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Column 241comment, particularly after the speech of the Home Secretary, which was damaging to his cause and that of the Government in dealing with the whole question. I plead with him to alter the way in which he approaches the matter and, on the next occasion, to come forward in a very different mood indeed.
One would have thought, in view of the defeat that the Government suffered on a major matter connected with this issue, that they would have been slightly chastened in approaching it. They got into some difficulty because they refused to listen to the House of Commons. Time and again, not only my right hon. and hon. Friends but some Conservative Members, such as the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), pleaded with the Government to listen to those who knew something about football, who had spent all their lives going to football matches, who understood what the situation was and were aware of some of the perils and dangers.
All that was brushed aside, and the responsibility must rest chiefly with the Minister for Sport. But others also have responsibility. The Prime Minister's edict was primarily responsible for the failure of Ministers to listen to the House of Commons. I plead with the Government, even at this late stage, to listen to us on this subject, because they will find that there is more wisdom on the Opposition Benches than on most of their own, although I accept that some Conservative Members contribute to that wisdom. In particular, I plead with the Home Secretary to listen to what we are saying. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) spelled out clearly and eloquently what the issues are. The Government must listen to our comments about the threat to the range of clubs if the whole programme is pushed forward without consideration of the financial implications.
If the whole programme is pushed through in that way, it is likely that some second and third division clubs will be driven out of existence. Indeed, we have been told how, even more seriously, some first division clubs could be threatened. The figures that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook quoted of the charges to football represent serious issues that must be properly considered. What does the Home Secretary think will happen to criminality and hooliganism if the Government drive out of existence, in many towns throughout Britain, football teams that have had the allegiance of those who live in their areas for years and generations? What will happen to the youngsters in those places? What will happen if sport is injured in many of the nation's towns and cities?
The Government do not seem to have a glimmer of knowledge about that whole issue. Indeed, the Home Secretary said, in effect, when asked that question, "It has nothing to do with me. If people have a business venture, they are responsible for the conditions in which they ask people to come and participate." I think I see the Home Secretary nodding in assent as I say that. He seems to think that that is the whole story, when it is not.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman proceeds on his present basis, he will be rejecting the advice--as well as that of the few among his Back Benchers who know something about this matter--of the whole range of Opposition Members who know what they are talking about and who are pleading with him to use this
Column 242opportunity for something other than a madcap scheme thought up by the Prime Minister as one might think something up to catch the headlines.
Mr. Foot : I am talking about the madcap scheme that was thought up by the Prime Minister and has been rejected by Lord Justice Taylor. If he had been listening to me, even the Home Secretary should have understood the point I was making. He would have understood had he not been so hasty to intervene. I was talking about the madcap scheme, imposed on the House by the Prime Minister, that has now been rejected.
The Home Secretary should now take the opportunity to try to ensure that the fresh proposals that have come from Lord Taylor--my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook put in their correct context the other proposals that have also come forward--and all the other proposals are considered in a different way.
Before that catastrophe, fiasco or however hon. Members wish to describe the Government's previous policy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) and others had made them an offer time after time in the House. They had said, "We do not believe that any great political advantage is to be gained one way or the other ; let us talk, and see whether we can find a common approach to the problem." That offer has been continually rejected. My right hon. Friend extended it again following the Taylor recommendations, and today the Home Secretary has rejected it again.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a great error. It is not as though the Government can boast of great triumphs in this regard ; it is not as though they have displayed superior wisdom, and had all their proposals confirmed in an elaborate report conducted by a great judge. Months of the House's time have been wasted by a proposal that the Government should have known was ridiculous from the start.
Lord Justice Taylor has written of the unique position in which he has been placed : for almost the first time in history, a judge has been asked to pass judgment on what the House of Commons is supposed to have decided so solemnly. Before proceeding in such a manner and with such a tone, the Home Secretary should read Lord Justice Taylor's introduction again, and should understand that he had better listen to the views of others before proceeding along the same lines.
Can we not have the system of consultation that my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath has proposed? The Home Secretary talks as though "consultation" were a dirty word, but the football authorities will have to implement many of the Bill's provisions in any case. The Home Secretary talks as though this were a weak and shameful proposal. What he is afraid of is having to face the Prime Minister and telling her that he has agreed to some form of consultation. As we all know, the Prime Minister wants to run the House of Commons as Luton football club runs its matches : Luton does not allow the opposition in at all. That is an ideal system. Perhaps that is why the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was so successful in selling his ridiculous scheme to the Prime Minister : perhaps she would like to apply here and now.
Column 243The Government will not get away with it. The next Government will have a chance to enact much wiser proposals, and it would be far better for the Home Secretary--even on the lowest ground, that of his own party's interest and his own reputation--to respond positively to the speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook this evening and a few weeks ago.
Mr. Michael Irvine (Ipswich) : I was one of the Conservative Members who voted against the Football Spectators Bill, because I opposed the national membership scheme. I am glad that Lord Justice Taylor has rejected that scheme. I voted against it because I considered it to be fundamentally unworkable and, although inspired by the best of motives, not targeted in the right direction. I believe that it would have damaged the finances of football clubs by seriously deterring casual spectators, and that it would have caused safety risks over and above those that already exist.
My opposition to the Bill was not based on the view that everything in football's garden was lovely ; I believe that action is needed, and that Lord Justice Taylor's admirable report points the way. He singles out the squalid conditions that prevail in so many football grounds today, and I consider the point fair and relevant. Not only do squalid conditions and poor facilities drive many spectators away, but--as Lord Justice Taylor points out--they tend to brutalise the behaviour of some spectators and degrade that of others. As we know, the vast majority of football spectators are law-abiding people who detest violence and hooliganism, but squalid football grounds tend to worsen the bad behaviour to which the minority already tend. Improving facilities is, in my view, an important way of improving crowd behaviour.
Let me put in a word for my constituency football club, Ipswich Town. As I am going to say some rather nice things about the club, I suppose that I should declare my interest : I am allowed two tickets for the directors' box each season. There is no political element in that ; my predecessor, who sat on the Opposition Benches, received the same facility. I readily accept it, and obtain considerable pleasure from it.
Over the past 25 years, Ipswich Town has effectively rebuilt its stadium. What is more, in recent years it has built two large all-seater stands, and it now has one of the best grounds in the country. That is a tribute to the club's foresight, and not unconnected with its excellent reputation in regard to crowd behaviour.
As a long-standing football supporter, I have some
reservations--perhaps largely emotional--about the proposal for all-seater stadiums : I have stood on the terraces in my time, and there is no doubt that there is a great atmosphere there. Sadly, that atmosphere is all too often seen by the public as hooligan and over-agressive, but in fact it frequently represents the spirit of comradeship, togetherness and the will for one's team to win, and that spirit is valuable.
I understand the fears of many football supporters who prefer to stand on the terraces and who wish to continue to do so, but we must recognise that safety comes first. If Hillsborough had had an all-seater stadium, I believe that
Column 244the disaster last spring would not have happened. Lord Justice Taylor's careful arguments in favour of such stadiums must be weighed against emotional considerations : I have certain feelings in my heart against all-seater stadiums but my head may lead me to support the Taylor recommendations.
In proceeding with Lord Justice Taylor's recommendations, the Government must do their utmost to take football with them. By "football" I mean not just the directors of clubs, not just those responsible for administration, but the ordinary football fans. One of the fundamental weaknesses of the membership scheme was that it alienated the law-abiding majority of football fans. Last year I received a vast number of letters about the scheme--more than on any other topic, apart from the National Health Service. I had hundreds of them, and every one was against the scheme. Ex- service men wrote to me saying that it was a gross interference with their liberties. The scheme lost the support of the ordinary law-abiding football fan. It is most important that the Government regain the support of those people. I am sure that, by their praiseworthy immediate acceptance of Lord Justice Taylor's recommendations against the scheme, they have already gone a long way towards doing so. I hope that they will now work closely with the football authorities. I acknowledge that there must be an element of compulsion, but it is most important that the Government take the football authorities and the footballing public along with them.
Although I am against pouring vast sums of public money into a game that makes a great deal of money, I ask the Government to look at the recommendation--suggestion, perhaps--in paragraph 115 of the report, where Lord Justice Taylor makes the point that at present the payments that result in such profits on the transfer market are allowable revenue expenditure, but that investment in improvements to grounds is not. The Prime Minister made the point that too many clubs are spending too much money on the transfer market, at the expense of investment in the improvement of facilities at their grounds. Implementing the recommendations in the Taylor report will impose financial strains on the clubs. The next few years will be difficult. If the Government were to provide some tax concessions of the kind that I suggested, they would be welcome and would take undue financial pressure off the clubs. But I believe strongly that the movement towards spending money on grounds-- improving facilities and increasing the number of seats--will in the long run do the game enormous good. It will attract back to the football grounds many of those fans who have lost touch with the game.
Therefore, I give a broad welcome to the thrust of the report. It will certainly have my support.
Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East) : Now that Lord Justice Taylor's admirable and trenchant report has been universally accepted, the issue for this debate must be how it is properly to be implemented.
I have noticed with some interest the references to two developments in Scotland--one at Ibrox stadium, the home of Glasgow Rangers ; the other at the ground of St. Johnstone in Perth. The implementation of the improvements in those two grounds bears careful
Column 245examination. The amount of money spent at Ibrox Park was substantial. Such expenditure was possible only because Rangers football club was associated with a financial company with many interests--indeed, world-wide interests. As a consequence, the finance necessary for improvement was readily available. In the case of St. Johnstone, the change was possible only because one of the major retailers in the United Kingdom identified an opportunity for retail development that involved taking over the existing, sub-standard ground, developing it for retail purposes, and paying for the construction of a new stadium on ground that had been donated. Those are special circumstances, and it is perhaps because of them that both those examples are available to illustrate what can be done. When we look at the problem of the 92 league clubs in England and Wales we may very well find that there are not 92 similar opportunities.
Lord Justice Taylor talks about sponsorship. What has to be remembered about sponsorship is that, these days, companies do not sponsor sport or sporting clubs out of any overwhelming philanthropic desire ; they do so because they want a commercial return. If one were to take Lord Justice Taylor's report to a company that could not be assured of regular television coverage and were to say, "Here is the prospectus upon which you are expected to spend large amounts of your money", I suspect that one might get quite a lot of dusty answers.
Reference has been made to transfer fees. Of course, they are grotesque, but no one has attempted to calculate precisely how much money would be available in real terms if, say, 10 per cent. of the real value of transfer fees were to be allocated for ground improvement. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Irvine) referred effectively to the possibility of fiscal concessions for ground improvements. Why not? We are dealing with something that will make a contribution not to the commercial viability of the clubs, but to public safety. Is it not reasonable in such circumstances to accept that there is a special case for fiscal concessions for that purpose? No doubt the Football Trust and the Football Ground Improvements Trust will make their contribution. The problem is substantial. If capacity must be cut, the ability to generate revenue is necessarily affected, so clubs will be inhibited from taking out large loans because they cannot generate the revenue to service them.
Mr. Wilson : Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that that point is even more true in respect of the proposal that standing attendances at grounds should be cut by 20 per cent. a year in the interim? If there is to be the stick of telling clubs that they must make their grounds all-seater, the need for the carrot of encouraging them to do that by this reduction disappears--if 20 per cent. of the revenue of many clubs is knocked off over the next five years, they will not have the money to invest in all-seater stadiums that they are told that they must invest.
Mr. Campbell : The hon. Gentleman's intervention reinforces the principle that I was endeavouring to explain. My only qualification is that safety must be paramount. If we have learnt anything from Hillsborough, it is surely that.
The conclusion that must be drawn from the Taylor report's financial implications is that there is grave doubt about how much money can be raised and whether sufficient resources can be generated to allow third and
Column 246fourth division clubs--even by the year 2000 --to effect the necessary improvements. If that happens, inevitably some of the 92 clubs in the league will close. The structure of the game will be irreversibly changed and the structure that emerges will be directly related to the way in which money is raised for those improvements and to the amount raised.
I am conscious of the fact that other hon. Members wish to contribute, so I shall pass briefly over the issue of ticket touting and say simply that I am delighted that Lord Justice Taylor has seen fit to isolate that as a potential cause of disturbance and danger. I have twice attempted to introduce private Member's Bills to deal with ticket touting but, so far, they have not commended themselves to the Home Secretary or his predecessor. Ticket touting puts at risk the maintenance of safety and prevention of disorder at football matches. I hope that, for that limited reason at least, the Government will proceed to introduce legislation speedily.
The Taylor recommendations must be implemented. It would do less than justice to the report's comprehensive nature if we did not implement them. It would be an ill-fitting memorial to those who died at Hillsborough and would be little comfort for those who suffered severe injury there. I hope that the Government will feel compelled to proceed in tandem with the football authorities. To legislate from the touch line would be far too easy, and it would undoubtedly ensure that the incorrect result was achieved. A measure of co-operation between the Government and the football authorities to implement these recommendations will bring about the best solution. It is the Government's duty to bring that about and that is why they should enter into dialogue with the football authorities.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : The House will be aware that I and other members of the all-party football committee gave evidence to Lord Justice Taylor. At the end of that meeting, I had what was described as a "spat" with his Lordship about his attitude towards the football membership scheme. Regrettably, from my point of view and that of some of my hon. Friends, Lord Justice Taylor was against the scheme and came out against it in his admirable report. That is now water under the bridge, although I believe that the scheme will have to come back again.
It was regrettable that Lord Justice Taylor's conclusion on the membership scheme seemed to be based exclusively on the invitation to tender from the consultants to the Football League and not, as I should have hoped, on the reports in Hansard, and on the deliberations on the Floor of the House and in Committee. As the invitation to tender document had not even been agreed with the Department of the Environment, it was less than fortunate that he based much of his evidence about the membership scheme on that particular aspect.
There was an omission from the report which, unfortunately, did not comfort those who live near football grounds, and about which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) was rightly concerned. It is a serious omission that the report dealt exclusively with football. Perhaps Lord Justice Taylor would say that his remit was to deal with Hillsborough and its effects, and with safety at grounds.
Column 247However, we must all understand that, although about 500,000 go to watch the game on a Saturday afternoon, there are many millions outside the grounds who find the spectacle of people going to games under heavy police escort, often with dogs and horses, and being marched like armies from railway and bus stations to the grounds unedifying, as do those who shop or visit relatives near football grounds. Apart from the obvious importance of safety, our duty is to ensure that scenes such as we all have seen over the past few years--some of us at first hand--around and inside grounds do not occur again.
The Opposition's negative attitude today and yesterday is disappointing. They have for ever taken the view that there is not too much wrong and that matters are improving. It is, of course, a fact that the incidence of hooliganism around football--I prefer to put it that way rather than to talk about "football hooliganism"--has declined, but the reason for that, as even the Opposition would admit, is heavier policing and the decisions being made by various chief constables. That has led to the number of arrests decreasing and a decreasing incidence of trouble.
We applaud that, but we must ask ourselves whether the massive cost of £30 million a year to the tax and rate payers is worth while for what is only a game. It may be the national game, but it is supported by a minority of people. Other sports, such as fishing, attract far wider interest than football does.
The Opposition's continual line seems to be that football is some sort of charity and, as such, taxpayers' money must be thrown at it. However, I am not unsympathetic to some of the points of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and others, which were taken up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
There may be means by which certain amounts--I emphasise that they must be small--could be directed towards the improvement of grounds, in the same way that money comes from the spot-the-ball competition at present. However, it is not the duty of the House to see a problem and to pour vast sums into it. The Opposition, who are in the pockets of the Football League and the Football Association, seem always to take that attitude. [ Hon. Members :-- "Rubbish."] I do not mean that they are in their pockets financially, but that for the Opposition, the Football League and the Football Association can do almost no wrong, although the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth), who is regrettably not in the Chamber, has other ideas, as can be seen from the early-day motion that he tabled today.
The implication of the Taylor report, which football must face, is that, if all-seater stadiums are to come about, whether by legislation or otherwise, they will cost the clubs an enormous amount--and I admit that. Clubs must ask themselves, as the House must, whether it is worth while at the majority of grounds. That is true of the old Victorian grounds--which are badly sited for modern conditions, which often have terrible access, which are a terrible nuisance to those around and which have aged and crumbling facilities--and even more true of those in the lower divisions. Will it be worth their while to continue in existence on the basis of having all- seater stadiums? Many of them must be asking tonight, as they did when the report was published, whether their very existence is now
Column 248threatened, as my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) suggested, and has been endorsed by hon. Members.
There is an answer, which Lord Justice Taylor and others before him have put forward and of which I would like to remind the House. It is in paragraph 126, on page 21 of the report, where Lord Justice Taylor talks about ground sharing. The House, and football clubs must understand that this, regrettably for the sentimentalists--there are several in the House, especially among the Opposition--is the only way that many clubs can survive and retain their identity.
It is somewhat ironic that, about a week ago, Mr. Jimmy Hill of the Fulham football club came to the all-party committee and told us in heavily sentimental tones that he wished to see Fulham football club survive, and that it had the support of the local council. Yet, within a matter of days, if not hours, it was announced that the sale was to go ahead and Craven Cottage was to close. That is obviously a cause for great regret, but it is a sign of realism. There is no way that such clubs can afford to put in the necessary number of seats, and it would be impractical for them to do so in current conditions. Ground sharing is inevitable.
It is interesting to see from Lord Justice Taylor's report that Mr. Peter Robinson of the Luton football club, who is well known to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), said that, if his club and Everton were offered a new super-stadium on Merseyside, although the fans would not like it, he for one would be happy to go to that stadium. I suggest to the House that that must be the way ; that in cities such as Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol--and, indeed, London--if clubs are to survive and retain their identity, they will have to consider a communal facility for one, two or possibly three clubs. [Interruption.]
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) asks where Luton will go. We have Watford down the road and Northampton just north of us. We have to encourage the football clubs to take decisions that will certainly be sentimentally unpalatable to them but, realistically, are the only way in which they can survive. Mr. Ashton rose --
The other factor that must be remembered has been mooted on the Floor of the House before. It is that we must look towards super-stadiums. For this, we must have the co-operation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and those Labour, Conservative and Liberal councillors throughout the country who consistently reject the idea of super-stadiums, and, indeed, of out-of-town stadiums.
Mr. Carlisle : The hon. Member says, "Not true," but I have an instance in my own constituency. There is a 365-acre old chalk pit and a new super-stadium was proposed, but every man and woman on the county council rejected it and every villager was up in arms about it on the basis that they did not want it in their back yard.
Mr. Ashton : The world student games are to come to Sheffield in 1991. A municipal stadium has been built for 40,000 people, all sitting down, and the clubs have been asked if they would consider sharing and playing there.
Column 249The rent they are asking is £2 million a year, because the new stadium has cost £20 million or thereabouts to build, and the public auditor, whom they have to satisfy, says that a fair rent as a return on capital is £2 million a year. The clubs says they cannot afford it. These are the finances that the hon. Gentleman is talking about.
Mr. Carlisle : I know, and I have spoken to the hon. Gentleman about that instance, but he is faced with the alternative of clubs going out of business, there being only one club in Sheffield and only one in Bristol. He must face the fact that those clubs will go out it they are forced by law to build the suggested number of seats. Also, of course, the clubs have to improve their facilities ; they probably have to go for artificial surfaces, which I know are anathema to many people. If they are to become community facilities which I believe they will become, we shall see far fewer grounds--the same number of clubs, I hope, but far fewer grounds. That is the part of Lord Justice Taylor's report which I believe will have to be implemented if the 92 clubs in the Football League are to survive under the conditions he sets.
This is a last chance for football. That has been said in the House so many times, but everyone is screaming again today. Everyone is trying to assist, but we have to be realistic, and so has football. If it is realistic, it has a future. If it is governed by sentiment as it has been in the past, it has no future and it does not deserve one.
Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : It is ironic and sad that it took the deaths of 95 football supporters to bring it home to the Government and to society in general that something had to be done about the game of football.
One weakness of the structure of the football industry--we must remember that, besides being a sport, football is an industry--is that those who go week after week to watch local teams play have had little say in how the game should be organised. Those are the people who pay their money at the turnstiles every week. As a football supporter who has been following one of the best teams in the country for more than 50 years, I agree wholeheartedly that the conditions in many stadiums have led to the problem in many football grounds. It may not be the only problem, but the treatment of football spectators by clubs is an important element. In many football clubs, a spectator has to be a bully if he wants to go to the toilet : the facilities are so inadequate that people have to push and shove their way in. The same applies to catering arrangements. To get a cup of tea, a meat pie or whatever they fancy at half-time, spectators have to fight their way to the front of the queue. When people are treated in that way, they respond accordingly. That atmosphere must be removed from football if we are to solve the problem.
I do not want football to be sanitised to the extent that all the things that attract the working class to the game are removed. I accept that changes have to take place but I want a greater input by those who go to football matches season after season to support their clubs. Many supporters' clubs are like sweetheart organisations and do not adopt a positive attitude to the well-being of the people they allegedly represent. I am not saying that there are not good supporters' clubs ; there are, but many are so
Column 250involved in their adoration of the management of the clubs that they do not act in the interests of the spectators who attend football matches.
Football has been our national game. Many stadiums were built in the last 100 years. Many are in the wrong places. In Liverpool there are two football grounds, one on either side of a park. If they were being built today, they would not be in the same positions. The report suggests that there has been far too much neglect by Government and by the football industry. We had had the Bradford disaster and many others, so there was no question of being taken by surprise. Many warnings have been flashed out to the industry and the Government, but no positive steps have been taken to remedy the problems.
I repeat that the football industry must realise that those who pay money to watch football matches have a right to have their voices heard and their views considered more positively than in the past. That will bring about a change in football supporters' behaviour. At the moment, most of the trouble takes place outside grounds and it is for their activities outside grounds that football supporters get a bad name. We must find a solution to that problem.
I attended that match at Hillsborough, and lost a relative there. The events that day, in all their drama, showed beyond a doubt that there is something terribly wrong with what is happening in football. I hope that the Taylor report will show us the way forward and that the acceptable changes will be implemented as soon as possible to the benefit of the game.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : Any reply to a debate such as this must start with an expression to Lord Justice Taylor of our great appreciation for the excellent job that he has done on behalf of football.
I am sorry that the Home Secretary is not yet here, because there is only one word to describe his speech. It was a diatribe unworthy of any senior Minister in this or any other Government. The right hon. and learned Gentleman completely misrepresented the report for purely party political ends and to camouflage the disaster that the Government face. That is extremely regrettable.
The problems of football are the problems of society. That is why Lord Justice Taylor was right to call football to account for its stewardship. It is the duty of the Football Association and Football League to provide a leadership that accepts its responsibilities not only for the state of the game but for the role of football in society. All too often, the bodies are seen as warring factions instead of administrators united in a common purpose. Even within the league, we have the spectacle of a conflict between big clubs and small clubs.
All that must change. We must develop a cohesive strategy, such as that called for by hon. Members on both sides of the House, uniting the national leadership of the Football Association and the Football League, involving all the clubs in the county associations and embracing supporters' associations and players' associations, all of which represent the game and represent public opinion.
Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) : Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to say something about the way in which the Professional Footballers Association has tried to do something about the behaviour of players? It was
Column 251therefore unfortunate that, because the report was deemed to be purely about safety, that association did not give evidence.
Mr. Howell : Yes, and I am glad to say that Lord Justice Taylor makes the point that what happens on the field is often reflected in what goes on off the field. I pay tribute to Mr. Gordon Taylor, and Mr. Garth Crooks and to the officers of the Professional Footballers Association for their contribution to cleaning up the game, and I wish them further success.
I was on the subject of the responsibilities of the governing bodies. In the United States, those responsibilities are exercised through the establishment of commissioners for each sport. They are independent of sectional interest. Football must move in the same direction--and move fast. I hope that it will do so of its own accord ; otherwise, such a solution may have to be imposed upon it. Football must seek the help of all those people of good will in responding to the Taylor report.
That approach is in contrast to the Government's response to the report, which I can only describe as excessively partisan. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said, the Government have scorned the offer of a collective approach that I have made across the Dispatch Box at least four times. Both yesterday and today, the Home Secretary misrepresented Opposition Members, and especially myself, in the most disgraceful manner. We have had an exchange about it--
Mr. Howell : No, the Home Secretary was not quoting me. Is the Home Secretary saying that football hooliganism is not a criminal matter, because that is the only logic of the position that he adopted? My approach was much more effective and stern than anything that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, and it is backed up by what Lord Justice Taylor and Mr. Justice Popplewell have said. After describing how such people cause havoc in society, paragraph 47 of the Taylor report states :
"They plan their violence as a recreation in itself to which the football is secondary".
That is exactly what I have been saying. It is what both Taylor and Popplewell have said. It is what everybody has said, except the Home Secretary.
I hope that, in future, the Government will proceed along the path of consultation and conciliation and not pursue the confrontation that we have seen so far. Their confrontational approach, which we could describe as "ministerial hooliganism", dominated the Committee stage of the Football Spectators Act 1989. Those of us who served on the Committee know that in the 120 hours that we spent on that legislation, the Minister for Sport did not accept a single amendment from any hon. Member, be it tabled by one of his hon. Friends or an Opposition Member. Those 120 hours were an exercise in pure political prejudice, as the Government attempted to rush through the House a measure dominated by the thoughts of the Prime Minister.
Lord Justice Taylor's report has demolished that arrogance. That is why we have seen this disgraceful
Column 252performance from the Home Secretary and his colleagues, who are trying to bluster their way through and to camouflage the disaster that they have suffered. As I have said, the Minister for Sport rejected every amendment that was tabled in our 120 hours in Committee and has now had his attitude totally repudiated by Taylor. The only honourable thing for the Minister to do at the end of the debate is to resign his position at once.
We have had another exchange about all-seat stadiums and about what the Home Secretary thought we were saying about people who insisted on standing in seated areas. I remind the Home Secretary that I drew attention to that problem both in Committee and in the House. Indeed, I have given my eye- witness account of the 10,000 Leeds United supporters who were provided with seated areas, but who refused to sit down. What does the Home Secretary say about that? When the right hon. and learned Gentleman was asked yesterday what he would do about that, he said :
"when people go into a seater stand, it will be up to them to decide whether they stand or sit"--[ Official Report, 29 January 1990 ; Vol. 166, c. 36.]
That is the Waddington recipe for future disaster. The Home Secretary is saying that people can stand in seated areas, even though we know that it will cause mayhem and friction among the fans behind them.
I should like some answers from the Government. Do they intend to make standing in seated areas a criminal offence, and, if not, how do they intend to deal with the phenomenon that has afflicted Coventry City and Queen's Park Rangers and which some of us have witnessed ourselves? We want an answer to the question, but it is clear that we shall not get one.
I refer now to the problems surrounding the World cup, which is to be held in June. Again, the Government have not referred to that. All that the Home Secretary said yesterday was that the problems of English hooliganism that may emerge in Italy in June will be the responsibility of the Italian Government. The Government expect a foreign Government--[ Hon. Members : -- "He did not say that."] The Home Secretary did say that. He outlined the message to the Italian Government, which was that they could do the dirty work.
The Minister for Sport has been completely unable to take preventive action about the World cup in June, because he has no names of people to disbar. The number of people against whom he could obtain orders to prevent them from attending could not be more minuscule. He has the names of only 15 people who were on the boat, which was in such a state of riot that the skipper had to return to the British port and call for the help of Kent police.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the right hon. Member fitted with a swivel head? He constantly addresses the Back-Bench Members behind him and not the Chair.
Mr. Speaker : It is not unusual for hon. Members on both sides of the House to turn both to the right and to the left. However, it would be much easier for the House to hear the right hon. Member if he directed his remarks in front of him so that they are picked up by the microphones.
Column 253Mr. Howell : I am obliged for that advice. You will understand my difficulty, Mr. Speaker. Naturally, I address those parts of the House where intelligence is to be found.
I wish to make it perfectly clear that we believe in all-seater stadiums. I believe in them. I said so yesterday, when I said that they are inevitable and desirable.
Cost concerns us all. First, I must declare an interest. I am a director of Wembley stadium. We have gone all-seater. We have removed 20,000 standing places and replaced them with 10,000 seats. I am putting into practice the advice of the Taylor report. Wembley has spent £25 million on that exercise of refurbishment and creating seated areas. That is a colossal amount but the cost of a seat at Wembley is the same as the cost of a seat in a fourth division club. That is the point at which we must start when we consider the financial problems.
I can tell the House the cost for each division of the football league to go all-seater. For the first division, it is £8.4 million, or £420,000 per club. For the second division, it is £9.5 million, or £400,000 per club. For the third division, it is £6.8 million, or £283,000 per club. For the fourth division, it is £4.8 million, or £200,000 per club.
Lord Justice Taylor rightly said that clubs cannot simply provide seats. They will have to put a roof over them, especially for a bad winter. That will cost at least £1 million per club. When a club puts a roof on a seated terrace, it must provide creature comforts such as toilets, a refreshment area and supporters' club rooms. That costs £250,000 per club. The minimum cost of implementing Taylor, which I want to happen, in every fourth division club will be at least £1.5 million.
The Home Secretary charges the Opposition that we have no policies. Not only do we have a policy : we have a splendid record in government.