Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 66, in page 52, line 14, leave out from 'operator' to 'shall' in line 15.
§ Mr, Dewar
This is another issue that was well ploughed in Committee but that we left with the Minister in the hope that further thought might produce some useful changes. It concerns the recommendations of the so-called McElhone report.
The clause imposes penalties in situations in which an operator permits alcohol to be carried on his bus to and from a designated sports ground. We have no objection to the word "operator". We feel that there must be a sanction here. However, we are worried about "employee or agent" and the sanction that may fall on him. We are particularly worried about the situation of a bus driver.
In clause 70 there is a statutory defence. We tried hard to persuade the Minister that that statutory defence should merely be that alcohol had been carried on the vehicle without the consent or connivance of the driver. We did not succeed. There still remains in that special defence the additional phrase:and that he did all he reasonably could to prevent such carriage".I am not satisfied about the definition of that phrase. As it remains in the Bill, we are worried about the position of a bus driver and the sanction imposed on him under clause 69.
I know that it is a vexed question. I can see that the general argument that the Solicitor-General will advance is that it would be ludicrous to have a sanction on the operator and no sanction on the employee who is at the scene of the offence, driving the bus at the time at which alcohol appeared on it. However, given the unsatisfactory wide nature of clause 70 and the high standard,that he did all he reasonably could to prevent such carriage",we feel that there is a case for excluding the bus driver. The Government were good enough to say that they would consider the matter. What view have they reached?
I am unhappy about this area of the Bill. The Government appear to be labouring under the mis- 636 apprehension that drink is the main cause of violence at football matches and sports grounds. In certain circumstances drink may be a contributory factor, but there are other factors in Scottish football, such as the bigotry and hatred encouraged among a certain element of supporters. We should also consider the primitive conditions that exist in many Scottish sports grounds. Some are more like public urinals than football stadiums that the nation could be proud of.
The Government should be ashamed of their decision to cancel the money that they promised for the work on Hampden Park. It is hypocritical for the Government to blame excessive drinking for most football violence—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
§ Mr. Canavan
A few weeks ago the Secretary of State for Scotland blamed the post-Cup Final fiasco on excessive drinking. Of course, Tories know that their party gets money from the big brewer;;. The big brewing families, such as the Youngers and McEwans, have lined their pockets for years with money made from drink. There is a little hypocrisy behind this part of the Bill.
I am concerned about the possible effect of the clause on bus drivers. I have had representations from constituents including, for example, the Transport and General Workers Union branch at Alexander's bus garage, in Balfron. I sent the letter on to the Secretary of State and told him that I fully supported the views of the union branch. I am still awaiting a reply. Perhaps I may be given it at the end of the debate.
The gist of the letter was that the drivers were concerned that they could be held liable if drink were found on their bus. I do not see why a driver should be held responsible. Do we expect a bus driver to search every football supporter before he or she gets on the bus? Are we suggesting that a driver should be put in the invidious position 637 of having to throw people off the bus after it has started its journey?
The Solicitor-General for Scotland should address himself to those points. Drivers have a difficult enough job as it is. They are often threatened by passengers, and violence has been used against them. We should be giving drivers more protection instead of putting more responsibilities on their shoulders.
Under the Bill a bus driver could find himself in court on a criminal charge because a number of supporters—or even 638 only one supporter—took alcohol on to his bus. I think that the TGWU branch in my constituency reflects a wide body of opinion among bus drivers and I hope that the Solicitor-General for Scotland will consider the amendment seriously.
I prefer amendment No. 65, which would omit the whole of clause 69, which relates to the liability of a vehicle operator and his employees and agents. If we cannot get the clause removed, amendment No. 66 will be the second-best option.
§ Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Queens Park)
I shall not rehearse the arguments that I raised on Second Reading, when I expressed concern about the position of the drivers. Noble Lords in the other place take some credit for the fact that they looked seriously at the matter. I said that the clause had to be strengthened. I do not support fully the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), but I consider that the Government are under an obligation to examine the invidious position in which a driver can be placed in difficult circumstances when he has to pick up members of a supporters club from a public house in Glasgow or elsewhere.
This situation would not have arisen, or would not be as common, if the Government had accepted the recommendation in the McElhone report and the call that I made on Second Reading for a pilot project allowing bars within football grounds. Unfortunately, the debate in Committee took place just after the disgraceful scenes at the Rangers-Celtic Cup Final. That emotive and dangerous situation evidently coloured the thinking of Ministers.
I am extremely disappointed that the Government selected the penal parts of the McElhone report but did not consider the many thousands of good fans who go to football matches almost every week and who would like, if I may use a Presbyterian term, a refreshment. In discussions on the Bill yesterday much was heard about parity between homosexuals in Scotland and those in England. There should also be parity with England in so far as fans at West Ham and other grounds can go to the back of the terrace and obtain a cardboard or plastic cup of beer or lager. This argument should have been supported by Ministers before the last stage of the Bill came before the House.
I reject the Government's proposal to use parts of the McElhone report but not to allow fans to indulge in a carton of beer. There should be a pilot project. I shall vote against the Government on the ground that they have shown no consideration for the decent fans.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
This is an important point, and I have 640 looked at it seriously. It raises the whole question of responsibility and vicarious responsibility which, as with all licensing matters, concerns everyone. The question whether the publican, the licensee or the barmaid should bear responsibility is a delicate matter of judgment. It has always caused difficulty in the law. I assure the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) that I have again looked carefully at the matter. It is important to remember that clause 70 introduces a special defence. Under existing law, the driver would be liable for the carriage of alcohol on the coach, depending on the quantity. He would have none of these defences. That is something to which objection has never been taken.
I do not for one moment underestimate the difficulty in which a driver might find himself. We all want to try to solve the connection between alcohol and football hooliganism. I accept what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) said. I would like to change tonight—although one would not do it by legislation—to a humane situation in which people could have a drink at a football ground and enjoy the game. If I thought that that was a viable alternative to the present situation I would introduce it tomorrow, but I am afraid that I take the view that is contained in one of the recommendations of the report of the hon. Member for Queen's Park. He says, in recommendation No. 8:That in the event of our recommendations about the control of alcohol taking effect and bringing about a significant reduction in crowd violence at football matches, consideration should be given by the clubs … to the possibility of introducing as an experiment, facilities within selected grounds for the sale of beer …in other words, once this legislation has worked. That is what the recommendation says, and I accept the sincerity of it.
§ Mr. McElhone
May I emphasise the point once again? In discussions with the Under-Secretary who put the Bill through Committee I said time and time again that of course we had to wait for a certain period. All that I was asking for was an experiment. I believe that the Government should act on that.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
We fully support the hon. Member's recommendation. Let me remind the House once again of the terms of that recommendation:That in the event of our recommendations about the control of alcohol taking effect and bringing about a significant reduction in crowd violence at football matches, consideration should be given … to the possibility of introducing, as an experiment …We are nowhere near that stage. There are five conditions that the hon. Member wisely included in his report, and I believe that we must be very cautious.
§ Mr. Maxton
The Solicitor-General for Scotland said that he wished we could have a humane way of dealing with this problem. Does he not agree that one such humane way is to ensure that the major football ground in Scotland is adequate, and is properly equipped to deal with spectators? Why did the Government withdraw the money?
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
I ignore that.
We have established in the Bill defences for the driver, and it is important that he should not shirk all his responsibilities. I believe that we have struck an equitable balance. The question will also be subject to the equitable discretion of the procurators fiscal, under the Lord Advocate, whether in the circumstances it was reasonable for the driver to take action. There is no suggestion that if the driver suddenly discovers, half-way along a motorway that everyone in the bus has produced beer from nowhere, he is immediately guilty of an offence. He can take steps thereafter that are consistent with his duty.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
I would advise the bus driver that in such circumstances, when he knows that a criminal offence has been committed, he should, at the next opportunity, pull the bus into a place where he can report the fact to a police officer. He should drive the bus no further.
§ Mr. Buchan
I wish to say a few words, since the amendment was raised on my initiative and the correspondence that has taken place has been with me. I am sorry if I was dilatory in rising.
642 My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) may rest assured that the union has looked closely at the matter. Discussions took place before, during and after the Committee stage. I am concerned, as are other hon. Members, about this general proposition. I do not think that banning the carrying of alcohol while travelling to and from a football ground will be an easy task to accomplish. I would not wish to be the first to try to implement that provision, and I hope that the Government know what they are doing in this context.
I am concerned with the responsibility not of the vehicle operator but of the driver. I saw, and still see, that the driver is in an extremely difficult position. We all know the kind of ambience that can exist in a bus and we all know how difficult it is for a bus driver to check. Does the driver have sufficient defence if a difficult situation arises?
§ I tabled an amendment in Committee and I have since had correspondence with the Under-Secretary for which I am grateful. The Government have fallen over backwards to try to protect the bus driver, having first taken the view that they must include clauses 69 and 70. That would have been the argument. With this amendment I need not be concerned with those clauses. I am concerned with the position of the driver.
§ Under clause 69 it is still the case that the onus of proof is very much on the side of the prosecution, as indeed it will remain in all cases until the Bill becomes law. Therefore, the driver can legitimately rest assured that the Crown must prove that he had not taken sufficient measures to prevent an offence. There is a second defence under clause 70, where the driver can say that the offence was not committed with his consent or his connivance.
§ Protection is given, but I am anxious, and I still wish, despite the assurances to remove the wording relating to the driver. I am not concerned with the licence holder or the operator. For those reasons, I feel that I must stand by amendment No. 66.
§ Amendment negatived.