§ 3.40 p.m.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill is now beginning its progress through Parliament in your Lordships' House. It has already generated a good deal of interest and I know that many noble Lords have expressed a wish to speak today. We look forward to hearing the debate. The Bill's purpose is to deal with the problems of hooliganism associated with football, in this country and abroad, in so far as they involve English and 1218 Welsh people. Its main provisions are in two parts. Part I provides for a statutory framework for a national membership scheme for football spectators. Part II gives the courts powers to impose restriction orders on convicted hooligans to prevent them from travelling to English matches abroad.
Your Lordships will recall the immediate background to the Government's decision to legislate on this subject. Serious incidents at the end of the domestic season in May last year were followed by the disgraceful scenes involving so-called English football supporters in West Germany during the European championships in June. On 6th July my right honourable friend the Prime Minister met the football authorities to discuss these problems. She invited them to establish a national membership scheme on a voluntary basis. It is worth recalling that they refused and that she said that the Government would therefore bring forward legislation to require the establishment of such a scheme.
There is one point which I should clarify at the outset of the debate. The Bill is not concerned with the idea of a national identity card. It proposes that people who wish to go to a designated football match should have to obtain a membership card first. If they behave like hooligans, the card will be withdrawn. The concept is entirely different from that of a national identity card that someone could carry all the time, either on a voluntary or a compulsory basis.
Hooliganism has long been associated with football. There were incidents before the First World War and between the wars. But the problem has been endemic since the 1960s and during that period support for the game has fallen dramatically—from a total attendance at league and cup matches of 35 million in 1967–68 to 21 million last season. Of course, hooliganism is not the only reason for the decline in support; but it is a major factor.
We regard the Bill as part of the package of measures that have been taken to deal with the problem in recent years by government, police, and football authorities. The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol) Act 1985 imposed restrictions on the sale of alcohol at football grounds. The Public Order Act 1986 empowered the courts to impose exclusion orders on convicted hooligans, banning them from attending football matches. Police intelligence and co-ordination both nationally and internationally have been strengthened. Football clubs have also taken action, some with more commitment than others, and, I am afraid, largely as a result of continuing pressure from public opinion and from the Government. Those include effective segregation of rival groups of supporters, closer co-operation between the clubs and the local police forces and, most important, the installation of closed-circuit television; the last largely thanks to the financial support of the Football Trust.
The Government welcome those measures. Unfortunately, they have not been enough. More is needed inside football grounds. The effect has been to keep the lid on the problem, not to cure it. At too many matches, violence remains just below the surface. Rival supporters have to be kept apart by physical barriers and by the employment of large 1219 numbers of police. When there is a slip in those separation arrangements, violence follows.
We also have a serious problem outside football grounds. The behaviour of rival gangs can make life intolerable both for law-abiding football supporters and for people who live or trade near football grounds or wish to travel by train on the same day as a football match.
On the whole, the police manage to keep that threat of violence in check. But the cost is very high. On one weekend in November last year, more than 5,000 police officers, together with dogs and horses as necessary, were deployed to keep order among football crowds. The same exercise is repeated every weekend throughout the season and the ratepayer and the taxpayer have to foot most of the bill. Unfortunately, football has become a focus for hooligans and for violent behaviour in a way that other sports have not. There have been occasional problems elsewhere, but not on remotely the same scale or frequency as football. This Bill deals only with football.
Part I of the Bill provides a statutory framework for a national membership scheme for football spectators and for the licensing of football grounds in relation to the scheme. It is an enabling measure, not because the Government wish to keep the details of the scheme to themselves but because we want the football authorities to work up the details of the scheme in consultation with the Government, the police and other interested parties. The scheme must satisfy the requirements of the Bill but it will be for football to run it. I welcome the early indications we have received from the president of the Football League and the chairman of the Football Association that they accept this approach.
Clause 1 is the interpretation clause. It also provides for the Secretary of State to designate, by order, those matches to which the membership scheme would apply. The Government's present intention is that the Secretary of State should designate all matches between Football League clubs, in league and cup competitions. There will need to be special arrangements within the scheme for matches between league and non-league clubs and for international matches. The Secretary of State for the Environment would designate matches in England; the Secretary of State for Wales matches in Wales.
Clause 2 of the Bill proposes that it should be an offence for anyone to attend or to attempt to attend a designated match, except as an authorised spectator. An authorised spectator is either a member of the scheme or someone allowed for by a specific exemption within the scheme. Those who attend matches for professional reasons other than simply to watch the game—for example, club employees, caterers, ambulancemen, policemen and reporters—are exempted by the Bill itself.
Clauses 3 to 5 deal with the appointment of the body to run the scheme and with its contents. It will be for this body, which we refer to as the Football Membership Authority, to submit the scheme to the Secretary of State for approval. He will of course take an interest in the constitution and membership of the 1220 authority itself. Clause 5 of the Bill spells out the requirements which the scheme will have to satisfy but it does not prescribe the details of how they are to be satisfied; for example, what technology is to be used. That will be for the FMA to consider in the scheme it submits to the Secretary of State.
The scheme will provide for the Football Membership Authority to disqualify from membership those who misbehave. If a criminal offence is involved, Clause 6 and Schedule 1 come into play. Anyone convicted of a relevant offence would be disqualified for a period of two or five years, depending on the severity of the sentence. The Football Membership Authority will also have discretion to ban others who misbehave.
I know that some concern has already been expressed, not least by the National Council for Civil Liberties, about the provisions for discretionary bans. We must not forget that it is already open to clubs to ban people if they wish. Indeed, they do so. The Bill will make the situation different in that it will ensure that hooligans banned from one club cannot simply go to another to cause trouble. That is one of the great advantages which it offers.
The scheme will need to contain clear rules and criteria by which the Football Membership Authority is to exercise its discretion, covering the circumstances in which membership will be withdrawn and for how long. The Government have said that they intend that the maximum length of a discretionary ban should be two years. There will also he an independent appeals procedure for those who are disqualified.
There is a further provision in Clause 5 which should reassure those who are worried about the civil liberties aspects of the Bill. Members of the scheme will have the full protection of the Data Protection Act 1984, in terms of access to information held about them and in relation to the use to which such information can be put. If they do not want their names to appear on mailing lists when the clubs develop the commercial opportunities of the scheme, it is our intention that they should be able to say so. It would also be an offence for anyone applying to join the scheme knowingly to use false or misleading information in support of his application.
Clauses 7 to 10 provide for the licensing of football grounds. Clause 7 proposes that it should be an offence for a club, or anyone else, to admit spectators to a designated match on an unlicensed ground. Licences will be granted by the Secretary of State or by a body appointed by him.
The main point of the licensing system will he to ensure that clubs have the equipment and are following the procedures they need to follow to enable the national membership scheme to work. The scheme will allow for occasional breakdowns of machinery but, if a club deliberately ignores the conditions of its licence, it will run the risk of conviction for a criminal offence. If it is seriously or persistently in breach of its licence, the Bill provides for a licence to be suspended or revoked.
I should also say something about the implementation and the costs of the scheme. When the report of the Minister for Sport's working party 1221 on the scheme was published on 9th November, he said that the Government's target date for implementation was the spring of 1990, subject to the will of Parliament and to the availability of the appropriate technology. That remains our target, but we must be confident that the technology will work when the scheme begins.
The costs of the scheme will be for football to find. There is no good reason to believe that it will drive the smaller clubs out of business, any more than the Safety at Sports Grounds Act did, despite cries of alarm that were voiced at the time. Several companies have already come forward with offers to introduce the scheme free of charge to football and supporters. Others envisage an annual fee for a card less than the average cost of attending just one match at most clubs. If the clubs take a positive approach to the commercial opportunities of the scheme, they can benefit from it.
I turn now to Part II of the Bill, which deals directly with the problem of English football hooligans abroad. We have all been appalled at the behaviour of some so-called English supporters abroad. They have brought about the banning of English clubs from European competitions; they brought disgrace on the English national team in West Germany last June—and on the country as a whole.
Clauses 11 to 15 provide that when someone is convicted of a relevant offence, as defined in the Bill, the court may also impose a restriction order requiring him, or her, to report to an agency when certain matches take place abroad. Restriction orders will run for the same periods as automatic disqualification from membership of the scheme in this country—two years or five depending on the severity of the sentence. In any case, the court must be satisfied that a restriction order would help to prevent or reduce violence or disorder at matches abroad.
Clauses 16 to 18 govern the operation of reporting agencies. The reporting agency will set the time at which someone subject to an order must attend, so as to ensure that he cannot attend the match. Offenders will have rights of appeal against the court's decision to impose restriction orders. But once the order is made, failure to report when required will be itself a criminal offence.
Clause 19 allows for an application to be made for a restriction order in cases where someone resident here has been convicted of a relevant offence outside England and Wales. It is not entirely straightforward to establish just which offences are relevant in countries which have different legal systems from our own. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will specify in advance which countries and which offences are to be relevant for this part of the Bill. It will then be up to other countries to let us have evidence of relevant convictions.
I recognise that there has been some concern about the Government's proposals from within the police force and from football itself. Some of the police are already convinced of the advantages. The Association of Chief Police Officers was represented on the Minister of Sport's working party and 1222 welcomed its findings; the Police Superintendents' Association has come out in support. We shall be discussing the Bill with the Police Federation next week. I hope that in time the Police Federation will see how useful the scheme can be to its members.
As for the clubs, it is natural that they should be concerned about the impact of the scheme; but a number of them are beginning to take a positive approach. I hope that more will do so, because we believe it to be in the interests of football that we should work together in devising an effective scheme.
It used to be said that strikes were the English disease. Thankfully, there are relatively few strikes these days. The phrase "the English disease" has more recently been used to conjure up images of football hooligans. The Bill offers the prospect that that association will be broken as well, both in this country and abroad. In this country, hooligans will know that they will not be allowed into football matches. Violence can be brought to an end not only inside grounds but outside grounds as well. The thugs will have no reason to travel to football matches and the link between football and hooliganism can be broken. Football will cease to be a focus for violence. When the England team plays abroad convicted hooligans will not be able to go with them and disgrace the name of this country.
The Bill is in the interests of football and of the country as a whole. I commend it to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Earl of Caithness.)
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, we should all be grateful to the Minister for the care that he has taken to explain the Bill in detail. I am conscious that we are privileged to have first bite at the cherry in this House. I represent the views of my party and I shall also represent the views of millions of men and women, young and old, who share my party's view that the Bill is a bad Bill, a sad Bill, an unnecessary Bill.
Last week, many in your Lordships' House listened to, and were impressed by, the views of highly respected voices in football—Mr. Irving Scholar of Tottenham Hotspur, Mr. Jack Dunnett of the Football League and other football administrators. All are agreed that hooliganism besmirches football and must be fought with might and main. The Bill will not do that. It is an affront to millions of football fans for whom the game is the beginning and end of their joy, their dream, and, yes, their very lives. When someone remarked to the late, great, much loved Bill Shankley of Liverpool that football was a matter of life and death he said that it was much more important than that. There are millions of people who share that view.
My noble friend Lord Wallace of Coslany told us recently how proud he was to be the president of the Capital Canaries. He follows Norwich City, and he will have enjoyed the Millwall/Norwich match recently, as did millions of others watching on television. I attended that match, and I can tell the Minister that his blunt instrument of a Bill is deeply 1223 resented in clubs such as Millwall. For the Minister, the clock stopped at some point in time which conveniently showed the ugly face of football, yes, at Millwall and at other clubs. In recent years, that club has thrown out of the window the shoddy image that it, along with others, had gained. In addition to crowd segregation, closed circuit television, extra police and improved communications, Millwall has in its own phrase:given the club back to the community".Ties with its community are strengthened, which is why I am proud to stand in your Lordships' House wearing a Millwall Football Club tie.
What the Government refuse to acknowledge is that the League and the Association, the Football Trust, led by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, the clubs, the fans, the players and the police have been working together for the good of football, patiently but successfully, for a considerable time. That is why the authorities, the clubs, the supporters, the players and the police deeply resent the way that those efforts have been ignored.
No one has condoned or excused the behaviour of some fans and clubs over the years. The Government are right. There is a problem. The catalyst to which we all refer was the Heysel Stadium disaster of three years ago. Before that event, many elements had begun to take the problem seriously, perhaps late, perhaps inadequately, but nevertheless, based on a deep knowledge and love of the game. What they resent as much as anything is the arrogance of those who, like many of us, but no more and no less, were deeply shocked by those dreadful scenes. "Something must be done" became the watchword; the identity card has become the passport. Their contacts with and knowledge of the game come mainly from an annual seat at Wembley to watch the Cup Final, if that, unlike the experience of those summoned to No. 10 Downing Street for a series of meetings. Let me tell the House, from the report of the ministerial working party, what those experienced, knowledgeable men told the Prime Minister:The Presidents of the Football League and the Football Association told the Prime Minister that they disputed strongly the necessity for an identity card scheme. They argued that over the past season there have been few incidents of crowd disorder within football grounds. The football authorities said they had co-operated fully with the Government on the measures to curb hooliganism contained in the agreement following meetings with Government Ministers in 1985 and 1986.Let us hear no more that the football authorities are behind the identity card scheme. They are not. They never have been but they will, as law abiding citizens, obey the law passed by Parliament. But please do not saddle them with this hare-brained scheme. Of course I exclude the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, from any charge of ignorance of football because in his Answer to a Question I put to him last week he told the House that he was an ex-director of a club. I can tell the noble Lord how that club, Northampton Town, feel about the identity card scheme. The directors and supporters have already told me that they are opposed to it.
Soccer-related violence and smashing the link between soccer and violence has become the prime 1224 justification by Ministers for this Bill. The evidence for such a draconian measure is scant and getting less as every season goes by. But why has soccer been singled out? The Minister for Sport attended a championship boxing match last year when a CS gas canister was thrown into the crowd. Last year a man attending a horse race meeting at York was killed in a fight. There were 1,700 arrests at race meetings last year, 600 of them during Royal Ascot week; 290 people were arrested at the Oxford and Cambridge boat race; 140 were arrested during Henley Regatta week.
If we are concerned about crime in sport, how is it that Wimbledon has escaped the beady eye of the Prime Minister. The answer is that there are so-called hooligans who are pests, not just at football matches, not just at other sporting events but in society generally, in urban areas, but increasingly in rural areas too. Places and events previously free of trouble are now in trouble. The stark truth is that we do not have a football hooligan problem, we have a society hooligan problem. It is no answer for the Government to duck their prime responsibility to solve the problem in our communities by picking on football as an easily identifiable cop out.
Much play is made by supporters of the Bill that an identity card scheme will aid the apprehension of trouble-makers. If every person inside a ground can be identified by his or her card we shall be able to deal with the trouble-makers. Never mind that 9,999 out of every 10,000 card carriers will be innocent. A blanket, all-embracing scheme will suffice. The curiosity is that there is no such slapdash approach for fans travelling abroad. They will be pre-identified, tagged and excluded. Part 11 of the Bill has much to commend it; so it can be here in Britain. Clubs know their troublemakers; lists arc compiled and circulated. The police are getting better and better at winkling out potential troublemakers. Why not help them to get better still?
Hooliganism associated with soccer is but a small part of the national picture. Alcohol and its effects attract far more offenders. Therefore is it not perfectly logical to draw a parallel with the proposed soccer card scheme and to oblige all drinkers to carry a similar card which must be presented by the holder seeking either to purchase or consume alcohol in any establishment licensed to sell it?
What are we to make of the approach by the Minister for Sport in his use of statistics? He circulated an account of a Millwall-Newcastle match and told us that there were 53 ejections from the ground; the police have confirmed that there were 34. He said that there were 20 arrests; the police confirmed that there were 18. He has subsequently had to retract that statement. He published a league table of so-called soccer-related violence. It showed that at the Leicester City ground of Filbert Street there were 81 arrests. The Leicester police have stated that there were not 81 arrests; there were 31 arrests.There are other incorrectly stated, so-called statistics. The Minister for Sport has breathed life into the old adage that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. He has used these statistics like a drunken man uses a lamppost—more for support than for illumination.
1225 Faced with the order to produce a case to support an identity card scheme, he has searched and found a global figure of 6,147 arrests, at what he euphemistically describes as "football related incidents". That total is now discredited. Far better to use exclusion orders made by magistrates. That figure is 1,089, and not 6,147.
One of the cardinal principles of any statistical comparison is to compare like with like. He castigates English football by reference to arrests. Yet he knows, we all know now, that Scottish statistics relate to arrests within grounds while English and Welsh statistics relate to both inside and outside grounds. Comparing like with like, the English and Welsh figures are at least as good as those for Scotland. Perhaps we shall be told during the course of the debate why there is this vendetta against English fans with their improving record of behaviour.
What is the attitude of the Police Federation? This is what it has said:Think again, Mr. Moynihan. The report of Sports Minister, Colin Moynihan's, Working Party on a national membership scheme for football has come in for almost universal condemnation. Sadly, the strictures are deserved, for this is an extraordinary mishmash of good intentions and half baked nostrums. If the Government insists on using its majority to steamroller this scheme through Parliament, the results could be disastrous.When the scheme breaks down, it will do so on match days and give rise to the threat of even worse disorder than it seeks to suppress".That is the voice of the police.
Even when it does not break down, there are all the makings of chaos and violence in the build-up to kick-off time in the congested streets surrounding many grounds. Luton Town Football Club has become the blue-eyed boy of the Minister for Sport. I wonder why. Like many other clubs, Luton has suffered from football-related violence and, in the light of its own experience, banned away fans and introduced an identity card system. That solution, for Luton, is its decision which I respect. However, the Minister projects Luton as some kind of a paragon with increased, safer attendances and peaceful town centres.
What are the real facts? Last season Luton won the Littlewoods Cup, reached Wembley three times and finished ninth in the League—the most successful season in their history. Yet crowds at Kenilworth Road fell by 27 per cent.;20 per cent. of club members failed to renew their membership and the club made a loss of £327,000. More importantly, although arrests at the club fell, hooliganism was merely displaced, not defeated. Violent offences increased by 14 per cent. in 1987 in Luton—2 percent. above the national average and 5 per cent. higher than the rest of Bedfordshire. Identity cards are clearly not the answer.
With others in your Lordships' House, we on these Benches are considerably worried by the civil liberties implications. Law abiding citizens will have to register merely to go to matches. Supporters ejected from grounds, for whatever reason, or arrested but not convicted will face a loss of their identity card and thus the right to attend football. Police files and blacklist information too will be used to determine who does and who does not have the right to attend football.
1226 I again emphasise that the prime, irrefutable objection to the soccer card scheme that the Government propose is that it legislates against a section of the British people by obliging them to carry identity cards or to forfeit the right to follow the sport of their choice. No similar action is proposed against the freedom of the public at large.
Home Office figures show that arrests related to football are low. During 1987, 1.3 million arrests were made in society at large—3.9 per cent. of the adult population. That statistic is 100 times greater than the arrests inside and outside football grounds quoted by the Minister for Sport. Total arrests at football increased by 11 per cent. last season. But the latest Home Office crime figures show a 13 per cent. increase in violent assaults in society at large. We know arrests were up on the previous season and we know why. It was because of better police methods, closer surveillance of potential troublemakers and improved links between clubs and the police—not because of rising violence. Those arrests at so-called soccer-related incidents included payment dodgers, pickpockets, illegal parkers, illegal traders and drug arrests. If we want to see the flash points of criminal violence these days we do not look towards the Kop or the Den or the Shed or the Stretford End. We read about Bracknell and Woking, Bedhampton, Caterham and Bournemouth. Last week it was Knutsford.
Last year more than 1,000 police officers were rendered unfit for service as a result of assaults in rural areas in England and Wales. Identity cards will do nothing to stop that. But shall I tell the Minister what makes me more angry than anything else about this senseless Bill? It is that that most precious of parliamentary commodities, time, will be lavished on it both here and in another place.
Hour after hour we will be locked in dispute. Meanwhile the horrendous problems on the desks of the Ministers at the Department of the Environment and at the Home Office will fester and grow. What about the wretchedness of the homeless? That can wait. What about pollution, environmental damage, drugs, prisons, and violence in the wider community? All that must wait while the problems brought by one out of every 10,000 football fans receive the full attention of Ministers, civil servants, MPs and your Lordships, not to mention the time and money called for from the football fraternity. I tell the Government that if they find time running out in the months ahead for the major Bills they will get short shrift from me for the absolute waste of parliamentary time they have connived at by bringing this senseless Bill before us today.
As we go about the business of this House, which is to revise and improve Bills sent to us from the elected Chamber, we shall examine this Bill in a new light. It has not come to us from the other House, it did not appear in an election manifesto. It will be imposed on authorities, on clubs, on supporters and on police. if it is implemented, it will increase and not decrease violence in the streets and communities around football grounds.
Money which could be used to continue the coordinated successful fightback by clubs to defeat violence will be spent on the senseless bureaucracy of 1227 this bad Bill. We shall not oppose the Bill today. We shall seek to make this bad Bill better with sensible amendments. But I tell the House with all candour that all that is required for a bad Bill to become the law of the land is for good people to do nothing. All that is required to make this bad Bill a better Bill is for noble Lords all round the House to listen to the arguments and to vote accordingly, regardless of party pressures.
I have much hope that this House will do its duty. The conventions tell us that Bills which begin their parliamentary passage in your Lordships' House are deemed to be non-controversial. Nevertheless, that was not the case with the Shops Bill on Sunday trading some three years ago. Your Lordships scrutinised that Bill so effectively and exposed its blemishes so ruthlessly that when it reached another place, despite a government majority of 100 it was rejected on Second Reading.
I can assure the Minister in charge of this Bill that there are men and women—in front, but also behind him—who will work together to expose this Bill for what it truly is—an unnecessary, expensive gesture by a Government determined to take some action, whatever that may entail. We can leave to the other House the opportunity to emulate that action of three years ago. In the meantime, your Lordships' House has a duty to perform and we intend to do it with all the argument and passion at our command.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, the measure we are debating today is a public order Bill. Curiously enough it is sponsored not by the Home Office but by a junior Minister in the Department of the Environment. Its principal stated purpose is to reduce the amount of disorder in and around football grounds in England and Wales. Its method, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has told us, is to establish a national membership scheme.
In addition, there is a second part to the Bill to which the noble Earl referred. That gives the courts power to prevent convicted football hooligans from travelling to matches abroad. Certainly speaking for myself, and I suspect for many others, there will be little doubt that the general objective in this part of the Bill is acceptable to the House.
I now turn to the principal part of the Bill—the compulsory national membership scheme. I propose to divide my speech into four parts. First, I shall deal with the scale of the problem; secondly, the action that has already been taken by clubs to deal with that problem, and, thirdly, the practical consequences for spectators, clubs and the police as regards this proposal. Finally, I shall deal with the point that was touched on by the noble Lord who has just sat down; namely, the manner in which the Government have chosen to legislate.
First, I shall deal with the scale of the problem. Of course, there has been a significant amount of football hooliganism in this country. That is undeniable. It has justified public concern. Some of the incidents involved were extremely unpleasant. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, 1228 reminded us, a substantial number of those offences took place outside grounds rather than within them. Probably two out of every three offences fall into that category. We are probably talking about one person in every 10,000 who attends a football match committing an offence within a football ground.
As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, pointed out, we cannot discuss football in isolation, as the noble Earl did in his speech. That is quite absurd. We must look at the pressures and tensions within society and the amount of violence within society. Last Thursday night in this House we discussed violence on the London Underground. The number of robberies has doubled in the past two years. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cases of grievous bodily harm and sexual assault. But here there was no speedy response by the Government. It required two well-publicised murders before they agreed to take any significant action whatsoever. Even then, it was inadequate.
Let us examine this general question of serious crime elsewhere in our society. Last year, the Association of Chief Police Officers published a survey on violence in small towns and rural areas of England and Wales. The association said the following:From Petersfield to Penrith. from Barnstaple to Bridlington, come reports of unprovoked attacks on property, public and police, with an inadequate police presence one of the factors".The association said that spontaneous disorder was no longer confined to inner cities and large towns. Groups of usually young and often drunk people gathered together regularly to fight each other in communities where this would have been a rarity 10 years ago. The association referred to 251 separate incidents in which 36,000 members of the public were involved and over 2,000 arrests were made.
Let us remember those figures: 36,000 members of the public were involved and over 2,000 arrests were made. At Tottenham Hotspur's ground last season over 600,000 people attended as spectators. There were precisely 74 arrests, both inside and outside the ground. That number of arrests included those of ticket touts.
Whenever large numbers of young people gather together, be it at a pop festival, the Notting Hill carnival or a big football match, there will be some arrests. Some of them will be as a result of drink-related violence. Some will be as a result of vandalism and some, unhappily, will be as a result of drug dealing. In such circumstances 74 arrests out of well over 600,000 people who attended the match is an extraordinarily modest number.
Tottenham's record is not significantly dissimilar to that of other clubs in the first and second divisions in the English league. But we must remember that this Bill does not just affect the first and second divisions; it also affects fourth division clubs. It affects small clubs like Scunthorpe and Crewe, Hartlepool and Halifax. The crowds at those games are normally tiny. They consist of a few thousand people at best. Even according to the Minister's own figures, the levels of violence are trivial. Let us take one example—York City. On 2nd January this year York City played Lincoln City at home. The attendance 1229 was 3,589 and not a single person was arrested inside or outside the ground. Yet the Government are going to make York City and other clubs—most of which are involved in a desperate struggle for survival—enter the national membership scheme. In the case of York, a club which lost £15,000 last season and whose shareholders have been warned that the news this year will be still worse, the chairman of the club has said he believes that the cost of the scheme will be in the region of £100,000.
I believe there is little doubt that the scheme could do grievous damage to clubs in the third and fourth divisions. The chairman of Torquay has said he believes that if this Bill becomes law it could effectively wipe out the fourth division altogether. I believe that that would be an act of senseless vandalism: senseless because the level of serious disorder at those matches is modest or non-existent; an act of vandalism because it threatens to damage or destroy some fine old football clubs with close links with their local communities.
I should like to turn briefly to the action that has already been taken by the clubs to deal with the problem. The matter was touched on, albeit rather briefly, by the noble Earl when he spoke. The Government suggest that the reason for the legislation is the refusal of clubs to co-operate. What they mean is not that the clubs will not co-operate but that the clubs are refusing to support this particular scheme, which has become an obsession with a number of members of the Government.
As the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said, in the last two seasons a number of clubs in the league have introduced closed-circuit television cameras. That has led to the identification and arrest of a substantial number of troublemakers who have been barred from the grounds by the courts—and quite right too. They have segregated rival supporters; they have introduced family areas; they have adopted local plans, agreed both with the police and with local authorities, for dealing with the crowd problem.
I believe that there is therefore no justification whatever to suggest that the clubs have been wilfully unco-operative. I have been told by many police officers of their excellent relations with their local football clubs. Quite apart from that, the ban on the sale of alcohol at football matches has had a very substantial effect. I believe that that is one reason crowds are beginning to go back to football matches on Saturday afternoons in increasing numbers.
I turn now to my third point—the practical consequences of the legislation on spectators, clubs and police. As I have already demonstrated, there is little doubt that the cost of the scheme to the clubs could be very substantial indeed. They will be compelled to invest in technology which, in terms of its application to football, is still entirely unproven. As the study by Arthur Young has demonstrated, it is still unknown whetherthe scheme will work in real life".Quite apart from the cost of the technology there is the likelihood that up to 20 per cent. of casual supporters will not go to the bother of applying for membership of the scheme. Again, the effect would be substantial for clubs in the first and second divisions, 1230 and for those in the third and fourth divisions it could have catastrophic consequences for their financial viability.
I come now to an even more important issue—public order. I have recently had the opportunity of discussing this matter with six senior police officers of the rank of superintendent and chief superintendent. All are currently, or have been within the past 12 months, in charge of police operations at football grounds. One of them told me that he thought the effect of this legislation might be neutral: there might be less trouble inside the ground balanced by more trouble in the streets outside. The other five senior officers agreed that the consequences of this legislation would be damaging.
Perhaps I may set out their anxieties. First, the turnstiles at two of the grounds concerned directly abut main roads. Any delay encountered by people entering the ground could lead to large, jostling crowds spilling onto the highway, bringing traffic to a standstill and causing serious difficulties for the police commander. All the police officers believed that any significant hold-up at the turnstiles could lead to disorder, particularly in the few minutes before the match was due to begin. The delay could be caused by a spectator presenting an invalid card. There could be a breakdown in the computer system. The police would then be faced with the choice of either ignoring an Act of Parliament and letting everyone in whether or not they were members of the scheme or allowing what could prove to be very serious public disorder to ensue.
Finally, all those officers believed that the majority of the hard core of hooligans who would be barred from the membership scheme would still turn up on a Saturday afternoon or—which would be more difficult—a dark winter's evening. Some would borrow other people's membership cards, others would obtain them illicitly and the remainder, they feared, would gather in the streets outside to make trouble. In short, on the basis of the judgment of those senior police officers, the beneficial effects of this legislation will be marginal or non-existent. The consequences of its enactment could in the circumstances I have described lead to serious public disorder.
I now come to the final issue which I want to raise today; that is, the manner in which the Government have chosen to legislate. The Bill sets out a number of new criminal offences and penalties. It gives the Secretary of State the power to appoint an administrator of the scheme, and to dismiss him. Apart from Part II of the Bill, that is that. I do not believe that this is a Bill in the normal sense of the term. It is an empty shell. The scheme is to be negotiated between the administrator and the Minister and Parliament is not even to be asked to give its approval. It was only a few years ago that we heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, about an elected dictatorship. If this is not the act of an elected dictatorship I do not know what is.
In addition, we are told by Mr. Moynihan that some people will be excluded from the provisions of the scheme and will not have to join the national membership scheme. Who will they be? We have 1231 heard some examples attributed to Mr. Moynihan. Others have been attributed—or not attributed—to his spokesman at the Department of the Environment. The Bill is silent on the matter. Are the disabled to be made to join the national membership scheme? We do not know. Are old-age pensioners to be excluded from the scheme? If not, why not? Do the Government solemnly suggest that we are faced with the prospect of rioting old-age pensioners? Are young children to be excluded; or, again, is it to be suggested that we face a peril from violent nine year-olds?
Will the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, whom I believe is to reply, help us with a further problem? The scheme is not to apply to Scotland; yet one of the incidents which caused the Prime Minister the most serious concern was last year's England versus Scotland football match at Wembley. I should be very grateful for some help from the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, on that question. What happens at Wembley when the scheme is brought into effect? The Scots will not be members of the national membership scheme, for reasons that have not yet been explained. The English and Welsh will have to be members of the scheme. Will there be a large notice saying "Scots enter here"? It would be very helpful if we could have an explanation from the noble Lord as to exactly how that is to be administered.
It is particularly important for him to answer that question because the idea that based on past form the only people who cause trouble at Wembley are England supporters is a little far from the truth. Last year's statistics showed that of 112 people arrested, 39 were English and 73 were Scots. I have great respect for the Scottish nation but it seems to me mildly surprising that in the aftermath of that football match, on an occasion such as this, the Scots are being totally excluded from the scheme.
Many other fascinating questions arise. What is the position of an Englishman who lives in Scotland? Does he have to join the English membership scheme or not? If I may say so, these are hardly unimportant issues, for as a consequence of the scheme if anyone attempts to enter a ground without being a member he commits a criminal offence.
Lastly, what is the position of foreigners? Does the Italian visitor who wants to support his team have to belong to the scheme before he can enter a football ground? I have seen suggestions made in the press which may or may not emanate from Mr.Moynihan—and as always there is nothing about it in the Bill—that all that people who are in that position have to do is show their passports. They can then enter the ground. If that is the case, I should be grateful for some help as regards the position of residents and nationals of the Irish Republic. Hundreds if not thousands of them come over to this country every weekend to support either Liverpool or Manchester United. Are they to get in on the basis of a passport? What about the Irishman who lives in Manchester who providentially has an Irish passport? Can he get into the ground by showing it? I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, will be 1232 eager to answer those questions when he comes to reply.
One has only to ask questions of that kind to realise why the Government have decided to legislate in the manner they have chosen. They realise that to have set out the details of their scheme before Parliament would have caused a chorus of derision. Ministers would have found it quite impossible to justify their scheme even to their most loyal supporters. That is why we have this empty shell. That is why Government are determined not to give Parliament the opportunity of debating the provisions of the final scheme before it is introduced.
1 can think of no occasion on which a government of any party on an issue affecting the civil liberties of so many of their citizens have behaved in such a high-handed and foolish fashion. The Minister of Sport has even issued his peremptory orders to the president of the Football League. In his letter of 17th January he said:Let me have a clear timetable and programme for the establishment of the authority and for the presentation of the scheme".That has all to be done by the end of January. That instruction, given with all the finesse and delicacy of a regimental sergeant major, is directed at a man who is totally opposed to the scheme. It is a scheme that has not received the support of either House of Parliament. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, this Bill will cost £2.5 million to introduce, and no doubt as always in estimates of this kind that figure is probably on the low side.
I wonder how many people involved in the criminal justice system of this country believe that £2.5 million spent in that way—and given absolute priority over all other forms of public expenditure in the area of criminal justice policy—is a sensible order of priorities. We have a situation in which the Metropolitan Police, with an inadequate establishment, are now being called upon to run Wandsworth Prison as well as being asked to act as gaolers for Home Office remand prisoners. In some parts of the country the Crown Prosecution Service is still 20 per cent. below establishment. There is demoralisation in the forensic science service because of cutbacks in public expenditure. There is severe undermanning in the Serious Fraud Office and the magistrates' court system is facing a crisis with courts closed and delays worsening because their professional staff is leaving in droves.
Yet faced with that situation the Government's response is to give absolute public expenditure priority to this silly little Bill. What a remarkable order of priorities the Ministers have chosen!
However, I believe that the situation is even worse. In my view this Bill is rather more than silly. The issues that it raises are fundamental. If enacted, this legislation will make us the only Western democracy in which people will not have the right to enter a sportsground on the purchase of a ticket. Nowhere in Western Europe or in the United States has there been any prohibitions of the kind set out in this Bill. None of their legislatures would have accepted such a fundamental attack on their citizens' civil liberties.
In order to deal with a limited public order problem the Government have chosen to adopt this 1233 scheme which is likely to lead not to less public disorder but a great deal more. The Bill is authoritarian, nasty and irrelevant. I hope Parliament will ensure that it never reaches the statute book.
§ 4.35 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, I share the purpose set before us by the noble Earl: we should bring thoroughly to an end the ugly face of football-related violence. I should declare an interest—an ecumenical interest one might say—in that I support both Liverpool and Everton.
Football is carrying the can for all of us in an important area of our national life. Other sports do not hear the same kind of burdens, though some of them have not been wholly free from trouble. In recent years my own sport of cricket has had to face with great anxiety the issue of pitch invasions. But it has not been entirely a recent phenomenon, as those who know the history of that sport are aware. There is a very famous cartoon of the first tour run by the MCC in 1903–04— Plum-Warner's tour no less—which shows the two umpires on the Sydney cricket ground, in each case protected by large cages, while missiles came flying all around them. The umpire Crockett had given a decision that the crowd did not like and for a long time it chanted, "Crock, Crock, Crock" and bombarded the field with anything portable.
But of course in England cricket and indeed most other sports have never had to handle comparable crowds or from the same sections of society. Football bears some burdens for all of us. More than any other agency it offers excitement, identity and pride to young men who too often have dismissed everything about their lives as boring. Allowing their lives to be boring is an important measure in the responsibility of all of us who are concerned with education, youth provision or the possibility of a demanding job. But many people let off steam at football matches when they are in large crowds. It can be a very healthy and helpful contribution to the whole life of our community.
As I reflected on this Bill I asked myself whether there was such a thing as a theology of following football. I do not mean the kind of theology which asks whether God cares if England has a goal-scoring striker, or even a successful pair of opening batsmen, important though such questions may be to some of us. My question goes a little deeper and is, I think, more serious. Some years ago when I was talking to the rector of a parish in the South Bronx in New York city, which is as bleak and shot-to-pieces a part of a city as I have ever seen, we wondered what Christian message there was for people who lived, moved and had their being in the South Bronx or any other such district. Was it that the suffering Christ was present with them in the deprivations they faced? Certainly Good Friday has a message about it, telling people that God understands their sufferings; and Easter promises future hope. But the rector said to me, "That's all very well. We want to see some resurrection now". I have always remembered his phrase.
1234 Many people feel very alone. In other centuries or cultures the large extended family, the tribe or village had and has its celebrations and excitements. Many people have little sense of belonging, of counting, or of identity. I do not wish to exaggerate, but following a football team gives one many of those experiences: it is something to be proud of; it is a success that is yours to share in. Indeed, sometimes laps of honour and bringing the cup home have the feel of a liturgy of resurrection. All that is worth having and perhaps more significant than we sometimes think.
I am immensely thankful for what our two football clubs, Liverpool and Everton, contribute to the life of Merseyside. Our proper pride in the discipline, skill and commitment of those teams and their influence for unity and not division made the tragedy of Heysel Stadium all the more unbearable. There was no bad record of crowd trouble associated with the Liverpool Football Club. The chief constable has told me this week that there is very little trouble, although there is a large crowd every Saturday at one ground or the other. But that shameful disaster at the Heysel Stadium is of course the sharpest reminder that there are dangerous feelings just below the surface which can explode and escalate in a crowd. Tribalism can be very destructive. Substantial steps have to be taken to maintain public order. They have to be effective steps. That is the key around which our debate should centre.
What is the objective of the Bill? It must be to offer an effective means of reducing football related violence. Its objective should not be to be seen to be doing something in the face of serious and embarrassing difficulties. However much we understand and share in the wish to do something, that is not a sufficient reason for passing a Bill; nor is a sufficient reason for passing a Bill the wish to pin the blame on the football authorities. None of us should vote for this Bill unless we are satisfied that it will positively help the police and the foot ball crowds. If ever there was an area where we must work with the grain, it is one such as this.
I was not quite sure that I understood what the Minister was saying. He mentioned the number of police who have to be deployed. Was he suggesting that there is some way in which, if crowds remain as large as they are, those numbers of police could be significantly reduced? I have never heard such a suggestion made.
The clubs have taken action. Perhaps they could have acted more quickly and more vigorously. Closed circuit television in particular has brought about a definite improvement inside the grounds. I was assured this week, and it was confirmed, that all chairmen, bar I think one, in the Football League have remained, and remain today, opposed to the introduction of this Bill. This is an area in which we must work with the grain if it is to be effective. The football clubs do not believe that the first part of this Bill addresses the correct problem. They have not refused to act in this way out of unwillingness to deal with the problem. They have taken very great steps. They have a high degree of anxiety about the issues. They simply do not believe that it will be effective.
I am happy about the second part of the Bill. Restriction orders will very properly prevent 1235 offenders from attending matches abroad. The power which football authorities have to tackle the major problem—which is undoubtedly outside the grounds—is strictly limited. I understand that there was a study in some police authorities recently which showed the proportion of the problem outside to inside not as 2:1 but as 5:1. We have to ask whether this Bill will help or hinder the situations which police have to handle where trouble is most likely to happen. Anything which slows down the movement of very large crowds through the turnstiles adds to the difficulties outside.
The police want only one thing at the moment. It is for the crowds to get through the turnstiles with all possible dispatch. I understand that the Minister of Sport has said that people will know that they must arrive earlier at matches. Philip Carter, the Chairman of Everton, told me that last week he took some MPs down to watch the closed circuit television just before three o'clock to see what was happening outside the ground. It was a crowd of 30,000, which is the average at Everton each week. As the match started at 3 p.m., Gladys Street was still full of spectators queueing to get in. They had only just arrived or they were talking or whatever in their groups. He said that the last of them got into the ground at 3.17. They all knew, and have known for some years, that the match started at 3 p.m. However, all kinds of factors prevent a person on a day off arriving on the dot. Imagine the delay at a turnstile, perhaps for a technical fault, or because someone is being correctly turned away. The delay in handling that at a turnstile could make some people very annoyed.
The chief constable tells me that there are always 1,000 people outside the gates at kick-off time. It is a natural fear of the police that this number could become—let us make a very modest statement—2,000 and that levels of frustration could increase. None of that would help when trying to take effective steps to keep public order.
I hope that we shall put away any lurking wish to blame or punish football. To return to my earlier theme, the game offers a very important resource and safety valve in our society. The cause of most of the troubles lies not in football but in a confusing mix of factors altogether outside the game. Football would be seriously hurt if occasional spectators, who make up 20 per cent. of attendances, stayed away because of the inconvenience of obtaining, and their reluctance to subject themselves to obtaining, identity cards. We owe football and the police something better than this.
I hope that the Government will think again. I hope that they will pull back from the first part of the Bill so that there can be measures to enable police and football clubs to work together with a good will towards carrying through measures to bring about good public order.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord Taylor of Gryfe
My Lords, first of all I must apologise to the Minister and to the House. I have to return to Scotland this evening and shall not be able to remain to the conclusion of this interesting debate. 1236 Secondly, I wish to say to the Government and to the Minister concerned that I can readily understand the reasons for this piece of legislation. Anyone who has watched television and has seen the football crowds invading pitches and the appalling sights of the Heysel Stadium will readily recognise that there is a problem to be dealt with.
My daughter teaches at a school in Switzerland. Two years ago there was going to be a match between England and Switzerland. There was great excitement in the school. The teacher was being ribbed every day and the kids were looking forward to this great event. On the day a large number of louts arrived drunk, waving Union Jacks, breaking shop windows and causing disaster and trouble on the football ground. My daughter was ashamed to go to school the next day, although she made the obvious comment that she was Scots and therefore absolved from some of the shame for this behaviour.
I can well understand the feeling of people, knowing that it is their national game, seeing these sights and feeling that we must do something about it. My contention is that the Bill does not cure this problem. I want this afternoon to draw on Scottish experience in this regard. It has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and others. For some reason—and we are delighted with the implied compliment—we are excluded from the Bill.
Does that mean that the Scots who follow their national game, soccer, behave well? I call it our national game despite the great deeds that will be done at Twickenham on Saturday. Why are we excluded from the Bill? There is an implied compliment that we behave better. I do not believe that that is sustainable. It may be that the fortunes of the party opposite in Scotland are at such a low ebb that it would be very difficult to impose this kind of legislation on the Scottish people. It is a reverse role for the Scottish people. We are normally treated as the guinea-pigs in new legislation such as the poll tax. But on this occasion the English are the guinea-pigs and we shall watch their experience with great interest.
The Minister of State at the Scottish Office said:The Football Spectators Bill published today will not apply to Scotland. We will, however, keep the position under review and will not hesitate to introduce legislation if we think that necessary in the light of any deterioration in crowd behaviour in Scotland".There is a threat in this legislation, that if we do not behave ourselves we will have the same dose as is being imposed in England.
I should like to feel that the Scottish experience in dealing with the problems of hooliganism at football matches is relevant to what we are talking about today. Why is Scotland excluded? I hope that one of the reasons is that we have made dramatic improvements in crowd behaviour in football grounds in Scotland. It is an interesting fact that Scottish teams, league as well as national teams, are welcome in Europe. Last year Dundee United was given a prize by UEFA because it had the best behaved supporters of all the teams playing in European football last year. Why did UEFA do that? Dundee United Football Supporters Club—this is self-discipline, not government imposed discipline 1237 —carried banners to the clubs they were visiting in the countries they visited saying who they were, "Dundee United Supporters Club. We are glad to be here. We hope we will have a good game", in the language of the country they were visting.
The Glasgow Rangers Football Club gives every supporter who travels abroad a card written in the language of the country visited, asking supporters to behave. It tells them that they should produce the card, if they are ever in trouble, to the local police force or to go to the local consulate for help if that is required. There was no trouble from visiting supporters of Glasgow Rangers, Dundee United or other Scottish clubs who are now welcomed in Europe.
One of the by-products of that is that the great players of English football are now signing for Scottish clubs so that they can enjoy the advantages of playing in Europe and the rewards that are implied. The centre-half and the goalkeeper of the English national team are now playing for Glasgow Rangers because they have the advantage of playing in Europe.
How is this done? The clubs have proper liaison with the supporters clubs. The clubs have taken great trouble to bring the supporters into the clubs and make them feel the responsibilities, not by imposing identity cards but simply by good communication. I shall give your Lordships some statistics. Attendances at Scottish football matches have increased by 50 per cent. since 1980. People are not disappearing from the football grounds because of trouble or hooliganism. They are attracted to the game because we have put our house in order by ourselves. I believe that is the key to the thing. I am sure that the Football League and the Football Association in England have fully recognised the problem and will be able to do something about it without necessarily imposing government legislation.
Last year 800 league games were played in Scotland. There was one arrest per game. Of those 800 arrests spread over all these games, more than half were not for hooliganism but for some other offence committed within the ground.
The Criminal Justice Act has been the greatest contributor to good behaviour in football grounds. The Rangers invariably play to a crowd of 40,000 every week. They have reduced the capacity of their ground from 60,000 to 40,000 to give spectators comfort. There is seating for everyone. After a recent game played before 40,000 people, the secretary went round the ground and could not find a single beer can. At a recent match 70,000 spectators were at an international game at Hampden Park. The collection of beer cans was contained in two plastic bags. I believe that is a very important contributory factor to reducing hooliganism. The Criminal Justice Act is certainly responsible for that improvement.
What has taken place in Scotland that has improved the environment for football? First, there is the design of the grounds: there has been improvement in comfort for the spectators. Secondly, as has been said already, there has been the provision of TV cameras that permits crowds to be controlled and identifies the trouble spots. Thirdly, there has 1238 been the acceptance of segregation of supporters. In addition there has been liaison with supporters clubs.
I mentioned putting the responsibility on supporters clubs and I pick out just one place where this is operating and working in an interesting way. I am told that on a recent occasion a Rangers bus was travelling in one direction and it encountered a Celtic bus coming to an away game on the same road. Someone from the Rangers bus threw a bottle at the minibus carrying the Celtic supporters. It was reported to the Rangers Football Club, which asked the supporters club to identify who had thrown that missile. Naturally the supporters rallied round their friend and said they could not say. They were told it was perfectly simple! "We are withdrawing all tickets from you for future games until you supply the name of the individual concerned". The man was identified within 24 hours and his right to attend future games was subsequently withdrawn.
The point I am trying to make is that some of the problems with which the Government are concerned can be dealt with by better liaison with the clubs, more concern about comfort in the grounds, better liaison with the police and bringing the supporters clubs more closely into the activities of the business, and by these means crowd or hooligan trouble has been reduced in Scottish football grounds. I do not say this in a gloating or superior manner but simply to give evidence that the problems can be dealt with other than by legislation of this kind. I hope that the experience that we have had in Scotland might be relevant to what is taking place or what is planned for England.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe; certainly 1 did. It is of course the case that he has a much better story to tell on this subject in respect of Scotland than have those of us who live in England. Indeed I very much wonder whether, if the degree of disorder which has existed at football grounds in England had been no higher than, according to him, it has been in Scotland, this Bill would have been necessary at all. But of course, as he himself said, it has been a very different story.
I think your Lordships must face this fact. Football, for one reason or another, has attracted violence and hooliganism to an infinitely greater degree than any other sport. It has reached the stage in respect of many grounds in this country that careful parents now refuse to take their children to watch a match because of the danger to which they feel those children would be exposed if they went to that ground. That is a very serious matter from every point of view.
And there is the point, which has not yet really been faced in this debate, of the damage that has been done to the good name of this country among our European friends. We used to be proud of the Englishman abroad. He was generally an acceptable figure and in so many countries there was a warm recollection of what his fellow countrymen had done to save Europe during the war. But now we have had not only the famous Heysel episode but in quite a 1239 number of other episodes we have seen really disgraceful action, hooligansim, by Englishmen accompanying our teams abroad, with the result that, as your Lordships know, the presence of English teams at matches is simply not acceptable in a great many European countries. That is an immensely serious matter.
The question that I should like to ask noble Lords opposite is whether if they were in government they would just do nothing about it. In the other speeches made so far in this debate—and I except the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe—it has not been a suggestion that perhaps the emphasis of this legislation is in some respects wrong, that perhaps it could be improved in Committee, which is a very arguable point of view. There has been a strong attack—in some cases, such as the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, a violent attack—on the Bill as such and an attack on the Government for introducing it. Does the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, want to get up already?
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, he only wants to inform the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in the absence of his noble friend, that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, made it very clear in his speech that he adopted Part II in principle. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is talking about Part II and therefore it is quite wrong to say that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, opposed the Bill hook, line and sinker.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, those of us who heard the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, while not using the rather archaic hook, line and sinker language which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, affects, will be left with the impression that the line that he was taking was that there should he no Bill at all on this subject and that the Government should do nothing about it. That is the clear impression which he gave. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, may remember that his noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton said that the Bill was an insult to the football clubs. That was his theme. His theme was quite clearly that we should do nothing about it.
What I want to elicit from the noble Lords opposite—I have, I trust, some hope of eliciting it from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, though sometimes such hope is disappointed—is whether noble Lords opposite are so content with the present position that they do not think there should be any legislation, or whether their attack is simply that certain aspects of the Bill, they think, could be drafted better. I do not think any government—and I say that to noble Lords opposite supposing that they were in government, however remote that contingency may seem at the moment—could simply leave the position as it stands and indeed—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, may I just finish this sentence? If the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, really meant that we should leave this 1240 alone, I do not believe that any government from the party opposite would, in fact, do that. If this Government had done that we should have been reproached, undoubtedly, in this House with "Why are you standing by and doing nothing?" Now I will certainly give way to the right reverend Prelate.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, it is good of the noble Lord to give way. He said that all the speeches, with the exception of that of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, had not suggested that anything needed to be done. I certainly said that I agreed with the noble Earl in that there was a great need for things to be done to settle the public order of football-related violence. 1 believe that was said by each speaker who has spoken. The objection was, and my own question was: would it be effective? It is because the speeches of each of them have said it would not be effective that we have said this first part of the Bill is bad. That is not to be twisted to say that any one of the speakers so far has suggested the Government should do nothing. No such word has been said from any side.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am interested to hear the right reverend Prelate take that line. Is he saying that if he were responsible he would introduce a Bill?
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, I am being asked a question. Introducing Bills is not the only way in which a government can act. I made a great deal of play with the importance of working with the grain and of working in co-operation with the police and with the football authorities. Certainly the Government have acted, can act and should act. Whether it should be a Bill in this particular shape is what your Lordships are discussing.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, working with the grain is one of those agreeable phrases which have the advantage of lacking precision and there is nothing whatever in the Government's action in introducing legislation to prevent them doing that, if it means what I think the right reverend Prelate means by it. Introduding legislation does not exclude other action. Indeed I understood my noble friend's speech to include some suggestion—I may be wrong about this—that the Government were concerned in all ways to try to deal with this problem. What the right reverend Prelate really cannot duck, despite the charming way in which he seeks to do so, is whether he is saying that there should be no legislation on this matter. Is he saying, when the Government are doing what is the major thing that any government can do—that is, legislating—that it is his view, as it seems to be of noble Lords opposite, that we should not introduce legislation at all on this matter?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, at the moment I am having a duet with the right reverend Prelate. Would the noble Lord mind?
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, the noble Lord is pressing me. I am sure your Lordships are getting bored with the conversation. I entirely agree with the second part of the Bill. It is very important that there should be legislation which introduces a restriction on people. I entirely agree with the change in the law which makes it possible for the police to prosecute on the basis of what is recorded on closed circuit television. Those things are of the greatest importance and they are correctly in legislation and I am very glad.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am delighted to hear that from the right reverend Prelate. I had not got the impression that he supported the Bill at all. I am glad to know that he does support certain—
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, the noble Lord is missing the point. if the noble Lord looks at the official record he will see the words.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I must finish the sentence. The right reverend Prelate is not in the pulpit now. I am glad to ascertain from him that he favours some legislation and indeed some parts of this Bill. He therefore plainly favours giving the Bill a Second Reading, which is after all the issue which your Lordships are at the moment discussing. Whether he agrees with the whole of it, whether any of us agree with all of it, is quite another matter to which we shall come at Committee stage. Is the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, still happy?
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, I just want to say that the best thing I can do now is make my own speech and I will give the noble Lord an answer to everything that he has been saying.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I always look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Mellish. I shall look forward to it even more on this occasion.
May I come back to the point that I wish to leave with your Lordships? I suggest that no government—and I am glad to hear that I now have the right reverend Prelate with me on this—would leave the law as it is. Therefore we come to the question whether the measures contained in the Bill are precisely the best to do what the whole of the country, what everybody wants.
There we have a perfectly legitimate area of possible disagreement, certainly on detail. We are moving into a new area. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, criticised the Bill because it related only to soccer. The truth of the matter is that it is on the soccer grounds—not exclusively but predominantly—that this disorder has arisen.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
Just a moment. My Lords, the Government would have been very much criticised if they had gone further, and because there was some trouble in some other sports—much less trouble—had extended the Bill to cover those sports. They have deliberately, and I suggest rightly, restricted it to the area where there is most trouble.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I did not criticise the Bill because it was restricted solely to football. The point I made—and the official record tomorrow will prove it—is that with the evidence of as much violence, or more, in other sports why have the Government picked on soccer? That is not to bring in others. It is to ask, why have a Bill dealing with football in.this way?
I believe that in my absence the noble Lord fairly drew attention to what he thought was my condemnation of the whole of the Bill. I did not do that. I said—and the record will show this—that much in Part II has something to commend it. If the Bill simply dealt with the so-called hooligans here in the way in which Part II deals with overseas hooligans, then we should be happy with it.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am glad to find that the noble Lord, like the right reverend Prelate, actually finds that there are some good parts of the Bill.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
The noble Lord is not apparently objecting to legislating as a whole. But the noble Lord will recall when he says that he did not particularly criticise the confining of the Bill to soccer that he said in terms—and Hansard will show this in the morning—that the Bill was an insult to association football. I take it the noble Lord now withdraws that?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, the noble Lord admits, as I understand it, that this is the area of most trouble. It is for that reason that the Government rightly are legislating in that area. No government wish to extend this kind of legislation one inch further than is necessary and for which the case is made. It would be absurd, at any rate in the present circumstances, to extend the Bill beyond the one sport where there is really substantial disorder.
Here I come to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. He sought to suggest that in recent times the degree of disorder had not been very acute at a good many football grounds because the number of arrests of people for offences on the ground was quite small relative to the numbers attending. Of course that is the whole point. The point is that comparatively few arrests have been possible; that there has been much more disorder than the number of arrests indicates.
It is utterly fallacious to suggest, because the police have been able to arrest only a certain limited number of people, that therefore there has been only a limited amount of disorder. With great respect to the noble Lord, that is a fallacy, and a rather surprising one coming from a noble Lord who had a distinguished record as a Minister in the Home Office.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I am grateful for the compliment of the noble Lord, but I must just put him right on this matter. Is he not aware that as a result of the introduction of closed-circuit television a substantial number of offenders have been arrested? I am telling the noble Lord now of the views of senior police officers responsible for operations at football grounds. The noble Lord really must accept that that is the position.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I accept that because of closed-circuit television some have been arrested who otherwise would not have been. That is the point in putting in the closed-circuit television. There is no dispute about that. But what the noble Lord cannot say is that because in great crowds (many in them some way away from any police officer at any time) there have not been more arrests, that therefore there has not been so substantial a degree of disorder. That is really a fallacious argument. I think when the noble Lord reflects on it he will realise that. I do not believe that he will take the view that there has not been quite serious disorder on football grounds. That brings me back to the point I wanted to make earlier, which is that any government that neglected dealing with this would be charged. and rightly charged, with neglecting their duty.
I am not a complete admirer of every clause of the Bill. I think there are real difficulties. I do not dispute that for a moment. I think in particular that there is a risk that under the system proposed—and I hope that my noble friend Lord Hesketh will deal with this—there will be attempts to snatch passes at or just outside the turnstiles. It will be necessary under this system to have a quite substantial police presence at the turnstiles to prevent these passes, which are crucial to the admission of people to the ground, from simply being snatched by hooligans. I hope that some thought is being given to that aspect of it.
Let me assure your Lordships that none of us accepts a change of this kind uncritically. 1 think none of us other than regrets it, because we regret the necessity for it. But having reached this situation—this unhappy situation—affecting in much greater degree this particular sport than any other, the Government are right to come forward with legislation, just as your Lordships are right to consider whether that legislation will act effectively. There will be parts of it that will no doubt require careful consideration from all quarters of the House at Committee stage. It is a good thing that your Lordships' House will have the opportunity to consider it in detail.
I come back to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe. I am sure that your Lordships will want to consider the example of Scotland. If I may say so in parenthesis, it is an example that is also highly pertinent to the different subject of Sunday trading. I admire the courage of the Government in coming forward with this legislation. I do not think that they should he abused for it. They may not have got it wholly right, I rather doubt whether they have. Like another noble Lord opposite, I am sorry that it involves the expenditure of 2.5 million of public money, which could be much more happily spent in other directions.
1244 Having said that, I must suggest to your Lordships that the right thing is to get the Bill through Second Reading and then to see whether the detailed criticisms—in particular the touchiness of certain points to which noble Lords have referred—are, or are not. justified. It would be then for your Lordships' House to consider how the Bill goes forward, and whether it is necessary, as it may well be, to amend it.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Lord Mason of Barnsley
My Lords, as a lifelong active supporter of our national game of football I shall oppose this Bill, especially and particularly Part I. I shall oppose it on the grounds that that part is totally unnecessary; that it will be a damaging intrusion into the sport; that it will invade the privacy of its supporters and at great cost to the game and to the future of football; and that it will hardly make any advances in the present high standards of behaviour inside the football grounds.
Just a few years ago the Government called upon the Football Association to tackle the problem of unruly behaviour in its grounds. Consequently the authorities and the Football Trust spent £25 million on security measures, which included the better segregation of home and visiting supporters, the all-round fencing off of most of the football pitches, the establishing within the grounds of family areas—andmore families are going to football matches now than in recent years—and the introduction of closed-circuit television cameras constantly scanning the crowds. These measures have had a considerable effect and have helped the police more effectively and efficiently to control crowd behaviour inside the football grounds.
The result of that activity reveals that last season 1,089 spectators were excluded from football grounds out of a total of 18 million. Two thousand were arrested within the grounds during 2,000 games; that is, one spectator per game. However, many were not later excluded because they had committed such minor offences. The percentage of supporters excluded from football grounds last season was so small that it was hardly discernible; namely, 0.03 per cent. No other similar outside competitive sport could stand the same scrutiny and come up with such good results.
Just as security has improved, so have attendances. In the past three seasons they have risen by 9 per cent., as have league finances. That is all mainly due to better crowd behaviour. This Bill, with its planned introduction of a football spectator identification card scheme, is therefore an insult to the vast majority—indeed, 99.7 per cent.—of law-abiding citizens picked out because they follow and watch soccer. That is a diabolical imposition on our national game. It is authoritarian, bureaucratic and ridiculous in its effort to tackle one arrest per game among 18 million spectators, which is the size of the problem.
What of the proposed system? We have the legislation before us and so far no company or consortium has proved to the football authorities that it has available the proven foolproof technology, whether it be an ID card or a computerised smart 1245 card. Spectators will have to fill in a form giving details of name, address, telephone number, date of birth, height, sex, the name of the club and his national allegiance, plus two passport size photographs. There is also a box on the form where he can declare that he does not wish to receive mailshots, which is one moneyspinner for the firm which wins the contract. He must sign the form stating that the information is true and accurate. He then has to pay for his registration card as an authorised spectator.
It is important to note that anyone with a criminal record as long as your arm can have an ID card provided he has not been involved in a football-related incident and subject to an exclusion order. Even those who have been excluded in the past, will be enfranchised if the club, as distinct from the court, has not kept a register.
Some firms may offer their computer turnstile systems to the football authorities for nothing. Their return will be the freedom to use the information on the national computer, especially mailing lists. However, what will happen if the majority tick the refusal box? Will that still be worthwhile with card costs alone of £5 per card? If not, the costs will fall on the football authorities and the clubs.
It is estimated that the cost will be between £35 million and £70 million, depending on the system chosen, allied with lost crowd revenue, because so many will not take up their cards. If the simple card scheme is operated, it is doubtful whether it will be able to cope with the mass of spectators arriving 15 minutes before kick-off. The simple card scheme adds three seconds per person on top of paying time. In any case, there are bound to be computer hiccups. There are now hiccups in every known system. What chaos there will be when the demand is made to open the gates. If a club does that, it will be in default of the Act, having broken the rules. Therefore its licence could be withdrawn, or it could be fined £2,000 or forced to play in empty grounds.
What of the challenge to the computer hacker to delay the kick-off of one or more, or all, matches? Because there is no secret, or defence, or commercial-in-confidence nature in these computer operations, the temptation will be greater.
What of the gummed-up theory? What will happen if someone gums up the works by putting chewing gum or superglue into a card slot of the machine or if troublemakers purposely damage a card in the slot? What about a lost card problem at a turnstile? In the event of a breakdown or slowdown due to a fault, the police will have to cover most of the 3,500 turnstile units in operation on a Saturday afternoon.
What of the winter and its freezing temperatures affecting the turnstile computer? It will not then be in the correct temperature environment to suit its needs. Even with the computerised smart card, which enables quicker entry and is more foolproof, when a card registers that it is invalid on the computer, the spectator at the turnstile has to go through and be apprehended inside the ground; hence the necessity of a police officer standing by inside covering the turnstiles. The arrest will mean that interview and detention rooms will have to be built inside grounds.
1246 How will the system work? Each week every club—and there are 92 of them—will have to send to the football membership authority computer the names of those spectators who have been struck off and the new entrants. What about complications caused by mid-week matches or Sunday matches following the Saturday matches, with spectators on the move, including those struck off the previous day?
As the football authorities have said, they believe this to be bad law. It may work at huge financial cost and possible public disorder. My noble friend Lord Graham mentioned the Police Federation's view that this is an extraordinary mish-mash of good intentions and halfbaked nostrums and that if the Government insist on using their majority to steamroller this scheme through Parliament, the results could be disastrous.
Will it not also harm our national sport? I believe that it will. I doubt whether many casual supporters will bother to go through the rigmarole of registration and many others will refuse on civil liberty grounds. It is estimated that up to 20 per cent. of football supporters will not bother.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, earlier on the noble Lord said that he considered that this was an insult to innocent spectators who go to watch matches. Perhaps he will consider a parallel case. Is it an insult to law abiding and responsible motor fists that we should have breath tests? I believe that anybody who is not likely to he caught does not object to them in the least.
§ Lord Mason of Barnsley
My Lords, I do not object to that at all, but I do not take it as a parallel. The Government, on a matter of very small significance, have decided to pick out one national sport and treat it entirely differently to the rest, when there are plenty of examples to prove that violence and disorder exist in many other competitive sports and are perhaps a lot worse than in football.
It is estimated that up to 20 per cent. of football supporters will not bother to register. If that is so, it will mean a loss of £34 million of football revenue.
What of the effect on the Third and Fourth Division clubs which average gates of 3,000 to 4,000? They are likely to go out of business. Even some Second Division clubs, like mine in Barnsley, cannot financially survive on the average attendances at home matches and will he in dire straits. They will only satisfy their bankers by constantly selling players. The support will then drop further. We cannot afford that 20 per cent. reduction in gates which will be caused by this system.
I believe that this unnecessary registration scheme will shatter the national make-up of our game. Small clubs dotted around our nation, many of them community cornerstones in small towns, will die, leading to the survival of the biggest and the richest. There will be a couple of superleagues and no more. I fear that that could be the trend. But even the big clubs are concerned at the effect on their guest supporters or visitors, covering thousands of guests who are invited into executive boxes by sponsoring firms as well as tourists and foreign guests. If they do not register, how will they be checked?
1247 If a casual supporter decides to visit a game he will have to appear at the club's ground in the morning to complete his registration before he can receive an entry card. He has to go through all the form filling, possibly with passport photographs, and hope to get clearance. He then has to hang around for the rest of the day until kick-off time. What will happen to First Division sponsored VIPs? Will they have to register likewise?
I have been impressed by the Manchester United established scheme of inviting youth associations to attend their matches, just like the families mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. These joint groups of youngsters who come from Northern Ireland and the Republic are a positive harmonisation policy. Will those efforts be frustrated by the Bill?
Likewise, many Irish spectators travel across to watch Liverpool and Everton, as has been mentioned. Will foreigners have to register for odd visits and show their passports? We must bear in mind that hundreds of casual supporters turn up on match days and will want to register. One can imagine the administrative difficulties that that will cause.
This Bill will not cure hooliganism outside the football grounds. Indeed, what worries me is that it may well bring serious disorder to the perimeter of the ground. If there is a match day breakdown of the system—say, even a clogged computer in freezing conditions—the scenes of angry frustrated fans may well frighten more supporters and families from the game.
In any case, hooligans are still likely to ambush the authorised spectators at railway stations and bus stations, well away from any of the football grounds. If they get their kicks from spoiling sport, they may well move into non-league football grounds or rugby football where registration is not necessary. What then? Will the Government have to introduce an authorised spectator scheme for all sports? This scheme will have no positive impact on incidents outside football grounds, so one must warn Wimbledon, Lord's, the Oval and Twickenham that because of this legislation they could be next.
The opinion of the Association of Chief Police Officers is that this membership scheme as an anti-hooligan tactic is probably marginal to the problem and involves many practical difficulties. The Minister mentioned the Association of Chief Police Officers and said that it did not object. The truth is that the chief police officers were presented with a fait accompli. The scheme is to be introduced with legislation and their co-operation is required. However, the South Yorkshire Police Authority, whose law and order responsibilities cover Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, has placed its view on record:That the Police Authority record its view that it cannot support the proposals for the introduction of a compulsory Football Supporters Identity Card Scheme as, in the opinion of the Authority, the scheme will not be an effective solution to hooliganism; it will have no impact on the hooliganism which occurs outside of football grounds (except to exacerbate this particular problem) and will result in an even greater drain on police manpower and resources".1248 That is a view with which I totally agree and it is a view which Ministers in this House cannot afford to ignore.
This is an ill-conceived scheme and is totally irrelevant in the light of progress that has been made. It may well be inoperable with the known weaknesses there will be in computer turnstile operations. Above all, to the soccer supporters it is a slur which demeans them to second-class sports followers. As a fervent supporter I object to being defined as such and that too is why I oppose this Bill.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, it will be noted that on the list of speakers the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, figures next, but with his usual friendliness he has agreed to change places with me because I have an important engagement which means leaving the Chamber rather early. I am most grateful to the noble Lord and it is typical of the relationship that all of us have with him.
I was a willing and eager ally of the noble Lords, Lord Graham, and Lord Harris, in wishing to draw attention to the meaning behind this Bill before it came to the Floor of the House for Second Reading. However, I was very disappointed in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, spoke; and I want to clear this point out of the way to get the House, if I can, on to a more sensible track for dealing with the Bill.
For example, the noble Lord said that he was putting the Labour Party view on this matter. What is a party view? I do not see the point in doing that. The noble Lord referred to the Prime Minister's beady eye. What is the point of that? This is a Bill which is of importance in its own right. It has nothing whatever to do with liking or disliking the Prime Minister. Therefore, I was rather sad that the noble Lord, who is a very effective parliamentarian himself, should have put the Bill on that basis. I am still his friend but he made a mistake.
The reason why I draw attention to that is because I want to encourage many of my noble friends on this side of the House to pay attention to the arguments, to bring in amendments and to support other amendments which I hope will eventually improve the Bill. If the noble Lord puts in the minds of my noble friends that what I am asking them to approve is the party view of the Labour Party, with its record of what its view in the past has led us to do, they will not be encouraged to give the practical help that I believe is necessary on this Bill. Therefore, I was sad at the noble Lord's attitude.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, raised a helpful point that I believe should be pursued. It was a warning to my noble friends who have to carry this Bill through the Committee stage later, and they ought to take heed of it. The argument on this Bill is not on Second Reading where we are merely debating the principle; the real battle will be in Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to Irish passports and asked what will happen in that respect. It is a good point. We want the answer to that. If I read the Bill correctly, a substantial amendment will have to be accepted by the Government in order to deal with the matter.
1249 I did not have the same sort of objection to the speech of the right reverend Prelate as did my noble friend. Much of the speech was pretty near the hone but he summed up what he wanted to say when he said, in effect "I want this Bill to be looked at on the basis of: will it help or will it hinder?" That is how I believe we should look at the Bill; not from a party point of view but as independent parliamentarians. That is our job here. As I understand it, we have already agreed to adhere to convention and give the Bill a Second Reading. Therefore, we know that any real wrecking that ought to be done will be done in the other place. That is up to the other place and it is not for us to tell them what to do. However, we have a job, constitutionally, to revise a Bill if we think it needs revision. That is our purpose in being here.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, many of us have been delighted to hear the last few sentences of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. Is the noble Lord saying—I put this question seriously and in no mocking tone—that it is agreed on his Benches that there will be a free vote on all subsequent stages of the Bill?
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, the noble Lord put that to me before. He knows perfectly well that I have no more right to speak for the Conservative Party than he has to speak for the Labour Party. In these matters we speak for ourselves. It is for the individual Members of Parliament using their experience both inside and outside of the House to get as good a Bill as they can that will eventually become legislation and to which the ordinary folk will have to adhere.
This is a Bill which I believe we can approach in that individual way because we are all agreed on the prime consideration behind it. Everyone wishes to minimise or eradicate hooliganism. There is no argument about that because it is generally accepted. It is also generally accepted that though it is not the only magnet that causes hooliganism, the football crowd has proved to be a magnet. Big or small it has proved itself to he a magnet somehow that has allowed those who wish to be hooligans to give vent to their hooliganism in a way that is distasteful to everybody.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that it is perfectly proper that any government of whatever complexion, in the face of what has occurred over recent years, would have to bring in a Bill of this kind. It need not necessarily be this Bill but a Bill to try to deal with hooliganism along these lines. We are agreed on that, and there is no need to extend it beyond those boundaries. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, made the point that Part I of this Bill as it stands will not interfere with hooliganism in other parts of the country. That is true and everyone knows that. But if we can deal with even a small segment which will improve the situation, however minuscule, to that extent we should do it. If we find that it works then the Government should bring in measures to try to deal with the other segments in other parts in order to see whether hooliganism can be eradicated. if the Government do not do so, then Parliament must get behind them.
1250 I wish to argue to my noble friends and to the House generally that we should use this Second Reading to let the noble Lord know who will be representing the Government when winding up. that we expect co-operation from the Front Bench in looking sensibly at the many amendments that we shall be tabling. At the moment this Bill is not acceptable in my view and we should try to get it to a point at which it can be acceptable. If that cannot be done, then we should try to get it as near to being acceptable as we can by the force of our arguments in this House so that the Bill goes to another place so much the better.
My approach is really summed up in the views expressed in a letter that was sent yesterday by Mr. Millichip, the chairman of the Football Association and Mr. Dunnett, the president of the Football League. This is not a leaked letter neither is it one that has been stolen in order to be passed on to me. It is a copy of a letter that they sent to me. The letter is addressed to the Minister in which they say that as regards the League and the Association:We both confirm again that we welcome the opportunity to participate in any scheme which will rid football of the hooligan element which has attached itself to the game".There we have the leaders of football admitting that this magnet of which I speak is associated with football. They undertake to play their part in trying to implement any Bill that eventually becomes a statute. That is anything that has gone through the test of this House and another place. I have no doubt that it will be a very rigid test. As a consequence of that I hope that it will be a better Bill.
The only point I wish to make to my noble friend and which will be extended when we reach the Committee stage, is one that 1 hope he will treat seriously. When we reach the Committee stage, I hope that my noble friend will recognise the significance of it. I personally hold the view—and it is clear that other noble Lords do also—that this Bill is impractical. However good it may be as a theory, once it gets out of the realms of theory and having to be applied in practice, it will not achieve what the Government hope for it.
Even with the many amendments that I hope will be presented and accepted, I do not see that Part I of the Bill will be capable of being made as practical as we should like it. I hope that I and others who share that view will be wrong once this Bill has gone through its various stages. Having said that I hope we are wrong, what about if we are right? What if it is impractical though it has passed the theoretical argument and become a statute?
I want to deal with that aspect because my personal amendments will refer to it. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, and I are tabling our amendments together. When the Bill has gone through the examination of both Houses and if it eventually becomes a statute, I want a provision accepted that will make it clear to the administrator and the committee that will have to organise it under the Act, that they are not to implement that Act over the whole field of football matches but that they will apply it gradually by segments. Perhaps it may be applied to the First Division, then the Second and the Third Division. Perhaps another idea can be produced. If our fears 1251 that the scheme cannot be worked prove to be the fact, then instead of imposing the problems that will flow from it over the whole of the country, one can allow the scheme to go through the testing ground before it can cause the damage that would be done if it were applied generally.
In my military days I remember when training that the first thing I was told was that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted. If the Bill reaches a point where it is worthy of becoming a statute, then despite the possible consequences that can flow from it being wrong, it should not be applied en bloc at once, but it should he brought in in a way that will minimise the damage that some of us believe may be caused. I believe that many of my noble friends wish to support their own government in their Bill. It was announced in the Gracious speech; and the Government are absolutely right in the way they are presenting it and what they have done. They have gone to a lot of trouble to organise meetings with everyone concerned and there has been a sharing of views. The result is this Bill.
I can well imagine that many of my noble friends will say, "If they have gone through that test with their usual thoroughness and if it is good enough for the Government, it is good enough for me". That is rather than the party view that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, said he represented. I say to my noble friends that if they have doubts despite their loyalty to want to support their government, it may be that those doubts would predominate in them wanting to oppose the Bill. However, if they know that there will be a try-out before it is applied generally it may give them the encouragement to support the kinds of amendments that time and time again they would feel they should not support.
It is with that hope in view that we shall approach this Bill as independent parliamentarians and not from any kind of emotional outside feelings and loyalty to clubs. Our loyalty is to seeing that the statute book of this country has on it statutes that are practical and sensible. Our loyalty is not to Tottenham or to Wolverhampton Wanderers, which is my club, or Peterborough United, which is the one that I supported when I represented that area in Parliament. Our responsibility is to get a good statute, and that is a job that we, as individuals, have a duty to perform.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, does he accept that the convention to which he referred is a parliamentary convention? It refers to whether this House should upset a decision of the elected Chamber. As this Bill has not yet been to the elected Chamber, does he not agree that the convention hardly applies?
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, it is a convention. There is no legal force behind it. I think it is a good convention, and generally speaking it is one to which I hope we shall adhere on this occasion.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, that is not the point. I asked the noble Lord whether he agrees that the convention is a parliamentary convention and 1252 deals only with relationships between the Commons and the Lords. As this Bill has not yet been to the Commons, does he think that the convention still applies?
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, if we ignore for a moment whether or not it is a convention, I understand that it has been agreed on all sides of the House that we shall not oppose the Bill's Second Reading.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, perhaps I may now be allowed to speak. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, is to follow me. When it is his turn he can speak for as long as he likes, but now that I have the Floor I shall hold it.
I should like to remind the House that we are talking about the Second Reading of a Bill. My parliamentary experience tells me that at Second Reading we say what we like, how we like and when we like. It means nothing at all. But after the Committee and Report stages the Bill finally emerges. In all seriousness the Government should consider very carefully what is said at Second Reading and should consider with people outside whether what they are proposing is practicable.
I put this point to the Government Front Bench and to all Conservative noble Lords. The Bill will introduce a national membership scheme. Every football club in the four divisions will have to have a membership scheme. I must ask the Government Front Bench whether it will work. Will every club be able to do it? Will the Government be able to introduce such a scheme by next year? I agree with what was said earlier that it is wrong to make this a party political matter. It has nothing to do with party politics. It is about football and what is best for the game.
I agree that there is the problem of hooliganism. It is a disaster. I ought to know—I know as much about the argument as most noble Lords present and certainly as much as the Minister for Sport. I have been president of Millwall Football Club for 25 years. I took over from his Grace the previous Duke of Norfolk. He did not even know that he was the president, which is fair enough. I try to make it work. I have been with Millwall through all its dull days as well as its good days. In the dull days in the Fourth Division, when applying for re-election to the league, I was the character who held the meeting with all the supporters. That was a terrible meeting by the way. It was held at the Dun Cow in the Old Kent Road. I told them that no law in the land says that they had to go to football matches.
My noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton has recently taken a great interest in Millwall. He said during his speech that the club had presented him with a tie. In all the years I have been associated with Millwall it has never given me anything. So perhaps he will put in a word for me down there and get me one of those ties. I did not even know that Millwall had them.
This is a national membership scheme. I ask Conservative supporters whether it is practicable to 1253 apply to a magnificent club like Liverpool, which has an attendance of 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000, the same rules as apply to a club like Leyton Orient, which has an attendance of about 2,500, or Hartlepool with an attendance of 3,000. Barnsley was mentioned. It has an attendance of about 6,000, which I suppose is not bad. For some of the teams, especially those in the Fourth Division, the scheme will be an absolute disaster. How can the Government apply the same scheme to them? Cannot the Government understand that those clubs cannot afford to lose support—and they will; they must.
Such clubs do not have hooliganism. One never hears of hooliganism at Leyton Orient, Hartlepool and so on. The problem of hooliganism has been blown up out of all proportion. I have never known the media to give such coverage. I give as a example the Luton v. Millwall game. It has been on every television screen. It has been featured and double covered. You name it. Everybody has seen the Luton v. Millwall game. The crowd invaded the pitch and the horses came on. The fans were smashed down with truncheons. It is a wonderful story. But let us have the background. I know something about it because I am a fairly lively president. The match was played at Luton. When the crowd turned up thousands of them could not get in. They had queued for three-quarters of an hour. Finally, after a great deal of hoo-ha, they did get in but had to pay £3, which is a good deal of money. They were then told that they could not see the game because there was no room for them.
What did they do? They went behind the crowd that was already there and pushed and shoved and created chaos to get their three quid's worth. The people in the front had no alternative but to go onto the pitch. It was either that or be killed or stoned to death. I am saying that when the story of hooliganism comes to be written, for God's sake let us put it in its right perspective. Let us understand why it happens. I was there that night and I saw it happen. By the way, for the benefit of the Luton management, the toilets were filthy. The ground conditions were deplorable. They have improved since.
Perhaps I may say in parenthesis that I was delighted to hear the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. The last time I saw him in action was on a cricket pitch; and he was jolly good then. His speech today was apt and right. He and I think alike on this matter. I do not object to the Bill as a Bill. I accept the argument at once that hooliganism must be dealt with. However, do the Government really believe that the way to do it is through a national membership scheme in which every club must do exactly the same? It is a fact that about half a dozen clubs are prepared to be the guinea pigs and to introduce a pilot scheme. Why not let them do it? Why not give them one year to see what happens. These are famous clubs. One of them is Norwich. If it works, let us apply it nationally. If it needs legislation, so be it.
I do not want to repeat what has already been said during the debate, but the story that the football clubs have done nothing at all to deal with the problem is a scandal. Does the House realise that the Football Athletic Trust gave £500,000, which is a 1254 great deal of money, for the provision of closed circuit television in the grounds? What a difference there is at Millwall now. A close community atmosphere has been built up involving the local council, the schools and the police. It is now a different story and a different world. By the way, the chairman is a Tory. What about that? He is a 100 per cent. Tory. He is sick to death of the idea of introducing such a scheme. It is daft. I speak for him, believe it or not. I am speaking for someone who is 100 per cent. Tory and I am saying: pack it up; it is a silly scheme and it will not work. We must get the matter into proportion.
I finish on this note. I do not propose to go on and bore the House any longer. I ask the Government to pay attention to what is said in Committee. Please believe that it is possible that the Minister for Sport and the Prime Minister are wrong. Please accept amendments. Please accept the idea that this is a national game and that we must cater for the small clubs as well as the large ones. The large clubs can look after themselves anyway. I am worried about the small clubs—clubs such as Leyton, Hartlepool and so on. If we do not look after them we shall completely destroy them. If we do that, we shall destroy the greatest game in the world.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Sefton of Carston
My Lords, perhaps I should explain why I asked a question of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. I asked about the convention which exists between the House of Commons and your Lordships' House. My reason was that this may not be the first time a Bill has received its Second Reading in this House, gone through its Committee and other stages, and then landed up in the House of Commons, where they have thrown it out. I am rather hopeful in this case that the House of Commons will throw out the Bill. It has nothing to do with football. I do not believe that the issue which we are debating today should be just about football. However, if it is, I think that we have heard enough about the difficulties which will be encouraged on football grounds by the presentation of this stupid Bill.
Surely no one in this House can now support the proposed scheme. We will not be in control of it, because it will be done by regulation. It will be run by people outside the field of Parliament. They arc the people who will decide who is exempt; they are the people who will decide the final scheme. No one must think that the scheme as outlined in the Bill will in fact work without damaging football.
Before the Heysel disaster—which had nothing to do with football hooliganism—Liverpool and Everton met at Wembley. All the press of this country praised the spectators of both teams, saying that it was a demonstration of how comradeship can properly be generated. How was it then that a few short months later Liverpool went to Heysel and we had that terrible disaster? The answer to that question is simple: there was too much commercialism at the Heysel stadium (the cheapest type of stadium) and a lack of safety regulations. But above all the major cause was the exploitation of young people by selling them alcohol.
1255 If the Government really want to tackle hooliganism—which is not related to football or any particular sport—they should really look at the record. Perhaps it would also be convenient if some of the football clubs looked at their records; the same applies to other sports in this country. For example, when commercialism entered cricket through Packer, it did not improve the image of cricket. Further, I can remember seeing "Pot Black" on the BBC; now the picture is very different. You could get a smile out of Fred Davis and Joe Davis; but now you cannot get a smile when two people are competing. Oh, no! They are not playing to win a game; they are playing to win£62,000.
If you trace sport throughout England and the world, you will find that the commercial element is completely destroying sport in its real sense. It has ceased to be a game; it has now become big business. We have reached a stage where, because some politicians think that something should be done about so-called football hooliganism, they are going to pick on the game of football. Can we really believe that the Ministers on the Front Bench opposite are discriminating against football? Is their attitude that there really is a serious problem in football? Do they believe that it is a big problem. that our reputation in the world, as was said, is being damaged by the hooliganism associated with football and that this is the only way that they can stop hooliganism?
This is the Government which decided to liberalise the drinking laws. This is the Government which led us to a situation where any young person, without any experience at all, can sit in an open place, drink beer and then have a riot in all those rural areas. This is the Government which have done that. Why was it done'? It was done to pander to the commercial lobby. If you really want to tackle hooliganism: tackle it at its roots in society.
I sometimes wonder whether the Government really want to achieve a good reputation abroad. We hear about the football hooliganism abroad that is supposed to bring a bad reputation to this country. But I wonder why someone suggested that British bobbies should go to the Spanish Costa del Sol in order to assist the Spanish police to get rid of the hooliganism caused by British visitors. There is a simple way to resolve that problem, and I am all in favour of it. If anyone goes abroad and commits violent acts of disorder and brings the good name of this country into disrepute, the solution is simple: take away his passport. He does not deserve one. As I say, I would be all in favour of that. But that is not the present law.
This new legislation seeks not only to victimise football as a sport; it seeks to victimise innocent people. It strikes at the very freedom of the individual. That is why I thought that perhaps the other Chamber may well decide to throw it out on Second Reading. If some of our aged politicians stick to what they have said over the years, then they certainly will do so.
When the Bill was first printed I occupied myself by doing a little reading. I went to a hook called A Case for Conservatism by Quintin Hogg. In that book he 1256 spoke about freedom. I am sure that Members on the other side of the House will know it almost by heart, especially the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. A considerable proportion of the book is devoted to denouncing a Labour Government because that Government dared to introduce a Bill which allowed regulations to stay in force for two years. Well, what have we here? This is not a regulation which will stay in force for two years. Here is a deliberate Bill which sets out to put power into the hands of a committee, allied to the Minister, in order to restrict my freedom and everyone's freedom.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, the Bill will say, "You can't go to a football match when you like, unless you have an identity card". Let us follow through the idea of the identity card. There is no doubt that if Quintin Hogg—if we are to accept all the great philosophies which he put into that book—is right, then it is fundamentally wrong to take away the liberty of an innocent subject and place it in the hands of an extra-parliamentary body without that body being responsible to Parliament. That is what the Bill does.
I am not appealing to anyone to get rid of the Bill on the grounds that it will pose difficulties for footballers. God knows, football has created some awful problems itself. I have already mentioned Everton and Liverpool and the good name which they had. They used to proudly sing on the Kop, "We are the best supporters in the land"—and they were. But, things change. At the time when they liberated the ability of players to negotiate for higher and higher wages, 1 said, "Okay, you do it; but you are taking the spirit out of football".
If a player on a football pitch is running down the pitch and sees the goal in front of him and between him and that goal there happens to be an opponent, is it not right that we have almost accepted the cliché of a professional foul? It is in order; it is accepted. If you arc going to get a goal and someone stands in your way then, "Take the legs from under him". The player is not fighting to score a goal; he is probably fighting for a winning bonus. That is what poisons sport, and I think that we should learn a lesson from that example.
Let me quote Steve Heighway who, as some noble Lords may know, was once a famous Liverpool player. He is coming back to Anfield and he is very pleased to do so. He has been in America and is quoted this morning—of all days—in a newspaper talking about football in America. He said:Millions of kids are playing, even though the game collapsed at professional level because team owners were losing too much money".When one hears certain chairmen of football clubs talking about buying and selling football clubs and using the ground in order to carry out development, cannot one see the same thing happening? He goes on to say:It needed selfless players who are ready to put something back into the game—but instead it attracted fast-buck merchants who milked the clubs and who didn't do justice to the sport".Surely there is a lesson to be learnt there.
1257 The important thing to note about Liverpool Football Club is that it is bringing back Heighway to establish a system whereby he will fulfil the useful social purpose of encouraging kids on Merseyside to play football for the love of the game. That is the important thing. When a club with a proud history such as that of Liverpool is doing that, what do the Government do? They foolishly intend to place more burdens on the club. In the end, the burden will become so great that the club will be unable to carry out that kind of activity. It is not just Liverpool; other clubs are doing the same thing.
The Government say that there is a major problem. I wrote to the Minister and asked him what consultations the Government had had with the Association of Chief Police Officers and what the result was. Neither of the Ministers is here. Perhaps they thought that I would raise the point. It was downright misleading for the Minister to refer to ACPO and give the impression that a consultation took place with it. No such thing happened. All that happened was that ACPO was represented on the working party. Of course it was outvoted on the working party. If proper consulation took place with it, as has been indicated by my noble friend Lord Mason, the result would be that ACPO was opposed to the proposal.
I shall not deal with the figures that have already been dealt with, but I have a duty to deal with the figures that relate to the clubs that matter most to me. I shall deal with Liverpool, which has a fine history in national football. I shall remind the House, as an aside, that it was a Liverpool city engineer who stopped an awful lot of disputes on the football field by suggesting that if people could not agree who kicked the ball between the poles, they should put a net at the hack of it. I shall tell the House something else. In 1935 I was a shareholder member and helped establish a football club called South Liverpool. It is the only club in the country that can boast of the fact that it has royal permission to use royal colours on its strip. It is sad to reflect that it cannot afford them because that kind of shirt costs much more than a plain shirt. I am proud of that club. It was also the first club to have permission from the Football League to play a game under floodlighting.
There is another small point which may be of interest to football supporters. That club played the first game in Great Britain in which the opposing side played in bare feet. I am glad to report that South Liverpool won. I am sorry to report that my wife strained her ankle when she stepped down the wrong step.
However, I also wrote to the Chief Constable of Liverpool. He gave me some figures. He dealt with 24 fixtures at Anfield and Everton. He gave the total attendance of 1,812,000 people in one season. He then gave the figures of the crimes reported to the police at the times mentioned in the Bill—two hours before and two hours after the match. He gave the figures for the terrible crimes that have been commited in the name of, or associated with, football. First, he gave thefts from motor vehicles. Thefts from motor vehicles occur at any time when there are plenty of motor vehicles. The ones that should concern us are thefts from the person and 1258 woundings. In the case of Everton, there were four thefts from the person. We are talking about millions of people. There were 15 woundings. I am glad to report that in Liverpool—one would perhaps guess that I am somewhat biased towards the reds—there were only 10 thefts from the person and there were no woundings. That is out of 1,812,623 people who attended those two clubs. Is that major crime?
Only last week I read of a rugby player—I am not sure whether it was rugby league or rugby union, because I am not very well up with the oval ball—
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
That player was found guilty of kicking an opposing player in the face. That is considerably worse than any of the woundings I have seen here.
Is that the full story? No, it is not. I asked the chief constable to let me know about the ordinary violence that occurs at other times. The times that I asked him for were those which would relate to nightclubs and beer. A different story emerges, because he also gave me the story of drinking and driving. The Government are not suggesting that we do anything serious about drinking and driving. If a person goes into a public house, gets himself into a state and then gets into a car—this has been mentioned—he can kill or maim someone, with all the horrible consequences of that for the person's family; and he should not be allowed to go into a pub. Anyone found guilty of drinking and driving should have to produce an identity card even to go into a public house. We should have the same kind of restrictions if we are intent of getting rid of these evils. Similar restrictions should be imposed on public houses and entry into them.
Let me return to the incidents of crime. Let us remember that there were 10 in the case of Liverpool. The chief constable gave the figure for offences of violence (January to November between the hours of 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.) as 2,860. If the Government want a problem, that is the problem to look at. There were 44,800 incidents of disorder, apart from offences of violence, over roughly the same period. Are the Government doing anything about that? As my noble friend Lord Graham said, the Government are not doing anything about it; they are taking up Parliament's time to annoy people and to take away the liberty of the subject.
What does Mill have to say? Page 10 of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty states:The majority have not yet learnt to feel the power of the Government their power, or its opinions their opinions. When they do so, individual liberty will probably be as much exposed to invasion from the Government as it already is from public opinion".Does not that strike a note with regard to the Bill? That was John Stuart Mill, so ably praised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, in his Case for Conservatism as being the true exponent of freedom.
The abolition of the right to belong to a trade union, the destruction of local representation on health committees, and on, and on, and on. Whenever there is a problem, the Government have a firm record of clamping down. What damage is 1259 caused if someone in GCHQ joins a trade union? Do the Government condemn trade unionism as such? Once they start along that road that will be the next step. Go along this road, with the removal of individual liberty from innocent people and the next step is identity cards for everyone. The Government are even talking of a voluntary identity card system.
Let me conclude on this note: I invite everyone in the House to consider the convention. The Bill has not been to the other place. When Members of the House start getting confused about what the other place has done and what some of the leading lights in the Tory Party think should be done, we must look closely at parliamentary convention. I believe, contrary to what has been said, that we should not stick to any convention. I am prepared to divide the House. I am not too certain that I shall have a seconder. I shall not waste my time trying to divide the House unless someone volunteers his services to me as a seconder.
The Bill embraces such important provisions for the preservation of democracy that we had better be very careful before we ego even half way towards accepting the idea of identity cards being imposed as a necessity upon individuals who are innocent of every crime.
I remember when the Tory Party used to regale us with terrible stories that if this country went Socialist we should all be herded, identified, and slapped into cells because of the overriding power of the state to determine where we were, who we were, when we were and what we were doing. The Tory Party used that as a rod to break a liberal-minded Labour Party. They used it in reference to Russia. How ironic it is that at a time when we are talking about glasnost in Russia, all we hear from the Government is about more and more restrictions on liberty every day that they are in office.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, with not quite such wide-ranging polemics as he achieved and return to the subject of the Bill. That is of course to deal with what most people recognise as a serious problem in football. The noble Lord commenced his speech by saying that the Bill should be thrown out by the Commons. He made it very plain that he regretted that he could not throw it out here as well. Therefore the point of view from which he looked at the matter was not entirely constructive.
The parts of his speech which I enjoyed most were his references to his past hero, Steve Heighway. I agree with the noble Lord that he was a wonderful player, and I am delighted to hear that Steve Heighway is back in Liverpool playing a useful part there with the young. I do not doubt that that will he good for the future of Liverpool or possibly Everton.
However, there is a case to answer. My noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Harmar-Nicholls have both made the case out and I think there has been a certain amount of agreement elsewhere that there is a case to answer which justifies the Government taking action. Football violence and 1260 football hooliganism have steadily worsened year by year. The facts are there. Over the past 25 years football audiences have diminished by half. That is a tremendous drop, to the embarrassment of many small clubs. Football clubs are banned from playing in Europe. What a sad day!
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, made some good points in regard to the English and Scots and how well their clubs have done. However, we were the leaders in football at one time. Look where we are now. In addition, there is the reputation and good name of England; and Britain in Europe. Our name has undoubtedly suffered from the most unhappy and violent incidents that have occurred when our teams have been playing away matches in Europe in the past year or two.
No government could sit down and do nothing. They have an absolute obligation both to the British public—many of whom have suffered with unpleasantness, disturbance, violence and even damage to property—and the football clubs. There must be many people in the clubs who would like to see some action. It is obviously for the government of the day to take action and come up with a scheme. I agree with my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls that the Government must be congratulated on their courage in doing so. It is a great anxiety to the Government and to myself as a supporter to find noble Lords opposite expressing with such passionate strength their opposition to the Bill, particularly the leading speaker, Lord Graham of Edmonton.
Leaving out the passion I take on board the point that there is general opposition throughout the clubs. I understand that, especially with some of the leading clubs. Manchester United were good enough to send me a copy of their presentation. Very good it is too. It is first-rate and most interesting. The club has an excellent record in every way, and is extremely well-organised. Everything is working peacefully and very well in that famous club. If every other club in the country could do so, there would be no problem. However, the fact is that they cannot do it.
If it were left to voluntary schemes, many clubs simply could not get a scheme going which would be effective in controlling the hooligans who go around and pester people. They do not necessarily come from the clubs. After all, there are gangs of hooligans who move about the country, going from one ground to another, causing trouble for everybody. They are joined by some of the local youngsters who are looking for a hit of fun. Then the fat is in the fire.
That is the situation with which the Government are faced. It is why I think that logic brings us to the point where we must have a national scheme. If we are to do so, then it must be a national membership scheme valid throughout the country. That is quite obviously the logic which was seen by the working party who put the scheme forward as being the right solution. Obviously the Football League and the Football Association who were represented on the working party did not like that. However, they have been good enough to say that they will co-operate because clearly they must play a major part in the football membership authority. They must work out 1261 a scheme which will apply to the whole country. That is what we all want to see.
I do not know whether my noble friends will be able to put the suggestion in a form which can be recognised by Parliament. Obviously there is great interest on all sides in ensuring that the scheme comes out right. Although passionate political points have been made from the other side, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, about the liberty of the subject, and so on, there has never been a cause affecting the game of football—of which we are all proud in this country—where we ought to put our heads together to try to find the best answer. We ought to get down to the matter in Committee and try to hammer out the difficulties which, as has been rightly said, will face the little clubs in the Third and Fourth Division on how they take action.
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I understand and respect his argument as I always do. But how does he explain the attitude of the police? I am talking about the police as a whole who have said that in their view the scheme would do more harm than good if it were imposed nationally. That is why I go back to my earlier theme: why can we not start with a pilot scheme and see how it works?
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
My Lords, I always listen to the noble Lord with interest and respect because he speaks good sense. He may be right; that may be the right way of proceeding. At the end of the day, the police must be carried with the scheme, it will never work without them. They have done tremendous work over the past few years in keeping order and avoiding a great deal of violence in football grounds. Of course the co-operation of the police must be won and I am sure that my noble friend is fully aware of that. Whatever is finally settled as the outline of the scheme must satisfy the police as being workable so that they can join in and play a major part in making the scheme work as well as we hope it will.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Mellish, of course the police must be carried along. But the national identity scheme seems to be the only logical answer to a national problem. It has been most impressive to hear the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, speaking about the Scots' experience; but there are relatively few clubs in Scotland. My word, those clubs have done well to get the control that they have done there!
However, our picture is vastly greater, and I believe we must go for a national membership identity card scheme. What must clearly be done by my noble friend Lord Caithness, the Minister for Sport, and Ministers generally, is to get the rudiments of the scheme put before the new football membership authority. It will then work on the scheme and get it into some sort of shape which will win the support of the police, and at least be generally acceptable to clubs. It must be acceptable because the clubs have to work it. If it is best to proceed with a pilot scheme, well and good; let us do so for at least a season and see how it goes. I foresee difficulties; but, nevertheless, the point must be looked at. I make that point broadly because we have all been making rather 1262 long speeches. Here is a national problem. We are all interested in seeing that the right solution is achieved. We on this side must look to noble Lords on the other side for co-operation in this matter. We want the best thought to be given to this matter from everybody, so that we can try and find the right answers to a national problem.
We shall obviously have some very interesting debates in Committee from noble Lords who know all about the working of clubs. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, must know an awful lot about that after his experiences at Millwall. We really want the very best thought to be given to this, so that we can hammer out the best possible Bill.
If the Bill is then approved by the Commons, it will go onto the statute book. Then the real problem will begin as regards the football membership authority implementing it for the country. I support my noble friends who have bravely put forward this Bill. It tackles a major national problem which needs tackling. I believe we can look with some confidence to noble Lords on the other side, and indeed on all sides, to help us find the right answers in Committee.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, I feel that I do not have to justify the fact that I have always spoken on the side of crime prevention. Therefore, anything I say about this Bill does not imply that I do not accept that there is a problem. There is a problem with hooliganism in shopping centres and at railway stations. It is not always the product of people going to football matches. We would be very foolish if we thought that by merely implementing the provisions of this Bill, we would cure the problem of hooliganism.
We have listened to some splendid speeches and I have no intention of repeating their contents. But it is rather unfortunate that the implication has appeared to be that football supporters are all male. I should be interested to know how many women figure in the number of arrests.
I have followed a football team. This is the time for me to declare an interest. I notice that noble Lords on the other side often declare in a debate that they went to Harrow, Eton or to university. I declare that although I did not go to Harrow or Eton, I attended a good convent and I have followed Fulham Football Club for the whole of my life. I went to matches with my husband, my father and my son. My son takes his 13 year-old daughter to Fulham's home and away matches every week. They are the kind of football supporters we are talking about. Those kind of supporters form the majority.
This legislation is being enacted to deal with the minority. I was told to bring my Fulham scarf with me, but I have left it outside. It would be much more appropriate if we issued everybody with a supporter's scarf to denote that they are football supporters. I personally would resent being described as a designated supporter. There is an implication that one intends to do something wrong before one even arrives at the ground. if I go to watch ballet or listen to opera, I am not described as a designated member of the audience. Why do we select this particular 1263 game for this particular treatment? I accept that hooliganism is with us. But what I do not accept is that we can single out one area for treatment and then think that we have solved the whole problem.
We must look at the cost of this. Several noble Lords have mentioned a figure of £2.5 million. But that figure of£2.5 million will have to be spent every year to operate the scheme. The scheme will involve an increase in the work of the courts and that of the Crown Prosecution Service. That increase is foreseen in the Bill. So obviously the Government do not think that the membership card scheme will stop hooliganism. If they did, they would not be envisaging more police and more courts. That money could be far better spent. If one merely increased the number of police at grounds, that would be helpful.
The ground at Fulham is situated on the river in the middle of houses. Fulham Football Club is now in the Third Division. If the Bill goes through, it will completely bankrupt small clubs like Fulham. Those clubs provide a great deal of pleasure and entertainment to many people. What will this legislation achieve? It will not prevent one incident of hooliganism at Fulham because it does not exist there anyway. Some people may say that Fulham does not play a very good game. Nevertheless, there is a marvellous quality at the matches. Nothing on the box will ever replace the feeling of being part of the audience. That is a wonderful feeling and it is linked with the borough.
Sadly, Fulham fell into the hands of a property developer who had a heart attack and died. I am not quite sure why that occurred, but at least the Almighty has delayed the club's fate a little. But there is no doubt that this measure will be a sad day for many small clubs. Further, is the measure workable? I have heard all sorts of costs mentioned as regards the membership scheme. It has been said that it will cost about £11 per card. The Bill states very clearly:The cost of the Football Membership Authority and the installation of equipment at grounds and the issue of membership cards…is a matter for the football authorities.So, having been issued with the cards a group of visitors come to a ground and face these wonderful machines. I have said before that I am a bit of a Luddite as regards machines. Special machines will have to be installed in order to get people through the entrances. If this scheme turns out to be like that operated on the Underground, it will certainly not move people through faster.
I watched someone on the Underground the other day who had a rogue card, which held up everybody. The lady in question tried to offer it to the ticket collector and bypass the machine. But we all know that the British ethos is to use the system. So she had to go back, use the machine and hold up everybody. I am not imagining that these things happen. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, has left the Chamber. One of my staff had a bad experience in one of his shops the other day. Some machinery had been installed which suddenly broke down on a Saturday afternoon. About 1,000 people were in the shop, and they had to be locked in. Absolute chaos ensued. That is the nature of the beast that we shall be handling.
1264 I am sure that many noble Lords will have had the experience of lining up in those ridiculous queues at railway stations like King's Cross, Euston and Waterloo. I believe the only station that has not instituted them is Paddington. One waits in the queue and just about five minutes before one's train is due to depart the queue is allowed to move through the barrier. At that point chaos prevails. Heaven help the handicapped, the elderly and mothers with young children in that situation. It is everyone for himself.
I can just envisage such a situation outside a small club like Fulham. I can imagine a group of travelling supporters arriving for a match. If a machine is not operating properly, they will promote a riot. That is what happens when someone has paid good money and he is stopped from entering a ground. That person will be aggravated and his anger will spill over. This whole measure must be thought out very carefully.
This Bill is one of those where the Government will make rules up as they go along. I notice that in the Bill an authorised spectator is any person authorised by the Secretary of State, the licensing authority or someone administering the scheme. That gives us a pretty wide choice. Further, the authorities must obtain information if someone has committed an offence. How will they get that information? That, surely, is a breach of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and certain other things. I noticed that one noble Lord mentioned that the information on offences was not accurate. That is true of every situation. But the only way that the Home Office can operate the measure is by collecting information on the arrests that are made. I was delighted to hear the right reverend Prelate make the point with which we all agree. I hope that we all share that feeling. If we provided our young people with more opportunities to enjoy their leisure, hooliganism would not exist. In my borough there are 75,000 inhabitants, but there is just one swimming pool.
When I was teaching I thought that it was a terrible shame that, while one encouraged the children to follow the arts, literature and sport when they left school, the opportunities for them to do so were very limited. Of course they turn to the pubs, there are plenty of them, and the shopping centres. An undesirable element become football hooligans.
However, most football supporters just want to support their team and enjoy themselves. They are not rogues, they are not villains, they are not hooligans. This Bill seems to me to be taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Do not bring in everyone.
There are so many amendments that could be made to the Bill. I am very sorry that it has been introduced. I must say that as a supporter I feel insulted.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, I noted in the press that this Bill is fiercely opposed by the football authorities, the clubs, the fans, the police, the Opposition and many Conservative Members of Parliament. However, I am not convinced that the 1265 general public is opposed to the Bill. In that group I must include myself and I should like to explain why.
In the few weeks running up to the introduction of this Bill there has been a general denigration and condemnation of its proposals. It may be that the opposition to the Bill is so strong that it has obtained more publicity in the press than any other point of view. However, I am not inclined to that view quite simply because I think that some radical action has now to be taken on the matter. I feel very strongly on the subject. I think that we all do and we have heard some very strong speeches this afternoon. They have all been good humoured and I trust that all speeches will be.
My credentials for taking part are merely those of many noble Lords who have participated in the debate, a lifetime interest and participation in sport, although at the moment I see football only on television. I thought that I should say that before anyone else made that point.
I shall start from what I think must be common agreement. What is that common agreement? First, when I see drunken supporters abroad I have a feeling of shame. There is no other word to describe it: it is a real sense of shame. Strangely enough, when I see drunken supporters at home at our football grounds I feel disgust. I do not know the reason for the difference, but that is how I feel.
When I see people rampaging at football grounds, whether it is at one ground or hundreds of grounds, and when I see them outside the grounds or in trains—and goodness knows in London we know what happens on the Underground after football matches—I think that everyone in this Chamber must be in agreement that we must condemn such behaviour. It just will not do. Whether we condemn it or not it has led to our banishment from Europe. There is no getting away from that fact. In Europe we are loathed and feared.
I believe that such behaviour has made our football a focus for violence, certainly in European eyes and, I believe, in the eyes of many people who are often forgotten—the householders, small businesses and pubs in proximity to many of our football grounds. I think that it is sometimes forgotten what effect such behaviour has on many of them. Obviously some will disagree and say that football is not a focus for violence and that their particular club is not a victim of hooliganism. It is true that all clubs are not victims of hooliganism but I think that there must he common agreement that what we see on television is quite unacceptable.
That is why I am not opposed to the Bill. I am waiting to see what will come out of it. I believe that we have reached the stage where strong and effective action has to be taken and the time for voluntary action is past. Where we differ is in what action should be taken.
Without going into the details of the Bill, it will he obvious that many of the points that have been raised today are suitable points for a Second Reading debate because they can be argued and the Minister will be able to answer them.
I take the view, which has not been mentioned today, that if the Prime Minister had not felt strongly 1266 about the matter we should not have had this action. That I have always believed and I still do. I know that that view will not be popular with some people. but for many months now I have felt that the football authorities were dragging their feet. I know that we have heard lots of examples of what has been done. But mostly we have heard reasons advanced by football authorities as to why this, or that or the other would not work. My mind kept turning to Luton where effective action has been taken. I know full well that people will say that what has been done at Luton is not possible in this Bill and is not being done through this Bill. However, I think that there is not the slightest doubt that what has taken place at Luton has made it a great deal better for the families who want to watch matches and for the people who live around the club.
From there I tried to think which points attracted the most vehement opposition from people who are opposed not only to the Bill but to any action at all. Every noble Lord will have his own points. I have only four and I shall not take long. The first point I noted was the curtailment of civil liberty; the second was violence being transported outside the ground; the third was cost; and the fourth was bankruptcy for clubs.
I do not think that the argument about curtailment of civil liberty stands up. Surely one cannot talk about threats to civil liberties when one looks at what has been happening at some grounds and in Europe. What about the ordinary decent people who just want to watch football? They have civil liberties too. What about the families who are now afraid to go to watch football because of the behaviour on the terraces? I give threats to civil liberties no marks at all. I do not think that the argument stands up because the civil liberties of everybody are affected.
What about the question of violence being transported outside the grounds? We have heard a lot about that. If hooligans cannot get into the ground, is it likely that they will travel there just to cause trouble? As was said in another place during a debate, those involved in football violence will act in groups in a crowd in ways in which they would not act as individuals in the street.
Many of us, probably all of us, received a letter from Mr. Stott, the Chairman of the Football League Anti-Hooliganism Committee. He writes:What is likely to happen is that hardcore hooligans will neither apply for membership cards nor go anywhere near the grounds".I know that he goes on to say that they will transfer their activities elsewhere, but I am concerned with the fact that I do not believe that hooligans will go to the ground if they cannot get in. l should have thought that that was quite obvious.
Then there is my third point: what about the cost? So many estimates have been made and so many figures plucked out of the air that truly it seems to me that we have no firm and reliable estimates. I have read Mr. Arthur Young's conclusions—I have a copy of them with me—but I do not think that we have any firm and reliable estimate of what the cost will be. The cost of membership cards has been calculated at various figures, but at the same time the point has been made that skilled and inventive managership 1267 could devise a scheme so that cards would be free and even beneficial to their clubs. However, we just do not know.
I suppose that many noble Lords, and probably all those taking part in today's debate, attended the demonstration given recently in this House by GEC when the type of membership card and turnstiles that could be used were shown. I understand that one of the main objections of the football authorities has been that current technology cannot deal quickly enough with the large crowds involved. Perhaps the Minister can tell me when he comes to reply whether I am correct in assuming that the Government would not have the intention of imposing (though probably that is the wrong word) this Bill, if it is carried, upon the clubs until they have assured themselves that the technology for admission to the grounds is correct. I think that that is so, but I should be very grateful if the Minister would mention it in his reply.
The question has been raised of bankruptcy for some clubs. I think we must accept that some clubs would not survive. However, I am sceptical when we are continually told that clubs in general cannot afford such a scheme. I remain even more sceptical when I read equally continually about the transfer fees that are paid. One has only to look at the back page of the Evening Standard this evening to see the size of those transfer fees. I do not believe that there is a shortage of money there.
In conclusion one could argue indefinitely the pros and cons of membership cards, electronic turnstiles and possible costs. As an outsider, albeit a keenly interested one, I wish that the Football League and the Football Association would consider the possible advantages of dealing with this problem and not dwell only on the possible disadvantages. I honestly believe that hooliganism infringes the civil liberties of the general public and that radical change is needed if English clubs are once again to be acceptable in Europe.
For that reason 1 think that we should try to consider the Government's Bill without prejudice. In this House we are very good at examining Bills and we should look at what amendments we can devise to improve the Bill. However, when we come to the end of that road, we should either accept the plan that is ultimately put forward or have another to put in its place. Quite honestly, I believe that if we do not do something about this problem, football as we would all wish to see it in this country will be finished.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Lord Knights
My Lords, as the noble Earl the Minister commented, the problems of violence and hooliganism associated with the playing of football are not new. Indeed, all through the Middle Ages when it first developed as a local mob activity it was so rough and dangerous that it had to be curbed and sometimes wholly forbidden by law.
So far as concerns the modern game, the emphasis has been mainly on safety, culminating as it did in the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975. While many people may be surprised at the introduction of this Bill, it is perhaps more surprising that some approach 1268 of this kind has not been taken sooner. It is now 22 years since Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary first drew attention to the developing problem, when, in his Annual Report for 1967, he said:During the year much publicity was given to outbreaks of hooliganism by certain sections of football crowds, often associated with vandalism in the vicinity of the football ground and on train journeys to and from matches".We tend to forget that it had become a common practice long before then for trouble to break out when neighbouring clubs played each other, but the development in the 1960s of the almost universal five-day week created for the first time the opportunity for fans regularly to travel about the country with their clubs, and so create widespread confrontations.
In more recent years we have seen the emergence of organised gangs who have little real interest in football but who travel to matches specifically to cause trouble in the crowds. There is no way in which we can turn the clock back, but clearly the answer to the problem must be to keep the violent fans away.
However, while the Bill may not he unexpected, I believe that certain aspects of it are somewhat unique. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, said, in order to deal with what are generally regarded as small gangs of irresponsible hooligans who are almost exclusively males and in general not very young—the average age of 75 per cent. of them is between 17 and 25 years—one section only of the community at large, the football spectators, is to be inconvenienced. It is debatable how many of them there are. We have heard figures of 5 million and on one occasion this afternoon I think the figure of 10 million was mentioned. I believe that it is nearer 450,000 regular attenders every Saturday and perhaps I million in all.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to the form of legislation. Moreover, football clubs, like other places of public entertainment, are private areas. As with theatres and cinemas, they are required to be licensed and to conform with statutory safety requirements. It has always been the responsibility of the owner to ensure proper conduct on the part of the members of the public who go there, not that of the police or the Government. It is for them to decide who shall or shall not be admitted to their areas and who shall or shall not be permitted to stay there.
This Bill will create a situation in which that decision will largely be no longer the responsibility of the football club but will be taken for it by some remote football membership authority appointed by the Secretary of State. If such departures from the normal are to be justified, it may be felt that a clear need must first be shown for the proposed legislation; in other words, what is the problem which it is felt necessary to ameliorate?
As the Government see it, football is a focus for violence and there is a need to break the link between the two. Others have claimed that there is no real evidence of this and point to the considerable improvements which, on a subjective view at least, have taken place in recent years. One no longer hears of football trains being wrecked or motorway service 1269 areas being pulled apart. We no longer, or very rarely, see 100 or more supporters being arrested at a match at one time, as used to be the case, certainly in the 1970s.
It is rightly claimed that the number of arrests last year—6,147 out of 18 million attendances—is a much better proportion than the total number of arrests made in the adult population as a whole. It is also said that many of those arrests would have been made outside the ground for offences such as drunkenness or theft from cars. The Bill does not address itself to that aspect of the problem.
All I can add to that argument is that in the county of West Midlands, where they have six League football clubs, the percentage of arrests made within the ground has varied between 31 per cent. in 1985–86 to 53 per cent. this season to date. As to the offences for which the arrests were made in one recent year, at least 68 per cent. of the arrests were made for public order offences and related matters and 20 per cent. for drink offences. Therefore 12 per cent. were for theft from motor cars and so on. However, noble Lords may think that these figures for arrests are not a very good criterion by which to judge the position or the need for this legislation, bearing in mind that an incident involving perhaps 100 rioting hooligans might well result in only five or six arrests. What about the obscene chanting, and racial abuse and taunting that goes on on the terraces? Those probably lead to no arrests.
Having said that, I believe that it is accepted that there has been a general improvement in the last two or three years as the result of measures which were outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. However, 1 believe that the potential is still there.
The police have expressed the view recently that the threat of violence is never far below the surface and in order to keep it there large numbers of police have to be deployed throughout the nine months of the football season. The few offences that it is claimed are committed may be the result of that heavy policing presence rather than the absence of any potential.
So far as I am aware there are not authenticated national figures for the cost of this policing. The Minister referred to 4,000 or 5,000 or more officers being employed on one day. Figures of £30 million or £40 million have been published as the total cost. Certainly, in the West Midlands area on a Saturday when there are three home matches, 450 police officers are deployed for duty in and around the grounds, of whom 200 are paid for by the clubs because they are assisting their stewards in controlling the queues at turnstiles, keeping gangways clear and preventing encroachment on the playing area. These are all matters that are not part of official police duty. On Saturdays when there are only two home matches, the figures are reduced to 330 in total on duty, with 150 being paid for. If the hooligan element and the potential for trouble could be reduced, these figures could undoutedly also be reduced very considerably.
There will always be a need for some officers to control traffic and pedestrian movement outside the 1270 grounds, many of which are in densely built up areas and unsuitable for the purpose for which they are used. There will always be a need for some officers to help with stewarding in the grounds also. However, as an example of what can be done, since Luton introduced its "members only" scheme the policing needs in and around its ground have been reduced by as much as 75 per cent., although some of this reduction must be attributed to the reduction in attendance figures, which it is suggested is as high as 25 per cent.
However, noble Lords may well agree that a continuing drain on police resources of the current magnitude cannot be defended. Some further action is now demanded with a view to reducing it. One would have hoped to see more positive action from the football clubs themselves. But, in its absence, it seems to me that the Government have little option but to put forward their own solution. The key question is whether the proposed scheme will provide the answer. I believe that it should stand or fall on its own merits and not seek to be justified by some possible commercial return.
On the position within the grounds, I believe that the Bill could be the answer. Outside the grounds is a different matter. While visiting groups of hooligans may well be deterred from attending because of their inability to get into the ground, there is certainly a possibility that the local ones may still attend simply to prey on the hopefully well-behaved visiting fans unless police action can prevent this.
As to the Bill, I understand that the Football Association and the Football League have now agreed to play a major part in the football membership authority. I welcome this very much, if only because it will serve to emphasise that it is the football clubs which are responsible for the conduct of the spectators they choose to allow into their grounds. How the authority relates to the administrator referred to in Clause 3(1) or the Bill I am not sure. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us on this. I am also concerned at the suggestion that the membership authority will be able to withdraw membership, if it so chooses, from persons who are ejected from the ground. Ejecting people who have become trespassers by virtue of the fact that they have offended against the club's ground regulations—which is the basis of such action—is a civil rather than a criminal matter. It sits rather unhappily against the criminal offences which also lead to withdrawal of membership.
I am also concerned that it will be the police who have to play such a vital part in the success of this scheme if the Bill becomes law. We have heard several comments this afternoon on the police view. I cannot speak for the police service. It would be quite wrong if I were to seek to do so. However, comments of the Police Federation have been quoted. They were in an editorial in the Police Federation magazine. I am not aware of the extent to which they reflect the views of the Police Federation and the Joint Central Committee. I believe that chief officers of police are probably as divided in their views as are most other people. I do not believe that they will voice any opposition to the general principle of the scheme, accepting that if a membership system is inevitable 1271 the Government's proposals are probably acceptable. However, I am sure that they will have some apprehension about the possible consequences. In particular, they will be anxious to ensure that the new regime does not involve higher levels of policing. There has been talk, for example, of one, sometimes two, police officers being required on every turnstile.
I am sure that noble Lords will wish to ensure—and the police will certainly be looking for it—that before the scheme starts the technology will have been thoroughly tested and will be robust enough to ensure that turnstile checking can be done with as little interference to the flow of spectators as possible. At Aston Villa last Saturday afternoon when the club was playing a cup match against Wimbledon, 69 turnstiles were in operation. Each of those turnstiles at 10 minutes before the kick off was allowing three persons in every two seconds. To slow that down can lead only to considerable congestion. I believe that there will have to be some provision in the rules of the authority to allow spectators to be admitted without checking, perhaps on the authority of the club secretary supported by the senior officer on duty, if circumstances of that kind develop.
The police must be fully consulted by the membership authority when settling the details of the scheme in order that the practical consequences and difficulties of what is being proposed can be taken fully into account. I believe that this also applies to Part II of the Bill. While the provisions there are to be welcomed, much is being asked of the reporting agencies. It must be borne in mind that not all police stations—which it is suggested may be the reporting point—are permanently manned on Saturday afternoons.
There is much more that could be said about the need for this Bill, the problems that it will throw up and the doubts and difficulties that we all have in mind. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has said, football violence is only a part of violence in the community as a whole, which plays such a major part in affecting people's lives these days. Football violence is only a part of it but we cannot go on deploring violence in our society and doing nothing about it. I believe that we have here an opportunity to consider whether at last the area of football can be improved. I believe that we should welcome that with open arms.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, 1 must first declare a minor interest, in that I go to Highbury, the home of Arsenal, about three times a year and occasionally go to Wembley—that is if Arsenal have reached a final. But I am not a regular supporter and never have been.
I thank my noble friend the Minister for introducing the Bill to your Lordships today. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Hesketh on his promotion. There is one thing on which I can agree with my noble friend and other noble Lords; that is, that I deplore football hooliganism.
I admired the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. I am sorry he is not in his 1272 place. But, as he said, football means a lot to many people. Parading the cup to the town hall gives one a sense of pride; it is like a royal wedding or a birthday to others; it gives a sense of pride and joy.
Having said that I am not at all certain that this Bill will do what the Government and we want. Yes, the number of arrests last year was 6,147, but that I am told is 0.03 per cent. of the some 18 million who went to football matches. So the majority of supporters, he they families, club members, the disabled or the occasional supporter like myself and other noble Lords, have to be penalised. Much of what I wanted to say has already been said so I can be very brief.
My main worry is that the Bill will not work. We had a very good demonstration the other day from GEC-A very of how the technology should work, but when it does not it will cause havoc. One only has to see for oneself, as 1 have, at an airport when you check in for your flight. You are told that the computer is down or playing up. You are told that you will have to wait for a few minutes. In that case there are only 200 or perhaps 300 other people on that flight. When you go to a bank for a print-out of your statement or at a supermarket, as some other noble Lord said, you may have to wait for a few minutes. You cannot say that to 20,000 or 30,000 people, or even to 5,000 to 10,000. That is what will happen when the scheme breaks down on match day. It could or would give rise to even worse disorder than the Bill seeks to suppress.
All the big clubs such as Highbury, built many years ago, are in built-up areas with ordinary side streets on two or three sides of the ground surrounded by residential housing. This is not the right area to hold 20,000 or 30,000 or even a few thousand spectators for any length of time, so the police will have to open the ground and that defeats the object. I know that many police chiefs, who have to control the crowds, are very worried. It may sound all right on paper, but will it work in reality?
Like other noble Lords, I should like to see a trial period for one or two seasons at a few selected grounds, not a blanket approach. The clubs have done a lot with closed-circuit television. They have encouraged families to go to games, have designated areas for the disabled and have sold boxes to companies to bring in extra revenue. These schemes, plus the ban on drinking and the Public Order Act 1986—which could be tightened up—are working. With better stadium management with the police the level of hooliganism will diminish even further.
To use Luton—I admire what it has done, but at a price—as an example is wrong. Its scheme and what is proposed are fundamentally different. Luton's gates dropped over 25 per cent. last season compared with 1985–86. Yet across the league there has been an increase of 9 per cent. over the same period. Luton's police costs per capita have increased more than the average per 1,000 spectators. I fear that this scheme will be the thin end of the wedge if it is used for other sports and recreations, as has been said. I am all for a national ID card and perhaps that could work for this case as it could be endorsed just like a driving licence.
1273 If the Bill is enacted Parliament will not, I am sorry to say, have an opportunity to debate details of the membership scheme and the Bill will be passed when expert management consultants have said that the technology is not ready. Therefore, I believe, it is wise for proper trials to be carried out to test the technology before it is brought in nationally.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, I begin by apologising to the Minister and the House because, owing to a longstanding engagement out of London, I shall not be present for the final stages of what is proving to be an extremely interesting debate. The Bill we are considering is a curious piece of legislation. If it is passed into law, its provisions will drastically curtail the entertainment of some 450,000 people every Saturday in the football season in order to deter on average about 200 potential hooligans. The Bill could wreck League and Cup football in England with a scheme produced as a panic reaction to violence in Germany last summer which we now know was caused as much by German and Dutch supporters as by English supporters.
The proposed scheme is entirely dependent on so-called "smart card" technology which has not been tried at a single football turnstile under match conditions. The Bill, as has been said, hands over indirect responsibility for public order to a person and a body whose activities will not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Curiously, the Bill excludes Scotland, which has almost the same total number of football-related offences in a season but with a total attendance at League and Cup matches of the order of 5 million compared with 22 million who attend in England.
With all this in mind we are entitled to know why valuable parliamentary time is being given to the Bill. I believe we know the answer. I am afraid it is yet another example of the prime ministerial knee-jerk politics which have become so familiar.
The Government know as well as anyone that trouble inside football grounds is now very largely under control. The problems now occur well away from football grounds. The Bill is not really intended to deal with trouble inside football grounds, although the Government pretend that it is. Quite simply it is intended to deter potential hooligans by turning attendance at a football match into an obstacle race which will be attempted only by the keenest supporters. In my view the Government do not really care if football attendances decline by 20, 30 or even 40 per cent., so long as the Government are seen to be doing something.
The Bill stands or falls on the Government's assumption that hooligans will just not bother to turn out on match days if they do not have a card or if their card is invalid. But we are entitled to know what the Government think the hooligans will do instead. They certainly will not stay at home and take up crochet work.
It might have helped if the Government had paid some attention to the considerable amount of research work that has been done into the causes of hooliganism, particularly at the Sir Norman Chester 1274 Centre for Football Research at Leicester University. These factors were touched on in a most eloquent speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. In an excellent booklet, The Roots of Football Hooliganism, the problem is traced to, among other things, factors such as the social and economic policies of successive governments; structural changes within the working class; the rise of an identifiable teenage market and youth style; the changing sexual and racial contours of society and:changes in the mass media, particularly the advent of television and the rise of a sensationalizing tabloid press; a media-orchestrated moral panic over football hooliganism and consequent pressure on the football authorities and the government to take remedial action".As an example of the change in society, I am sure that many noble Lords will remember that after the war there was a visit by Moscow Dynamo to this country. I am relying on my memory, but I believe that in a match when they played Arsenal in front of a crowd of 60,000 people there was a handful of police inside the ground to control that match. If the Government really think that they are able to deal with the complex matrix of the social and economic problems to which I have just referred with a football membership scheme and a "smart card", I fear that they will be in for a nasty shock.
As my noble friend on the Front Bench has said, the Government's case is not helped by the use of phoney statistics. Noble Lords may have seen the so-called league table of offences at Football League grounds. I have been a season ticket holder at Southampton for many years and, knowing how little trouble there has been over the years, I was surprised to see that Southampton was third in the first division table of offences—rather higher. I am sad to say, than it is at the moment in the real league table.
I examined the figures for the season in question and there were a total of 208 offences, which made the club third in the table. Of the 208, there were 43 inside the ground and 165 outside the ground. Of the 165 outside the ground, no fewer than 108 occurred on a single day at the railway station, three miles from the ground. Of the 108, I believe there were only three people who were charged with an offence; this in a season with a total attendance at Southampton of the order of 300,000.
I wrote to the Minister for Sport in December, asking him how a national membership scheme would prevent 108 people turning up at a railway station three miles from the ground on a match day, the worse for drink and looking for trouble. I have not yet received his reply.
The Bill, as we know, places great reliance—indeed, depends—on the so-called smart card. Your Lordships will know that we had a most impressive demonstration in this House last week, though a Committee room in the House of Lords is about as far as one can get from a fourth division turnstile on a freezing Saturday in February. If the smart card works—and I say "if" with some feeling, as all of us who have invested in computers in our businesses have scars to show for it—and, by definition, only one company can provide it and operate it nationwide, it will be an irony if this is yet another case of a private monopoly which is set up by a Government who believe in a free market.
1275 In the operation of the smart card—and I think we are entitled to go into this, because in my view the whole sense of the Bill depends on this—we were shown that at the turnstiles everybody would be let in and nobody would be delayed. But if there is an invalid card a red light will show over the turnstile and the policeman or the steward on duty will have to grab the offender and deal with him. It is not exactly explained how.
This could lead to a situation where 20 or 30 people with invalid cards, who know that they are invalid, will send in the first one in a kamikaze role. He will know that it is his job to dive into the ground as quickly as he can. The policeman will follow and the others will rush in. Although that is only a detail, it is a very important detail which the Government will have to deal with.
This Bill is unnecessary because the powers to deal with football hooliganism already exist. We were told only last week by the Minister for Sport how impressed he was by the police intelligence which enable the English police in the control rooms in Germany to identify by name a substantial number of English supporters at the matches for the European championship. If the intelligence is that good, I find it hard to understand why the troublemakers are not being identified and dealt with now.
This Bill requires much amendment. There are many of us who will certainly wish to put down amendments at Committee stage to exclude a number of categories of people from the scheme. To mention only two, there are people with disabilities and people with children. This Bill will do nothing for football and very little to control hooliganism, although it may change the venue of crowd trouble. I understand the constitutional convention which constrains what this House can do to this Bill. We must hope that common sense prevails in another place.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Lord Wise
My Lords, I think this Bill would generally have had a much more favourable outlook had it been introduced three years ago, or whenever it was, in the immediate aftermath of the ghastly Heysel Stadium tragedy. However, even now one must recognise the Government's good intention in promoting it. But one must also doubt whether it will be effective in achieving its desired results or indeed whether it will he practicable in operation.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, who was not concerned about the restriction of civil liberty. I think she was right. There are probably some specific areas in which there is a slight risk, but as I understand it the ordinary citizen has nothing at all to fear.
I am concerned that it is purely an enabling Bill and that the final scheme will be left to the football membership authority, albeit with the approval of the Secretary of State. It seems to me essential that the football authority and the Football League should, in the main, constitute the membership authority as they are the people who will have to make the scheme work.
1276 I wonder whether my noble friend can tell me when he winds up about the number of incidents of violence or hooliganism in the grounds of non-league clubs. There is surely a fear that the vicious element of the young thugs, none of whom is a true football supporter, in going along to use matches as a medium for a punch-up and so on, will transfer their activities to the grounds of non-league clubs or to other sports, as noble Lords have said. What will then happen if they do that? Will clubs in the minor leagues be designated and brought into the scheme? If so, where does one stop and what happens to the other sports?
We have been told by many noble Lords that there are problems with hooliganism there, and if there is a great incidence of violence within those sports will there be another Bill to cover them as well? If so, we might as well cover all spectator sports now in one Bill.
I was unable to visit the exhibition of the equipment that is to be used to allow entry into the grounds with a membership card which was held a few days ago in this House. It is claimed that this equipment will be foolproof with normal usage but, as the noble Lord, Lord Mason of Barnsley, pointed out, there seem to be many ways in which determined young hooligans could sabotage the equipment and that would obviously cause complete chaos at the entry gates.
I understand that firms have indicated that they will supply and install all the necessary property and equipment for the entry mechanism to all clubs in the Football League. This will possibly be carried out at no cost whatsoever to the clubs. But it is obvious that someone has to pay and, indirectly, I think that the clubs will be paying dearly in loss of revenue through lower attendances, which I am sure are inevitable.
Perhaps I may give myself as an example. I am a Norfolk man and I have long followed the fortunes of Norwich City, but regrettably I no longer live there. Occasionally I visit friends at weekends and, if the ladies wish to go shopping, the men sometimes decide to go along to Carrow Road to watch a match. Also, my son lives between Portsmouth and Southampton and sometimes I visit him at weekends. If he is not on call or on duty at the hospital he may say "Well, dad, let's go along to see Southampton or Portsmouth play". We are all—my son, my friends and I—just casual spectators. We shall never get around to having our photographs taken, writing to wherever and sending our money for a national membership card.
Neither shall I, when I am staying in Norfolk, spend Saturday morning going along to Carrow Road and presenting myself there in order to obtain a temporary card to see a match in the afternoon. Casual spectators in the course of a season probably run into many, many thousands. As I think has been estimated, something like 20 per cent. or even more of football attendances are by casual supporters.
As the Bill now stands it seems that the football authorities do not like it, the Police Federation do not like it and genuine supporters do not like it either. One realises that the Government are determined that it should go through, and possibly they are right that it should go through in some form, but we must 1277 make major efforts to improve it in the ensuing Committee stage.
§ 7.31 p.m.
Lord Wallace of Coslany
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wise, for two reasons. First, he is a fellow Norwich City supporter, and secondly his late father, Fred, was a great personal friend of mine. We served in the Commons together. That dates me a hit but, as one expects, one does not get younger every day.
I simply do not understand Part I of the Bill. For Part II there is a case, but Part I makes me wonder what on earth we are talking about. For instance, the Bill states:'Designated football match' means any such match of a description For the time being designated for the purpose of this Part by order made by the Secretary of State or a particular such match so designated.What on earth that means, I simply do not know.
I assume that the Government are talking about the Football League, but they have not definitely said so. Does it include, for instance, the Vauxhall Opel League? This is almost the Football League because the winning team in that league goes into the Fourth Division, and a relegated team goes back to the Vauxhall Opel League. There are many other semiprofessional leagues, some of which probably get attendances of Fourth Division standards, with some below. Nothing is stated. But as the Bill stands the cost to the clubs and spectators will be a completely unfair burden and will penalise the great majority of law-abiding people.
Protests about the Bill, the whole of it or part of it, cut right across political differences. We may have had one or two political speeches today but by and large it has just been individuals discussing the Bill, and it really is a case of a government against the people Bill. By "government" I do not mean all the supporters of the Government, but just that narrow majority.
I said that the Bill is opposed in many quarters. One amazing thing to me is that in Norwich, for instance, both Norfolk County Council and the City Council have voted against the Bill. To anybody who knows Norfolk, it is really something when the city and the county get together and agree.
I only wish that some Members of the Government had been at Norwich last Saturday, where sportsmanship and friendliness were demonstrated in the extreme, particularly at the end of the match when Sutton United did a lap of honour and received a standing ovation from nearly 24,000 people. That was not because Norwich City had won but because the people of Norwich applauded the achievement of a club getting so far. Quite frankly I felt taken aback by it, because even in the glass-enclosed sections people were standing, applauding, and shouting "Bravo". That is something that counts, and counts very much today.
The great majority of clubs have done a good deal to make their grounds attractive and safe, particularly in the past two seasons. Norwich, for instance, will shortly have a special enclosure for the handicapped with specially adapted toilets and other 1278 facilities for them. Millwall is a tremendous surprise. I attended Millwall matches in the old days when one almost first checked on one's insurance policy. Today it has changed. They have done wonders for family participation. They even have crèche facilities for young children. It is part of the community.
In many areas special arrangements are made for families, the handicapped, pensioners and young children. I put this question to the House: are the handicapped, the pensioners, the wives and children to be regarded as potential troublemakers? It is nonsense to think that way, but as it stands they are bound to be in the scheme.
Luton Town's scheme has been referred to. I understand that it has the backing of the Prime Minister. That is understandable because I think the chairman is now Member of Parliament for the area, but it is still a matter of opinion. Luton Town ban away supporters from attending their matches. Their fans can go to any ground in the country they like, but visiting fans from other clubs cannot attend a match at Luton. The result is that their gates have dropped to around 8,000, and there is a considerable financial problem.
Today most clubs have special enclosures for visiting supporters, and the segregation of spectators has proved successful. As I stated in the debate on the gracious Speech, I am president of Capita] Canaries, the London-based supporters of Norwich City. There are a large number of supporters' clubs in London supporting various teams in the English League covering the majority of football clubs. Each has a set of rules, which is rigidly adhered to. They are linked together in an organisation co-ordinating activities and providing sports facilities other than for football. All are decent, law-abiding citizens who travel many miles even to the home matches of their respective clubs. They deserve better treatment. A home match means considerable travelling expense to these people. The proposed membership card to them, with the added burden of delay at the turnstiles, is an unwarranted handicap and expense.
These are not troublemakers; they are football enthusiasts extraordinary. Membership of such clubs—and indeed club membership generally—is growing. Given official government support they would do much to meet the problem that the Government allege exists. Norwich has a membership scheme as well as the Capital Canaries scheme.
Like some other Peers, I have seen an example of the proposed use of identity cards. The use of these machines at grounds will cause delay at the turnstiles, which in turn will cause considerable trouble outside. The police do not like it. In any case a person whose card is rejected must pass through the turnstiles into the ground, I assume to be met by police and officials for investigation. He cannot go back through the turnstiles because the crowd is pressing to get in. Furthermore, the delays caused will only give rise to further trouble outside the ground where, in any case, the majority of troubles exist.
Perhaps I may now turn to the FA Cup. FA Cup matches are another problem. In the earlier stages many competing clubs are non-league clubs and 1279 some, like Sutton United, progress to the fifth round. Will those matches be exempt? Then there is the FA Cup Final which many casual supporters, and indeed others, attend, some possibly for their first ever match. Will they have to have passes or identity cards? Will the Prime Minister have to have an identity card?
Of course, there are a large number of people who go to watch various clubs play. They are not regular supporters of any particular club but like to go occasionally to a match, possibly in a town where they may be staying at the time. How will those people be catered for?
Invasion of pitches is sometimes quoted as a reason for the Bill. If that is the case, these measures should be extended to cricket as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool mentioned, especially for Test and Cup matches where crowd invasion takes place at matches where beer is readily and freely available.
A serious matter which needs to be raised during this debate is this. We have been told that clubs can have their new gates provided free of charge. All they have to do in return is to allow the sale of the identity card names to commercial buyers. That is a serious matter to which I strongly object. I believe that if the Bill goes forward, steps should be taken to stop anything of the sort taking place.
It is unfortunate that this Bill has come first to this House. By tradition we do not oppose Second Readings of Government Bills. However, we have the Committee and Report stages to make changes. Mr. Robert Chase, the chairman of Norwich City, stated in last week's club programme that there was bound to be a big debate but he said that there are no indications that any sort of compromise will get any consideration at all. All I say to this House is that it is up to us and another place to ensure that drastic amendments are made, for, in the final analysis, why should the great majority of law-abiding people be penalised by a very small minority?
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, people would have thought you were raving mad if as recently as the late 1970s you had forecast that within 10 years a British Government would seriously propose that what had been a popular game and spectacle in one form or another for hundreds of years should effectively become a private affair. Moreover, that it should also become a criminal offence for a perfectly respectable citizen, not affiliated to any particular football club, on the spur of the moment to try and get into a football ground without an identity card.
What has changed so drastically as to bring about this extraordinary state of affairs? Surely it is not football itself. Leaving aside the unusually peaceful 1930s and 1950s, back towards which people look with such nostalgia nowadays, football has traditionally engendered strong passions and a considerable degree of rowdiness and violence over the past 100 years or more, although never as much in this country as in, say, Turkey or Latin America.
1280 Of course, matters had worsened in recent years. However, as has already been mentioned by a number of speakers, the introduction of closed-circuit television has improved matters considerably and arrests within football grounds are down to one in 9,000. That compares favourably with arrests at other forms of recreational activity.
What has grown much more drastically over the past decade is violence, yobbery and vandalism in general: in pubs, outside pubs—both in towns and in the country—on the London Underground system, in trains, on buses, in shopping centres and on the walkways of council flats built in the fifties and sixties. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, reminded us, even Henley and the centre court at Wimbledon are now not immune from yobbery. The noble Baroness, Lady Burton, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, talked about British football hooligans abroad. I would merely say that the British lager louts on Continental beaches and in Continental bars cause even more mayhem, taken collectively, than equally odious British lager louts in Continental football stadia. In other words, it is not confined to football: it spreads throughout the whole spectrum of youth activities today.
By singling out association football for their draconian restrictions, the Government are attacking the symptom—and a relatively minor symptom at that rather than—the disease. For disease one should perhaps read condition. The condition in question, which is a fact of nature, is young male aggression. Traditionally over the centuries this young male aggression has been siphoned off by periodic wars combined with hard physical labour in the intervals of peace. However, thank goodness, we have not had a major war for 44 years, and automation and mechanisation have taken much of the sweat out of the daily grind for the average person in this country and in the rest of the western world.
Of course there are other contributing factors: the dispersal of tight-knit urban communities after World War II into soulless high-rise blocks, and new towns with no sense of community; the instant gratification ethos implanted in the 1960s together with the cult of youth which was fashionable at that time, which demoralised parents and made them frightened of disciplining their children for fear of being accused of being reactionaries; the fact that so many children nowadays grow up without a father; the continuing decline in manufacturing industry coupled with the concomitant swing towards service industries which means that male adolescents are now finding that their sisters are in a position to secure better paid and more interesting jobs more readily then they can, which is a very severe blow to masculine pride. All those factors and many more, which I do not have time to mention tonight, contribute to the general upsurge in young male violence in which football violence plays only a minor part. I was interested in what the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said in his opening speech. He said that at too many matches violence is just below the surface. In other words, he tacitly admits that young male violence is endemic and not merely confined to football matches.
1281 It seems to me that the Government are behaving like the proverbial little Dutch boy by sticking their collective finger in the small hole of the dyke which is holding back the great tide of young male aggression, while at the same time a considerable number of much larger holes remain totally unblocked. Furthermore, the small hole into which the Government are proposing to insert their finger is silting up quite satisfactorily anyway, mainly as a result of the introduction of closed-circuit television within football grounds, which is a very effective deterrent to potential troublemakers.
It is undeniable that many factors which have contributed to the present tide of violence at football grounds and at other sporting events and in the streets and on our trains and in blocks of fiats in south London and elsewhere are outside the present Government's direct control. But not all. After all, we are virtually the only country in Western Europe without national service of any sort. Surely that cannot be entirely unconnected with the much greater incidence of hooliganism in this country as compared with the Continent. That is not in itself an argument for the introduction of national service but it is a factor which cannot be denied. To what extent do our divorce laws, especially as regards alimony, and our taxation allowances militate against stable family relationships? This Bill merely scratches at the surface of the problem—and at what a cost!
The conservative minded—with a small "c"—older supporters, indignant at being branded as potential trouble makers, are not going to apply for membership cards. The casual once-a-year supporters, whether British or coming from overseas for the weekend, will also be driven away. This will lead, as I believe has already been stated, to a drop in gates of between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent. Luton was mentioned. The drop in gates at Luton Town's matches amounts to as much as 27.6 per cent. since the introduction of a membership scheme.
Law-abiding youngsters may well he mugged on their way to the grounds and have their membership cards stolen by hooligans. That possibility has not yet been mentioned. The probability of electrics and electronics going wrong will put Boeing's problems with their 737s and 757s into the shade. How many of your Lordships in the past 12 months in the course of their business or when trying to book an airline ticket over the telephone have been met with the dreaded phrase, "Sorry, the computer has gone down, yet again".
I repeat the warning given by the Police Federation, albeit in an editorial, that when a scheme breaks down it will do so on match days and give rise to the threat of even worse disorder than it seeks to suppress.
Nor is Part II entirely without blemish. I am a little concerned at the easy ride given to Part II by noble Lords this evening. There is a nasty smell of retrospective legislation or, at any rate, prospective retrospective legislation contained in Part II. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will give his views on that when he winds up. Clause 12(3)(a) seems to make it possible for the ban imposed by Part II to apply to offences committed before the Bill becomes 1282 law, or even before the First Reading. Surely we must beware of that. It is not spelt out specifically but appears to leave a loophole in that respect.
Clause 19 is also extraordinary. It provides that someone who has been convicted of an offence abroad and who has duly served his sentence abroad can nevertheless be arrested at some point after he returns to this country and brought before a magistrate. That would appear to be a gross assault upon the freedom of the individual and not to be welcomed by any means.
The traditional British metaphor for overkill, of which this Bill is a prime example, is "Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut". However, at least the sledgehammer usually finds its target even if it happens to shatter the edible part of the nut in the process. Far more apposite in this case is the equivalent French metaphor. The French talk about "Using a cannon to kill a fly". Your Lordships will not need reminding that even on the rare occasions when they are aimed with pinpoint accuracy, cannons cause a great deal of incidental and random damage. The quick witted fly, on the other hand, may well escape altogether.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ The Earl of Liverpool
My Lords, one of the advantages of speaking low down in the batting order is that one has the benefit of listening to some excellent speeches which cover all the points that one should have liked to make oneself. Moreover, with dinner approaching one is perhaps encouraged to be brief, which I promise to be.
I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, and to discover that we have something in common; namely, a mutual support of Liverpool Football Club. However, I regret to say that after that I part company with most of what he had to say.
The events of the Heysel Stadium disaster were, as we know, appalling and they have already been referred to by some noble Lords. Obviously it was a matter of great sadness to me that players from Liverpool Football Club were playing on that occasion. It had a personal tragic feel about it.
The result of that tragic event was that English clubs have been banned from playing in Europe. Surely we must now all strive to get back to where we can hold our heads high in Europe as a nation which can control its supporters and also represent our country in the game of football. Therefore, I am in favour of introducing some form of legislation.
I accept that the Bill is not necessarily perfect but I hope, as my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Nugent of Guildford, said, that we can adjust elements of this Bill in Committee and on Report. However, I believe that the main thrust of the Bill must be right because the hooligan element has unfortunately developed to a stage where something must be done.
It has been said that there is very little support within the clubs for the scheme but I am not altogether certain that that is the case. I have made one or two soundings and find that the clubs have been mollified to a considerable extent by the comments of my right honourable friend the Minister 1283 that the Government very much seek to bring in the clubs and the Police Federation to advise on and develop this Bill. It is hoped that those bodies will work closely with the administrator and the licensing authority.
As I said, there are one or two possible wrinkles in the scheme. It occurred to me that a supporter who is undecided about attending matches regularly and who therefore has not obtained a card will be unable to gain access to the club. Therefore, the scheme may have a deleterious effect on clubs obtaining new members because spectators will find it impossible to get into their first match without a card.
The noble Baroness, Lady Burton, said that hooligans will not go to football grounds if they cannot get in and I entirely agree with her, but there is another aspect relating to hooliganism, which the press sometimes infers has been perpetrated by football supporters. It is sometimes difficult to prove that the hooliganism which takes place outside a ground has not been perpetrated by football supporters.
I said I would be brief. I conclude by saying that I support the Government in the main thrust of the Bill and I hope that it can be improved during the Committee and Report stages. I hope to do my part during those stages.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, perhaps I may echo the last few words of the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, who I believe said that this is not a perfect Bill and that we hope to improve it as it goes through. I believe that to be absolutely right. It is not a perfect Bill. Those of us who are taxpayers and ratepayers pay each weekend towards the cost of funding the activities of football fans outside the stadium. The football teams pay for their policing inside the grounds and that I totally appreciate. We pay for it outside. That, if nothing else, is an excellent reason for the Government to bring forward this Bill tonight.
To be asked to favour such an enabling Bill is always difficult. It is rather like planning one's honeymoon. One looks at the tour operator's brochures; the scenario is perfect. But one still has a doubt as to whether it will all be all right on the night. Despite that and because upsets such as violence and hooliganism—one can use all kinds of words—go right back to the police officer on the white horse at Wembley Stadium in 1924, I feel that this Bill is right. Those of us who are outsiders and who pay for the policing of activities not actually occurring within the grounds, have a reasonable ground for asking the Government to bring forward legislation. I believe that we are right to do so.
As farepayers or as subsidisers of British Rail, London Underground and the buses, at weekends we are paying for the police to police the travelling football fan. Why should we be doing that, and why should we be paying as much as we are? I believe that the Bill is right. As I said before, I feel that to ask noble Lords to approve an enabling Bill is like the honeymooner looking at his potential hotel; it is 1284 rotten. My support for this Bill tonight would be much stronger if I had actually had the scheme, as it is called, before me.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I see the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I greatly admired his speech because it addressed itself to the issues, whereas the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, was, if I may say so, trivial. I have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and I welcome his support for what I am saying. I do not feel that we should be paying for the by-products of football hooliganism. As a Hampshire ratepayer and taxpayer I resent having to pay twice over the costs incurred in policing supporters outside the grounds every time that Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth play at home.
I also feel that it is wrong that the police should be required to do this. I know that the police will always find themselves in a difficult position because they do not like to do this. On the other hand, there are a fair number of policemen who wish to earn overtime. I suspect that a good deal of what takes place at weekends is overtime-related.
I have sat through most of the previous speeches and there have been those in favour and those against. I believe that those who are in favour of the principle are right. Those against, on nut and bolt grounds, are wrong. I return to what I said about the policeman on a white horse at Wembley in 1924. The football promoters have had a lot of time to get their acts together. I have had many briefs from them and I have to admit that most of them did not seem totally relevant. I received one saying that the cost of this whole scheme as charged to the football teams (ultimately it is the consumer who will pay and there is nothing wrong in that) would destroy the small teams and even the medium-sized ones. The gentleman who wrote the first letter to me, two days later went out and spent £800,000 on a goalkeeper. Is he actually trying to persuade me that the star billing is critical and that he has the right to spend money on that while we, as the ratepayers and taxpayers, and in the fullness of time the poll taxpayers, shall pay for anything that happens outside the grounds? I find that nauseous.
It has been said tonight that the need to pay for this scheme will kill the small clubs. The Western Mail—the voice of Wales—this morning carried a lovely story saying that a Third Division team was willing to pay £150,000 for a Cardiff player and a Fourth Division team was willing to pay £100,000. A great many of the arguments about destroying football as we know it have been about Third and Fourth division teams. If a Fourth Division team is willing to pay £100,000 for a Cardiff player, then the money is around. I come back to the fact that the security, safety and comfort of the spectator is much more important than the stars on the team sheet.
Taking up the point that the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, made, inevitably there are smaller points that one wishes to see pursued. The one I wish to pursue is that of the foreign tourist. Noble Lords will know that I work for the British Tourist Authority 1285 though I do not normally speak for it. The authority has put on record its concern that a totally hard and brutal membership scheme would kill a source of tourism for this country. I support the authority, though it was its view and not mine, in this case.
We have many foreign visitors coming to this country to watch British football. On a good day when they play at home, for example, Tottenham receive 1,000 to 1,500 Scandinavian supporters who have been assembled by the shipping companies and the airlines because they wish to watch British football live. I am very concerned that they may be caught in the membership card net. I urge the Minister that when the scheme sees the light of day we take account of their requirements and that they should have very easy access to grounds. If they do not we shall not only lose them for two nights, but also the revenue to British carriers that they produce. Football being what it is we shall also lose their spouses. If the man comes here to watch football he comes over on a British carrier; he spends a couple of nights at a London hotel and then he goes back with a British carrier. Meanwhile his wife spends a good deal of money in Oxford Street. We shall lose out very heavily.
Another point on which I wish to urge the Government forward relates to the second half of the Bill and its provisions to stop the football hooligan going abroad. In this I believe I speak for all British carriers in utterly welcoming this measure. It has been welcomed by several other noble Lords today. I had the misfortune to go to Holland on that day in early 1986 when a 20,000 tonne ferry between Harwich and the Hook of Holland with 1,500 passengers plus 100 crew on hoard, had to turn back to Harwich half-way across the Channel in order to unload Manchester United and West Ham supporters. I was going there for my mother-in-law's 80th birthday party. I can tell the House that no matter how great the welcome one receives on arriving for one's mother-in-law's 80th birthday party, it is rather destroyed when people say, "What about these English who more or less destroyed the Dutch ferry on the Channel last night?".
I should like to ask the Minister two questions. First, assuming that the membership scheme goes ahead—I have not objected to the membership scheme—will the transport police who work the ports have powers to refuse admission? Secondly, will the carriers have more long range powers to refuse transit to people whom they wish to reject? Will the transport companies be able to ask people whether they have membership cards? If a passenger says, "No, I have lost it", will companies have access to the computer that runs the scheme so that they can refuse to board passengers?
On that night there were 1,500 passengers and 100 crew, of whom perhaps 100 passengers were violent. Forty-nine were arrested and 19 were subsequently charged. It was an impasse in terms of British participation in European football because the Brits had been banned from playing competitive matches. Noble Lords may recall that the trouble involved a group of Manchester United supporters and a group of West Ham supporters. Sealink said that, under the rules that had been agreed with the police and others, 1286 it could not reasonably have anticipated that. I hope that the scheme will make provision for the carriers to have access to the computer when they have reasonable cause to do so. That said, as a taxpayer, as a ratepayer and as a person who is sometimes intimidated by football fans, although I have not been to a football match for two or three years, I can only wish the Bill a fair hearing and a good wind.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Viscount Mountgarret
My Lords, I am sure that it must be the desire of all noble Lords to stamp out hooliganism in all forms. Therefore I find it somewhat disappointing that the Bill has riot received the amount of support that I should have liked to have seen. The Government have been extremely courageous. It is necessary to deal with areas of unrest and offensiveness, which are not good for anybody or any country. The Government are trying to grasp the nettle.
A great deal of legislation these days seems to operate on the basis of looking over our shoulders and trying to appease people. We are told that we should not go too far in case we upset someone. This is wrong. If there is a point, we should grasp the nettle. We should hit the problem hard. This Bill will hit those who bring down the country's name and try to destroy the enjoyment of spectators at sporting events—in this case, soccer. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, asked earlier why the legislation is being linked only to soccer. I would link it to all sport. Why should people be offended? The Government are 100 per cent. right to grasp the nettle and to hit the nail on the head. They are taking the rough with the smooth. I am sorry that many noble Lords have spoken rather mutedly about supporting the Bill. I say that because the principle is right.
Why limit the Bill to soccer? I could not agree more. The Bill provides a certain regulation in regard to people going to soccer. Why not extend it to all kinds of sporting events if the need arises? My only connection with sport on a national scale is through cricket. I hope that we shall never see on the cricket field the same unhappiness and discord that unfortunately seem to have crept into soccer. But if that were to happen, why should there not be a provision in the Bill whereby the Secretary of State could by order—I am not a Parliamentarian and I do not know whether the correct term is an Order in Council or an affirmative resolution between both Houses of Parliament—use the fabric of the Bill to push the button and say, "I'm very sorry. Wimbledon has gone the same road as football. We need identification cards"? That could be a useful provision. If another sport were ever to suffer the same sad decline as football, we would not need the procedure of a new Bill going through both Houses of Parliament. It is a practical suggestion which I hope would never have to be used.
This Bill is the thin end of the wedge whether we like it or not. It is the thin end of the wedge to the extent that one will seriously have to consider whether one needs to introduce national identity cards. I know that is anathema to many people and I quite understand their concern about it. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, will tear me to shreds 1287 when he comes to speak. However, if one has an identity card for soccer matches, it begs the question why one does not have identity cards generally.
We are all on the data bank. Everything is known about us. We carry cash point cards. We put the card into the till and it tells us in two seconds exactly what our bank balance is. One carries all kinds of cards. That is not a far step from having a national identity card. After all, during the war, no one seemed to complain about having an identity card. I do not think that serving members of Her Majesty's Forces complain about having some form of identification on them. I am sure I speak for many noble Lords when I say that I would not complain about having such a card. It could be useful in many ways. It might help the police.
I do not see the objection to the membership scheme. On the London Underground one puts in the ticket, it goes through the machine and through the gate one goes. If the identity card causes a blob on the computer, someone will say, "What are you doing?"; and there you are.
The principle should not be too difficult to implement. If we go down that route with the Bill as it stands, fine, I support it entirely. However, I question whether it is not the start, or the thin end of the wedge, of a national identification scheme. If that is so, I would support it enormously. I hope that that remark will not be taken out of context or that people will think that one is Right-wing, or anything like that; one has nothing to hide. Indeed, good people have nothing to hide. Further, if it is helpful and constructive to the authorities, there could perhaps be merit in it.
I hope that the Bill will receive rather more support than it has received so far this evening. Noble Lords have criticised the concept of it, but I have not actually heard a great deal of constructive criticism. I ask myself: what do you want? I do not know. Surely we want to abolish hooliganism. Okay, if you cannot accept the Bill as it stands, or something like it, then you must produce something better. I think that the Government have done a jolly good job in grasping the nettle and being quite firm about a policy.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I should think that all of us are concerned about football hooliganism and, indeed, we all want it to end as soon as possible. But, like other Members of the House, I am concerned also about the bestial battering and killing of old folk, often for only a shilling or two, as I am about the disgraceful beating, raping and murder of women and the disgusting abuse and killing of children. Perhaps we ought to have a Bill to deal with such matters and not give priority to this particular piece of legislation. That is where action is really needed, and needed urgently.
I am not a great follower of football, and I never have been. But I am opposed to Part I of the Bill because I believe that it is a thoroughly illiberal measure aimed at one particular section of the community in an attempt to deal with a problem 1288 caused by a small, well-heeled group of Fascist thugs who have no interest in football other than to ruin it as a national sport.
Clearly with the production of this Bill the thugs have won, because, as we have already heard, the imposition of a national membership scheme will deplete attendances at all matches, cause severe financial difficulties for most, if not all, football clubs and put the future of Fourth Division football in jeopardy. 1 do not wish to go into all the details of that because other noble Lords have already done so. Indeed, the Football Association and the Football League have set out in detail their own objections and have given sound reasons as to why the scheme will not succeed and could, under certain circumstances, worsen the situation especially outside football grounds.
The National Council for Civil Liberties has prepared an impressive paper on the civil liberties aspects of the Bill. It points out that people arrested but not charged with, or convicted of, an offence may nevertheless be punished by the removal of their identity football pass. My noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton quoted from Police, the organ of the Police Federation. Perhaps I may make a further quotation which appears at the end of the article from which he quoted. It says:Mrs. Thatcher's insistence that football hooliganism must he conquered reflects the feelings of the whole law-abiding public. All the more reason why such an objective needs something far …more feasible than this lamentable miscarriage of judgement".That is the view of the police on the matter. Indeed, noble Lords will note that the article mentions Mrs. Thatcher in particular. The police are quite clear that this is not Mr. Moynihan's Bill; he does not have the political weight to deal with such a Bill. In fact, it is the personal Bill of Mrs. Thatcher herself.
Even if the Bill works, the thugs will still be around, make no mistake about that. Is there not therefore a danger that they will transfer their attention to other sports, like rugby and cricket? What will happen then? Will the spectators attending those games have the scheme extended to them, or will the Government then use the situation to extend identity passes to the whole of the community?
The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, who has now left the Chamber, made reference to the possibility of a national scheme. He said that he did not much care whether we had one. Let me assure the noble Viscount, and other noble Lords, that many of us do care and care very much about a national identity scheme. We do not want it at any price. I say that because these days when much information can be stored on a very small piece of card, the Government would have the means to control all of us in everything we do.
Let us not forget, especially in this House, that identity cards are the tools of autocratic government and dictatorship: we should be clear that there is no case, and indeed there ought not to be any support, for a scheme to impose national identity cards.
It may well be, if the Government have such a scheme in mind, that big brother is a little late arriving; but he is certainly on his way under measures produced by the Government such as this Bill. Since the Bill has been published ordinary 1289 football fans have been making their views known loudly and clearly, in Swindon and elsewhere. In Swindon, which I had the honour and privilege of representing in the House of Commons for 13 years, the local newspaper, the Evening Advertiser carried out a poll which showed quite clearly that 84 per cent. of the fans were completely opposed to an identity card scheme, while only 9 per cent. supported it.
Other people have been good enough to write to me direct. One of them, Mr. Steve Cann, sent me a copy of a petition which will be presented to the House of Commons in due time. That petition already has 1,754 signatures, with many more to come. Mr. Cann points out that at Swindon Town last season only 67 arrests were made out of a total attendance of 210,000. Moreover, some of those arrests were apparently of people outside the ground who were stealing from the cars of football fans who were inside the football ground.
Another Swindon resident, Mr. Ron Burchell, who is campaigning against the Bill, supports Swindon Town's own pass scheme, which has already eliminated trouble inside the ground. He wonders what relevance a national scheme will have in relation to football matches played abroad. Another letter I received came from a Mr. John Crowdey. He is seemingly an octogenarian and he has been an Everton supporter—I do not know why he should want to be an Everton supporter, but nevertheless he is—since 1919. He still attends some football matches and wants to know whether he is to be classed as a potential geriatric hooligan as apparently he, together with all other old people, will have to carry one of these silly identity cards.
Clearly then there is no need for a national scheme in Swindon. Further, although Swindon Town is not on its uppers financially—at least I do not think so—it is not so flush with money that it can easily withstand the adverse financial effects that the scheme will bring.
The same is true of Reading, where I live. It has introduced its own scheme and is trouble free. My younger son attends Reading regularly, and he tells me that the arrangements work efficiently and well. He feels safe and at home when attending matches. The scheme works there. Indeed, my wife, who is a magistrate, tells me that since the scheme has been operative the number of football hooligans dealt with by the Reading magistrates' court has fallen away to practically nil.
The football clubs themselves and football itself have been dealing with the problem at the request of the Government. There are signs that it is working. Why on earth bring forward such an illiberal Bill at this time?
Like my noble friend Lord Sefton of Garston, I should like to have the opportunity to vote against this wretched Bill tonight, but convention unfortunately prevents us from doing so. I hope, however, that the good sense and fairness of the House will ensure that in Committee, and at other stages the Bill can be improved beyond all recognition to make it acceptable to football and to those who cherish our traditional and hard won civil liberties.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, on making out an extremely good case for identity cards. He has just said that Swindon Town has identity cards and that they have cut down the amount of football-related violence. That, in essence, is the whole of the Government's argument. I must congratulate the noble Lord on perceiving it with such instant clarity.Modern youth have no manners, are ill disciplined and show no respect for their elders".That is not my view. It is something which was found inscribed upon clay tablets in Samaria 2,500 years before the birth of Christ. In other words, young male misbehaviour is nothing new. I believe that Nicaragua and El Salvador went to war over a football match. I heard in my bath this morning a description on the wireless of a Spanish football match this week where the goalkeeper was hit on the head by an orange thrown from the upper tier of a public gallery. The match finally had to be called off because of fireworks. It is not a problem which is confined to this country. It seems to apply to Association Football much more than to other games. It does not seem to apply to Rugby League, although there have been one or two fairly unpleasant incidents at Rugby Union matches.
I attended a Rugby Union match between France and England. Every condition which should have caused a riot was present. There was no segregation of fans; too many tickets had been sold on the black market and so one could not see anything if one was stupid enough, as I was, to buy a ticket on the black market; the CRS was out in force; and there were container-loads of drink flowing about inside the ground. One would have thought that that was a perfect example of something which should have produced a massive riot, but it did not. I cannot tell your Lordships why. It was an extremely enjoyable occasion.
Surely the Bill is an attempt to isolate out of Association Football the unpleasant yobbish element. Like almost every other sport, when played well Association Football is immensely pleasurable to watch. I admit that I have been to only one football match: when Leicester City played Coventry in the Cup in 1962. My only other connection with Association Football is that the chairman of Arsenal was a troop leader in my father's regiment during the war. That is an even more tenuous connection. 1 occasionally watch football on television. However, I know that the general public—this was a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton—is fed up to the back teeth by people whose behaviour is utterly intolerable in a civilised society. Again, that is not new. It seems to be confined, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, to young males between the ages of I6 and 30.
There was a terrible row because a Highland regiment stationed in Minden went on the rampage and behaved badly. Many of the soldiers lived up to the description of the soldiery as brutal and licentious. The German Burgermeister called them poison dwarfs. Some of your Lordships may remember the incident. That again was an example of 1291 young males becoming aggressive, macho and out of control. That surely is the problem with which we are attempting to deal.
We all behaved badly when we were between 18 and 25. I look around the Chamber and I bet there is not one male Member—here I am being blatantly sexist because it is hormonal rather than anything else—who does not have something of a slightly stroppy, yobbish nature that he did when he was between 18 and 25 and that he would not like other Members of your Lordships' House to know about. I should be surprised if we could all lay our hands on our hearts and say that we have not misbehaved. I did. I even buried deckchairs over the side of the "Dilwarra". I thought it was terribly funny. I would not do it now. It was 21 year-old misbehaviour and one should not do it. It is that type of behaviour, writ much larger, that one is trying to deal with.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, there is nothing new in sporting riots. There were some splendid riots in Constantinople in 520, or something like that. between the blues and the greens. They were both chariot race supporters. They were not arguing only about the Government; there was also what the right reverend Prelate wanted—some religion thrown in as well. They were arguing about the government, the substance of Christ and sporting matters. The government nearly collapsed. Its most powerful member at that time was a woman of immensely strong character, just like my right honourable friend, but whose morals were completely different. When it was proposed that the whole government should flee, she said that purple was the noblest winding sheet and that she would rather die an empress then die fleeing to somewhere like Thrace. Lo and behold, the generals Belisarius and Mundaus were introduced secretly into the hippodrome, where 30,000 fans were slaughtered. That would be an abuse of human rights. We do not suggest that Belisarius and Mundaus should return after 1,200 years and be used for riot control in Everton or Liverpool. We are suggesting that someone should voluntarily buy an identity card.
However, the technology must work. It must be made to be seen to work and to be as foolproof as any human being can make it. We have seen techonlogy that does not work. A greater effort must go into this scheme than into anything else. I give practically unqualified support to the Bill. The people who it is essential should buy identity cards are males between the ages of 15 and 40. I have a great aunt who is 100. I do not know whether she goes to football, but she is unlikely to start throwing beer cans, and so it strikes me that she does not need an identity card. On the whole it would be much more sensible if women of all ages and men over 40 did not have to have identity cards. That would make the administration and technology cheaper.
If we confine the scheme to the potentially yob classes we shall cause much less offence to the other people concerned. I am bound to be accused of being sexist, and on this I am blatantly sexist because on 1292 occasions there are differences between male and female behaviour, thank goodness! I hope that my noble friend will consider that suggestion to see whether it could possibly work. If we can get these beer swilling, flat singing, heavy booted, vomiting thugs, who are occasionally a disgrace not only to football but to almost everything else, out of the way and confine the audiences to those who want to enjoy the game; if peace and quiet reigns on the terraces and the sportsmanship described by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, comes back, I suspect that football gates will rise. Football will once again hold the place of great pride that it did in 1924, when, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, one policeman on a grey horse pushed the whole of the crowd back when King George V was visiting the Cup Final. I support the Government and wish them well.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Lord Donoughue
My Lords, it is late and we have had an impressively lengthy debate. Rafts of noble Lords 1 never imagined doing so have stood through and survived the hostilities, let alone the weather, on the terraces of West Ham, Millwall, Walsall and Oldham Athletic and now emerge with deep convictions and detailed briefs. We can understand why because, as has so often been stressed, scenes of violence are deeply offensive to all sides. There is no monopoly in being offended. I think we all feel ashamed at the sight of drunken British louts parading a proud national flag through terrified towns of Europe.
I must confess that when I first heard on the radio some time ago that the Government intended to legislate to solve this problem, my initial reaction was, "Good. I'll support them on that". I think a majority of the British public probably share that view now. But almost the only thing I have learned in a misspent life is not to trust my own initial gut reactions. I also recommend similar caution to Ministers. Gut reactions are not a sound basis for good government. Equally, making scapegoats of Football League clubs is not an honourable way to try to duck public responsibility for our growing social problems. It is better to listen to people with long experience in football who have reflected long and coolly on this serious problem.
I am not sure whether the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for the Environment or the Home Department or the latest and smallest in a long line of Ministers of Sport, or even the noble Lords sitting opposite on the Front Bench come into that select group of those who understand. I prefer to listen to those who love and know football, who detest hooliganism but who are convinced that this Bill is at best irrelevant and at worst provocative of further disorder. In particular. among many people, I mention two whom I respect: Mr. Denis Howell, an experienced referee and the only Minister of Sport whom anyone can remember, and Mr. Ted Croker, a former professional footballer and now a very distinguished secretary of the Football Association. I pick those two because they would not agree on anything in politics but I suspect they agree on much against this Bill. It was Mr. Croker, noble Lords will 1293 remember, who with great courage and accuracy said to the Prime Minister in Downing Street, "These are not our hooligans, Mrs. Thatcher. They are your hooligans". In fact they are all our hooligans.
I am referring to the part of the Bill concerned with English clubs. The parts concerned with fans going overseas are well based and I certainly support the Government on them. Where the Bill concerns English League clubs it is misconceived and wrongly targeted for five main reasons that have been well explored in this House. First, it assumes that the problem is in the football grounds when it is really in society outside. It is claimed that the Bill remedies violence when it is more likely to increase tension. It ignores improvements in the behaviour in football grounds in recent seasons. It punishes all when the problem lies with a few, and the greatest damage financially will be to those small clubs with perilously small finances but which, because they have small crowds, present few crowd behaviour problems.
We must ask Ministers opposite to press their colleagues to think again. I say that not without optimism, especially to the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, while congratulating him on his recent promotion. He is a sporting fellow; he is a Northamptonshire man, which must be a good thing. He was apparently a director of one of the finest but least appreciated clubs in the land—Northampton Town. I watched the Cobblers regularly before the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, was born and I wonder whether he was a director when they achieved the record of demotion from the First Division to the Fourth Division in three successive seasons. I am sure he had nothing to do with that, nor did it have anything to do with his departure. Anyway, we urge the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, in particular to ignore—as I did—his gut reactions on the Bill and reflect again.
Finally I wish to make two quick points for Ministers to consider. First, be realistic. Football is bound to be tempestuous and produce volatile but not necessarily violent reactions. When West Ham meet Wimbledon we cannot expect it to be like a gathering of the Women's Institute, or like Her Majesty's Cabinet or some obscure Scottish religious sect where silence, obedience and deference are expected and any deviations of behaviour lead to disapproval and expulsion.
Football is an arena where passions inevitably arise. In response to the challenge of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I fear that I myself must confess that when, well past the age of 40 and not just below the age of 25, I played against the German Parliament on the Crystal Palace ground, I was shown a yellow card by the referee, who considered my conduct towards the German centre forward unparliamentary. We can all experience passing passions, but we must stop mindless violence. Nevertheless, we should not expect to impose upon football a vicar's tea party.
More importantly and precisely, I recommend to Ministers the possible compromise solution recently proposed by Mr. Joe Haines—not only the best leader writer in Fleet Street but also a lifelong supporter of Millwall Football Club, along with one or two noble Lords. That demonstrates how much 1294 and how long people will suffer for their loves and their beliefs.
That compromise which Mr. Haines has just proposed and which I think is serious is that, if the Government insist on pushing the membership scheme, it should be passed but held in reserve. Then it could be used selectively, on formal advice and in consultation with the police, only when it is proven that a club clearly and demonstrably has a crowd violence problem. I believe it is worth serious consideration. It would avoid one of the worst aspects of the Bill: that it punishes the many innocent. It would certainly enable the majority of smaller clubs such as Northampton to escape the punitive aspects of the Bill. Politically I think it might be very difficult for the football authorities to take such a hostile line to it.
Otherwise, without such a compromise this is a bad Bill, spawned from understandable human instincts but translated into a legislative and misdirected irrelevance. We must then wait for the other House to tear it up.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Donoughue in his happy style of presenting a case to the House. I also wish to follow him in the congratulations that he extended to the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, who will, I believe, be responding for the very first time on Government legislation. I am sure he will represent the department with great dignity and ability.
I shall express a purely personal point of view. This Bill deals with the question of civil liberties. One may have various views about that; but certainly the Bill deals with the principle of civil liberties. The Bill deals with a national scheme which will control the attendance of our citizens at a sport, called our national sport. If ever there was a Bill where the wisdom of the parties in Parliament should say, "Let there be a free vote on all sides of the House, whether in this House or in another place", this is the Bill.
I say the following unreservedly, but it is purely a personal point of view. I hope that that kind of wisdom will prevail among the leaders of the political parties. I have been looking at the score. That is a happy way of referring to a Bill that deals with the sport of football. The score in our own second division, or Second Reading, is as follows. If one omits the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, who are not quite independent in this matter, from the score, one finds that 17 speakers out of 25 have spoken against this Bill. Eight speakers have spoken in favour. Those eight number among them those who had very definite doubts but who agreed generally that such a Bill should at least be discussed and taken seriously. In those eight and in those 17 there were representatives of all sides of the House.
I shall try to deliver what I hope your Lordships will feel is a rational view of the principles that we have been trying to discuss and the measures that we should take. I shall repeat the metaphor used by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, who see is back in his seat. I can therefore repeat the metaphor 1295 without feeling I am doing the wrong thing. I thought the metaphor used by the noble Viscount was delightful, even though it was mixed. I, too, intend to grasp the nettle and hit the nail on the head. That is exactly what I propose to do. No one can view with any amount of equanimity, let alone tolerance, the behaviour of some people who go abroad calling themselves British, as they are entitled to do, and shaming the name of Britain in the process.
No one in his right senses wants to support that kind of thing. Everybody who is right minded wants to deal with it. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is not in his seat. He referred to Part II of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, always does things at the right moment. I have noticed that before. The noble Lord has entered the Chamber just after I mentioned his name. I was about to refer to a matter because of something that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, had said. I shall make that clear now.
Part II of this Bill, as my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton said, should in principle be acceptable to all the Members of this House. If Part II of this Bill was the only bit of legislation before us, I say to my noble friend here and now that it would have received the support of our Front Bench. We would merely have wanted to discuss some of the little lettering in the Bill. But we are talking about Part I of the Bill. Part 1 has this merit about it. It endeavours to deal with a situation that none of us is satisfied with. That situation is the conditions on some of the football grounds in this country. As has been said, this is part of a general scene. It is not only football that is involved. One should also deal with the whole issue of why violence occurs in our society, and the measure in which it occurs. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said that violence was part of his life between the ages of 18 and 25. I am not as proud of having him as my friend as I was before he made that admission. I believe he threw something over a parapet. I was very ashamed to hear that. No doubt this question of misbehaviour among young people is not only the tale of the 1980s.
All of us can accept that something really practical should be done where things are very bad on football grounds and where they have not been improved. Part I is not an answer to that problem at all. Not only does it cover all the football clubs in the four divisions of the Football League—we were told that was the designation to be applied—but it covers the good and the bad. It covers the Wokings in one kind of area, and the good clubs in another kind of area. Not only does it do that, but it covers all kinds of people. It covers the 999 out of 1,000 who are perfectly law-abiding decent citizens. But it does not even do that in a practical way. We submit that it makes things infinitely worse.
Let us consider a little bit of detail. I promise not to take long about this. What is the use of someone carrying an identity card unless that card has a photograph? We are told that it will have a photograph. What is the use of putting an identity card on some kind of a computer unless the person at the turnstile looks at the spectator, then looks at the photograph and makes sure that the spectator is the 1296 same person that the photograph would appear to indicate? How long will that take? We have all seen the machine work, but what about the person who has the responsibility of doing the checking?
I shall not repeat at any length at all the examples given by many noble Lords of what happens when computers break down. Those of us who have had the privilege of having overdrafts at our banks know perfectly well that in the old days one used to be very proud to be able to point out to a bank manager that one's bank statement was wrong and that one did not owe quite as much money as the bank claimed. Nowadays it is an exceptional occasion when a bank statement arrives that is accurate. If we find it is inaccurate and we telephone the bank we are told, "It is the computer. The computer so often makes mistakes." It has been said that computers may break down. Let us consider that situation.
Let us also consider the situation in which somebody comes up to the turnstile—and goodness knows how many times this may happen!—and says, "My card was stolen while I was waiting in the queue". What is the chap who is in charge of the turnstile supposed to do then? Is he supposed to conduct a debate? Is he supposed to push the man back so that he finds his way out of the queue? Is he supposed to allow the man to go through? Is he supposed to call for a policeman to investigate the matter? What will that kind of situation lead to?
So we have the injustice that all clubs are covered when some have no problems or only minor problems as against major ones. We have the problem that 999 people out of 1,000 are going to have to go through all of this. And we have the impracticalities and the question of whether, as has been suggested in this debate, we shall create much more violence than already exists.
Noble Lords are entitled to say, especially to those who speak on behalf of the Opposition when they are opposing something, "You have said that there may he a need to do something. Why do you not tell the Government what they ought to have done?" I am going to tell the Government what I think they should have done. I shall tell them that there is support for my view.
On Tuesday of this week the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, spoke in the debate on the National Health Service Statement. He is a former Conservative Minister of great distinction and, I know from my many years at County Hall, a very respected former Leader of the Opposition at County Hall and therefore somebody who knows something about local government. He said:My Lords, while I warmly welcome much of the Statement, perhaps I may press my noble friend on one point. Why do the Government persistently regard democratically elected Councillors as unrepresentative of local interests and concerns?"—[Official Report, 31/1/89; col. 1014.]Not once have the Government mentioned the part that local authorities ought to be taking in any measures to deal with the matter we are considering in this Bill. Are they not supposed to know their areas? Are they not supposed to know their football clubs? Are they not supposed to know the problems that occur at their football grounds and how to deal with them? Do local authorities not come into this?
1297 A report from the AMA Joint Working Group on Football Violence, Football Violence: the Metropolitan Viewpoint, pointed out the local authority interests in this matter. It asked, what about housing; damage to property both public and private and to light industrial and commercial premises? What about transport and the local authority interest in damage to buses and trains; disruptions of services? What about social services—distress and anxiety to people already experienceing disadvantage? What about recreational services and disruption and destruction of amenities such as public parks, gardens and recreation grounds? What about environmental and planning services? What about the councillors and officers and the time taken in attempting to mitigate the effects of violent crowd behaviour? What about the police in the local authority areas, and the health authorities which deal with local matters? And, lastly what about probation and the increase in the number of references for report by the courts and the follow-up action thereafter?
Could the Government not have introduced legislation that would enable local authorities throughout the land, in consultation with their football club authorities and local police, to put such schemes together for the approval of the Secretary of State as they consider suitable for their area? If the local authorities considered that a local identity scheme was appropriate, why not? The local representatives would have voted for it; the football clubs in the area would have have expressed their view and the local police would have expressed theirs; and the Secretary of State has the ability to approve the scheme. There would not have been the difficulties of applying a scheme nationally in areas where it was not wanted or was not deemed to be appropriate and there would have been local will.
As an alternative, if the Government for some reason which I cannot imagine say that that is not a suitable way of dealing with the problem and Part I is adopted, I ask them to accept that any local authority or club ought to be exempted from the designation process and the need to produce identity cards if, in conjunction with the league football clubs in its area and with the co-operation of the local police, it produces an alternative scheme for the approval of the Secretary of State in preference to the national scheme. Could they be exempted from the national scheme so that we do not blunder on with the problems that Part I is bound to lead to?
In winding up this debate I have not only tried to show the transparent weaknesses of Part I but also the possibility for the Government to think again in regard to Part I. It is not too late to bring forward legislation which will give the right to local authorities to deal with this matter in their own way, in their own area, for their own citizens and the football clubs in their own locality.
Local government has had enough bashing over the past few years. I shall not make a clumsy political point at the end of my speech. I shall simply say that it has had enough bashing. It has had little recognition. It has had funds taken away from it so that it cannot properly carry out its duties. Let us put some strength and dignity back into local 1298 government if we are trying to deal with the problems of football clubs in these areas.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords. I think it is fair to say that we have had a long and interesting debate. I should like to congratulate all noble Lords who have spoken on their valuable contributions and, if I may say so, their forbearance.
The range of views expressed by noble Lords reflects the interest which the Government's proposals have generated outside the House as well as within it. I am grateful to eight noble Lords for their support for measures which, according to the evidence of popular opinion so far available, also have the support of the majority of the British people. I regret that those 15 noble Lords who saw fit to criticise the Bill are not in a position to offer very much in the way of an alternative. I mentioned the figure of 15, for there are two exceptions: the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Donoughue, to both of whom I am extremely grateful for their kind personal thoughts so far as I was concerned. My answer to them is that both the alternatives that they presented lacked the universality that we believe is absolutely essential for the scheme to succeed.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening at the very beginning of the speech. I shall not interrupt him again, whatever he may say hereafter; that is a promise. However, I said that the measure had support. I did not mention the support for the alternative that I put forward. The AMA is one of the bodies which has authorised me to say that it would be delighted to discuss the matter with the Government. So also is the very well known Football Family Forum, which has said that it would want very much to discuss this scheme and is very much in favour of it.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, before the Minister rises again, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord why we are told this only now. It is delightful to hear about the AMA—not many league clubs are within the ambit of the AMA—and the Football Family Forum, which I had not heard of before. But why are we told this now? Surely it would have been more helpful to have been told of it before now.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Caithness recognised that significant measures had been taken by the Government, the police and football authorities to deal with football hooliganism. Unfortunately many of those measures to which noble Lords have paid tribute had to be pushed through reluctant football authorities by the Government's persistence. We face the same barriers again now. The link between football and hooliganism is still with us. More action is needed to break that link and once again it is the Government who are taking the lead.
As the noble Lord, Lord Knights, pointed out, in the absence of an alternative, the Government had no option but to introduce the Bill. That is based on his remarkable experience at home, in the United 1299 Kingdom. In a single phrase the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, summed up our reputation in Europe, by saying that we are loathed and feared.
We have covered many issues during the course of our debate and I should like to return to some of them, but before doing so I ought perhaps to declare an interest—though it has already been declared for me earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, who also indicated that I was clearly a maverick in a minority of one. Certainly the successes of Northampton Town increased markedly after my departure.
I believe that one of the difficulties in football is an inability to focus on the very genuine and strong feelings outside about the state of affairs. Some noble Lords have expressed concern about the financial impact of the scheme, but we should not forget how much hooliganism has cost the game.
Many of your Lordships have mentioned hooliganism and I intend to spend a little time upon it. Of course there is a problem of hooliganism outside football as well; the Government do not deny it. They have responded positively in a number of different ways to hooliganism generally. Police manpower has been increased, as have police powers, in particular through the Public Order Act 1986. The penalties available to the courts have been increased. Measures have been directed to specific aspects of the problem: alcohol controls at football grounds and on coaches carrying supporters, and there is a tough new provision in the Criminal Justice Act which makes it an offence to carry a knife without good reason. Arrangements have been made for swift justice in the speedy laying and hearing of charges against hooligans immediately after a disturbance. However, the fact remains that football presents special problems. Fences, barbed wire and hundreds of police officers are required to keep rival supporters from each others' throats. The police have to escort crocodiles of away supporters to grounds so that they are not attacked and do not themselves go on the rampage and cause damage to people and property in the immediate vicinity.
None of this is required at Lord's Cricket Ground, Epsom, Wimbledon or Twickenham. Football is different. It has become the forum of violence, threatening behaviour, filthy language and racial abuse. Special measures are needed to deal with it in order to keep out the undesirable element. The Bill will do just that. The question is what other sports remotely approached a record of over 6,000 arrests last year. Nearly 14 million fewer people attended football matches last season than 20 years ago. While hooliganism is not the sole cause of this decline, it is a major factor and clubs have paid dearly in lost gate receipts because of it.
Very much earlier in this debate the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, said that in many cases football clubs had had an unfair deal from the media. The difficulty is that once one has acquired a nasty reputation, the perception may exceed the fact. However, our most important aim is to change the perception. The fastest way to change a perception about a problem is to do what the Government are trying to do in 1300 introducing the membership scheme in order to keep hooligans away. We believe that it will. It will make going to a football match more enjoyable than it has been for many years. In due course that will mean bigger crowds and more, not less, revenue for the clubs. The clubs should be out there looking for members and looking for supporters.
I know that some smaller clubs in the Third and Fourth Divisions of the Football League claim that the scheme will mean bankruptcy. There are no grounds for believing that to be the case. It will be for the Football Membership Authority to recommend the technology on which the scheme should be based and how the scheme should be implemented. The authority will wish to consider whether, and if so to what extent, the installation and operation of the hardware should be contracted out. Clearly the authority will wish to consider the financial implications to the clubs. No doubt it will be mindful that a number of companies have already offered to set up and run the scheme at no cost to clubs or supporters.
The authority will be bound by the provisions of the Data Protection Act, but there are considerable commercial opportunities in a potential membership list of millions. If the football authorities and the clubs take a positive approach to marketing and to encouraging people to become members, financing the scheme should not be a problem. We should remember too that sponsors have already demonstrated that they are much more keen to invest their money in a club which can show that it has rid itself of hooliganism.
Our target date for introduction is spring 1990 and concern has been expressed by many noble Lords today about whether that is too tight a timetable. I can reassure your Lordships on this point. My honourable friend the Minister for Sport has made it clear that the key issue in settling the timetable is the need to be satisfied about the availability of the right technology.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that the scheme will not be implemented until he is satisfied? If it takes two, three or even four years before he is satisfied, is he saying that it will not be implemented until such satisfaction is achieved?
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, if the noble Lord will let me finish the paragraph, I may be able to answer him. There is no question of the Government seeking to bulldoze through an ineffective scheme on an unrealistic timetable. Some noble Lords have raised the possibility of some form of phasing in of the introduction of the scheme—I know that this is the position of my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls—suggesting that it should be introduced on a pilot basis, initially in only the First and Second Divisions or to those clubs which attract attendances over a certain level. I should say that it was the Football League members and the Minister for Sport's working party, which reviewed the main principles of the scheme last summer, who felt most strongly that phasing would mean that hooligans banned from clubs in the scheme would simply attend matches at 1301 those outside it. But I have listened carefully to what has been said about this today.
I should follow up what my honourable friend the Minister said about the way in which the Bill will help to reduce the problem of hooliganism outside the ground as well as inside. If hooligans are banned from grounds, they may continue to turn up for a week or two. But in all probability they will give up doing so if they cannot gain entry. Football will cease to be the focus for their activities. That has been the experience of Luton and its successful 100 per cent. home membership scheme.
In addition, under the scheme it will in appropriate cases be possible to ban those who make trouble outside the grounds. That will be a powerful deterrent against hooliganism inside and outside the grounds.
There are those who have suggested that this Bill infringes people's civil liberties. But no one has the right to enter a football ground. As my honourable friend the Minister said, at the present time individual clubs refuse entrance to known troublemakers in their area. The trouble is that these hooligans can go to other Football League grounds and cause trouble there. The scheme will prevent this from happening. 1 should emphasise that the Government are concerned to protect the civil liberties of others—shopkeepers, shoppers, the general public, property owners in town centres and near grounds, and, not least, the genuine football supporter.
My officials recently met the National Council for Civil Liberties. I welcome the National Council for Civil Liberties' attitude in supporting in principle the concept of excluding known troublemakers from football grounds. I fully support the principle that in implementing this legislation the Government must ensure that the individual is treated fairly.
I have listened with interest to what has been said in respect of Part II —the provision to impose a restriction order so as to stop convicted football hooligans attending certain football matches abroad. I am grateful for all the support expressed for that provision. For far too long our reputation abroad has been at the mercy of the maverick English football thug. Again I am reminded of the simple phrase used by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, of fear and loathing, for that is what we wish to remove—that stain which exists on our reputation in Europe. Not only has the reputation of the law-abiding football enthusiast suffered, but the reputation of the nation as whole has been harmed. We, the law abiding majority, must stop our good name from being debased in that way. Part II of the Bill will give our courts that power. It will stop individuals who have a restriction order made against them from travelling to key matches abroad.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, if indeed the noble Lord is right to say that there is a mechanism in Part II which will deal with known troublemakers going abroad, why cannot the same mechanism be applied to the circumstances in Part I? If the troublemakers are known and they cannot go abroad, why cannot they be stopped by the same mechanism here in this country?
§ Lord Hesketh
The practicality of the situation is that everyone effectively on the list of known troublemakers would have to be called in, for example, to a police station, and the mechanism could be intolerable to implement. The Bill will stop those individuals who have a restriction order made against them from travelling to key matches abroad. Equally it will show other countries that we mean business and we have the resolve to act.
We have covered a great many important issues today, but I should like to return to some of them. I do not wish to engage in a battle of statistics with the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, but he said two things which in one case I should like to correct and in the other to update. First, he said that my honourable friend the Minister for Sport had made a misleading remark concerning the Millwall and Leicester police returns. We received the incorrect return and as soon as the mistake was discovered my honourable friend issued the correct figures.
I do not wish to go very far into the matter of Luton Football Club which appeared to be so contentious throughout the day. There is one important figure that has been left out. Many noble Lords have mentioned that Luton's figures last season fell by a third and this was given as an example of the lack of success of its scheme. What noble Lords may not have been aware of is that: this season Luton's figures have risen by a third.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. 1 am grateful that he has returned to statistics, but when I made my point I said that there were figures that the Minister had corrected but there were others. 1 have today received a written reply to that question. I should tell him that Leeds United Football Club has told me:On checking with our local police sources a difference in the figures relating to our League matches has occurred. According to our sources 173 arrests were made, not 184 as listed in the written reply: 105 of these occurred inside the ground with the remaining 68 outside".That is a further statistic which has been erroneously given and not corrected. There are others.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I was trying to draw the House's attention to the fact that a number of noble Lords referred to the Luton Town figures as being down by a third. I have to bring noble Lords' attention to the most recent season's figures, which are of great interest.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, brought our attention to the possibility of an England-Scotland game. There are two questions here. Should the Bill extend to Scotland, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, discussed? The fact is that the incidence of football hooliganism has been brought more under control in Scotland over the last few years than in England. However, the second question referred to the treatment of an England-Scotland match at Wembley, if Scotland is not to be part of the scheme. It would not be possible to require Scottish supporters to show a membership card unless we required them to join in the English scheme. The Government's present position is that Scottish supporters living in Scotland should not have to join 1303 the scheme but that exemption is conditional both on continuing good behaviour at the club and at internationals and on the Scottish Football Authority establishing satisfactory arrangements for the sale of tickets to prevent them from falling into the hands of known troublemakers.
Of course we must have satisfactory arrangements for matches at Wembley involving Scotland and other international teams. One possibility is that supporters of non-British teams might be required to show their passports. These are issues which must be discussed with Wembley and the football membership authority.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, just to be quite clear what the noble Lord is telling us, is he saying that English supporters going to Wembley will have to be members of the scheme, and that anyone living in Scotland will not have to be a member of the scheme, notwithstanding the fact that at the match last year twice as many Scots were arrested as English supporters? Can he explain the logic of the Government's position?
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, the logic of the Government's position is that we are not intending to introduce the scheme in Scotland though, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is aware, should the situation get out of hand in Scotland—I think I am right in saying this—my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has said that it might be considered there.
Many other noble Lords are concerned with delay on entry into the grounds. The suppliers of the technology tell us that there need be no delays and checking cards can be done in the same time as it presently takes to pass the tickets or to pay for them. Some noble Lords have seen the technology which can be achieved in your Lordships' House. But in an age when we can send a man to the moon, I do not believe it is beyond the wit of man to devise the technology to make the turnstiles work.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, if you go to London Airport you have to look at the television screen, because the main screen which is telling you which channel to go to always breaks down.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I am unaware whether this is the same system as that at London Airport, but I do not think it is. The noble Lord, Lord Knights, asked whether it was appropriate for the offence of entering or trying to enter a ground without a membership card to be a criminal offence, when the scheme itself will be run by a civilian body in the form of the FMA. My answer is that we must provide an effective deterrent to those who might ignore the membership scheme. If we leave it to the clubs to take civil action, the deterrent will only be a limited one and there is a risk that large numbers of hooligans will turn up without membership cards.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, and my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls raised the question of Irish citizens resident in Manchester. Anyone who goes 1304 regularly to matches can and should join the scheme, be he English, Irish, Swedish or whatever. For those who go only once as casual supporters, the football membership authority will make arrangements in the scheme. They may involve temporary membership cards or passports for foreign nationals and it will be for the clubs to ensure that the arrangements are not abused. What that means is that if someone is a foreign national and goes to a club under a temporary scheme, that is all well and good. But if the Irishman in Manchester of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, attempts on a regular basis to use the temporary scheme, the club will he deemed not to be supervising the scheme properly.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, what happens if he shows his passport? Presumably if he shows his passport he has to be allowed into the ground notwithstanding the fact that he lives in Manchester. This Bill is beginning to look more and more fatuous the more we discuss it.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, that would not be the case. If, unfortunately, he was the kind of fellow who would go and cause an affray he would be arrested with his passport and be seen as someone who was undesirable to enter a football ground. If he tried to present his passport again someone might well ask a question.
The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, asked a question which has worried certain clubs, particularly London clubs, concerning substantial numbers of foreign—and in his example Swedish—visitors. The Government recognise the importance to some clubs of the tourist industry and of foreign visitors being able to attend matches in England. That is why the Minister for Sport's working party recommended that temporary membership cards should be available, provided that the clubs took responsibility for the visitors to make sure that this is not a loophole in the scheme.
I have covered some of the important points that your Lordships have raised today and we will without doubt return to them in more detail at the Committee stage. I should like to re-emphasise that many of the practical considerations raised during this debate can and will be considered in detail by the FMA when they draw up a scheme and choose the appropriate technology. This Bill provides the framework for this important work to be undertaken by the football clubs and administrators.
I should like to draw this debate to its conclusion by joining my honourable friend the Minister of State in acknowledging that a great deal has been done in recent years in the fight against hooliganism. The Government, the clubs and the police have all played their part. This Bill will enable those efforts to achieve success.
For the first time we shall have an effective means to stop the hooligan from going to football matches and prevent the convicted troublemakers from disgracing our country abroad. Anyone with an interest in the game must surely support this objective. The Bill will be good for football, good for law and order and good for this country. Far from being an illiberal Bill, this is a liberating Bill to return 1305 football to the people. I ask your Lordships to agree that it should he read a second time.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord could answer the questions I asked when both noble Lords were out of the Chamber. First, were the Association of Chief Constables approached? Were they consulted? Secondly, if so, what was their reaction?
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I believe that if the noble Lord reads the speech of my honourable friend the Minister of State he will find an answer to his questions.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes before ten o'clock.