be taken on the membership scheme, or even on the establishment of the Football Membership Authority, until the Government come back to the House and every hon. Member has had the opportunity to consider Lord Justice Taylor's report. Then the House will have the opportunity to vote. Furthermore, once the scheme is prepared, the House will have another opportunity to look at it and decide whether it wishes to give approval to the decision by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to implement that scheme.
All this will happen after Lord Justice Taylor's final report, whenever it is published. It would be wrong and inappropriate to take action on the details of the scheme or the composition of the Football Membership Authority until we have his final report. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed understandable concerns. I hope that as they decide how to vote, they will reflect that they will have the opportunity to look in detail at that report and to consider all its implications before the FMA is set up or the scheme approved.
Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time : The House divided : Ayes 330, Noes 252.
Division No.263] [10.00 pm
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Amery, Rt Hon Julian
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bevan, David Gilroy
Blackburn, Dr John G.
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)