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The right hon. Member for Small Heath does not seem to think that there is much of a problem with British football as, on the same occasion, he voiced his pride in the fact that the Labour party had not supported measures to curb drinking in grounds. Let me quote the exact words as they appear in Hansard and we shall see whether he likes them :
"The Opposition have never supported the proposal that drinks should not be sold inside grounds"--[ Official Report, 27 June 1989 ; Vol. 155, c. 861, 916.]
Column 230He might like to compare that with what Lord Justice Taylor says in his report. As the right hon. Gentleman does not think there is anything wrong--
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) rose --
Mr. Waddington : First I shall deal with the right hon. Member for Small Heath, then his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and then the hon. Gentleman can intervene.
Because the right hon. Member for Small Heath does not think there is anything wrong, it is scarcely surprising that he has not been exactly fertile with new ideas as to how to put things right.
Mr. Denis Howell : I am again obliged to the Home Secretary for giving way. I must draw his attention to the fact that what we believe is that it makes much more sense to close the pubs outside grounds and to stop the sale of drink in supermarkets than to do so inside grounds, where it is impossible to get drink anyway. That is the nature of the problem. The Government have not dealt with alcoholism and drunkenness outside football grounds.
Mr. Wilson rose --
Mr. Heffer : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to intervene, but I had hoped that tonight's debate would be a serious one about the issues involved. I had also hoped that we would not necessarily become involved in great party conflict. Ninety-five people died--that is what I am thinking about--some of whom I knew. Can we not get back to a proper discussion as to the best way in which to deal with this matter rather than continuing this unfortunate conflict, which is doing us no good?
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, unlike his right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath, knows that there is a lot wrong with the football industry. Yesterday, despite that knowledge, he announced that he did not agree with the central proposals in Lord Justice Taylor's report. He said that he disagreed with the first proposal of that report and today he has reinforced that rejection. He has entirely ignored what was said in that report about the attitude of FIFA and the fact that Lord Justice Taylor points out that the football authorities have always said that they would think it right to follow resolutions carried by FIFA.
The right hon. Gentleman has also ignored paragraph 61 of the report, which states :
"There is no panacea which will achieve total safety and cure all problems of behaviour and crowd control. But I am satisfied that seating does more to achieve those objectives than any other single measure."
He has also entirely ignored Lord Justice Taylor's conclusions and the recommendation in paragraph 90 :
Column 231"I therefore conclude and recommend that designated grounds under the 1975 Act should be required in due course to be converted to all-seating. I do so for the compelling reasons of safety and control already set out ; also, so far as association football is concerned, because the present trend at home and abroad and the rules of the world and European football authorities make the move to all-seating irresistible."
Mr. Hattersley : I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I might have an interesting semantic argument about this. I described the move to all-seater stadiums as inevitable, as distinct from irresistible. I urged the Government to do all it could to speed up that process, but by the agreement of the clubs. [Interruption.] That is exactly what I said a few moments ago. It is not my fault if the Home Secretary wrote his speech before he heard mine. Given that the Home Secretary has dealt extensively with one of the Taylor proposals, will he answer my question as to whether the Government propose to implement the others? We have said that we would, but will the Government give the lead?
Mr. Waddington : The right hon. Gentleman should not be so swift to intervene without recalling the allegation I made against him and the recommendation made by Lord Justice Taylor. That recommendation is not that a move to all-seater stadiums should be brought about by agreement ; the recommendation is that that move should be required. That is what the right hon. Gentleman will not face up to. Yesterday, he was cross because I was short in my reply to him. He was cross because I pointed to the absurdity and triviality of the point that he took up yesterday and again today--that somehow or other, people who stood up in a seated area would be guilty of a criminal offence.
"If he persists"--
he was referring to me--
"in making football grounds all-seater stadiums by law, is it his intention to make it illegal for a spectator to stand ?"--[ Official Report, 29 January 1990 ; Vol. 166, c. 23.]
Well, really--if the nonsensical response to Lord Justice Taylor's proposal is not that criminal offences should be imposed on spectators, but that clubs should be subject to safety certificates which do not allow them to offer standing accommodation, one despairs.
If the right hon. Gentleman is the authentic voice of the Labour party, the world can see it as a party for which no problem is so grave that it cannot be dodged, no challenge so demanding that it cannot be shirked, no obligation so solemn that it cannot be ducked. To it, a membership scheme is poison, better stadiums a curse, vociferous inactivity sublime. The nation has heard Labour's response to the challenge of Hillsborough.
Having rejected the fundamental proposal in the report, the Opposition have the sheer effrontery to table a motion welcoming the report. Having been completely supine and negative during the past years--when we have been struggling with the problem of football hooliganism--the Opposition have the brazenness to criticise us for trying to do something.
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West) : In view of the trivia which we are hearing from the Front Bench spokesmen, can I be assured that none of this will apply to Scotland, and that we will get a separate statement? I have some misgivings about the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland because he is not present, but I want an assurance that none of these trivia will apply to Scotland. Although football is a national--and, I accept, a United Kingdom--game, none of this absolute irrelevance should be allowed to continue and if it does so will you, Mr. Speaker, show the Home Secretary the red card?
Mr. Waddington : I am proud of the fact that, when others were not prepared to do a thing, we rose to the challenge. Our actions have not been in vain : part I of the Football Spectators Act 1989, as the House knows, will play a vital part in implementing the Taylor recommendations.
Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill) : The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) put it to the Home Secretary that there were other recommendations in the Taylor report. I wish to draw the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the matter of spiked fences and cages. He will recall that, in the immediate aftermath of Hillsborough, one of the most distressing factors was the photographs of fans cruelly crushed against the fences and cages. I know that there will be some disagreement in the House about what Lord Justice Taylor has said about this matter. Will the Home Secretary give an indication of the Government's intentions on this issue?
Mr. Waddington : I can give the hon. Gentleman more than just an indication. I said without any reservation that those recommendations were acceptable the Government ; the hon. Gentleman will find that set out in the schedule which, as I said, was put in the Vote Office yesterday.
The Opposition motion asks us to introduce the changes in the criminal law recommended by Lord Justice Taylor. I have already said that we will consider the matter urgently, but before a final decision is made some consideration must be given to the possible difficulties of enforcement of the proposed new offences and the extent to which the mischief at which they would be aimed is covered by existing offences in, for instance, the Public Order Act 1986. The Opposition ask us to initiate discussions with the football authorities and clubs about the cost and advisability of all- seat grounds. Advisability? Lord Justice Taylor makes the advisability crystal clear. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook is merely issuing an invitation to clubs to argue the toss about whether they even now need take any action--an invitation to them either to shirk their responsibilities entirely or to hold out the begging bowl to the taxpayer, asking him to foot the bill for the decent facilities which the clubs should have provided years ago. This, I am sure that the House will agree, is not the time for talk--it is the time for action.
Mr. Wilson : I am genuinely anxious to try to clarify what has become a ludicrous debating point between the Front Bench spokesmen about all-seater stadiums. As I understand it, the Front Bench spokesmen from both sides seem to agree that we should move towards this. However, the idea that there is nothing in that worth talking to clubs
Column 233about is ludicrous. Will the Home Secretary contemplate the example of Ibrox stadium in Glasgow, which is recognised in the Taylor report as one of the finest grounds in the country. It was turned into such a ground largely because of a previous disaster and report. Inside that excellent stadium there is a well-defined area in which it is possible to stand. Would the Home Secretary accept that that is not to the detriment of the ground's safety, does not in any way diminish the excellence of the facilities and should be compatible with what emerges from the Taylor report?
Mr. Waddington : We simply cannot get away from the fact that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook has rejected Taylor--there is no doubt about that. He said quite firmly that he disagreed with the central recommendation of the Taylor report that grounds should be required by law to be all seater. He has completely rejected that and hon. Members will be able to read what he said in Hansard tomorrow and can read today what he said in a question to me yesterday. The Opposition also call for a reduction on pools betting duty. I am not suggesting that there may not be a case for more money to go into the game from the pools promoters. However, a change in the tax which would undoubtedly benefit the promoters would not necessarily benefit football. Instead, the Opposition should consider how much better use could be made of £18 million from television, £8 million from the pools promoters each year and £75 million promised by the Football Trust over the next 10 years. If we add up just those sources of income, we arrive at a grand total of £309 million available to the industry between now and 1999. That is twice as much as the highest estimate that I have seen of the cost of providing all- seated accommodation.
What I think is so wrong about the Opposition's attitude is that in the motion they send the football authorities precisely the wrong message. Instead of telling them that if they are going to invite people into their grounds it is their duty to see that their grounds are safe, they coo words of comfort. They say, "You need not bother too much about your responsibilities. If we get back, we will make the taxpayer cough up."
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-West) : It cannot just be the distinction between seats and standing that determines the quality of a ground and its safety. A disaster took place in a stadium in Bradford. Safety depends on the quality and arrangement of the seats and the quality of the standing provisions. Can we get into a debate of the Taylor report in which we start to say what the quality and provisions of a ground should be?
Mr. Waddington : I can only repeat that Lord Justice Taylor says that all-seated accommodation is not just a bright idea which has come into his head, but FIFA has accepted that that is a desirable standard at which to aim. Therefore, it is not surprising that Lord Justice Taylor came to the conclusion that, as the football authorities said that they thought it right to observe the resolutions passed by FIFA, the authorities have accepted that they should move towards all-seater stadiums.
Mr. Ashton rose --
Mr. Ashton : Is the Home Secretary aware that Wembley will soon be an all-seater stadium? If he talks to them he will find that what scares the authorities at Wembley is the thought of the IRA planting a bomb. If the bomb went off and started a panic, an all-seater stadium would take longer to evacuate. That could make it 10 times worse than if people were to run on to the pitch from the terraces.
Mr. Waddington : The hon. Gentleman will no doubt have his chance to speak. We cannot get away from the fact that Lord Justice Taylor made a careful examination of the matter and came to a very different conclusion from that being voiced by the hon. Gentleman and had an entirely different view from that of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook.
I shall not repeat today Lord Justice Taylor's indictment of the way in which the industry has been run. But, in fairness, I should say that, unlike the Opposition, many in the industry are now acknowledging that something must be done and that they must move to all-seat stadiums. We proposed that course immediately after Hillsborough, and we shall now press ahead.
It has been said that the move towards all-seated accommodation will force clubs to turn away spectators. I can only invite those who are worried about that to read the report. Many clubs already have more seated accommodation than the total number of spectators who usually attend their grounds, and a gradual reduction in standing capacity each year will not affect them for a time, if at all. Some say that an end to the terraces will change the atmosphere of the game, but Lord Justice Taylor obviously thinks, and I agree, that it will be a change for the better. He points to experience in Scotland and says that he is satisfied that in England and Wales, as in Scotland and abroad, spectators will soon become accustomed to sitting, and like it.
"At Ibrox Park the seated areas are the most popular and tickets for them sell in preference to those for standing. Significantly, trouble from misbehaviour and physical injuries have been reduced since most of the crowd became seated. Such trouble and accidental injuries as still occur are primarily in the remaining standing areas. It is planned to convert them to seating in the near future." Therefore, even Ibrox park will become an all-seat stadium. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Waddington : My hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that all the arguments advanced and accepted by Lord Justice Taylor are arguments for the proposition that all-seat stadiums will not only help to civilise the game and get rid of hooliganism, but will contribute more to safety than any other step that could be taken. Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South) rose --
Mr. Porter : There is little disagreement as to whether all-seat stadiums will be desirable, irresistible, or whatever the other word was. The argument is about who will pay for them. I like football as much as anybody else, but if my right hon. and learned Friend is willing to listen to the Opposition's strictures on the spending of taxpayers' money, he should remember that there is rugby union and
Column 235the national stadium at Twickenham, there is rugby league all over the place and it is growing, and there might even be a tiddlywink stadium in Barnsley. I know not where it will end. Surely we should be concentrating on where the money will come from to do that which is desirable and fair.
Mr. Waddington : One cannot get away from the fact that, under our law, those who invite people on to their premises for reward must make their premises safe. It would be wrong for us to send out any sort of message from this place that the duty to make those premises safe rests on anyone other than the football clubs.
Let me deal now with Lord Justice Taylor's detailed recommendations about safety. The House knows that we accept them, and hon. Members have now had the opportunity to read the schedule that I have placed in the Vote Office. The licensing authority which will bring about all-seat stadiums in the way that I have described will be there to review and to keep under scrutiny the way in which local authorities carry out their safety functions.
There are a number of specific recommendations for the amendment of the green guide. That, as hon. Members will know, is a document published by the Home Office and the Scottish Office that owes its origins to the technical working party set up by Lord Wheatley in the course of preparing his report on crowd safety at sports grounds, which was published in 1972.
That document will now be revised in the light of the Taylor recommendations, but I should say, in justice to those who have been responsible for it over the years, that it has stood the test of time remarkably well, and it is difficult not to conclude that, if its guidance had been properly followed and applied at Hillsborough, and more recently at Middlesbrough, neither accident would have happened.
I should say a word about the role of the police in ensuring safety and effective crowd control. A key issue here is the liaison between the clubs and the police. There must be no opportunity for each to stand aside thinking that the other is in charge, and Lord Justice Taylor's recommendation that there should be a written statement of the respective functions of club and police for crowd safety and control is one that I can readily endorse.
I also welcome Lord Justice Taylor's recommendation that clubs should recruit and train sufficient fit, active and robust stewards, not least because the more capable the stewards, the less clubs will need to call for special police services, thus releasing police officers for duties outside the ground not necessarily connected with football--a benefit to the public generally.
For those reasons, and because it is right in principle, I support the report's recommendation that police authorities should ensure that charges made to clubs for policing inside grounds are realistic.
Lord Justice Taylor has much to say about hooliganism. Like many before him, he has concluded that no single measure will defeat football hooliganism, and even a package of measures will take time to have effect.
In recent years, the Government have been attacking the problem on many fronts. We have taken action against alcohol abuse in the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985 and we have introduced in section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 a new offence of disorderly
Column 236behaviour. The police have developed their tactics by making effective use of closed circuit television at grounds and by increasing the gathering and use of intelligence on hard-core hooligans. At the end of 1989, we established the national football intelligence unit, which has already made a good start in compiling and collating centrally intelligence on the most serious and persistent football hooligans.
As the House knows, part II of the Football Spectators Act 1989 gives the court powers to impose restriction orders on those convicted of football- related offences. Those subject to restriction orders will be prevented from travelling to key matches abroad. Its provisions will have a salutary effect on those hooligans whose disgraceful behaviour abroad has so blackened the reputation of football. We plan to implement part II as soon as practical arrangements can be made and the remaining parliamentary procedures have been completed.
I said yesterday that, following bilateral agreements with other countries, our courts will be able to impose restriction orders on offenders convicted abroad of corresponding football-related offences. We are giving priority to concluding an agreement with the Italian authorities. We aim to have those arrangements in place before the World cup. I expect the provisions of part II to have a useful deterrent effect on the behaviour of football spectators abroad.
I made it clear yesterday that the fact that we are not establishing a football membership authority does not mean that there will be any let-up in the fight against hooliganism. I have outlined the action that we are to take.
The vast majority of people who go to watch football matches, even in the appallingly squalid conditions that exist at some major grounds, are decent, well-behaved people, neither drunken louts nor hooligans. It is high time that more consideration was given to their interests, to their safety, to their enjoyment of their sport. If, by the measures proposed, we can enhance both their enjoyment and the reputation of the game, our efforts will have been well worth while. 8.29 pm
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde) : All who love our national game owe a great deal to Lord Justice Taylor for making such a comprehensive, reasonable and thought-provoking report. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) acknowledged that in his constructive and reasonable speech. By contrast, the Home Secretary missed an important opportunity to set the agenda for a sensible debate on football's future. I hope to follow my right hon. Friend's example.
Lord Justice Taylor's report should be studied closely by those connected with football at every level, whether they be directors of illustrous clubs, administrators and officials, or supporters. We shall do Lord Justice Taylor a great disservice if we throw away the opportunity that his report presents for conducting a fundamental, far-reaching and frank reappraisal of all aspects of the game. If Taylor teaches us anything it is the folly of hasty or half-hearted measures. As Lord Justice Taylor points out,
"Patchy and piecemeal approaches are themselves a great threat to safety."
A lengthy and honest debate on the issues that Taylor raises is urgently needed. The issues are not simply a matter of right or wrong, black or white, them and us.
Column 237They are complex and require detailed discussion. The report should be seen primarily as a catalyst for debate, not a tablet of stone. In that debate, we must all recognise that we have something to learn from each other. It is foolish and churlish of the Government not to recognise the dangerous inadequacies of their proposal for a football identity card scheme that the report highlights. Rather than stubbornly closing their minds to arguments that they find unpalatable, the Government would do better to recognise the serious misgivings that Lord Justice Taylor expresses which led him to conclude that it would
"Actually increase trouble outside grounds."
Equally, those responsible for running our national game must take the opportunity to examine frankly and honestly the state of British football as it enters the 1990s. The report contains many criticisms of football as experienced by genuine and regular supporters, and it is time for those criticisms to be addressed. The Government should scrap completely the Football Spectators Act 1989 and present instead a Green Paper as the basis for informed and detailed discussion of every aspect of the national game. It should deal with the problems of hooliganism, safety and standards. The Government should commit themselves to a genuine debate and not a blind, prejudiced debate, and then introduce legislation that would command the support of the House. That debate should involve right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House, football authorities, and football supporters. We must all acknowledge that there is no simple answer, no single transferable solution that can be applied to all football clubs, regardless of their status or position. We should applaud Taylor for recognising that and for his insight. We must accept that clubs need time and breathing space to assess the valuable work that went into the report and to consider the best way forward for football. I suggest that the proposals to phase out completely standing accommodation on football terraces for spectators who prefer to stand should be reconsidered.
Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe (Leigh) : The Home Secretary stated that no positive contribution was made to the debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who is chairman of the all- party football group, spoke of the phasing in or phasing out of certain facilities. As an officer of the all-party rugby league group, I echo the concern that has been expressed about the imposition, virtually by law, of the all-seater stadium. It is not that we dispute the principle, but I have a list of all rugby league grounds showing that the average attendance figure is 3,500 to 4,000 per week. League grounds are now classified in the same way as football grounds. Would my hon. Friend accept a three-tier system--
Mr. Pendry : My hon. Friend has made his point. My point was that Lord Justice Taylor himself recognises the desirability of retaining "the traditional culture derived from the close contact of the terraces".
Column 238I remember the experience, as a young boy at St. James's park, Newcastle, of being passed down over the heads of the crowd. That unique atmosphere and comradely spirit still exist today. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook responded to yesterday's statement, he pointed out that a direct link between the abolition of standing areas and improved safety has yet to be established. The 1986 Popplewell inquiry into the Bradford disaster acknowledged the difficulty confronting spectators in evacuating seated accommodation even in the most favourable circumstances. Taylor states that the extension of seating to all parts of the ground would almost certainly lead to an increase in admission charges to those accustomed to watching their favourite game from the terraces.
Increased cost is not only a problem for the individual fan, because almost all those connected with the game who have considered the expense of converting stadiums to all-seater accommodation have concluded that in most cases the cost will be prohibitive and may lead to closure in some instances. The hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), who knows something about football, yesterday, on television, described that plan as totally non-viable. The report estimates that the cost of conversion will be about £130 million and admits that money from the Pools Promoters Association and any tax concessions given by the Government would be woefully inadequate to meet that expense. The report concludes that, in the absence of Government recognition of football as a communal activity and not simply as a commercial venture,
"the bulk of the finances for ground improvement must be raised by the clubs themselves."
Where is that money to come from? Now that the spurious arguments about the so-called apparent wealth of clubs on the basis of the total circulation of money in the transfer market have been exposed--though I do not think that that point has got through to the Home Secretary yet--we are faced with the sober reality that, for all the good work that has gone into producing the report, many of its recommendations will remain pie in the sky unless the Government recognise the need for an urgent injection of cash into the game in the interests of the whole community.
The impression currently given by the Government that they want to abrogate their responsibility to the national game is both disheartening and regrettable. The House can contrast their approach with that of the Italian Government, who recently invested £260 million in improving the standard of grounds. That is a somewhat smaller figure than that which the Government take from the game in taxing football pools.
A fundamental rethink is required of football funding in this country. If I am critical of Taylor, it is only because he did not do justice to the range of possible options for funding. In particular, he seems not to appreciate the considerable benefits that might accrue from the creation of a football levy board accountable to a Minister. The Minister would have responsibility for appointing the board's chairman, and its representatives would be drawn from the Football League, Football Association, Professional Footballers Association and Football Trust, who have done so much in making a valuable contribution to solving many of the problems that confront the game.
Column 239When such a proposal was made in a private Member's Bill that I tabled in 1986, it received all-party support. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), and the hon. Members for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) and for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) all supported that Bill. Such a board would have powers to influence not only the injection of cash into the game but the possible acquisition of land for development by the football authorities. It would be the ideal vehicle for equipping football for the 21st century. Although the current attitude of the Football Association and Football League is somewhat negative, as is reflected in the report, that has not always been the case. I have the minutes of a meeting in 1982 at which representatives of the Football Association and Football League all expressed their enthusiasm for the establishment of a football levy board. Given the obvious benefits that it would offer, it is not hard to imagine a revival of the football authorities' full support for it in the future. Such a board would be preferable to the current status quo maintained by certain vested interests.
The Taylor report may have come just in time. It highlights the problems faced by football, of outdated structures, grounds and complacent inertia at all levels, the problems that many of us who truly care about soccer have previously been attempting to highlight and combat.
Hopefully, the report will now stimulate the imagination and inspire the will to succeed. That will is present in football and, if it is given sincere and adequate support by the Government, it will ensure that the great majority of law-abiding supporters will once again enjoy the game they love in comfort and safety.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I have before me the names of 17 right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. Less than an hour remains. I hope that we shall have very short speeches. 8.41 pm
I welcome the fact that the idea of football identity cards has been dropped. It means that I can support the Government tonight, because the Home Secretary made a firm statement of action that must be taken. He was absolutely right, so, like a black sheep, I can come home, and the Whip will be pleased to hear that I shall vote for the Government.
A point that concerns me links with the whole question of the Taylor report. Football hooliganism is specific to football, but it is at the same time an outgrowth of a breakdown of law and order in society. We could see it in the permissiveness of the 1960s-- [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."]--often supported by Opposition Members ; I should make that clear before they agree with me too cheerfully--when a decline in law and order was visible.
That concerns me now, because I see a trend in our schools which will create problems for us in the coming 10 or 20 years. There was a time in our schools--I am thinking in particular of the north, in the real soccer
Column 240country around Blackburn and in particular near Blackburn Rovers ground--when schoolmasters went out every Saturday morning with their pupils and played soccer against other teams. They learned to play to the whistle, as we called it ; the referee was in charge and one appreciated good play on both sides. The good spirit of British soccer grew out of that.
I began to recognise at Highbury Grove--it is more than 16 years since I left there--a decline in school soccer. On the one hand, it was a question of the wife wanting the husband to help with the shopping on Saturday mornings, a growing factor about which one could do little. On the other hand, it happened because of the pressures to earn money elsewhere, plus the problem of travelling greater distances.
Also, we had from the colleges of education at that time people who were not trained to take part in team sports. People came to us with abilities in individual sports. It was said that team sports were competitive, and these schoolmasters said that was wrong. Indeed, those who argued that way had mental levitation rather than physical ability. I recall one such person saying to me that under no circumstances would he have anything to do with team sports. So the idea of playing with, and behaving like, a team --either as a crowd supporter or a member of a team--began to decline.
Since then, we have taken two actions which the Government may regret in the long run. First, we have placed teachers on a 1, 265-hour contract covering a year. Instead of it being a profession, we have proletarianised it. Whereas people in other work had the rule book bought out, teachers were given the rule book. In other words, after 1,265 hours they go home. Does Saturday morning football count as part of that number of hours?
That means that in many schools in London--I cannot speak for Lancashire and other areas : other hon. Members can--school soccer has gone. Cricket has gone as well. There are no cricket matches on Saturday mornings at the vast majority of schools in London, and soccer is already disappearing. Towards the end of my time at Highbury Grove, it became clear that we would have to cut down from the 12 teams that we had on Saturday mornings to eight, four or even two.
I believe that a discussion document will be published this summer about bringing outsiders into schools to help on the sports side. That will not do. The masters inside schools must appreciate the game, and we shall have to re-examine a contract that is based on time. After all, people tend to say, "When a certain time arrives, that's it."
We shall also have to review the tightness of the school curriculum. At present, it is too tight. Unless we have a million schoolboys playing soccer every week, with their masters and parents taking a keen interest, so that the real culture of soccer is built up again, we shall simply be indulging in repressive legislation. I agree that such legislation is necessary, but the Department of the Environment, the Home Office and the Department of Education and Science must come together to revive school soccer and cricket. Otherwise, there will be a dearth of those team games in this country.