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Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, will the noble Lord tell the House that Ministers are aware of the wish of Parliament to hear statements first in our joint Chambers? It is the duty of government to come to Parliament. The undermining and sidelining of Parliament in ministerial statements is not a sin wholly confined to the previous administration, but, my goodness, it has been practised very badly over the past four years. Can the noble Lord now give us some assurance that there will be a real effort to make a change in this new Parliament?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I should have thought that the passion of my noble friend Lord Shore might have been mediated a little by the comparisons that I made between practice today and practice in the past--perhaps the practice when he was in government. However, I assure noble Lords that we
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I cannot give that figure. However, the disparity between the figures that I mentioned surely underlines the commitment of this Government to report to Parliament.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, did the Minister hear the programme last night on BBC Radio 4 on this very subject? The programme, chaired by Mr Charlie Whelan, concluded that the persistent bypassing of Parliament by this Government was a major cause of the undermining of the reputation of both Houses.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I did not have the opportunity to hear that programme. I am always interested in journalists' comments on these matters. I shall certainly bear that point in mind but I shall also study the figures. I repeat that the figures show a commitment to reporting to Parliament by this Government that is far greater than was the case in the past.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I do not have the appropriate figures to illuminate our discussion. In February of this year in another place Mr Eric Forth and Mrs Angela Browning complained that Ministers took up time with non-essential statements. They considered that Ministers should ask permission of the Speaker to make such statements in order to cut down the number of statements made to the House by government Ministers.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, in order that the House, or certainly the Cross-Benches, might have something to look forward to, can the Minister give the House any indication of when there may be an end to these comparisons with the increasingly distant past?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition I welcome the noble Lord's appointment as Cabinet enforcer. When statements are made outside Parliament I invite him, on behalf of all in this House, to take it upon himself to write to the relevant Secretaries of State to point out that fact and to make
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind regards. I advise noble Lords to make such approaches themselves rather than my taking that responsibility on my shoulders, as the noble Lord suggested. If there was an implicit reference in his question to Gothenburg, I should say that my right honourable friend explained in another place that Parliament was not sitting at the time of that summit and therefore it was not possible to make a statement. However, the Prime Minister has been diligent in reporting back to the House on these matters. I am sure that that tradition will continue.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, will the noble Lord consider the example he set when he held his previous post? He was very helpful indeed, but it seems that he has made a lamentable departure from the standard he then set.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Minister of Sport and the Home Office Minister with responsibility in this area will meet tomorrow with the England and Wales Cricket Board to discuss a range of crowd management issues at cricket matches. The Government will assist the cricketing authorities to identify what needs to be done to minimise the potential for further crowd problems.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. The damage that recent incidents have done to the good name of cricket cannot be over-estimated. I am sure that my noble friend will agree with the Australian captain that unless these incidents stop, someone will be killed before long and that that is absolutely unacceptable. Does he recall that the introduction of the Football (Offences) Act 1991 largely eliminated the throwing of missiles, fireworks and other items on to the field of play and the invasion of football pitches after what was in effect a decade of disorder in football? Is my noble friend
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it goes without saying that the football hooligan-related legislation has played an important part in changing the atmosphere at football matches over many years. The important point for the authorities, particularly the cricket authorities, to consider, working with government, is what other measures of crowd management can be undertaken without recourse to legislation. Clearly, issues such as ticketing, safety policy, the rehearsing of contingency plans, improved training of stewards, entry controls and post-match celebration controls need to be tackled. I very much doubt whether legislation will be helpful in that regard.
Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister agree that without being unduly metaphorical one might describe authority over cricket as a devolved jurisdiction? Does he further agree that it gives him, as it does me, the mildest degree of unease that this question is addressed in the first instance to Her Majesty's Government and not to the cricket authorities?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is right and proper that Her Majesty's Government consider these matters. Any serious crowd disturbance or public disorder is clearly of national importance and concern, in particular when it takes place at a cricket match which is widely viewed.
The cricket authorities and those who own and operate the grounds have a responsibility. That is why the meeting to which I referred has been set up. No doubt those discussions will bear fruit and will be helpful in tackling the problem.
Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth: My Lords, as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board I can assure your Lordships that we take the recent disturbances at our international cricket grounds very seriously indeed. We are responsible for the safety of our players, umpires and spectators. But we have to bear in mind the traditions of people watching cricket in this country. It would be very sad indeed,would it not, if we stopped people going on to the grounds at county matches where mums and dads watch with their children?
This is a very sad new dimension in international cricket. I ask the Government to work closely with us when considering how we can ensure that the scenes of the past weeks are never seen again in cricket grounds in this country.
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