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Phil Hope: My hon. Friend mentions transport. A new wave of community transport schemes is being developed throughout the country. Sometimes, especially in rural areas, they are funded from Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions budgets and serve estates that private bus companies have abandoned. Elderly and disabled people rely on community transport schemes. Will my hon. Friend comment on the importance of those schemes in the wider mutual network and the way in which the Bill accelerates the growth and support of such services in local communities?
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend is right. Deprived housing estates in my constituency are no longer served by local bus companies, which unilaterally decided to withdraw services. I hasten to add that there is no longer a service to Leigh infirmary, presumably because the companies did not make enough money from that route. The community has a crucial interest in retaining bus services for those estates and the local hospital; mutuals and community benefit societies can plug that gap in provision.
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): Has my hon. Friend come across the urban bus challenge fund? Indeed, today, the UnderSecretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble), made a further announcement of funding for the rural bus challenge fund. Some money will go to buses in Devon, and no doubt some will go to areas represented by Members attending our debate. Perhaps my hon. Friend would like to draw attention to that.
Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell): As we are looking at new ways of introducing mutuality to our communities, particularly our estates, does my hon. Friend agree that the police reform White Paper offers several opportunities to do so, especially with accredited community safety organisations? The Home Secretary is talking about accrediting private organisations. Does my hon. Friend agree that the mutual model would best suit those private organisations?
Andy Burnham: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The point about community benefit societies is that one can always have full confidence that they exist to serve the whole community and not only part of it, and that there is no inherent conflict in their articles of association. Communities throughout the country are becoming increasingly anxious about rising crime and they want to do something about it and to reclaim their estates and streets. I strongly endorse his suggestion.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been extremely generous in giving way. While he is on the subject of new mutuals and transport in particular, may I flag up the Community Transport Association, which is one of the sponsors of industrial and provident societies? One of its membersEaling Community Transportis active in my constituency. That reinforces some of the points that he and other hon. Friends have been making.
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. There is a big gap in our constituencies, in that community transport is not properly catered for. None the less, he, like me, will represent people who are out of work and who want to contribute to society. Surely initiatives could be taken to enable them to do so. It is to be hoped that community transport will generate a new wave of projects. I hope that the Community Transport Association will help to secure such a development.
I do not want to be naive, but I feel that community ownership may be to this decade and the next what privatisation was to the 1980s and 1990s. While its benefits are known to enthusiasts such as usthis point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey)there is a problem with wider public awareness. That might be changing. We have heard today about the breadth of areas with which the Bill deals and have touched on some of them, but I should like to focus on one that I feel is especially relevant: football.
Football is Britain's biggest outlet for the expression of collective endeavour. It is no coincidence that it is one of the sectors experiencing the fastest expansion of community and supporter ownership. Millions of people support football clubs in this countrynot to make money, but because of a love of the game and the sense of belonging and civic pride that it gives. Many of them, however, have become embittered by the profiteering and excessive commercialism in the game today. I have
In explaining the full relevance of the Bill to football, I hope that the House will allow me to spend a moment or two on the history of professional football in Britain. The preamble to the Industrial and Provident Societies Partnership Act 1852 describes such societies as
The new clubs could and perhaps should have been established as industrial and provident societies, but as interest in the new game grew in the industrial north and payments to players became prevalent they took another route. To limit the liabilities of those who ran them, they began to incorporate as limited companies. Although we were not to know it until many years later, that decision was to have a crucial bearing on professional football in Britain, especially in the l990s. Despite their business organisation, however, they remained sporting clubs first and foremost. Shares were issued, but they were few in number and difficult to transfer, and in some cases re-sale values were cappedall to protect the club from speculators.
In many cases, majority ownership of clubs fell into the hands of wealthy local families who more often than not owned the major local employers. I am thinking of the Moores family in Liverpool and the Edwards family in Manchester. They saw themselves as the custodians of the local club whose role was to ensure their safe keeping and to pass them on for the enjoyment of future generations.
Aware of the potential conflict between clubs as businesses and as sporting and community organisations, the Football Association of the time showed foresight and decisiveness. Nowadays, some people might say that that was uncharacteristic. It amended its rule book to try to reconcile the competing interests. Rule 34 of the Football Association's articles sought to prevent profiteering and asset stripping of football grounds. It required all FA-affiliated clubs to incorporate provisions in their articles to protect the ground for local sporting purposes and for the benefit of the wider community if they were wound up.
For many years, the company model served football and its clubs well. That changed with three key developments in as many years: the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, Italia '90 and Gazza's tears and the breakaway of the premier league. Almost overnight, the old methods of running football clubs were gone. The new-found mass interest in the televised game, the financing from the public purse of wholesale ground improvements and changes to football's redistribution mechanisms attracted
Not only the top clubs were subject to such threats. Small-time business men entered the boardrooms of smaller clubs to sell off grounds and burn down stands in insurance scams. Clubs that were built on generations of support from families and communities were and are under threat. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) made that point strongly and coherently in his remarks about the current threat to York City football club. Rule 34 has been put to a vigorous test, and its enforcers have been found wanting.
Those developments in football and the conflict between clubs as public limited companies and community entities was brilliantly exposed by a columnist for The Independent, David Conn, in his seminal book, "The Football Business". At the end, he calls for a full reassessment of the game's policy direction by its authorities and anticipates two possible outcomes. His words go to the heart of our debate: