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Column 58terraces. I believe that it is indeed possible, as do other Conservative Members, because 30 or 40 years ago people attended football matches in large crowds and in greater safety without the abuse and the problems on the terraces which have contributed so much to the game's collapse. That is one reason why attendances have fallen so much and the game no longer has a positive image. That is why the casual supporter who used to take his children to football and may have been taken to matches by his father no longer goes to football. I genuinely believe that Opposition Members do not care whether those people come back to the terraces, but it is absolutely vital that they do.
The Bill at last tries to tackle the problem of attitude. If there is a changed attitude to the game, and if supporters change their approach, segregation can in time be broken. Most membership clubs and supporters' clubs throughout the country maintain good relations with opposing supporters' clubs. Often they will meet in the morning before the game, there are football matches between them, and that builds up a good spirit. I was taken to Manchester City and saw the Junior Blues. That is happening everywhere. Most supporters look forward to a time when supporters of different teams can mingle together at the ground.
I do not believe that the idea that the average football supporter can be herded around and filmed every moment he is at a football ground can go on for ever. If it does, we shall never attract back the people whom football needs to get the bums on the seats and the money rolling in. There must be a change in attitude. I believe that the problem can be broken down, and I believe that the Bill will help. The fundamental flaw in the argument put by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras was that he addressed himself solely to present-day football supporters, who have gradually dwindled in numbers over the past 20 or 30 years, rather than to those whom the game needs to attract.
In conclusion, I feel strongly that the failure of the game in the past 30 years to cope with the problems of modern competition has been exacerbated by its failure to deal with violent supporters. Various schemes have been tried in the past 20 years, sometimes when Labour Members were in government--and they were experts--but those measures have failed. We have not eradicated the cancer. The Bill is designed to change attitudes within the game. It will take time and it will be only part of a package designed to bring people back to the game. The casual supporter has been neglected for too long. He or she needs to be attracted back to football if the game is to survive the crisis and develop into the mass-supported activity that it once was.
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde) : You have said that the debate can be a wide one, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and we could not disagree with your ruling. The hon. Members for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) and for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) made our case for us. Whether or not we agreed with them, they made good Committee speeches. We should be listening to those speeches in Committee and not on a guillotine motion.
When the Leader of the House first announced that the Bill was to go through another place first, Opposition Members rightly objected. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) in particular
Column 59pointed out that it was a contentious Bill and should begin its passage in this House. The response from the Government was that it was contentious on both sides of the House, and that somehow made it all right. That was partially true at the time, but it was before the Leader of the House and the Government Whips ensured that their placemen and political Josephines were on the Standing Committee--with one honourable exception, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester).
The hon. Member for Broxtowe understands football, came to the Committee with an independent mind and on occasion voted with the Opposition.
The disgrace of the Government is that they are hurrying through the measure instead of facing up to the new problems and issues that have arisen since the Hillsborough disaster. They have set out to impose ID cards upon all football supporters at any price. As we have argued in Committee, that is no solution ; nor is the blinkered approach of the Government relevant to the difficulties experienced by our national game.
Admittedly, as has been said, the Government have decided to add safety to the remit of the Committee, but what is the use of that if the Committee is not to be allowed to scrutinise, analyse or debate safety issues? We have only reached clause 5 of a 24-clause Bill, without the Opposition in any way delaying the proceedings. There are contentious issues in the Bill which need to be fully debated. Already much of the Bill has been endorsed by the other place without any discussion of its contents. I refer, of course, to part II. It is well known that the Opposition have a great deal of sympathy for its aims, but the details need proper discussion to ensure that they are fully relevant now and after 1992. The other place discussed part II for less than half an hour, after midnight, with just a few of their Lordships present. That is no way for legislation to reach the statute book--especially legislation which affects the civil liberties of hundreds of thousands of our countrymen and women.
One has only to look at what has happened so far in Committee to see that the timetable motion is a disgrace. During the fourth sitting, for example, we discussed how Wembley stadium and its special problems fitted in to the provisions of the Bill. It became quite clear that, even at this late stage of the legislative process, the Government do not know what they will do with our national stadium. Will it be included in the ID card scheme? Will it be excluded for internationals but included for club matches? Will foreign tourists have to buy ID cards, or, equally absurd, queue with their passports to seek entry? The Minister even let slip the fact that we could face the crazy situation that English fans would have to carry ID cards when Scotland visits Wembley, but Scottish fans would not, because, luckily for them, they are outside the scheme. Will hooligans simply buy black market tickets for the Scottish end to cause trouble? At which end is a Scot who lives in London expected to be? Will an Englishman convicted of an offence face a five-year ban from football, while a Scottish fan gets a lesser sentence? All those are
Column 60legitimate issues raised in Committee and left in the air as the Government have not thought the scheme through properly. That was in clause 1. We have now reached clause 5 and issues which are just as worrying.
The Government seem to think that pensioners and women are a serious threat to public order. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) about the number of pensioners who were caught who were not even inside the ground. The inclusion of women in the scheme does not make sense. The football authorities, and the Government have no record whatsoever of women having been arrested or ejected from grounds. Despite what the Prime Minister and others have said, for the first time women are being attracted to football, through voluntary membership schemes, family areas, creche facilities and so on. The ID scheme will set that back a long way. Are those matters such a serious threat to public order that all pensioners must be forced to carry ID cards to matches? That is nonsense, and Conservative Members know it and are embarrassed about it. Should important debates on such matters as civil liberties be curtailed simply so that the Government can railroad the Bill on to the statute book at the earliest opportunity? What is the hurry? We must ask the Government that. The Minister has said repeatedly that he would not put the legislation in place until the technology was there, and everyone agrees that it is not there at present. When one considers who has been delaying the Committee, the Government's tactics become clear. I cite the afternoon sitting of Thursday 6 July as a case in point. No fewer than 13 Conservative Members, including the Minister, spoke between 9 pm and the midnight Adjournment. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) spoke for more than 50 minutes and concentrated mainly on the relevance of the ferret to matches between Bolton and Preston. Progress may not have been made to the liking of the Leader of the House, and we know why. The reasons I have given so far for opposing the timetable motion are reasons of detail. The matter of principle is that Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry has not yet reported and will not report while the Committee is sitting. The inquiry has examined the tragedy on 15 April in detail and from every angle, yet the inquiry's findings--in particular, the final report--will have no bearing on the Committee's discussions.
Just last Friday, as the inquiry finished, relatives of the 95 people who died decided to pursue criminal proceedings for manslaughter against the senior police officers involved in the incident. Senior police officers were criticised harshly for their actions and strategy on that fateful day, yet against that background, the Government proceed merrily with this irrelevant and possibly dangerous Bill.
The Government retort that the findings can be taken on board at a later stage ; we have heard that again today. How late will that stage be? The Government have already started to table amendments and new clauses on safety matters, even though Lord Justice Taylor himself has not reached any conclusions. There will be virtually no opportunity to debate the Taylor report in relation to the Bill, as just one day has been allocated for Report and Third Reading. We shall have only one day to take on board any serious findings and recommendations from Lord Justice Taylor's interim report alone. Even when the Bill becomes law and the new Football Membership Authority sets up the scheme, perhaps incorporating some
Column 61of the ideas of the Taylor inquiry, there will be no opportunity to amend the scheme in the House, but only to accept or reject it. Lord Justice Taylor's sensible approach is already a contrast to the Government's. The Government want to force the Bill through come what may, because the Prime Minister wants to be seen to be acting. The Taylor inquiry, on the other hand, is thinking ahead and has already asked the Football League for details of all matches in August at which it expects capacity crowds. Clearly, safety rather than expediency is at the heart of Lord Justice Taylor's approach. It is a disgrace that we are even debating a timetable motion to guillotine the Committee today. If Conservative Members had any real interest in football, the Bill would have been shelved long ago. As it is, the match is being halted before we have even reached half-time.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), whose knowledge of football is well known in the House and whose views command respect here and in the all-party football committee. His contributions in Standing Committee were similar to the opinions he expressed today in the House. They have been somewhat shallow and based on the old, tired remedies. New remedies have been lacking from the Opposition. The reasons he put forward for objecting to the guillotine are as spurious as most of the arguments from the Opposition.
There is no doubt in the minds of my right hon. and hon. Friends--with one possible exception--who want the Bill to be passed, that the actions taken by Opposition Members have been such that the matters they have raised in Committee have been almost laughable in some cases. Their somewhat pious view that they represent the interests of football and the so-called "class" who go to watch football--again, a rather outdated notion--is totally refuted by Conservative Members, among whom are people with a deep knowledge of the game and an active interest in seeing it improved. That is why we have supported the Government consistently in this admirable measure. My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport is to be congratulated for his activity and the enormous amount of work he has undertaken in pushing the Bill forward and ensuring that it comes before the House at the earliest possible moment.
In the decade in which I have been in this place, I have perhaps found favour with the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) and his predecessor, Sir Phillip Holland, in that I have not been able to become a member of a Committee that has been cut short. I was somewhat bemused by the fact that Bills were brought before the Floor of the House to be guillotined. My own feelings were that such a procedure was unfortunate.
However, having sat through the proceedings of this Committee for almost 40 hours and heard the rantings, ravings and nonsense of the Opposition, I am going down the road of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) on the basis that perhaps every Bill should be guillotined. There is no doubt in my mind, those of my hon. Friends and those of members of the public who come to listen to our proceedings and who will read about it in Hansard that the Opposition's tactics on the Bill
Column 62have been nothing less than wrecking. They could not have been considered helpful, or in the best interests not only of football but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) said, of those who could not care a toss about the game itself. That is the tragedy of the Opposition's tactics on the Bill.
Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South) : I am in something of a dilemma. I too rather agree with my hon. Friend that most, if not all, Bills should be timetabled in some way. I came into the House today, therefore, happy to vote for the timetable motion. However, I have had to listen to the debate, and I am beginning to be a bit worried. I think that I shall still vote for the timetable motion, but I would not wish that to be interpreted as full- hearted support for the Bill. I voted for the Bill once out of loyalty and a desire for unity, rather than out of conviction. I am not sure that those emotions and feelings can be stretched too far on Third Reading.
Mr. Carlisle : If my hon. Friend waits and listens to my words of wisdom, and those of my hon. Friends, if they catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as well as the words of wisdom of my hon. Friend the Minister, he will remain wholly convinced that the Bill should be guillotined and put into practice as quickly as possible. I want to deal with some of the points put, rightly, by the Opposition, which were also brought up in Standing Committee about why the Bill should not be guillotined. At the heart of the Opposition's arguments right the way through have been the natural arguments and emotions surrounding the Taylor report. As I said earlier to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), he and his right hon. and hon. Friends seem to be treading on dangerous ground in pre- empting what Lord Justice Taylor will say. It is unfortunate that Opposition Members seem to assume that Lord Justice Taylor's conclusions will be what they believe and a solution to the problems in football.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) put the point cogently : what happened at Hillsborough will not necessarily be relevant to what has happened throughout the past decade and more in football. It must be taken into account, and that is why I fully support what the Government have done. I was one who urged some postponement of the discussion. The report must be taken into account and it is right that we should have a chance on the Floor of the House, when we return after the summer recess, to consider the interim report which, as most of us who take an interest in these matters will understand, will contain recommendations that could be included in the Bill if it is considered necessary.
However, it is dangerous for the Opposition to keep quoting what Lord Justice Taylor may say. I hope that he will almost ignore the proceedings on the Floor of the House this evening and the proceedings in Committee in drawing up his conclusions. Hillsborough is important to the Bill, but it is not an essential part of it. The other basis to the Opposition's tactics has been reminiscence. Many of us who served on the Committee have enjoyed, indeed revelled in, the reminiscences of the hon. Members for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), both eloquent men. However, I wonder whether those comments are relevant to the modern world, which was seen in what happened in front
Column 63of the pavilion at Lord's on Saturday. I was present and saw a gang of youths, intoxicated--having had a long and enjoyable day at that ground, just as I had--and incensed to such an extent that they started fighting among themselves. I found the comments of Colonel Stephenson, the secretary of the Marylebone cricket club, somewhat interesting when he said--I paraphrase--"We do not usually have trouble, other than at the Benson and Hedges game, because that is the only major game that is played outside the football season." His comments were particularly apt--[ Hon. Members-- : "He was wrong."]
Of course, those hooligans could well move from football into other sporting events. That is the essence of the Bill. I can never understand the Opposition's total antagonism to the Bill which, uniquely, says to football, "We will try to take the problem away from your game and where we put it is the Government's, society's or whoever else's problem. However, we will try to ensure that those who go to football matches can do so in peace and tranquillity and with the knowledge that their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, nephews and nieces will return home without having been molested, subjected to obscenities and jostled in the crowd on the way to the ground."
Opposition Members who protest that the Bill infringes civil liberties and takes from individuals the chance to go to a game when they want to do so should remember those who live in and around our football grounds. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South has said, those Opposition Members should remember the millions of people who are not interested in whether or not football games take place. Those are the reasons for the Bill, and that is why, purely because of the Opposition's tactics, the Government have had to table this timetable motion. As far as we can, all Conservative Members are anxious to see the measure through ; hence our relative silence in Standing Committee. Conservative Members have a deep knowledge of the game and wanted to allow the Opposition the chance to advance their arguments.
Mr. Denis Howell : I refer to the "relative silence" of Conservative Members in Committee. So far, they have made 50 speeches and have intervened, in debates on the five clauses that we have covered so far, 286 times. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) spoke for 50 minutes in one debate, during which the Minister for Sport intervened 17 times. That shows how ludicrous the hon. Gentleman's case is.
Mr. Carlisle : How extraordinary for the Opposition to accuse Government Back Benchers, who are actively trying to discuss the Bill and to take up the points made by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, of non-silence. That is an extraordinary attitude when so often Opposition Members have accused Conservative Members of saying nothing. I think that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) will recall the word "poodles" or "stooges". It is disgraceful that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) is now saying that we should not say anything. Conservative Members have had their say and have disagreed with everything that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have said. Perhaps that is what gripes
Column 64the right hon. Gentleman. What gripes him even further must be the fact that the sense and good reason expressed by Conservative members on the Committee will be cut short by the guillotine motion. Indeed, Conservative Members are sorry that we will not be able to sit for 100, 200 or even 300 hours so that we could go through all the points and put our case to Opposition Members.
The most important reason why the Bill should proceed as swiftly as possible is that football is running out of time. That is the tragedy. As my hon. Friends have already said, even after the awful events of Hillsborough and the terrible events at Selhurst park and other grounds, we must ask when the so-called "football supporters" will learn that they should go to games to enjoy the game and not to enjoy a punch-up or to disrupt the match for the remainder who are attempting to see the match.
As I said in Committee and in the House on Second Reading, I was present at the Millwall v. Luton game and never want to see such actions again. However, Opposition Members have adopted the regrettable attitude of saying that the Bill should be thwarted and defeated on the basis that they are happy with the status quo. In nearly 40 hours of debate in Committee, we have heard absolutely no alternative from them. The Opposition are, inevitably, the status quo party. They are happy that things should go on as they are. The Opposition have pointed to an increase in crowds. That has come about partly because there have been more games but also because, as one of my hon. Friends has said, this game in particular, and spectator sports in general, have been attracting more people. I refer to rugby league, rugby union and other sports.
Mr. Irvine Patnick (Sheffield, Hallam) : Does my hon. Friend remember the occasion when he tried to take the Committee through the night to ensure that the Bill was properly debated but the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) said that there were several elderly people among Opposition Members, so they could not go through the night-- [ Hon. Members :-- "Rubbish."] Well, I am sure that my hon. Friend can remember the occasion when the Opposition moved that the debate be adjourned, but did not have the guts to carry it through.
Mr. Wareing rose--
As the Bill proceeded, my hon. Friends seemed to get not a second or a third, but a fourth wind. We really got into the basics and-- Mr. Wareing rose--
We are debating the importance of the Bill. We heard some admirable speeches ; our conviction about how right the Government were grew minute by minute.
Mr. Wareing : Will the hon. Gentleman accept that his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) was wrong to allege that I said that elderly people would not be willing to go through the night? What I cared about--and expressed a care for--was the fact that the health of hon. Members could be affected. No other legislature in the world would discuss a controversial issue
Column 65such as this, which deserves positive and proper deliberation, at 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock in the morning.
Mr. Carlisle : I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) has said. However, in his position as an Opposition Whip, he must ask himself why the first five hours of discussion in Committee were spent on the sittings motion. If he was so anxious to get on with the Bill and, as his hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said, to get on with part II, in view of the tight timetable and the fact that there was time to return to the Bill after the summer recess, why did he encourage his right hon. and hon. Friends to argue spuriously about the time we should take instead of getting on with the guts of the Bill? If the House is to have any sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's argument, it must be on the basis of the record. The hon. Gentleman knows how far we got, and he knows the basis of the Opposition's tactics.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West) : Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) has just let the cat out of the bag? He has welcomed the timetable motion, which will ensure that the whole Bill is debated properly and timetabled and that the hon. Gentleman will know what time he can go home to bed every night.
Mr. Carlisle : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have great respect for Opposition Members, especially senior Opposition Members such as the right hon. Member for Small Heath, who is making his swan song. Obviously, we should like to give him the opportunity to speak in the House with great eloquence and at great length and the opportunity to make his mark with this Bill for the first time in the 30 years that he has been in the House.
The right hon. Member for Small Heath knows that I have the utmost respect for him. However, he must be aware that he will be soundly defeated, on the last major legislation in which he will be involved. The people of this country and his constituents will say to him in his dotage--hopefully, he will be in another place--that his one mistake was not to support this Bill.
Mr. Ashton : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I put it to you again that this is an abuse of the House. We are supposed to be debating the reasons for a guillotine on this Bill. We have heard from Conservative Members four Second Reading debate speeches which were full of jeers, scoffing and personal abuse. We have heard no arguments about the need for a guillotine. This is a very short debate. Can you bring Conservative Members to order?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was present earlier when I told the House that allocation of time motions lend themselves to fairly wide debates. I have heard nothing that is out of order.
Mr. Carlisle : I will conclude my remarks, because the House should have the opportunity to hear what Opposition Members have to say. Opposition Members have been an advantage to the Bill ; the public will probably want to hear the Opposition's arguments to convince them that the Government are absolutely right.
Column 66It is sad that deliberation on this major and important Bill must be cut short because of the Opposition's tactics. However, the Opposition have this very much in their own court. They plead the interests of the small clubs, but they know in their hearts that when the Bill comes into effect and is successful the small clubs and not the larger clubs will be successful under the scheme. The Opposition plead that the Bill will do nothing to remove hooliganism inside or outside grounds. However, in their hearts they know that something had to be done because of the scourge of hooliganism and violence which has besmirched our national game for so many years. The Government are right to say to the House that enough is enough. There is still ample time to discuss Taylor after the summer recess. There is still ample time in Committee, between now and the end of July, to discuss the important measures before us. At least now we will know that those measures and our discussions will be relevant to the Bill and not consist simply of rhetoric and emotion from Opposition Members.
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) : All hon. Members must want to dissociate themselves from the disgraceful personal attacks made by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who revealed one reason why the timetable motion had to be put before the House. His speech was similar to that made by the hon. Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg), who has also made personal attacks on hon. Members both in the Chamber and in Committee. On one occasion in Committee, the hon. Member for Luton, North used parliamentary privilege to defame someone in the Public Gallery and invent an incident which took place when the Committee had risen.
Mr. John Carlisle : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The incident to which the hon. Gentleman referred was not invented. It is recorded and evidence can be made available to the hon. Gentleman or the House on the basis of the allegations that I made. What the hon. Gentleman has said is certainly a slur on my character and the comments that I made in Committee.
Mr. Vaz : This is the most important Bill in the history of football and it deserves a great deal of parliamentary time to enable the Opposition to scrutinise its effects. My right hon. and hon. Friends are right to say that the Bill will have severe effects on civil liberties. Judging by the comments made by the hon. Member for Luton, North, the Government may be considering the possibility of imposing identity cards on cricket supporters and supporters of other sports. That is why it is extremely important that the House should devote a great deal of time to considering the Bill.
We need more parliamentary time to consider the possible effects of the Bill on hooliganism, although we believe that it will have no such effect. We need more time to consider the costs involved in clubs installing the proposed machinery and we need more time to consider the inconvenience involved for all those who have supported the game loyally for so many years. We need more time to consider the non-registration of casual supporters and the social effects of the Bill on families who want to watch matches. We need more time to debate the
Column 67possibility of criminal offences involving the transfer of cards between holders and non-holders and to consider the various clauses restricting people's liberties.
As the Bill proceeds through the House and is reported in the national and local press, I--and, I am sure, other hon.
Members--receive many letters from football supporters who are keen to know what is happening and to express their opposition to the Government's scheme. Last Saturday I met supporters from Leicester City football club. Mr. Gary Sikle, secretary of the Fox editorial board which circulates a local football newspaper in Leicester, was anxious to raise several points which had been referred to by the Minister and other Members in Committee. Supporters wish to raise those matters, but they can advise members of the Committee properly only if they have time to consider the various clauses as they come before the Committee.
I have also received a letter from my parish priest, Father Brown, who is a keen football supporter. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Luton, North said about my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), Father Brown wrote : "Denis Howell is the only successful Minister for Sport in recent memory ; as no Tory Minister has ever understood the problems involved, or even cared about his job or soccer supporters in general Instead of improving safety and facilities, the government and the Press are obsessed with the problem of hooliganism. Yet the majority of hooligans are not football supporters Root out them, and treat the 99.9 per cent. who are law-abiding, as human beings." Father Brown has supported Derby County football club for more than 30 years. He wants an opportunity to put before the Committee his views about the effects of the Bill. As I said on Second Reading, I am the president of two local football clubs, Hillcroft football club and Thurnby Lodge football club, and I continue to receive representations from both clubs about the practical effects of the Bill.
I understand that the hon. Member for Bury, South is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney-General. I cannot understand why he and the Government do not want to wait for the outcome of the Taylor inquiry. As we are dealing with a major piece of legislation which will have severe consequences for football, it must be appropriate to await the outcome of a major inquiry commissioned by the Secretary of State for the Environment. Surely we should hear what the clubs have done in their schemes.
We have heard a great deal about the scheme at Luton. Two members of Luton Town's football supporters scheme visited me on Saturday. They brought me their membership cards and told me about the various tricks that certain supporters get up to in passing their cards to other people. Those supporters do not even live in Luton, but their cards are passed to other people who gain admission to the ground. That shows the flaws in the scheme proposed by the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans).
Mr. David Evans : Irrespective of whether there are holes in Luton Town's scheme, does the hon. Gentleman agree that for three consecutive seasons there has been only one arrest inside or outside Luton's ground? We are well aware that supporters of other clubs belong to Luton
Column 68Town's scheme, but it is significant that they all stand together and enjoy the game as supporters used to 20 or 30 years ago without fear of being punched on the nose.
Mr. Vaz : The supporters who brought me the cards do not like the bureaucratic principles which operate at Luton. They have proved that it is possible to live elsewhere and to misuse cards produced by Luton Town football club. They produced persuasive arguments showing the tremendous increase in crime in the city centre. Such crime may not occur during the games, but it certainly occurs in the city centre. Crime has increased.
It is important for the Minister to look at the international evidence. I commend to him an article in World Soccer magazine this month which shows the effect that the experimental scheme is having in Holland. It says :
"The dangers of the card scheme have been touted for some time and predictably made an international impact at what is for all Dutch people the most emotive confrontation of all : the international match against West Germany.
The experiment has been deemed a failure."
That is new evidence, but we shall not have the time to discuss it, because the Bill is to be guillotined.
In addition, I discovered on Friday that the Secretary of State for the Environment, who has overall charge of the Bill, has not visited a football ground or attended a match in the last couple of years. I put down a question to the Secretary of State asking him to list the number of football matches that he had attended. Although the Minister for Sport says that he has attended about a dozen matches and that his hon. Friends in his Department have been to matches, the Secretary of State for the Environment has not even visited one. We need to take evidence and to understand what the police are saying. Certainly the police in Leicester are convinced that the scheme will not work. They have managed to fashion a good relationship with the football club. They have bought video equipment, they ensure that supporters are segregated, and they have worked in partnership with those who run Leicester City football club. I wish that they could work more closely with the supporters, and I hope that one of the effects of our deliberations in Committee will be to encourage more clubs to work with supporters.
We need more time to expose the problems in the Bill, many of which have been accepted by the Minister. I referred to that in an intervention. Clause 2 creates an absolute offence in terms of the entry of supporters to grounds without cards. Because hon. Members on both sides of the Committee raised that issue and the serious nature of the offence to be created, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department decided to look again at the clause. On clause 3, in view of the nature of the Opposition amendments and the experience of my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath, the Minister decided to look again at some of those amendments. That is why we need additional time.
We need to debate in great detail the effects of the Bill and we must be able to bring to the attention of the Minister matters of which he may not be aware. His officials may not be aware of them either because they have been told to pursue the Bill with blind dogma. It is also
Column 69necessary to debate matters at great length in order to expose problems. As has been said, clause 5 creates two new offences, one of them a very serious offence of supplying false information. Another clause gives enormous power to the Football Membership Authority in terms of its dealings with private citizens. We need to debate that at great length to show why it will be a major erosion of civil liberties.
I am not clear from the arguments of the Leader of the House as to why we have to proceed with such haste. No evidence was adduced by the Leader of the House or by the Minister in Committee to show why we should move so quickly. It is clear that the Government have something to hide and have to move quickly, that they are unaware of the consequences of the Bill or-- this is the most likely explanation--they do not care at all about the future of the game. The Opposition care about the future of football. We know that the scheme has disastrous implications for the game, and we urge that more time should be given to discuss these serious and very important matters. 6.44 pm
Mr. Steve Norris (Epping Forest) : I have listened to the entire debate, including the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and at this stage I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that I shall vote for the timetable motion.
In Committee I heard the clearest possible evidence from the Opposition that they are not interested in making progress on the Bill and never have been. A straightforward example of that is that they spent about five hours debating the sittings motion. As hon. Members will know, but as those who read Hansard may not, the sittings motion is merely to decide when and for how long a Committee will sit. It is usually decided that a Committee will sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it may sit mornings and afternoons. If both sides are prepared to get on with the business, the motion should detain the Committee for about 45 seconds. In this case it took longer because Opposition Members made a series of spurious points and did so with considerable repetition. That meant that we spent hour after hour simply debating whether to sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In view of that, it is beyond reason to imagine that the Opposition have taken a constructive attitude to the Bill.
The Opposition are not the slightest bit interested in making progress. That is because they and we have fundamentally opposed views about the Bill. The shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), spoke about us losing the argument. He cannot have read his Committee Hansard very carefully, because it shows that the argument was lost by hon. Gentlemen--hon. Members--opposite. If I was their football manager I would say that I was as sick as a parrot because they have consistently managed to fumble the ball, and more often than not they kicked it into the back of their own net. Their fundamental assertion--we heard it again today--is that they do not think that football and violence are particularly linked. I could not believe my ears when I heard them say again today that there is violence in other games such as rugby, tiddleywinks and croquet. They must be blind and deaf.
When the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) was speaking, somebody was heard to ask where he had been. He has been the leader of the Labour party, but
Column 70we all know that that is hardly a position from which one is likely to get a realistic view of the world. None the less, one would have assumed that hon. Gentlemen opposite would have seen enough of the sickening scenes on television to know what every man, woman and child knows : that there is an inextricable and sickening link between violence and football. The reasons for that are many and varied and there is no point in yet another sociological lecture such as those that we had for hour upon hour from the Gentlemen opposite. The link exists, and it is high time that something was done about it.
I agree on one matter with the Opposition. Hon. Members on both sides have tended to wring their hands rather too much and say, "Oh, isn't it awful? It is very difficult and has all sorts of sociological reasons which are somehow beyond our control and which we cannot do anything about." At last we have a Government who have said that they are sickened by what they have seen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) spoke about the Crystal Palace game. I was at West Ham that week and, as hon. Members will know, at each Football League ground there was supposed to be a minute's silence for the Hillsborough victims. At that match between Millwall and West Ham, people could not keep quiet for even 60 seconds. They could not restrain themselves from shouting abuse at each other or from catcalling and arm waving in the hostile way that they do. It was revolting. I do not want to know about the history of this great and glorious working-class game of ours ; I want to know what we must do to eradicate that sort of behaviour. First, we have to take the issue seriously. The Government are to be commended for being the first to be prepared to put together a Bill and to say, "We shall do something about it."
Ms. Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) : I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he agreed with absolutely everything I said in Committee, because he continually refers to hon. Gentlemen in Committee. Does that mean that he agrees that to link women in any way with football hooliganism or violence in or outside football grounds is disgraceful and that he is sorry that the Government and Conservative Members will not accept our amendment, which would exclude women from having to have identity cards?
Mr. Norris : I thought that I had corrected myself when, referring to the Committee's composition, I talked about hon. Gentlemen. It would have been remiss of us all not to recognise the constructive role that the hon. Lady has played in the Committee's deliberations, although she has been somewhat at odds with some of her more experienced colleagues.
The point that the hon. Lady raised is an important principle. The Bill, rightly or wrongly, is an enabling Bill. It creates a Football Membership Authority, which is charged with producing the details of the scheme. It is entirely consistent with that that we do not predetermine what the FMA will produce. We should allow it to consider all the issues and as much evidence as it can, and to bring forward a scheme which will tackle the problem in the round. It is self-evident that neither women nor pensioners are particularly dangerous groups when it comes to football attendance. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister
Column 71would be urged by me and by any sensible person to tell the FMA that, when it considers the issue, he will be sympathetic to that point of view. Although it is perfectly reasonable and
straightforward to take that point of view, it is another matter to start to write the detail of the scheme, as Opposition Members are trying to do, before the FMA has had a chance to consider the issue. That is what seems to me to be so irredeemably stupid.
Mr. Denis Howell : The plain fact is that the exemptions for disabled persons and for children accompanied by adults were written into the Bill in the other place. The attempt there to get exemptions for women and pensioners was voted down at the instigation of the Minister-- [Hon. Members :-- "That is detail."] It is not a detail that when Parliament seeks to put into the Bill the same exemptions as the Government have already allowed, they are beaten down.
Mr. Norris : I will not repeat myself, as others want to speak. This is a straightforward enabling Bill. It creates a Football Membership Authority which is charged with the preparation of a scheme and with presenting it to the Secretary of State. If one accepts that general principle--the scheme cannot come fast enough for me--it is most illogical to bind the hands of the FMA by laying down conditions.
It is perfectly reasonable to tell the FMA, "By all means consider the evidence that members of the Committee have adduced. By all means integrate it into the scheme and then present the scheme to the Secretary of State for him to consider and, we hope, approve".
Mr. Norris : My hon. Friend will know that I made precisely that point in Committee. The need to possess a membership card is presented as an appalling affront to civil liberties, and it is forgotten that the greatest loss of civil liberties is that occasioned to the tens of thousands of people who live around football grounds and whose lives are made an absolute misery on Saturday afternoons. Opposition Members seem to regard it as a mark of Cain to hold a card when the principle of most clubs of which one wants to be a member is that one will carry the card with pride. Setting aside all that, we have the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) in operating a scheme that is eminently successful in marketing terms--he has said that 32 companies are involved in it.
I have no doubt that the House will ultimately divide on this simple issue. We have had delay and obfuscation from Opposition Members, and no doubt that will continue. It is ironic that, during consideration of the Bill, Opposition Members have covered themselves in the most appalling tactical confusion. When, in response to their opinion that there was not enough time to debate the Bill, we said, "Fine, in that case we will sit Wednesdays as well," they said, "Oh no, please don't let us do that." When we said, "Please don't let us stop now, it is only 1 o'clock in the morning and after all you should not have taken this job if you could not take a joke and go through the night,"
Column 72Opposition Members said that they might get sick and had elderly Members to consider. I appreciate the point, but it is the quintessence of everything that we have known about the Opposition for the past 10 years--when push comes to shove, they have no bottle. There are Opposition Members who have a vision of the game of football, which we have heard in colourful detail. I will not repeat them-- [Hon. Members :-- "Go on."] No, I promise no ferret or whippet stories. Some of us find that vision of the game of football amusing, if only because it is so rose- tinted that it completely ignores what, sadly, the game has become.
One's attitude to the Bill is dictated by one overriding consideration--