§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the final report of the inquiry into safety and control at sports grounds under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Popplewell, which was published today. The statement is a little longer than I would have wished. It consists of 14 paragraphs. The inquiry was established following the fire at Bradford City football ground and the events at Birmingham City on 11 May 1985.
Now that the inquiry's work is completed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I would like to renew the Government's gratitude to the chairman and his two assessors for the speed and conscientiousness with which they have discharged their difficult task. In addition to dealing with the events at the Heysel stadium in Brussels on 29 May and discussing the causes of hooliganism, the final report makes 15 recommendations on crowd safety and crowd control.
On crowd control, there are a number of recommendations about the maintenance of order at football grounds: wider powers of police search and arrest; a new offence of disorderly conduct at sports grounds, and a review of the recent alcohol legislation as it applies to executive boxes. Continued progress with membership schemes is also recommended.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act which came into force on 1 January has already extended the police powers of search and of arrest in ways which will help them deal with troublemakers at football grounds. I shall examine Mr. Justice Popplewell's recommendations for further powers when we see how the new Act works in practice.
On disorderly conduct, the Public Order Bill, to which the House gave a Second Reading on Monday, seeks to create a new offence which will cover hooliganism in football grounds, as elsewhere. I shall consider the recommendation for a wider offence when we see how the offence in the Bill—disorderly conduct—works in practice.
The Government have already taken a number of steps to deal with forms of misconduct about which Mr. Justice Popplewell expresses particular concern. The Public Order Bill seeks to implement a recommendation in his interim report that the possession of smoke bombs and similar devices at sports grounds be made an offence. We have taken action to ban some other items which may be used as missiles. The alcohol legislation which was passed last summer makes it an offence to be in possession of a drinks can or bottle in any area of the grounds from which the pitch may be viewed direct.
During the proceedings in the House, representations were made about the effect on the revenue which clubs derive from executive boxes. The Government undertook to monitor the situation, and I have received some information from the Football League and representations from a number of right hon. and hon. Members. I have asked for more information from the football authorities and will wish to consider that carefully, in the light of what Mr. Justice Popplewell says, before deciding whether to allow some relaxation of the controls on alcohol in executive boxes. I shall report my conclusions to the House while the Public Order Bill is before Parliament.
1226 On membership cards, we fully endorse Mr. Justice Popplewell's recommendation. The Public Order Bill contains provisions to enable the courts to ban convicted football hooligans from attending matches. This shows our determination to do what we can to keep troublemakers away from football grounds and to restore the good name of British football. It needs to be matched, in our view, by equally determined action by the football clubs and the football authorities. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has emphasised to them the value of an effective membership card system. The football authorities have made some progress on this. In the light of the exclusion order scheme in the Public Order Bill, I hope that they will now redouble their efforts.
I deal now with crowd safety. We accept the need to strengthen urgently the measures already announced by and taken following my predecessor's statements on 13 May and 24 July.
We accept the recommendation that all sports grounds and sports stadiums in England and Wales with accommodation for more than 10,000 spectators and where association football, rugby league, rugby union and cricket are played which are not already designated under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 should be so designated. Consultations will begin immediately with the sports authorities and organisations concerned with a view to introducing the necessary orders as quickly as possible, and certainly by the summer of this year.
In Scotland, my right hon. Friend intends to introduce similarly, as soon as he can, an order designating stadiums of clubs with accommodation for more than 10,000 spectators in the first and second divisions of the Scottish Football League.
We also accept the principle of the recommendations that safety controls should be extended to all sports grounds and stadiums with stands for over 500 spectators and to indoor sports facilities with accommodation for over 500 spectators where adequate controls do not already exist. We need more facts about this. The present information that we hold at the centre is limited to stadiums and grounds with accommodation for 5,000 or more, and indoor premises with an overall capacity of more than 1,000.
The first step will be to establish the full practical effects of these recommendations. All the relevant local and fire authorities in England, Wales and Scotland are to be invited to inspect all such stands and premises not previously inspected, and to report on them to my right hon. Friend and myself. Powers are already immediately available under both the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and the Fire Precautions Act 1971 to deal with any exceptional hazard which might be found in the course of these inspections. Similarly, chief fire officers and firemasters will be invited to keep under review the places that they inspected under previous initiatives last year, with the object of maintaining safety standards at those places.
When we have considered these inspections we shall quickly issue a consultative document and propose ways of achieving the objectives of the inquiry's final report, fitting this into the review already under way on the future of the Fire Precautions Act. Further legislation may well prove necessary. There will be no avoidable risk meanwhile, because any necessary emergency action can be taken under existing powers.
1227 So far, happily, the figures this season show an improvement in the number of arrests and ejections from football grounds. Our measures against hooliganism should have a cumulative effect, but it is too soon to be satisfied. We have to deal not only with hooliganism, but with safety; not only with football grounds, but with sports grounds in general. Thanks in large part to Mr. Justice Popplewell and his colleagues, I believe that we are on the right track.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
I congratulate Mr. Justice Popplewell on his second report. His recommendations for the improvement of fire safety precautions and the plugging of gaps in them and in the legislation are both welcome and necessary, and I trust that the Government will lose no time in implementing them. Where legislation is necessary, we will facilitate it. The new and highly unsatisfactory building regulations of November 1985 must be changed as a matter of urgency, and I ask for an assurance that this will be done.
The Home Secretary is prudent in his approach to the proposed new criminal offences, but I am sorry that he said nothing about the proposal in the interim report for a specific offence of chanting racist abuse. The football authorities and the overwhelming majority of fans agree that racism is an obscenity that must be expunged from football and from other sports. I ask the Home Secretary whether this is covered by clause 19 of the Public Order Bill. It is is not, will he amend the Bill to include it?
Is the Home Secretary really satisfied with the position under the Public Order Bill under which the Government have decided not to exclude convicted hooligans from matches played abroad, including World Cup matches? The Home Secretary spoke of the need to restore the good name of British football. Surely this is nowhere more necessary than when violent louts travel abroad and sully the reputation of British fans.
The Opposition are content with the recommendation for a review of section 3(3) of the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol Etc.) Act, but we insist that it be carried out on the basis of the criteria laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Hattersley) last July, when he said:We want equity. There should be no difference between the working man on the terrace having his half pint with his pie and people in boxes having wine with their meals."—[Official Report, 3 July 1985; Vol. 82, c. 448.]One curious gap in the Home Secretary's statement was his failure to mention closed circuit television, which Mr. Justice Popplewell firmly recommended last July and which the previous Home Secretary strongly endorsed. Far too little progress has been made, with only 21 per cent. of grounds being covered by closed circuit TV. One reason for this unsatisfactory progress is lack of money. Even the richest clubs face problems, and the less affluent have simply no chance of raising the revenue to comply with Mr. Justice Popplewell's recommendations. In his statement the Home Secretary made no mention of these financial obstacles, so I repeat the commitment of the Labour party to create a football levy board, which would return to the game some of the massive revenue that the Treasury extracts from it.
So far this season there has been a distinct improvement inside the grounds. I congratulate the football authorities and the police on what they have achieved in helping to rescue the reputation of a vital and popular national sport. As Mr. Justice Popplewell points out, however, the 1228 problems of violence and hooliganism are moving outside the grounds and are being seen ever more clearly as just one alarming and depressing manifestation of the sickness of violence that is afflicting Britain. We cannot be satisfied until we have set our hand to eradicating not only the violence itself but the underlying causes, which are far too deeply rooted in our society.
§ Mr. Hurd
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the general tone of what he said.
I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is looking carefully at the building regulations, and the right hon. Gentleman may want to pursue the matter elsewhere.
As the right hon. Gentleman would have wished, we gave very careful thought to the question of racist chanting. Part III of the Public Order Bill will extend the existing offence of incitement to stir up racial hatred to conduct intended to do so. I hope that that will be particularly significant when we come to the kind of shouting that mars football matches. We thought it more sensible to concentrate on that—the details of it will be discussed in Committee—than to create a wider offence which would be confined to football matches and would be very difficult to enforce.
I take the right hon. Gentleman's point about exclusion orders. He was a little sceptical about them on Monday, but he seems a little more enthusiastic about them today, because he wants them extended to foreign fields. There would be difficulty in implementing them, but it is a point that we can perfectly reasonably discuss in Committee.
From what I have heard—I come new to this subject—I am a little puzzled about the Opposition's attitude to executive boxes. There is quite strong pressure from the clubs for a relaxation. I have not announced a relaxation today, but the pressure for it has come from both sides of the House, and I am not quite clear where the Labour party stands on this issue. There will be opportunities to discuss this before we are much older.
The right hon. Gentleman, perfectly understandably, homed in on finance. The general principle that people who are offering the public entertainment or sport should be prepared to do so in conditions which are clearly and evidently safe is a general one which most people would accept. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the Minister with responsibility for sport, who is here, had a working group which looked into the financial implications for football. The Football Trust, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, has done valuable work and assumed valuable responsibilities in this context. I cannot go further than that.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)
Will my right hon. Friend say more about the introduction of membership cards? Is he satisfied that the football authorities are determined to introduce a scheme, or are they still just going through the motions because they do not want to do it?
§ Mr. Hurd
As I said, they have made some progress in recent times. The latest figure that I have—I would not vouch for it being absolutely up to date—is that 15 clubs out of the 92 have introduced, or are about to introduce, membership schemes which cover at least 50 per cent. of their ground capacity. I know that my right hon. Friend has a close interest in this matter. We would like to see greater progress.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) in welcoming most of the proposals. I am especially glad to hear that the daft idea that people be prevented from attending away games of football, as a solution to the problem, has been dropped.
May I press the right hon. Gentleman on the financial question? If no money is corning in in one form or another—plenty of money is being made from football, as my right hon. Friend said—and if no money is to be provided for carrying through, at the necessary speed, the real safety programme, many clubs, particularly the small ones, will be hit again and again, and many will be driven out of business. I urge the Home Secretary to look at the whole of this matter again and come back with a proposal which will enable all clubs, large and small, to make their grounds safe in a measureable time—say two years
§ Mr. Hurd
Before I answer the right hon. Gentleman, I apologise to the right hon. Member for Gorton for not answering his question about closed circuit television. The latest figures that I have show that of 42 clubs in the first and second divisions of the football league, 25 have closed circuit television, and that nine out of the 10 clubs in the Scottish premier division have it or are having it installed. In addition, there are the three, I hope by now famous, Home Office "hoolivans", which are doing valuable work. That is progress, although there is room for more.
I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) in our debate on the Public Order Bill, and I understand how strongly he feels about the matter. I must refer back to the working group of my hon. Friend, which considered the financing of safety improvements at Football League grounds; that is, at the 92 grounds where the professional game is played. Its preliminary conclusions are that the clubs, together with the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, can fund the cost of the work over a five-year period. The FGIT is funded by the Football Trust, which in turn is funded by the Football Pools Promoters Association. My hon. Friend and the sports councils are open to representation and are willing to give advice on these matters, but so far progress has been reasonally good.
§ Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I congratulate Mr. Justice Popplewell on his report, and my right hon. Friend on his speedy response to it. Will he be careful not to make any change in the alcohol restriction until the end of the season, to see whether the much improved behaviour is continued through to the end of the World Cup? May I suggest that with the complexity of modern world sport there is a good case for the Minister with responsibility for sport having overall responsibility for crowd safety, sports and international events, rather than having his responsibilities spread over three Departments?
§ Mr. Hurd
I thought my hon. Friend was about to suggest that he should be responsible for these matters in Scotland. I am in difficulties about the alcohol restriction. If we are to have a relaxation, the natural vehicle for it is the Public Order Bill, which had its Second Reading on Monday. I said that I would give my conclusions to the House during its passage, so that if the House generally believed that the restriction should be relaxed, it could be relaxed without delay. That runs counter to the greater caution recommended by my hon. Friend, but it is a 1230 reasonable compromise between those who want immediate relaxation and those who hold my hon. Friend's view.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridge, North-East)
Will the Minister accept that one cannot have safety on the cheap? Further to the statement of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), does the Minister accept that considerable sums are slushing around in football and that taxing transfer fees or finding the available money would be a more sensible way of ensuring safety than would hitting the dwindling numbers of supporters, and punishing small clubs which cannot afford the improvements? Will he give the House his statistics on the diminution of violence and ejections? Is it not simply the case that he has compared the beginning of this season with the end of last season?
§ Mr. Hurd
I note what the hon. Gentleman says about finance. I do not wish to repeat the reply that I have already given which shows that the machinery at work and the funds available seem capable of financing the safety work. If certain sports have particular problems, it seems reasonable that they should go to the sports councils or my hon. Friend the Minister for advice. The hon. Gentleman will accept that my figures are incomplete. According to the Metropolitan police department, until 11 January 1986 the number of ejections and arrests from football grounds in London was 1,470, compared with 2,652 last year—a reduction of 44 per cent. In Greater Manchester gates have increased by 6 per cent., and arrests and ejections have decreased by 56 per cent.—that is on a December comparison. The hon. Gentleman is right to be cautious, and I was cautious in my comments. Neverthless, so far the record this season has considerably improved.
§ Sir Dudley Smith (Warrington and Leamington)
May I call my right hon. Friend's attention specifically to the fact that the biggest problem may be the number of people who arrive at a ground having consumed an excessive amount of alcohol? Is he aware of the great unfairness between clubs over the provision of alcohol? In some clubs it is available in hospitality suites and at certain bars of the grounds, whereas in others no drink is supplied, not even in the boardroom. As there have been no examples of trouble arising from the provision of alcohol in executive suites, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the matter, bearing in mind the income of clubs?
§ Mr. Hurd
That point was widely discussed during the passage of the Bill last Session. Parliament deliberately included in the Bill a wide measure of local options so that local magistrates could consider, on local criteria and arguments, the case for exemptions from the general rule. That has happened, with the result which my hon. Friend criticises. It is a reasonable principle that local magistrates should have that facility.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Does the Home Secretary accept that most football supporters are likely to accept the recommendations of Mr. Justice Popplewell? Does he further accept that most football clubs will be disappointed with his response, in particular to recommendation 14, which relates to the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol Etc.) Act 1985, especially in view of the Minister of State's reply on 3 July? I asked the hon. Gentleman when he was likely to make a judgment after the monitoring of the Bill and he replied: 1231It would be sensible if we saw the Bill in action over the most part of this coming season, or at least half of it … That might allow us, if we were so minded, and after discussion … to introduce amendments through other legislation … The hon. Gentleman can take it from me that we shall monitor this because we recognise that if football were to be starved of funds for its improvement and rehabilitation, that would be a worry."—[Official Report, July 1985; Vol. 82, c. 458.]Will the Home Secretary recognise that that evidence has been forthcoming from the all-party football committee, the Football League and many others, and that unless, before next season, clubs have the knowledge that the restriction will be amended by the Public Order Bill, many executive boxes will be unfilled, and many clubs will be starved of their funds?
§ Mr. Hurd
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, which he has put strongly on many occasions. It is different from the view of the Labour Front Bench. We are doing precisely what my hon. Friend said we would do, which is monitoring how the position develops, and what effect the rule has primarily on grounds, and on clubs' finances. We have some information, but we are asking for more. I have already explained that we thought that a reasonable compromise was to give our conclusions while the Public Order Bill was still before the House so that if hon. Members felt that there should be a relaxation, we could proceed accordingly. We can give our views on that.
§ Mr. Geoff Lawler (Bradford, North)
Although it has taken a major tragedy to bring it about, we have a report which, if all its recommendations are implemented, will mean that all spectators at sporting events in future can feel confident that all that can be done will be done to ensure their safety. The people of Bradford and elsewhere will be grateful to Mr. Justice Popplewell for that. Will my right hon. Friend review the point in the report that the same venue can be used for both sporting and entertainment purposes, but that different safety standards can apply? Will he review the necessary legislation to amend that anomaly?
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
May I, as one who watches professional soccer as often as possible, assure the Home Secretary that most of us welcome the recommendations of the Popplewell inquiry? One point that appears to have been overlooked in the report is the question of football supporters travelling by coach. Many coaches arrive at the destination town, although not necessarily the football ground, sometimes hours before the kick-off, and similarly on the way back many coaches stop short of their destination, thus enabling many supporters to consume perhaps a large amount of alcohol.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) in his plea for the abolition of the illogical alcohol ban in executive boxes. Notwithstanding the voting propensities of those who use the boxes, the fact is that most of them do not rampage around the town in the way that some football supporters do. We ought to remember that this ban is penalising clubs, such as West Bromwich Albion, which have spent many hundreds of thousands of pounds in providing executive boxes.
1232 Lastly, I ask the Home Secretary to look again at the question of a football betting levy board. Surely the game of working people ought to be treated in the same way as racing, the so-called sport of kings?
§ Mr. Hurd
There is obviously something in the hon. Gentleman's first point, but I do not think that it can be solved by changing the law again. It is surely mainly a matter for co-operation between the police and the coach operators, but let us look further into that.
I note what the hon. Gentleman said about executive boxes. He has to deal with the argument of equity; the argument which his right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton was putting. Indeed, the House too will have to deal with the point in due course. I do not think that a case has been made for a new system of the kind put forward by the Labour party and by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape).
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I propose to allow questions to continue for a further 15 minutes. I hope that in that time every hon. Member wishing to ask a question will be called. I ask for brief questions, as two important debates are to be held thereafter.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
Can the Home Secretary say when the promises made by the Prime Minister and the former Minister with responsibility for sport that Bradford City football club would receive additional financial assistance to rebuild its ground will be honoured?
§ Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)
While warmly welcoming the Popplewell report, may I ask my hon. Friend to look in particular at recommendation 4 in the final report, about responsibility for safety going to one local authority; and, in the interim report, at the important recommendation that police radio systems be improved?
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Can my right hon. Friend give any figures for disturbances in the current season? Will he take note of the contrast between the rather better standard of conduct that one might find at a rugby football ground, such as Twickenham, and the rather lower standard of behaviour at some soccer grounds?
§ Mr. Hurd
I would not dream of entering on the second comparison, because I think that I could not easily escape from it.
On the first point. I have given the House the figures that I have, which are in terms not so much of disturbances as of arrests and ejections. I think that that is the handiest way of giving the figures. I have done that in respect of both the Metropolitan police district and Greater Manchester. They show a welcome improvement.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)
I echo the word of caution that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) entered. There is a danger that we could impose conditions on clubs—be they football, rugby or cricket clubs—which the clubs simply could not meet 1233 financially, and we would not achieve anything by putting them out of existence. Is the Home Secretary seriously suggesting that we should designate clubs such as Stranraer, Cowdenbeath and Berwick Rangers in Scotland where there is never more than a total of 300 or 400 people at the game? Would it not be better to continue with the present arrangement in Scotland whereby the grounds that are not designated are subject to crowd control limits by police on occasions when there are larger than normal sporting events?
§ Mr. Hurd
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has grasped what I was announcing, and I do not blame him—it is complicated. Almost all the big football and rugby league fields are already designated. What I have announced today will cover about eight cricket grounds, about 20 rugby union grounds, about 18 football grounds outside the league in England and Wales, and I think about 25 in Scotland, but the test is a capacity of over 10,000. Most of these grounds are for designation, and all these grounds have been covered as a result of the inspections that took place after May last year. I imagine that in the great majority of them any necessary work is already in hand or is being planned. What I have announced about designation, and what Mr. Justice Popplewell recommended in this respect, is a completing and tidying up operation, rather than a large new development.
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)
Will my right hon. Friend accept the conclusion in paragraph 4.86 that the effect of the Sporting Events Control of Alcohol etc. Act 1985—about which there has been a chorus this afternoon, quite rightly—on clubs will be "little short of disastrous"? Will he appreciate that this revenue which is not coming into the game could have been used for the improvement of grounds? Will he give urgent consideration to a review of the Act? If he does not act well before the end of the season, plans will be laid for next season which will have the same effect and that money will not be available for the clubs. May we please have an early debate on the whole subject?
§ Mr. Hurd
I understand the force of what my hon. Friend says. As he rightly points out, it was endorsed by Mr. Justice Popplewell and, indeed, by at least two Opposition Members, so we shall certainly have to come back to this. What I would ask is that the clubs give us more precise facts and figures to back up their argument.
My hon. Friend put the question of a debate to the Leader of the House during business questions, and I shall be in touch with my right hon. Friend about it. However, I should not like to make any definite promise, given that there will be other opportunities to discuss several aspects of the matter, including the one mentioned by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)
Further to the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), and touching upon the question asked by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), there was a firm promise by the Minister of State that there would be a review and a report would be made halfway through the Session. We are now over halfway through the Session, people are making plans and revenue will be lost between now and the end of the season in advance bookings for 1234 executive boxes. The Minister of State and other Members have visited Manchester United and seen the problem. I believe that a firm promise was made to that club. I urge the Home Secretary to move rather faster than he is now indicating to the House he intends to do.
§ Mr. Hurd
I think that what I indicated to the House is on all fours with what my hon. Friend said previously. That is what he said we would do, and that is what we are doing. We will give our conclusions while the Public Order Bill is before the House. The hon. Gentleman should have a word with his right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton about the attitude of the Opposition Front Bench on this matter.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)
I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to page 60 at 5.90, where it says at subparagraph II (a):Thus those not particularly given to violence witness violence in others and see it being exercised, without let or hindrance.Does my right hon. Friend agree that the conduct of the players in this case is regularly far from exemplary? They jump all over each other, they hug and kiss each other, and they fight each other. It is not conducive to good conduct on the terraces. Will he see what he can do, in consultation with the Football Association, to tighten discipline in this respect?
§ Mr. Hurd
I think that it would be a little difficult to draft a clause to cover all the activities to which my hon. Friend refers. This clearly must be a matter for those within the sport, and I am sure that they will have noticed what Mr. Justice Popplewell has said, and the way in which my hon. Friend has endorsed it.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Why has the Home Secretary not accepted Mr. Justice Popplewell's strongly expressed view that the safety of undesignated buildings and stadiums should be the responsibility of one authority? The right hon. Gentleman says that he has powers to deal with emergencies while inspections are being carried out, but Mr. Justice Popplewell doubted whether all indoor activities, in Scotland in particular, were covered by such powers, and he asked for a review of the powers. Has that review been set in train?
§ Mr. Hurd
We are reviewing that aspect. We are in a difficulty over timing, because there is a strong case for revising the 1971 Act in relation to fire safety and control. We are in the middle of doing that and we might ask the House to consider proposals during this Parliament. Mr. Justice Popplewell's proposal for further use of the 1971 Act comes in the middle of the review, so that an awkwardness is caused. If the hon. Gentleman studies my complicated statement he will see how we are trying, procedurally, to find a way through that awkwardness, which involves indoor sports as well as others. I have neither accepted nor rejected the proposal which the hon. Gentleman mentioned at the beginning of his question, so we shall come back to it.
§ Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)
I do not want to do the question of money to death, but the great aspiration of the club in my constituency is promotion from the third to the second division. It does not pay high wages, and it pays no large transfer fees. It is a responsible club, which has taken on many recommendations, but the Popplewell recommendations will put further severe financial 1235 restraints on its activities. Will my right hon. Friend and the Chancellor of the Exchequer consider the possibility of giving back to football more of the money that goes to the football pools?
§ Mr. Hurd
That is a long-standing suggestion, supported by aficionados of the game, but it does not seem to be making much headway. My hon. Friend should obtain the facts and figures for his club, to illustrate the difficulties which he foresees. The work that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has accomplished with his working group suggests that necessary work in the 92 areas on which he has been concentrating can be undertaken with existing resources, but the sports councils and my hon. Friend are available to advise on how necessary work can be done.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I praise the imaginative way in which the Popplewell inquiry went about its work. May I also draw attention to the sad story of the opaque glass panels mentioned in paragraph 4.88, because Scotland's leading club, Heart of Midlothian, has had to erect a panel so that people having a drink cannot watch the game. Is that not absurd? How much will clubs lose if something is not done about the stormy and difficult problem of executive eating places? What about the "casuals" mentioned in the report?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman asks about loss of revenue because of the rules for executive boxes. I am asking for the figures. I have anecdotal figures, but we need more if we are to overcome the equity objection. We are being asked from several parts of the House to distinguish between people in executive boxes and people on the terraces. We do not want to create the impression that people in executive boxes are more law-abiding than the many thousands—the majority—on the terraces. I am not endorsing the argument, but summarising the argument that prevails, not least because of the advocacy of the right hon. Member for Gorton when the Bill was being discussed. We must examine the matter again when we have the necessary figures.
I had not heard of the "casuals" until my attention was drawn to the relevant paragraph in the report. I understand from Scottish colleagues that there is close co-operation between the police in Scotland and the clubs in dealing with that serious mischief.
§ Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)
A compulsory system under which one must produce a membership card before entering a ground is clearly impracticable, especially at large grounds. Does not the difficulty and expense of such a system demonstrate the desirability of having national identity cards for everyone? In view of hon. Members' interest in everything European, I remind the House that many countries in Europe operate a national identity card system.
§ Mr. Hurd
That suggestion is made in various contexts these days. Any Government would have great difficulty in persuading Parliament of the need for such a restriction. Limited but welcome progress has been made by the Football League and by clubs in introducing membership card systems which cover at least 50 per cent. of ground capacity. That is what the football authorities asked them to do. Particularly because of the proposal for exclusion orders which the football authorities have welcomed, and because we are doing our bit in the Public Order Bill to 1236 help, we hope that the clubs will do their bit to accelerate and perhaps take more seriously the membership card system proposal.
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
Is the Home Secretary aware that the answers that he gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and to other hon. Members on both sides of the House show a certain complacency towards the financial crises affecting clubs in England and Wales, and particularly those in Scotland? Does he accept the importance of the football game to our people? Does he recognise that is not just a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary of State for the Environment, because he has responsibility for securing money, either through public subsidy or from the football pools, to help clubs to improve their grounds for safety and other reasons?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman neglects an additional principle, which is that when any body offers entertainment or sport to the community its basic responsibility is to ensure that the entertainment or sport is conducted in safe conditions. That is a basic, underlying responsibility of those taking the initiative and organising the game or entertainment.
However, realising that there might be a problem, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary took the initiative on football in his working group, which suggested that it would be wrong to exaggerate the scale of the problem. It would also be wrong to exaggerate the new requirements or impositions which I announced today. There may be a problem in some cases and that is why my hon. Friend and the sports councils are available for consultation.
§ Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to paragraph 5.87 and Mr. Justice Popplewell's conclusion that the evidence does not support the proposition that unemployment and violence at football grounds are connected? People will expect the courts to hand out adequate sentences to violent offenders, so does not that proposition have significance when we discuss the problem of violence generally?
May I also put in a plea for small football clubs, such as Scunthorpe United, which is operated by people who are not after profit? That club's capacity might be over 10,000, but the gate is usually less than 2,000. Onerous financial obligations will be placed upon such clubs through having to take new fire and safety precautions.
§ Mr. Hurd
I am glad that my hon. Friend has drawn attention to paragraph 5.87 of the report. As regards the football club in his constituency, I repeat the advice that I have given to others. If the capacity at the ground is much greater than the numbers who go to the ground, the club may well have the option to restrict its capacity and so come below the level. That is the type of semi-technical problem on which the club may well need advice, and which it will receive.
§ Mr. John Ryman (Blyth Valley)
As one of the leading football clubs in the country, Blyth Spartans, is in my constituency, may I ask the Secretary of State to consider one point which has not been dealt with? This is the question of enforcement. He no doubt appreciates from his earlier experience as Minister of State, Home Office the great difficulties that racecourses have in enforcing exclusions on people who have been warned off 1237 racecourses for nefarious reasons. What specific proposals does the Secretary of State have to ensure that football clubs are able to enforce entrance bans to their grounds?
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)
I welcome the national membership scheme, and Leicester City was one of the pioneers in instituting it.
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to paragraphs 4.77 and 4.84 of the report. Paragraph 4.77 refers to drink inside a spectator at a football ground. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the difficulties that face the grounds at the moment when so-called supporters stop off at the nearby garages and motorway service stations and tank up, not only with petrol, but with alcohol? Surely the way to deal with this problem is to withdraw the off-licence.
Paragraph 4.84 of the report refers to the closure of pubs. The police can request that a number of pubs round the football ground be closed. The police do not request the closure of supermarkets and off-licences, except in exceptional circumstances. Enforcement should be made to prevent any alcohol being available outside the ground.
§ Mr. Hurd
The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol Etc.) Act 1985 gives local magistrates considerable powers in these matters. It is for the police and for the magistrates, in each locality, to study what happens there and to work out a system to use their powers effectively.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Warrington, South)
I apologise to my right hon. Friend for being absent when he made his statement. It is apparent from the questions that have been asked that Mr. Justice Popplewell's proposals will impose financial obligations on the football clubs. I hope my right hon. Friend will not close his mind to the proposals made by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. 1238 Snape) to widen the horserace betting levy to a general betting levy for the good of all sport. Many feel that there is merit in that proposal.
§ Mr. Hurd
That is an interesting proposal, which goes fairly wide. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend and the House will not gallop away with the idea that there are no resources available for this purpose. I have already mentioned the Football Grounds Improvement Trust. I gather that the sum of £8 million has been made available to the trust for the purposes of which we have spoken. That is a substantial annual sum. The great bulk of the work of designation has been done, so there are limits to the scale of the problems that worry hon. Members.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I wish to deal with section 3(3) Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol Etc.) Act 1985. The Home Secretary says, fairly, that he comes fresh to these matters. When we were consulted by his predecessor on the draft Bill we insisted upon equity, and his right hon. and learned Friend, after considering the possibilities, chose the form of equity that is in the Bill. When other forms of equity were later broached with him he set his face against them and, as a result, we have the Bill in its present form. As I said in the later stages, the implication of that equity has been financially troubling to the football clubs.
I repeat the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). We continue to insist on equity, but we are content with the proposals of Mr. Justice Popplewell and I wish to say that specifically today. However, this matter should be reconsidered. It appears that the Secretary of State intends that changes in this matter will be in an amendment to the Public Order Bill as it travels through the House. I suggest that it would be appropriate, at a time that the Secretary of State considers suitable, to enter into discussions so that we can arrive at a form of equity that is of assistance to the football clubs.