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Mr. David Evans : At Luton, we introduced a computerised system and the cost of testing was zero. It took no time to test. It was tested completely within one day and, over the past three and a half years, the antiquated system has not failed us. I suggest that, with the modern equipment available, the point about the time for testing is just a red herring from the Opposition.
Mr. Greenway : One of the difficulties of having a test carried out at only a few clubs--several hon. Members have referred to the Government's intentions on this--is that we shall be dealing only with small numbers. When the scheme is in force in all 92 clubs, 450,000 to 500,000 people could be going through the turnstiles on the same day and they will all be using the same national membership scheme database.
Mr. Lester : If I remember correctly from our discussion in Committee, it will be a Europewide scheme, not a scheme only for the United Kingdom. That is a rather different matter from 8,000 regular attenders at Luton.
Mr. Greenway : We seem to be digressing from the point raised by the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington. He said that it was surely right that the equipment should be seen to work before all 92 clubs had to put their hands in--for many of them--fairly empty pockets to pay for the equipment in the first place.
There is an argument about whether it will cost small clubs any money to institute the scheme. I remain to be convinced, as do the chairmen of the majority of Football League clubs, that the scheme could be introduced at no cost to them. I assume that there will be a cost and we require a proper period of testing to ensure that there is no waste of money. If we do not have a proper testing period and then find that the scheme does not work, much of the money will be wasted, and in many of our league grounds, that money could more reasonably be spent on new seating and facilities for supporters. If the scheme fails because it has not been tested adequately, there will be not only the serious cost to the football clubs that have paid money for the equipment to be installed: the political cost to the Government of failure will be extremely serious. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to reflect on that.
The amendment is not, as my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) suggested, born out of an attempt to filibuster the introduction of the scheme. It is not a wrecking amendment, but is born out of the desire of those of us who oppose the Bill, but who none the less see the political reality that there will be a scheme, to make the scheme work. Unless the fans have full confidence that the scheme will work, there could be serious political consequences.
Mr. Boyes : I accept the hon. Gentleman's last point. Will he accept that we on the Hartlepool board want to stay within the law? We may not like it, but we would accept the Bill when it became law. However, to say that we accept the law does not mean that we can implement it ;
Column 72we do not have the cash to do so. The Minister has said that there will be zero cost, but during the passage of the Bill, I have not heard the Minister say definitely that Hartlepool United, York City or any other club will be given money for the equipment, the repairs and the buildings necessary for the equipment. The Government have never told the House that there will be a grant or any other help towards that.
The political cost of the failure of the scheme would be damaging for the Government, and I say that in sincerity and good faith. In Committee--I am sorry that I was unable to serve on that Committee--the Government gave undertakings that the scheme would be introduced on a national scale only when it could be shown to work and the technology was available. The amendment is the litmus test of that commitment.
Mr. Norris : Although the amendment may be technically unnecessary, it raises an important issue of practicability. However, we shall vote against it if necessary, although I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) will not press the amendment. The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), speaking for the SLD--I do not want to get the name wrong--made an important distinction. He said that the Bill raises two issues, one of principle and the other of practicability and he is right to draw that distinction. I am concerned about the principle, and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) emphasised that in this forum we should be debating the principle.
I make that point because I believe that the practicability can be taken for granted. I do not want to be trite and wax on, although that would be breaking the habit of a lifetime, and talk about the impact of new technology. However, in an age such as this, it is surely not beyond the wit of man to devise a perfectly
straightforward system to admit people to a ground, and to do so throughout normal temperature conditions and in all the normal circumstances at football grounds. Those of us who have been the most vigorous supporters of the Government's proposals, and who remain so convinced, take it for granted that the scheme that is introduced will be sensible and will have undergone all the normal, rigorous tests that should be applied to such a scheme. It must be a matter of common accord that, when the scheme is introduced, the last thing we want is for it to break down and to cause more problems than it is designed to prevent.
It is an extraordinary proposition that we should allow our attempt to control the problems of violence in football--which is the whole aim of the Bill, as I keep saying--to be frustrated because of our inability to produce cards that swipe properly in sub-zero temperatures. I have much more faith in our abilities, and the considerable number of companies that have shown an interest in providing the technology leads me to believe that we can find a solution and a technology that work.
Column 73shed at Halifax to get himself a card. He then has access to any league match in the country. He can nip down and watch a game at Arsenal. The technology must be such that, with about 300,000 people coming in in the last 15 minutes before the game, telephone connections with a national computer can be used to check the membership cards. If such technology existed, the scheme might work, but I do not think that even the Minister believes that it exists. On Friday when we discussed the ways and means resolution, the Minister said what he will presumably say in his answer to this debate :
"if the Government went ahead with a national membership scheme, we should need to be satisfied that the technology was up and working and correct so that the scheme could be implemented effectively from day 1."--[ Official Report, 27 October 1989 ; Vol. 158, c. 1267.] It seems to me that we shall not get a practicable scheme. The principle will be established and then the Government will back off from their commitments regarding the practicalities.
Mr. Lester rose--
Let me respond to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), who has wrongly described the technical qualifications of the scheme. I look forward to my hon. Friend the Minister confirming what the essential elements will be. It is a sine qua non of the scheme that the card should be transferable from ground to ground and that it should be acceptable at all the league grounds to which the scheme applies. I see nothing particularly technically difficult about that. I understand that a large number of companies have tendered for the contract to provide the technical equipment, and I look forward to the successful tenderers producing a perfectly serviceable product.
It is important to make two points about cost. There are two elements : one is the capital cost of installing the equipment and the second is the day- to-day cost of producing the cards. I understand that the half-dozen or so serious contenders for the contract--I am not sure of the exact number-- have said that the facility, or the capital works, will be provided at no cost to the club. My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes), who represent the heartfelt interests of smaller and less wealthy clubs, may have missed this point when reading the reports of our proceedings in Committee. My hon. Friends and I well understand that the last thing that a club whose finances are in a parlous condition wants is a large capital imposition resulting from this scheme. But I understand that that will simply not be the case and that all the tenderers will deliver on the basis that there is no capital cost to the clubs involved.
That is not, however, the whole story. The second element of cost is what one might call the revenue cost--the cost of providing cards to individual spectators. Apparently, the maximum cost of producing the cards will be about £9.90 for three seasons--a gross cost of £3.30 per season. It is important to stress that that is the gross cost. Suppose that there are 20 home matches per season ; £3.30 divided by 20 is hardly a great impost on spectators.
Column 74Moreover, many companies have recognised the advantages of using the card as a means of marketing their products and services in co-operation with football clubs, and no doubt the clubs represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale and by the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington would be just as interested in sponsorship opportunities as some of their larger brethren. Such sponsorships can reduce the cost to below the £3.30 per season figure, and it is to be hoped that in many cases the cost will be virtually nil.
Those who say that the scheme will be impracticable--as if it were impossible to devise a card to be swiped through a perfectly straightforward piece of equipment such as is to be found on every third door in our high streets--are unnecessarily pessimistic. The capital costs will simply not have to be borne by the clubs, and the revenue cost--a maximum of £3.30 per season for all the club's games and for games at any other ground--could be reduced to virtually nil. We have nothing to fear from the technology. I emphasise what I said at the beginning. Those of us who have most loyally supported my hon. Friend the Minister throughout the proceedings on the Bill take it for granted that the technology will be thoroughly tested in the circumstances that have been described, somewhat poetically, by my hon. Friends, before the scheme is implemented.
Mr. Lester : Surely the desire to test the technology has arisen because of what happened at Hillsborough. We are waiting for Lord Justice Taylor's report because we want to be satisfied--in spite of my hon. Friend's faith in our developing a technology which has never been developed before--that the technology will not give rise to further disasters. I do not share my hon. Friend's complacency and I remain convinced that we need to test the equipment, for all the reasons that we have advanced.
Mr. Norris : I merely register the fact that I do not share my hon. Friend's view. I see no reason why the technology should not help us considerably in our attempts to prevent the kind of scenes that we saw at Hillsborough recurring. It is the object of every one of us who supports the scheme to provide not only the equipment but the legislative framework to avoid incidents such as that at Hillsborough.
Mr. Moynihan : The Government have always accepted that the technology to be used in the national membership scheme should be properly tested before the scheme can begin. When we discussed the subject in Committee, I said :
"testing the technology for the scheme would be part of the preparations for implementation."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee A, 20 July 1989, c. 503.]
I also repeated, as I have done many times, that we shall not go ahead with implementation until we are satisfied that the technology is workable, efficient and safe. It is no more in the interests of the Government than in the interests of anyone else for te scheme to be set up before those conditions are satisfied.
I listened with interest to the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris) and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North- East (Mr. Campbell). We are talking about technologies that have not yet been chosen and which are very different from each other. If the membership authority chooses a technology that does not require large capital investment in machinery, the testing period will be very different from that for an alternative technology that the authority may
Column 75recommend. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest spoke of a different technology. His point does not reflect the need to go down the line to check whether each card carried by 600,000 members is valid. On the contrary--some hon. Members have seen technologies allowing the club access, on the day before or the morning of the match, to a referral file of invalid cards.
As soon as that file arrives at the club, the readers, which are regularly updated with the referral files, are taken to the turnstiles and can be placed on them. As a scheme member enters, the reader shows whether his card is valid or invalid. That is not dissimilar from the operation at Luton Town or at Derby County. Those clubs have few difficulties with invalid or faulty cards. Oxford United and Reading have similar systems. If a member's card causes a red light to go on at the turnstiles at Reading because he is on the referral file, he is not allowed in. That fan must go to the club office, where an inquiry is made. The FMA believes that it is better to allow people in to avoid turning someone round in a turnstile. If people are allowed in, it is better for stewards to handle them inside grounds. That is what happens at Oxford United.
At Tottenham Hotspur similar technology with a referral file permits a supervisor in addition to the gate man to respond to a red light. If the red light comes on, a code number is indicated to the supervisor, thus giving him the reason for the red light. The way in which clubs deal with such situations depends on what is happening outside the turnstile.
The appropriate technology requires appropriate testing. As Luton Town and other clubs have found, that testing can be carried out on one or two Saturdays. The scheme is not relevant to this debate. We are considering the technology that must be tested. That testing may take place on two consecutive Saturdays next year, after the FMA has considered whether it wants two or three systems to be tested. The FMA might hypothetically decide on a short list of three and then to go to Luton Town. It may remove the equipment from three turnstiles to test the technology alongside the present system in Luton. Luton Town may assist that, and that may require testing lasting one week, two weeks or three months. When we consider the six short-listed systems, I believe the testing can be carried out efficiently and speedily. We will not be satisfied with the relevant technology until that testing has been carried out. The Government will not approve the system until we are satisfied that the technology is workable, efficient and safe.
It is utter nonsense for the Evening Standard to suggest today that
"Mr. Moynihan was instead telling the Commons this afternoon that there will now be a trial scheme"
involving one club from each of the four divisions. On occasions, we have problems in the House with hon. Members unwittingly misleading the House. To mislead the public so clearly is completely wrong. It is not right that there must be a delay in the implementation of the scheme from the early months of next season for adequate testing of the technology to take place. It is clear that more than 90 clubs around the country have membership schemes at the moment which they have implemented with
Column 76adequate testing without the need to wait for three seasons of testing, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) and his colleagues would like.
Mr. Pendry : My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) has said that the Football League and the Football Association are considering the tenders from the computer firms and have a short list of six. If at the end of the day they find that not one of the six is adequate, what will the Minister do?
Mr. Moynihan : The whole purpose of an invitation to tender is to allow the companies which are aware of the tender documentation and of the nature of the scheme to bid against one another. No doubt they will want to learn the areas in which the working group is dissatisfied with the particular schemes that have been proposed and no doubt the companies will place a cost on remedying that. The FMA will have to bear that cost.
It is clear that six companies have been shortlisted from more than 100. The experts in the FA and the Football League are considering in detail the implementation of a comprehensive national scheme at no cost to the clubs. It is clear that there will be no cost and perhaps even income generation to the clubs through the charge on their members or through commercial opportunities with local companies. As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest said, the maximum cost last summer with the highest level of technology then available was £3.30 per annum per member, with no cost to the club. The cost does not take into account the development of any commercial opportunities.
There are 90 membership schemes in the Football League at the moment. All those clubs have considered commercial opportunities, and some have been highly successful. If the clubs have, as we anticipate, the right to develop commercial relations with the companies that already sponsor their membership schemes, even if they do nothing, the maximum cost estimated last season was £3.30 a head. However, if they maximise the range of commercial opportunities, as clubs up and down the country have done already with their partial membership schemes, there would not be a cost, and those clubs may have an income generator. If the right hon. Member for Small Heath believes that those clubs should not take those opportunities, he is denying them the right to earn money to invest in facilities, get better players, create closer relations with their members and break once and for all the link between football hooligans and true football supporters.
Mr. Boyes : I had thought that the Minister would have learned from his experiences in Hartlepool. I invited him there and he will remember that the buildings at the club are wooden structures. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) has referred to security. I do not believe that we will get everything for free. However, where will the money come from to make the buildings secure? The Minister is living in cloud cuckoo land if he believes that builders in Hartlepool will do all that work for nothing.
Column 77potential income generation of the national membership scheme. However, the hon. Gentleman has raised another very important point--the financing of improvements to grounds which may arise as a result of the Football Licensing Authority's interest in updating facilities to ensure that they are safe.
Like all other forms of entertainment in this country, whether at a cinema, the Albert hall or any sporting ground, football clubs as private sector businesses must find the costs to ensure that their facilities are safe. There is no difference between a licence condition imposed on a cinema and that imposed on a football club. That must be right. If a football club, cinema or any other place of entertainment or business involved in the leisure industry cannot afford to make its premises safe, it should not be open to the public for any purpose. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) may boo and hiss from a sedentary position. However, it is common ground, at least among Conservative Members, that safety must come first. If premises are unsafe, I hope that the hon. Member for Bassetlaw would agree that they should not be open to the paying public.
Mr. John Carlisle rose --
Mr. Meale : Surely the Minister is misguided in trying to pursue this line of argument about safety. The membership card will not ensure safety. If £50,000 or £100,000 is required to house the machinery to operate the system, that will affect the number of players and coaches for clubs like Mansfield in my constituency. Such a sum might buy twice as many players and coaches for Hartlepool in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Wahington (Mr. Boyes). Hartlepool is currently 92nd in the league and it may go out of the Football League at the end of the season. How will the Minister encourage Hartlepool to invest the level of expenditure required to house the machines to operate the system? The membership cards have nothing to do with safety.
Safety is at the heart of the Bill and the Football Licensing Authority's work. I would happily give the hon. Gentleman a copy of the Bill to show how vital it is. All hon. Members recognise the need for the Football Licensing Authority, in the light of the appalling footballing disasters that have taken place in recent years, and the necessity to make sure that we have safe facilities. That will be a primary function of the Football Licensing Authority, which is absolutely central to the legislation.
The hon. Gentleman may try not to compare coaches, players and the costs of football with the cost of safety, but he cannot avoid the fact that a company, management structure, or football club should regard all those factors as important aspects of their expenditure and put safety at the very top. A club would let down the interests of fee-paying spectators if it failed to put safety anywhere bar at the top and to pay for required improvements, just as a cinema must pay for improvements to meet fire and safety regulations.
Mr. John Carlisle : Does my hon. Friend recall that, in Committee, it was said several times that facilities could be given in the form of financial help from the Football Trust, which already gives millions of pounds for football ground improvement and safety each year? Does my hon. Friend agree that a case for a grant could easily be made by a club such as the one mentioned by the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes)? In such circumstances, if a club improved its ground--obviously, it would--its application might be looked upon favourably.
Mr. Moynihan : My hon. Friend's point is well made, and I am sure that it will be considered by the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes). As I have said several times, the Football Trust has done outstandingly good work in assisting with clubs' significant costs in safety improvements. The rest of the costs must be met from football.
Mr. David Evans : Is my hon. Friend aware that Luton Town football club's revenue has doubled in the past year because of the 32 companies that sponsor its membership card? Is he aware also that, only last week, the Luton bus corporation allowed anyone with a Luton Town member's card to travel at half price on any Saturday during the year?
Mr. Moynihan : Luton Town is exemplary in seeking out and developing the commercial opportunities that can be associated with its membership scheme, which is important but not exclusive to Luton town. Many clubs have followed that example. Luton Town is unique in that, having a 100 per cent. home-only scheme, it has managed to increase support from local people well beyond what it was before, to 20,000 members, and to close its books to further membership at present. It has increased income from commercial sponsors and substantially reduced the incidence of hooliganism. As the Bedfordshire police have made clear, hooliganism has not been displaced downtown. That has led to the community being a far safer place than it was three years ago.
Mr. Lester : I listened to the argument about choosing a scheme, but my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and I want an assurance that, if a club chooses a scheme which involves some equipment, that equipment will be thoroughly tested in the winter. I do not know how one could simulate winter conditions in summer or spring. I experienced technological failure when equipment at Heathrow failed in deep frost and none of us could get off an aeroplane--they had to bring ladders to us. I do not share the confidence of some of my hon. Friends that this equipment will work perfectly in the depths of winter because it worked perfectly well in the spring. If a club chooses equipment which would react to weather conditions, will my hon. Friend assure the House that it will not be put into play until it has been tested in those conditions?
Mr. Moynihan : Of course I agree with the proposition that the technology will need to be tested on dark and wet evenings as well as sunny Saturday afternoons. I do not believe that that necessarily requires the testing to continue throughout what may be described as the winter, still less that it needs to be tested throughout a whole season. If the purpose is to make sure that it is tested in cold and wet conditions, I do not think that my hon. Friend needs to
Column 79wait a winter for that--many an autumn and spring fall neatly into that category. I give the undertaking that I have given on many occasions to my hon. Friend and other colleagues that testing will need to take place in different conditions and different locations. However, once the FMA is satisfied that the appropriate technology is up and running, there is no doubt that having chosen it, all 92 clubs will have the opportunity to put it in place, and test it as they wish in the run-up before it goes live with the force of law. That is an important point to bear in mind. It will also reflect any change in turnstile arrangements that must be made in the off-season next summer, or any other recommendations on ground design made by the FMA or Lord Justice Taylor in his report--subject to the agreement of Parliament--prior to the beginning of next season, or possibly even sooner.
Testing the technology is not the same thing as phasing the implementation of the scheme. The Government and the FMA will have regard to the desirability of
"a phased application of the scheme"
as we are required to do by clause 6. However, we very much hope that phasing will not be necessary because of the serious risk that hooligans banned from clubs inside the scheme would simply transfer their attention to clubs outside. A hooligan convicted of an offence at one Football League club would be free to attend matches at another. That could have particularly serious implications if clubs outside the scheme could not be brought in for a period such as three years.
It will be for the Football Membership Authority to come up with a realistic programme for testing the technology for its scheme. I do not think that it is helpful now to try to reach definitive conclusions about what that timetable should be. Hon. Members have spoken about the variety of technology. The House will accept that it is wrong to be too definite about an actual testing programme and that it would not fulfil the objective that an appropriate test would need to be made. That might be a short testing period, and it might require a longer testing period. It is for the Football Membership Authority to come forward with a realistic programme in the light of the appropiate technologies it wishes to have tested.
It would not be helpful to accept the amendment about specific requirements for thorough testing for certain periods. Such a provision would also create a minefield of legal dispute. Would "thorough" mean testing at every club and in all possible weather conditions, or something less? There is a danger that an amendment of this kind could give rise to endless unhelpful and expensive disputes involving the FMA, the Secretary of State and individual clubs. That would be in no one's interests.
I recognise that my hon. Friends and other hon. Members wish to be certain that the technology will be tested properly, but I hope that they will accept that the FMA has the greatest possible incentive to ensure that the technology will work properly before the scheme begins. After all, it will have responsibility for its operation. The Government want the scheme to be tested before it is introduced. The FMA will want it to be tested. It is in both our interests that it should be tested. We do not need to amend the Bill in a way that could give rise to any number of arguments about interpretation, to ensure that the
Column 80adequate testing that my hon. Friends wish to achieve will be carried out. Therefore, I invite my hon. Friends to reject the amendment.
Mr. Denis Howell : The Minister's speech was one of the most spurious that I have heard on the Bill. When we started on this Bill, which is running into more and more trouble, the Minister said that the scheme would be in operation this season, and probably last season. We do not have it this year and we will not have it next year--at any rate, not at the start of next season--and I honestly do not think that we will have it until 1991. The Minister tried to destroy a sensible amendment. He spoke as though the process would be held up by 92 clubs, whereas the amendment could not have been more reasonably drafted even by myself. It says that the Secretary of State and the Football Membership Authority--nobody else-- have to be satisfied about the technology. The Minister is now turning down that sensible proposition.
What does the Minister base his argument on? We heard a lot of nonsense about how important it is that football clubs should accept the need for safety. What on earth does he think that the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 is all about? The Minister tried to make a party point at the expense of the Opposition. He knows that I was the Minister in the Labour Government who placed the Safety of Sports Grounds Act on the statute book. Lord Justice Taylor is considering whether the implementation of that Act at Hillsborough and Sheffield council's supervision of that ground were adequate. We wait to hear what Lord Justice Taylor has to say about that. There is a legal obligation on all football clubs to put safety first, and local authorities are obliged to seek to ensure that they do.
The Government are not providing a penny for this scheme, but the Labour Government who placed the Safety of Sports Grounds Act on the statute book arranged that the pools promoters, "Spot the Ball" and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would provide money to finance the scheme. It has been a godsend to football.
The Minister referred to marketing opportunities. What he is saying is that football supporters should agree to having masses of junk mail pushed through their letter boxes every day of the year. He knows perfectly well that the Data Protection Act 1988 provides that on each application form there is to be a square where each member can put a cross, which will mean that he does not want his name and address to be spelt out. Those of us who were members of the Committee that considered the Data Protection Bill were anxious to protect people's privacy.
The National Federation of Football Supporters Clubs has a membership of 100,000. The Football Supporters Association has 10,000 paid-up members who can vote and 20,000 associates who do not have a vote. We were not talking earlier about trivial numbers. The Football Supporters Association, the National Federation of Football Supporters Clubs, all sensible people who are interested in football, most of the members of the press who are interested in civil liberties and certainly the Opposition will advise every member who applies to join to put an "x" in that square so that they are not flooded with calls from secondhand car salesmen, double glazing window merchants and all the other messengers of doom and gloom who call at our houses if our names and addresses are sold to raise money.
Column 81If football supporters exercise their civil rights by saying, "I do not want this junk mail pushed through my letter box and people calling at my home to sell me bogus insurance and other things, so I do not wish my name to be disclosed"--and if they have any sense they will do that--there is no way in which the scheme can be introduced at a cost of £10 for three years.
Mr. Howell : No, I do not intend to give way. We have had enough talk of Luton Town today. The hon. Gentleman will have to be quiet. Luton Town, I am sorry to say, is relegated to the second division for the purposes of this debate.
For old-age pensioners, £10 is a lot of money. An old-age pensioner may only go to a football match at Christmas. Pensioners can least afford £10, even though it is for three years. [Interruption.] I know how much a week that is, but the £10 is not paid weekly. It is paid in one go, and that is on top of the entrance fee. For an old-age pensioner who goes to a football match only at Christmas, it will not be £10 ; it will be £15, which is quite a lot of money. I never thought that I would hear the Minister say that there should be a supervisor at each turnstile. He commended Tottenham. Most football clubs cannot afford to have supervisors at turnstiles.
Mr. Moynihan : The right hon. Gentleman could not have been listening. I gave a range of examples of how different clubs handle their partial membership schemes. They vary considerably. I never said that all were the kind of schemes that we wanted--or even that any one of them was. None of them is, because we are going for a national, not a partial, membership scheme.
Mr. Moynihan : I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. The Bill provides the framework for a national membership scheme, which the Government wish to see. The precise details of the scheme will be brought before the House by the Secretary of State after it has been finalised by the Football Membership Authority.
One of the impracticalities of the scheme is that anyone who has registered can attend any ground in the country. Therefore, supporters of 91 clubs could turn up at Hartlepool United or, more likely, at Tottenham or Arsenal. How on earth will that club know where to put the supporters of those 91 clubs when it is playing, for instance, Manchester United? The "smart card" that the Minister spoke about earlier without naming it will say which part of the ground the supporters are to go to. That membership card, which will admit the football supporter into any of 92 clubs, will create horrendous difficulties for all the clubs concerned.
The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) has made out an overwhelming case for trying out the scheme for
Column 82half a season, or for a full season in any weather. I am sorry that the Minister has been unable to respond to his very reasonable case, which we support.
Mr. Lester : I am in a great dilemma, knowing that we want to get in some important debates before 9 pm and that a Division would take up time. I agree that, until we know what scheme the FMA comes forward with, we cannot recommend a test, but I leave my hon. Friend the Minister with a firm warning from those of us who watch these matters with great care that we shall need to be satisfied that any future scheme is thoroughly tested and safe.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn .
(iii) any persons in receipt of the National Insurance old age pension or disability allowance.'.
Miss Hoey : I am disappointed that the first piece of legislation on whose Committee I served since being elected is so punitive and that it is a posturing measure designed purely to satisfy the Prime Minister's wish to be seen to be doing something about the problem of football hooliganism. I am disappointed also that the Minister, who sat through hours of Committee debate, has chosen to listen to so little that was said by hon. Members on both sides.
These amendments highlight the real difference between the Opposition and the Government over how to solve the problem of the thugs and hooligans who associate themselves with football. The crux is that Opposition Members start from the premise that we believe that 99.7 per cent. of people who watch are decent supporters whom we want to encourage. Conservative Members seem to believe that anyone who wants to go along and watch a match is a potential thug. Unfortunately, that has led the Minister and the Government to try to penalise all football supporters instead of to target the minority of whom we would all wish to rid football here and abroad.
We believe that there is room for exemptions in the Bill. We oppose the whole part of part I, but unless Conservative Members take note of the views of those who have sent in petitions and of the people in the football world, they will go along meekly and vote with the Government tonight.
We recognise that the Bill is likely to become law, but we want exemptions in it, the most obvious of which seem to be women. I failed to get answers to some obvious questions in Committee. For instance, why does the Minister link women with football hooliganism. What statistics can he show to prove how many women have been arrested at or outside football matches, or charged or found guilty? We know from the debate in House of Lords
Column 83that there are no statistics to prove that any significant number of women have been involved in any sort of hooliganism--