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Column 216provided for them to over £350 million in real terms since April 1988, for improving work incentives by virtually eliminating marginal deduction rates in excess of 100 per cent., thus ensuring that working families keep more of the money they earn, and for providing an improved, more accurate and speedier service to the public.
Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like to raise a point of order on the five-page written answer which was given by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces today to the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall). This answer is establishing an inquiry, under Mr. Calcutt, into the reasons for the termination of the employment of Mr. Colin Wallace. In particular, the answer admits that Ministers caused inaccurate statements to be made to the House ; that is to say, they misled the House.
But the appeal is to be limited to the handling of an inquiry. Why is Mr. Colin Wallace, who is apparently now being believed on this issue, not going to be allowed to have his views expressed on other matters? We believe that this is of such importance that a five-page written answer is not satisfactory as far as the House is concerned. We therefore ask, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Leader of the House take the appropriate steps tomorrow to ensure that a statement is made, not by the Minister of State, but by the Secretary of State for Defence, about this very pressing matter, which requires the attention and scrutiny of the House as a whole.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : I have listened carefully to the pointmade by the hon. Gentleman and understand why he has raised it in this way. If I may, I will arrange for the matter to be considered through the usual channels in the light of the request that he has made ; the House will be informed tomorrow in one way or another what our response is.
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I first welcome the positive response of the Leader of the House? To suggest that this matter be discussed through the usual channels is fine, but I want to press him a little more to say that he will ensure in one way or another that there is a full oral statement to the House of Commons about this very important matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of which I gave you notice earlier. It concerns a report on Independent Television News at 5.40 this afternoon concerning the debate in the House on the ten-minute Bill. Independent Television News reported the speech of the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), and I have no criticism of that. It then moved to show a panned view of the House from the cameras opposite showing the Government Front Bench, with the following newscaster's comment over the view :
"The Government did not bother to reply."
It is the convention of the House, known to every hon. Member and equally well known to every member of the press lobby, that the Government do not speak during a ten-minute Bill.
I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a private Member--I know that other private Members feel exactly as I do--on how I and other private Members may deal with this point. I refer you to "Erskine May", page 121, "Constructive Contempts", and will quote the relevant parts :
Column 217"Reflections on either House"--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. I must interrupt the hon. Gentleman. If, as I think, he is now talking about a possible contempt of the House, or a matter of privilege, he must raise that in writing with Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Franks : Can I see your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and ask you to consider the matter? Can you advise me at this stage whether this is a fit and proper matter for private Members of the House to refer to the Select Committee on broadcasting? To my mind, and to the minds of many other Members of the House, this is a gross distortion of procedure.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman has now answered his own point. If he feels that there has been a breach of the conventions, he is absolutely right to refer it to the appropriate Select Committee.
Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley) : Further to the earlier point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can I ask the Leader of the House to ensure not only that a statement is made but that consideration is given overnight by the Government to ensuring that the terms of reference of any inquiry are adequate to deal with what is arguably one of the most serious constitutional crises we have had in recent years? It is something that affects not just one or two individuals but a former Government, and casts a great deal of unfavourable light on an entire Government Department. For that reason, and for the sake of the standing of the House, can the Leader of the House ensure that a full and adequate statement is made explaining precisely what is intended?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I hope that the House will feel that this matter has been ventilated now and, furthermore, that the Leader of the House has given an assurance on the matter. I hope, therefore, that the House will feel that, as we are cutting into an important debate in Opposition time, we should let the matter rest there and get on with that debate.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), Mr. Deputy Speaker, about the television broadcast at 5.40 pm, is it not the case that the Independent Broadcasting Authority has a duty to ensure that ITN has a balanced view of what happens in the House? The fact is that neither the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) nor the Division figures were given in the report. The implication was that there was no opposition to the speech of the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook).
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I think the hon. Gentleman will realise that that is not a matter for the Chair. If he feels that there has been a breach, it is open to him to refer the matter to the Select Committee on broadcasting.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could the letter of 30 January that I received from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on the subject of Colin Wallace be considered? Could one other matter be considered--namely, what we, as Members of Parliament on either side of the House, have to do to get things
Column 218examined properly? At unconscionable length and far too often for the patience of many of my colleagues, some of us have gone back and back and back to the issue of Colin Wallace. Now we find that a statement is made :
"I greatly regret that the fact that relevant records were not brought to Ministers' attention has in recent years caused inaccurate statements to be made to the House and in both ministerial and official correspondence."
After all that has been said, what about the treatment of the House of Commons?
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not want to detain the House, but the issues raised go beyond a disciplinary question in the Ministry of Defence. What Colin Wallace said he did, and what he did, was to publish disinformation about Members of the House. I have in my possession leaflets published by his organisation involving certainly my right hon. Friends the Members for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), and myself. Therefore, this cannot just be a question of a Ministry of Defence disciplinary inquiry. If false information was authorised by the Ministry of Defence, designed to damage the reputations of people who were Members of Parliament--the fact that they were Ministers at the time is almost secondary--then, overnight, Mr. Speaker should consider the implications for the House as a whole before the statement is made, so that the interest of the House in the matter can be taken into account. The House is concerned quite as much as the Ministry of Defence, which did this man a grave injustice.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will the Leader of the House, when a statement is being made, consider setting up a Select Committee on Northern Ireland so that there may be proper scrutiny in the House of the affairs of Northern Ireland? You, Sir, and hon. Members will realise now some of the difficulties that we have in scrutinising business.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I hope the House will feel that the matter has been ventilated. The Leader of the House has already responded. I understood the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), to accept the assurance.
Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South) rose
Mr. Rees : Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House has responded, and I hope that there will be a statement tomorrow. As I think the written answer reveals, I was consulted because I was a Minister at the time. I have no complaint about that. Certainly, as will be revealed, these things were not given ministerial approval. There are various documents. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) has one. I have a document from an American thanking me for donations to the Provisional IRA.
There was a dirty tricks set-up outside what is in the parliamentary answer. I have raised this because I want the Leader of the House to know that we do not want to
Column 219consider just the Ministry of Defence aspect, which is important. There is more to the matter than that. I hope that by tomorrow afternoon he will have considered it so that we can raise all these issues and not just the narrow point.
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook) : I beg to move, That this House welcomes the thorough and thoughtful report made by Lord Justice Taylor into the causes of the Hillsborough disaster and regards its proposals as the basis for major improvements in the organisation of Association Football ; endorses his outright rejection of the football identity card scheme and regrets the time and money which has been wasted on a scheme generally accepted as likely to increase rather than reduce the risk of disorder and injury at football grounds ; and calls upon the Government to introduce the changes in the criminal law which the report recommends, to initiate discussions with football clubs and football supporters about the cost and advisability of all-seat grounds for every league club and to reduce the pools betting duty to its pre-1982 level, thereby releasing money which would be available for many of the improvements in safety and facilities in football grounds recommended by Lord Justice Taylor.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
Mr. Hattersley : I shall not spend much time on the unlamented football identity card scheme. The debate is about improving safety at football grounds and the conditions in which football is watched. As Lord Justice Taylor makes clear, the identity card scheme, far from assisting to achieve those objectives, would have made football grounds more dangerous and more disorderly.
There are only two things that need to be said by way of requiem about the identity card proposal. First, it was a diversion which delayed real progress towards improvement over two years. Second, by advocating the scheme, the Government, as well as showing how little they understood about football, demonstrated their scant concern for the people who live and work in the immediate vicinity of football grounds. We know that identity card schemes, had they even reduced hooliganism inside football grounds, which in itself is debatable, as Lord Justice Taylor said, would have made hooliganism a feature immediately outside football grounds. To compound that mistake, the Home Secretary, in a long statement yesterday, had absolutely nothing to say about safety and civil order outside and around football grounds. Yet the safety and well-being of the shops and houses in those areas should be an essential part of any new deal for football.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : The right hon. Gentleman has talked about shops and houses near football grounds. He seems to forget that a successful membership scheme in my constituency has resulted in peace around the football ground on Saturday afternoons. It has been welcomed by residents, shopkeepers and pub landlords in the town and has had a contrary effect to the effect about which the right hon. Gentleman is trying to mislead the House.
Mr. Hattersley : I have heard the hon. Gentleman make that point often ; but does he not know the nature of the Luton scheme, or does he choose to misinterpret it? The Luton scheme is intended to, and does, keep supporters out of the ground altogether. That was never the intention of anything that even the Government suggested. The hon.
Column 221Gentleman cannot compare the Luton scheme with any scheme which might apply to the whole Football League. He does his case no service by attempting to do so.
Our support for the changes in the criminal law which Lord Justice Taylor recommends is based on our desire to see improvements in the conduct inside football grounds and our determination to ensure that people with shops and houses in the areas around football grounds should be able to live in peace on Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. Were the Home Secretary to introduce the changes in the law which the Taylor report proposes, we would support them. We would support a more vigorous use of exclusion orders to ensure that hooligans were kept away from the game. We urge the Home Secretary to remind magistrates, who have not made use of that power as extensively as they might, that it is available to them.
We support the extension of attendance orders, which could prevent convicted hooligans from even approaching a football ground on a Saturday afternoon, by requiring them to perform community service on match days. We urge the Home Secretary to make available sufficient attendance centres to give real force to such punishment. We support the proposal that racial and obscene chanting should become a criminal offence. We understand perfectly well, as the report makes clear, that in some circumstances such behaviour is already a prosecutable offence, but Lord Justice Taylor is right to say that making it a specific offence in and around football grounds will concentrate the minds of those who might indulge in such behavious and the minds of those who want to arrest and prosecute them. I hope that, when the Home Secretary has completed his passages of ritual abuse, he will make it clear whether the Government are as positive as the Opposition in their support for those Taylor proposals.
Yesterday the right hon. and learned Gentleman was equivocal about the need for the new powers and evasive about the Government's attitude to them so I asked him directly, "Will he, or will he not, implement those parts of the report which not only take direct action against hooliganism inside grounds, but provide protection to families who live near football clubs?" I repeat and emphasise that were the right hon. and learned Gentleman to introduce such legislation he would certainly have our wholehearted support. As well as omitting any reference to the problems outside grounds, the Home Secretary had nothing to say yesterday about those aspects of crowd control, encouraged over the years by the Government, which, as Lord Justice Taylor said, are a stimulus, rather than a deterrent, to brutal behaviour. Opposition Members warned the Government about the problems of high and spiked perimeter fences. I now ask the Home Secretary whether he supports Lord Taylor's call for their removal. Opposition Members warned against supporters being treated like prisoners and locked into grounds until it was thought convenient for them to leave. Will the Home Secretary endorse our view that to treat supporters like savages is to encourage them to behave like savages? For that matter, we asked for legislation against ticket touts ; Lord Justice Taylor makes the same demand. Will the Home Secretary now act on that proposal? Until now, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been prepared fully to endorse only one item in the Taylor report.
Column 222Everybody agrees that there is a desperate need for an improvement in the organisation of association football and the standards and conditions of the grounds at which it is played. Today we must decide whether the Government wish to assist in making that progress or whether they wish simply to strike another tough posture to cover their embarrassment over the identity card fiasco. Yesterday, to the surprise, I think, of some Conservative Back Benchers as well to Opposition Members' surprise, he made a statement that was wholly at odds with the established philosophy of the Government and the new Tory party. A Government who normally condemn intervention in any form and who regard regulation as always damaging and usually distasteful announced that they proposed to intervene to regulate and control our national game as the game is not controlled or regulated in any other western country. I hope that the Home Secretary--I know him to be a philosopher--will describe the principles behind that sudden change of heart and his new enthusiasm for regulation and intervention.
Of course we all agree that the Government are right and that the Government have a right--indeed, they have a duty--to intervene to ensure the safety of football grounds. It is also the Government's right--indeed, the Government's duty--to regulate to ensure that football matches are conducted in a way that is acceptable to the population in general. I want to make absolutely clear my position on the way in which the Government should discharge that duty. For my part, enthusiast for the game though I am, I should be prepared to watch football clubs go bankrupt and the game change out of all recognition if that was the only way of protecting life, avoiding injury and preventing hooliganism. Over the years, the debate has been too much concerned with the problems internal to football and not sufficiently concerned with football's place in society. I do not believe, however, that those proper objectives, which I hope the Home Secretary seeks--the protection of life, the avoidance of injury and the prevention of hooliganism--will be best achieved by the Government's simply announcing that all football grounds must replace their terraces with seats in 10 years' time and that first and second division clubs must do so by 1994. The problem is far more complex than that ; there is much more to be done than that ; and much greater understanding is needed than that implies.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) : Will my hon. Friend accept it from me that one of the problems to be dealt with is that third and fourth division clubs can certainly not afford the move to all-seater stadiums, even over nine years? The only way of solving the problem is for local authorities to be given a share of the pools funds levies to build multi- purpose stadiums for soccer, hockey, summer athletics and a wide range of other sports, as is done in every other civilised country.
Mr. Hattersley : I want to deal in a moment with the financing of all the improvements that we all want to be made. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) says that some third and fourth division clubs may go out of business if they are not given proper financial assistance in introducing all-seater stadiums. I disagree with him in one particular : I fear that some second, and perhaps even first, division clubs will go out of business. I know that the Minister for Sport has a tenuous
Column 223relationship with Millwall football club in his constituency. [ Hon. Members :-- "Charlton."] All right, just outside his constituency. I know that he has a relationship with that club. Millwall told me that he had written asking whether he might visit the club in the following season, and that it had replied that the fixture list for the following season had not yet been published and it was not sure which division it would be in anyway. Perhaps the Minister for Sport would care to ask Millwall how it will fare in the conversion to all-seater stadiums. There are clubs in the first division--Wimbledon may be one and Millwall may be another--that may find themselves in mortal difficulty by 1994 unless some specific assistance is given in providing them with the facilities that they need.
I repeat what I said yesterday : I am in favour of replacing the terraces by seats. The argument concerns the way in which that should be done. The Government delude themselves if they think that, by simply announcing that it is a statutory obligation that must be observed by an arbitrary date, they will have solved all the problems of football. Let me give an example, which the Home Secretary found it difficult to comprehend yesterday in the brief time that was available to me to explain to him the realities of the situation. Whether the Home Secretary likes it or not, and whether I like it or not--and, heaven knows, I have no wish to stand on the terraces any more ; I want to watch football from the comfort of a seat--
I am passionately enthusiastic about seats being available for everyone who wants them. But whether the Home Secretary likes it or not, whether he finds it deviant or not, and whether it is to my liking or not, a substantial number of law-abiding supporters prefer to stand and, whether the Home Secretary understands that or not, that will cause him great problems in 1994 unless he is prepared to accommodate them. Queen's Park Rangers replaced part of its terraces with seats and then had to replace the seats with terraces because the supporters chose not to sit down but to stand in aisles and gangways, and that is a much more dangerous business than standing on terraces.
I hope that I shall not be breaching any confidence if I tell the House that, as we left the Chamber yesterday, I asked the Home Secretary, "Is it really right that football supporters can stand up as long as they stand up in front of a seat?" The Home Secretary, with his usual charm, said, "Don't be stupid. Of course it is."
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington) : I am sure that I did not say anything of the sort, butif I had said it, it would have been entirely accurate. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the proposal made by Taylor is that the licensing authority will, by stages, eventually prevent clubs from
Column 224inviting people into areas where there are no seats. It has absolutely nothing to do with the obligations of those who are admitted to those areas, and the right hon. Gentleman must face up to that. Yesterday he made the nonsensical proposition that what Taylor proposed would involve making it a criminal offence for anyone to stand up in the stand. I have never heard such arrant nonsense in all my life.
However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has confirmed my point. Nobody is suggesting that Taylor would make it a criminal offence to stand up-- [Interruption.] Well, I am suggesting that Taylor will not make it a criminal offence to stand up. However, unless the Home Secretary behaves sensibly, in some grounds people will stand up in front of the seats in large numbers. If the Home Secretary would be so good as to consult the various police organisations, he would discover that the police regard standing in seated areas as a far greater threat to safety, to order and to the good conduct of the game than standing on the terraces. It is no good the Home Secretary brushing these facts of life aside, because if he turns round he will see that those of his hon. Friends who have some acquaintance with football are confirming that these are real problems. I draw them to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attention only because I want them solved.
If the Home Secretary hopes to overcome those real problems, which until today it appears that he did not know existed, he will have to take the game with him rather than attempt to impose his and the Government's will on the game.
Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North) : The problems to which the right hon. Gentleman refers go right to the heart of the issue. He is seeking to defend the right of people to stand on the terraces. If he has read the opening chapters of the Taylor report, I cannot believe that he does not realise that, as Taylor states, this is the ninth report on crowd safety and that it is adherence to the culture that he is talking about that has eventually caused the disasters that we have seen. Taking all the factors that he has described into account, I cannot believe that he regards what he has said as the right answer. How can the right hon. Gentleman disagree with the weight of evidence after so many disasters and so many other reports?
Mr. Hattersley : If the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy of reading what I have said in Hansard when he gets it tomorrow, he will find that all I have done up to now is to draw the Home Secretary's attention to a problem that he will face if he proceeds in this way--
Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside) : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. I intervene only because of the intervention that has just been made by the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) and the hon. Gentleman's erroneous suggestion. The disaster at Hillsborough on 15 April was not caused because sufficient seats were not available in the stadium or because the club had not invested in proper facilities. As everyone knows, and as Taylor has confirmed, it was caused because of the total inadequacies of the planning and organisation at that
Column 225game, the lack of co-ordination, the inadequacy of the access, and the penning and the fencing at the Leppings lane end. I do not want any hon. Member ever to repeat again in the House that the disaster had anything to do with whether there were or were not seats.
Mr. Hattersley : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that correction. He has enabled me to move on to my next point and to tell the House that, as I have already spoken for almost a quarter of an hour-- thanks to interventions--I must now make progress so that other hon. Members can speak in this short debate.
I said a moment ago, and I repeat, that if progress is to be made towards all-seater stadiums--as we have now come to call them, although it is a new term that is not usually applied to football--the Government will have to take the game with them rather than attempt to impose their will upon it.
The Taylor report, concentrating as it did on the way in which supporters have been treated over the years, could be the basis for real co-operation between supporters, the clubs and the Government. What concerns me and my hon. Friends is not so much the Government obtaining the acquiescence of directors, who will come up smiling whatever happens, but that the Government should work in a way that the supporters know is intended to help to preserve their interests, their clubs and their ability to work with the clubs for better football.
It is important that the opportunity that Taylor provides is not missed by arbitrary and authoritarian action. That requires the Government to draw a distinction between the majority of law-abiding supporters, who want to do no more than watch the game in comfort and peace, and the minority of hooligans who must be rooted out. That distinction is not drawn by the Home Secretary telling the football authorities that he knows how the game should be organised and that he intends to impose his will upon them.
I want to try to illustrate the difference between us by telling the Home Secretary about a question that was put to me on Sunday. I shall give my answer, and I hope that the Home Secretary will give his. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who is wholly consistent in his belief in regulation and intervention, supported the Home Secretary in his insistence on compulsory seating. My hon. Friend no doubt welcomes the recent convert to central planning who is now sitting on the Treasury Bench. My hon. Friend said that his view on seating was shared by his two local clubs, Liverpool and Everton. I fear that my hon. Friend was wrong in both particulars and, indeed, the clubs have informed me of that today.
As I said, I want to pass on to the Home Secretary the question that I was asked by the chairman of Everton on Sunday afternoon to which I shall give my answer and I hope that the Home Secretary will give his. The chairman of Everton said that his ground was notably peaceful and that there had never been a suggestion that his spectators' safety was at risk. He said that his facilities were good, at least by the modest standards of British football. He went on to ask why, in my opinion, he should be required to reduce the number of standing places and to increase the number of seats at the ground when his supporters did not wish him to do so. I not only want the Home Secretary to provide his answer to that question ; I hope--indeed, I
Column 226warn him--that he had better reply without his usual rudeness because the chairman of Everton is also the chairman of the Merseyside Conservative Association.
I now offer my answer to the chairman's question. I believe that the successful conversion of football grounds into 100 per cent. seating is, in the long run, right and irresistible. I believe that we should encourage a speeding up of that process, but I also believe that nothing but harm can come from arbitrary and authoritarian edicts that will simply offend supporters and destroy a vital part of the game.
I hope that the Home Secretary understands that many law-abiding football supporters feel that the whole game is being condemned out of hand. We should be on their side in the campaign to improve facilities, yet they feel that fashionable opinion is against them. I take my example from the Taylor report itself. In dealing with the occasional practice of running on to pitches, Lord Justice Taylor said that it was important to distinguish between "malicious intent" and "exuberance". It was Lord Justice Taylor, not I, who used the term "joie de vivre", a phrase that is rarely heard at Hillsborough football ground. One newspaper commentator asked me this morning how I expected the police to distinguish between "joie de vivre" and malicious pitch invasion. Fortunately, in paragraph 301 Lord Justice Taylor provides his own distinction, suggesting that in association football running on to the pitch is malicious invasion, whereas at rugby union football it is "joie de vivre".
I want to tell the Home Secretary what I wish he knew--that the issue of seats cannot be separated from the question of football finance, not least if grounds are to install the facilities that Lord Justice Taylor rightly says are civilising influences on supporters. Much nonsense is still talked about sources of possible revenue. The Home Secretary compounded that yesterday by talking about the "football industry" and "commercial concerns". Dozens of clubs run at a trading loss and are kept in business only by supporters' raffles and contributions from directors. They are not commercial concerns, at least in one definition of the term. For them, the sources of revenue that the Government so glibly describe are simply not available. Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton can negotiate lucrative sponsorship deals but such deals are not available to third and fourth division clubs, many of whom have warned the Government during the past 24 hours that, unless an agreement is negotiated, what the Government intend to impose on them will force them into bankruptcy and closure.
Football clubs are often focal points for desirable community activity. During the past five years, we have all said that we want football clubs to do more for the community in which they exist. The hon. Members for Ipswich (Mr. Irvine), for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) and for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) must decide whether they are prepared to risk their clubs going bankrupt and ceasing to make a contribution to the life of their communities. It is no good the Government claiming that the vast sums of money now spent on transfer fees could or should be made available for other purposes.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : I am interested in what my right hon. Friend says. He said earlier that he was not against the idea of all-seater stadiums, to use the Government's terminology, but that such provision would
Column 227have to be made over a period of time and with Government assistance. Why do we not concentrate on that instead of arguing about whether the principle is right or wrong? If Mr. Carter believes that Everton should not have an all-seater stadium--that is not what the directors have told me--that is fair enough. That is his view, but he is as wrong in it as he is in supporting the Conservative party. I wish to make it clear that I believe that the idea of all-seater football grounds is important and right. It will take time. Let us concentrate on persuading the Government to provide the money for it.
Mr. Hattersley : My hon. Friend will recall that John Stuart Mill said that if the practice is wrong, the principle is no good. If that is good enough for John Stuart Mill, it should be good enough for my hon. Friend and me. I am trying to examine whether it is possible to apply the principle that the Government suggest in the timescale that they recommend. In my view, the amount of money available makes that difficult and doubtful. I repeat that the transfer market does not provide money. It is a complicated system of barter in which, most often, players, rather than money, change hands. Clubs cannot go to Wimpey, Laing or Bovis and say, "Build us an all-seater stadium and we shall pay the bill with a striker, a central defender and a reserve goalkeeper." The few clubs that make money out of transfers are mainly third and fourth division clubs which are struggling for survival. They find young players and sell them to the first division to clear their debts. A levy on them would simply make their survival even more unlikely.
For the wealthy clubs, the problem is different. It is best illustrated by a statement made by Arsenal yesterday afternoon. The club said that installing seats would involve considerable capital costs and the maximum gate would be severely reduced. As a result, the minimum entrance price would go up from £5 to £12. For the past five years, the argument about football has centred on the need once again to make it a family game- -a husband and wife taking their two children to the game for an afternoon's entertainment. If unfunded, unsubsidised compulsory seating is enforced, it will cost a family of four almost £50 to go to a football match.
It is worth noting that if the proposed price increases were made, precious few ambulance workers could take their families to football this coming Saturday. Football in Britain, like American football in the United States of America, would be beyond the means of a large part of the population.
The Government must help with the cost of introducing 100 per cent. seating. I know that that proposal horrifies the Home Secretary. Will he tell us the principle on which the Government justify subsidising the Royal Opera house in Covent Garden, which amounts to £50 per seat per performance, while rejecting assistance for football?
Column 228Knowing the Home Secretary's propensity for misrepresentation, I inform him that I am strongly in favour of assistance to the arts.
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, when the Conservative party conference is held at Blackpool, the cost of policing to prevent hooliganism or terrorism is paid by Lancashire county council? It costs £2.7 million for the week. The council has protested strongly that the Government should pay. Why does the Conservative party not pay for the policing of its conference in the same way as it demands that football should do?
Mr. Hattersley : We can take it a stage further. Last week the Derbyshire constabulary told Derby County that it could not provide policing for a match last Wednesday evening. Derby was told that, if it insisted on playing that night, the police would allow the game to go ahead only if it provided the entire cost of policing inside and outside the ground.
Mr. Lee rose --
Mr. Hattersley : My information is that Derby County paid the entire cost of policing the match. I hope that the Lancashire constabulary will follow that excellent precedent and do exactly the same when the Conservative party conference is next held in Blackpool.
I am strongly in favour of assistance to the arts. I should like them to receive more assistance than at present. To believe in that principle requires in logic the acceptance that other activities also deserve Government aid. During the lifetime of the Government, the tax burden on football has increased. Pools profits are now taxed, not at 40 per cent. but at 42.5 per cent. Were we to return to the 1979 level of taxation, pools promoters' net income would increase by £18 million. Yesterday, they told me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) that if the old rate were renewed, every penny that they received would be passed on to the game. Tonight we call on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept that offer.
If the Government are serious in their wish to see football grounds improved, we call upon them to increase tax allowances for investment in stands and other facilities to make our football grounds more civilised. We ask the Home Secretary to approach the problem in a spirit of co-operation and possible compromise. I do not doubt that the best headlines could be obtained by denouncing football in the terms that he employed yesterday. I accept that, as the identity card scheme has been abandoned, a show of force is necessary to ensure that the retreat does not look like the rout that it is. However, there is still time for him to do his best for football. He must call all the parties together and decide on the basis of the Taylor report how real improvements can be made and financed. It is above all for that initiative that we shall vote tonight.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington) : Yesterday I made a statement about the Taylor report, and I had the opportunity then to express my sympathy for the relatives and friends of those who died and for those who suffered injury at Hillsborough. To voice that sympathy again is not out of place, but I am sure that the bereaved would agree with me
Column 229that the best service that we can now perform for the dead is to bend all our efforts towards preventing a similar tragedy in the future.
What happened at Hillsborough on 15 April last year must not finish as just another entry in the list of major tragedies which have afflicted football over the years. It must mark a new beginning for football in this country. The tragedy would never have occurred had the lessons from the past been learned and properly applied. This time they must be learned, and if they are, the loss of life will not have been entirely in vain.
Yesterday I had the chance to thank Lord Justice Taylor for his report. I would also like to thank his assessors, Mr. Brian Johnson, the chief constable of Lancashire, and Professor Leonard Maunder, who is professor of mechanical engineering at the university of Newcastle upon Tyne. Their special knowledge and experience were obviously invaluable.
I stated plainly yesterday the Government's response to the report, our determination to see a great change in the way in which the game is managed and a vast improvement in the way in which clubs treat their customers. I shall return to those matters shortly, but I have to say now that the Opposition's response to the challenge of Taylor has been nothing short of pathetic. [Interruption.] Opposition Members should listen carefully.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) does not, of course, think that there is any such thing as football hooliganism.
Mr. Denis Howell : I am grateful to the Home Secretary for returning to this matter. Yesterday, when he made his grotesque misrepresentation of my position, I had not had the chance to consult Hansard. I have now done so, however, and I said that there was no such thing as football hooliganism, but that there was criminality in society of which it was a part. That the Home Secretary misquoted me, of all people, on football hooliganism proves that he is in a blue funk because of the rout that Taylor has imposed upon him.
Mr. Waddington : I have a great respect for the right hon. Gentleman, but he has misquoted himself, as he has not got it right even now. He wil have to live with the words he used. Let me remind the House of what they were :
"I do not believe there is any such thing as football hooliganism. There is criminality in society and there is violence"
Those were the right hon. Gentleman's words.