HC Deb 01 April 1996 vol 275 cc8-9
7. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans she has to meet the English Football Association to discuss arrangements for the staging of the European championship. [21898]

Mr. Sproat

My right hon. Friend and I have been meeting the football authorities on a regular basis to discuss the organisation of Euro 96. We will meet them and other interested parties again shortly.

Mr. Banks

May I say en passant to the Minister that I was very disappointed that he did not present the Coca-Cola cup at Wembley and that the Secretary of State got the job? We all know how much she knows about football—the Cabinet's answer to Alan Hansen. Then again, I suppose that life is a bit of a bucket of cold spit; the Minister does get the topless dancer tossing the caber.

When the Minister talks to the Football Association, will he ensure that it puts a good spin on the European championship and that there is not just talk about who has the best hooligans and hooliganism generally? We are talking about football and not about a rerun of the 30 years war. It is important to stress the positive side of football and not the negative side.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman is right and I hope that there will be magnificent games of football. However, many people are worried about possible outbursts of hooliganism and so on. The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has now reached agreement with all the European countries that we can do everything possible to spot foreign hooligans and our own resident hooligans at matches.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Is my hon. Friend aware that a number of hotel companies propose to increase their room prices substantially during the competition and that that may have a damaging effect on the tourism industry generally? Is he further aware that charter airline companies are now talking of visitors to Britain for the football competition coming only for the day? Is there not, therefore, some sense in discussing the matter with the hotel companies to ensure that what they propose does not damage the tourism industry this summer?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend is right to raise the point about opportunities for tourism generated by the European championship. We expect another 250,000 visitors as a result and another £100 million-worth of income to our tourism industry. The English tourist board sits on committees that are involved with the matter. I know that the board is worried that hotels may price themselves out of business and that it is taking all sensible measures to prevent that.

Mr. Maxton

When the Minister meets the English Football Association, will he discuss with it the great anger and concern in Scotland about the very small allocation of tickets for Scottish fans for the game between England and Scotland at Wembley on 15 June? Will he try to ensure that the allocation is increased because, otherwise, Scottish fans will get tickets that mean that they will mix with English fans, which may cause some difficulty?

Mr. Sproat

I shall do everything that it is proper for me to do.