§ Mr. Spring
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps the Government have taken to eradicate racism in football. 
§ Mr. Banks
[holding answer 18 June 1998]: The Government are fully committed to eliminating racism from football. One of the priorities of the Football Task Force was to address this problem, and I welcome and fully support the practical recommendations made in the Task Force's report into racism. I have written to the bodies identified in the report, asking them how they intend to take forward the measures relevant to them and seeking a clear timetable for action.
There are two specific recommendations that fall to Government: that the Football Offences Act 1991 should be amended to make racist abuse by spectators an offence; and that schoolchildren should have access to playing fields on a regular basis.
The Government will be amending the Football Offences Act 1991 as soon as legislative priorities allow. In the meantime, the Home Office has written to all chief police officers in England and Wales reminding them of existing powers under the Public Order Act 1986, which makes it an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress to the person to whom such words or behaviour are directed.
The Government recognise that schoolchildren should have access to playing fields to enable them to participate in a range of sports. We recently announced how we will protect existing playing fields needed by schools and communities through new legislation requiring schools to seek consent for the sale of playing fields and tightening planning controls.