European Cup Final (Brussels)

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 3rd June 1985.

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Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:30 pm, 3rd June 1985

With Permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about the events at the European Cup Final in Brussels last week and the measures which have been put in hand in this country to deal with football violence.

Last Wednesday, television viewers throughout Britain and the world witnessed the appalling scenes of violence at the European Cup Final in Brussels, which resulted in 38 deaths and a much larger number of injuries; 27 people are still in hospital. I know that the whole House will share the nation's profound sympathy for the bereaved and injured, and the sense of outrage and shame at the behaviour of some of our citizens which led to the tragedy. The House will also wish to associate itself with the message of sorrow and condolence sent by Her Majesty the Queen to President Pertini of Italy and King Baudouin of Belgium. I have sent similar messages on behalf of the Government to Signor Craxi, Mr. Martens and President Mitterrand. The immediate contribution that we have announced of £250,000 for the families of the victims is an expression of our deep sympathy and support for those involved.

The Belgian authorities and UEFA are conducting formal inquiries into the arrangements for the match and into the disaster. They will no doubt report on the extent to which the internationally agreed guidelines and precautions for spectator safety were followed. We cannot prejudge the outcome of those inquiries, but we must recognise that there has been a terrible record of violence at European football matches in which, I regret to say, English supporters have played a large part over many years.

In those circumstances, the Government welcomed the initial decision of the Football Association to withdraw English clubs from participation in European competitions next season, and we fully understand the subsequent decision of UEFA to ban English clubs from European competition for an indefinite period, and we believe it to be right. This withdrawal gives English football authorities the opportunity to introduce effective measures to combat violence and to convince other countries that they have done so.

Last week, I was able to have discussions with several people, including the chairman and secretary of the Football Association, who returned immediately from Mexico after receiving news of the tragedy, the chairman of Liverpool football club, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment, who happened to be present at the match and was an eyewitness to the events, and a number of football correspondents, who were also present at this and similar occasions in the past.

The following measures will be taken, or are already in hand, to put our own house in order.

First, we shall introduce as soon as possible legislation similar to that contained in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. That Act makes it an offence to be drunk or to possess alcohol on football coaches, on entry to grounds and in most areas of grounds. It also makes it an offence to be in possession of containers that could be used as missiles. Subject to discussions through the usual channels, it is our intention to have this legislation on the statute book by the summer recess, in time for the coming football season.

Second, we shall proceed next Session with the legislation envisaged in the Government's White Paper on the review of public order. The proposals on assemblies in the open air will considerably strengthen the powers available to the police to guard: against the risk of disorder. Wherever they have reason to expect disorder at a football match, the police will, in effect, be able to limit the gate and impose other conditions. Under this provision, the police should be able to stipulate whatever steps they judge necessary to minimise the risk of disorder.

Third, Mr. Justice Popplewell will continue with his inquiry into the events at Bradford City and Birmingham football grounds on 11 May. His terms of reference are already wide enough to allow any lessons learnt from Brussels to be taken into account. I understand that Mr. Justice Poppelwell hopes to submit an interim report before the beginning of next season.

Fourth, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has set in hand the procedure for designating under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 all clubs in the third and fourth divisions. We have, in addition, agreed with the football authorities on a number of measures, including acceleration of the introduction of closed-circuit television, with the help of the Football Trust. I have been informed today that the trust is proposing to allocate £500,000 for this purpose as a first step. That would give cover in more than 30 grounds, in addition to the 11 at which experiments are already taking place.

Events at Brussels last week have, however, made it clear that more is now needed. I shall be discussing urgently with the football authorities proposals for the introduction of a practical scheme of membership schemes, either on a club or national basis, proposals for far more all-ticket matches and stricter controls or, in some cases, a ban on visiting spectators.

I recognise that such measures would mean a radical change in the way in which football is conducted in this country, but radical change is needed if football is to survive as a spectator sport and if English clubs are once more to be acceptable abroad.

Fifth, in parallel with our own action, we shall continue to co-operate in developing international measures to deal with hooliganism. Next week, my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport will be attending a meeting of European Ministers for that purpose.

In the meantime, we are anxious to give the Brussels authorities every possible assistance in bringing to justice and dealing appropriately with people from this country who have committed offences in connection with last Wednesday's match. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has sent a message to the Belgian Minister of the Interior offering the assistance and co-operation of British police forces. The Mersey side police and the Metropolitan police are examining television film closely to see whether they can identify those responsible for last Wednesday's violence.

We also want to do everything within our power to remove any possible difficulty in the way of any charges that the Belgian authorities may decide to bring. Arrangements already exist between the United Kingdom and Belgium for the extradition of those accused of serious offences of violence such as murder, manslaughter, wounding or serious assault. If the Belgian authorities were to seek the extradition of someone accused of such an offence, we should naturally give them every assistance to meet our requirements on evidence.

One disincentive for the Belgian authorities may be that it is less trouble simply to expel Britons who may have committed offences rather than to prosecute and sentence them appropriately. We intend to offer the Belgians the opportunity, in accordance with the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, of removal to prison in this country of anyone who may be given a prison sentence in Belgium.

I hope that last Wednesday's sickening events will unite all decent people in helping to eradicate hooliganism. To curb violence requires effort and commitment from us all. If English clubs are to play football in Europe again, they can do so only when their good name, and that of their followers and supporters, has been restored.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

First, I should like to repeat my complete condemnation of the violence that led to the deaths and injuries at Heysel stadium last Wednesday. Naturally, we in the official Opposition join all others in offering our deepest condolences to the relatives of all those who died and of those who were injured. As I have already said, we agree with the Government's decision to give £250,000 to the relief fund set up by the Italian Government. I welcome the assistance being given, and announced in the Prime Minister's statement, in bringing to justice the criminals of any nationality and of any affiliation who were responsible for the tragedy in Brussels.

As to today's statement by the Prime Minister, I should like to tell the right hon. Lady that the Opposition support the Government's decision to bring in legislation similar to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. However, we are frankly surprised at the rather restricted action proposed by the Government, and disappointed at the decision to extend Mr. Justice Popplewell's inquiry beyond its already stretched limits. Does the Prime Minister really consider that the learned judge, with all his vigour and undoubted thoroughness, has the resources and facilities necessary for yet another major area of inquiry? Surely it is not enough to hope, as the right hon. Lady said in her statement, that Mr. Justice Popplewell will produce an interim report in time for proposals to be implemented before the beginning of the next football season. We need a firm assurance now that the report will come in time for proposals to be implemented before the season begins, and that any necessary resources will be available for practical implementation.

I refer to the problems of football and football hooliganism. May I specifically ask the right hon. Lady whether she will bring forward proposals to ensure that some of the revenue taken out of the game is returned in the form of improved safety and security at football grounds? That is clearly necessary to assist with the cost of better accommodation and effective policing. Frankly, the proposals that we have heard so far do not begin to match the scale of the crisis in British football, both in and near to British football grounds. When we consider that it is now 12 weeks since the awful scenes at the Luton ground in the Cup match against Millwall, and that it is exactly the same period—12 weeks—until 24 August, the beginning of the new football season, that shows how much speed and effectiveness is necessary to tackle the problem directly before we are afflicted again next season by the scenes that we have witnessed in this and previous seasons.

In the official Opposition and, I think, in the House generally, we are and must be intent on securing arrangements by both the Government and other relevant authorities, which will help football clubs and genuine football supporters, who are in the vast majority, and the police, to defeat the criminals who are destroying the game, terrorising spectators and inflicting misery on people who live near football grounds or who travel when football games are taking place. In the Opposition, as a basic principle, we seek properly to maintain the civil liberties of the decent and innocent majority to go to games in safety, and to live in peace. To that end, I say to the Prime Minister that our responses to this matter cannot relate simply or solely to punishment or to policing; neither can they relate only to a period of probation for English football.

On 14 March, I asked: Will the right hon. Lady agree that we need action to identify and deal with the causes of these afflictions and the breakdown of behaviour in society?"—[Official Report, 14 March 1985; Vol. 75, c. 431.] We want the thugs caught and punished, but does the Prime Minister agree that in addition it is essential to discover not only those who commit the crimes but why they commit such crimes? Therefore, can we look forward to a quick and thorough investigation with that in view, which would involve the police, youth and social workers and others with direct practical experience from week to week of dealing with the issues posed by the spread of thuggery? [Interruption.] If it is the case, as Mr. John Smith and hon. Members have suggested and as others have noted in years gone by, that any of this thuggery is related in any way to political organisation by racists, Fascists or anyone else, that must be among the areas to be inquired into so that the menace to democracy is taken out.

We have witnessed a terrible tragedy in Brussels, and we now know UEFA's response. The thuggish minority, who are a stain on British football and British society, are the cause of both. It must be our determined purpose now to ensure that they have had their day once and for all. On football grounds and anywhere else in society we shall never permit them to show their ugly and thuggish face again.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

If I may reply to some of the right hon. Gentleman's points. I am grateful to him for saying that the Opposition will support legislation similar to the Scottish legislation. As I said, we shall be in touch through the usual channels on this matter.

I did not say that Mr. Justice Popplewell will inquire into the matters at Brussels. I said, and drafted this point very carefully: His terms of reference are already wide enough to allow any lessons learnt from Brussels to be taken into account. I cannot speed up the rate at which Mr. Justice Popplewell will report. I understand that he intends to make an interim report before the beginning of next season. In the meantime, the Football Association and the Football Trust are active. Each of the football clubs is responsible for the safety of people on its ground. Fire officers are now looking at the stands. The Football Ground Improvement Trust and some surveyors are looking at the stands to ascertain the changes that can be made. Those changes cannot all be made in time for next season. But the numbers of people that the clubs allow into the grounds must take into account the condition of the stands already on the grounds because the clubs are responsible for safety.

On finance, there is already a working party under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane), consisting of the Football Association, the Football League, the Football Trust, the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, the Pools Promoters Association and the Sports Council to make an assessment of the moneys that are needed to make the grounds safe. This assessment will be made in view of the numbers of spectators many of those grounds now have, and not in relation to the stands that they had for higher numbers of spectators in the past. Of the money that is available at the moment, £7 million a year goes from the football promoters to the Football Trust and £3·3 million was distributed retrospectively in 1984 from the Football Ground Improvement Trust — not for new applications for safety provision but because there were no applications for safety provision. The £3·3 million was distributed retrospectively for work that had already been done. A further £5 million a year is received direct from pools promoters as payment for the copyright on the fixtures list, without which the pools could not operate and £3·5 million a year is received from television. That is apart from the proceeds from the gate. Considerable sums are already going into football. We are prepared to allocate more, should the committee's findings show that that is necessary.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested that there should be an inquiry into crime and hooliganism. That could go on for years and find as many answers as there are people on such an inquiry. There is violence in human nature. There are only three ways of trying to deal with it— persuasion, prevention or punishment. We shall try to operate all three.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the two grounds of Liverpool and Everton are in my constituency? Over the weekend I went round my constituency and spoke to people who were on the Z,Y and X terraces at Brussels? Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is a deep feeling of grief among the people of Liverpool? They are crying for the dead and for their families; they are crying for the city, because they never expected, with their record, that such an event could occur; they are crying for football both in Britain and internationally; they are crying because the truth has been a casualty; and they are crying because they believe that the time has come to face up to the political elements that were involved in that and other matches—incidentally, from both ends. Mr. Brian Moore, the ITN correspondent, was the only person who clearly explained that the forces involved were trying desperately to create trouble and cause problems for our people.

I have today told the Italian ambassador, on this Italian day, that my people in Liverpool have as much grief in their hearts as the people of Milan, Turin or elsewhere in Italy.

I ask the right hon. Lady not to become involved in a cover-up of the terrible events. Other questions must be asked. What about the fact that many people have run away from their responsibilities? What about the position of the Belgian authorities, the fact that the ground was unsuitable and that police action was insufficient to deal with the outbreak of violence? What about the fact that UEFA has been quick to introduce action but has not dealt with the situation?

I say to the right hon. Lady that whatever is being suggested must not be used as a further attempt to undermine our civil liberties. We must deal with the individuals and groups concerned; we must root out and isolate them. We have to say who they were and explain why they did it. We must find the reason—that is the important factor. I hope that the right hon. Lady will not be misled in other directions.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I think that the whole nation shares the grief expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). Indeed, we are united in sharing and expressing that grief.

We cannot prejudge the results of the inquiry in Belgium. Some of the matters to which the hon. Gentleman referred would not be necessary unless there were soccer hooliganism. It is appalling that supporters of one club cannot stand alongside supporters of another club without the fear of violence. That used not to be so in football, or in any sport in this country. It is that that we must try to eradicate. In the meantime, we must tackle the situation by a mixture of prevention, above all, and of punishment when these events; occur.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

As someone with the closest possible connection with the town of Turin, may I speak of my great shame at the events of last Wednesday? There should be no cover-up and no excuses for the disgrace of those events.

We talk about giving help to the police in Belgium, but why on Thursday morning were there not hundreds of police officers at all points of entry into this country finding out the names and addresses of those returning from Belgium and what they had been doing, so that we could discover exactly who was responsible for that outrage?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the responsibility should be placed firmly on the football associations and on the clubs themselves, and that clubs and stadiums should be licensed in the same way as public houses, so that, if clubs failed to meet the requirements of good order, they could be closed until they could met them? Then we would not export our violence to the continent of Europe.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

With regard to police help, the police are giving all the assistance that they possibly can. In addition to looking at videos, they have been active at some of the ports of entry of football supporters on their return, as my hon. Friend would expect.

The question of drink at football clubs will be dealt with under the legislation that will shortly be brought before the House. There are one or two ways in which English clubs differ from Scottish clubs, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is in consultation with the police about any differences in legislation that may be advisable.

Several Hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I understand that the House feels very deeply about this matter, but I must have regard to the subsequent business. Therefore, I ask for brief questions, and I shall allow them to run until 4.15 pm.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

I associate myself and my hon. Friends with the expressions of sympathy and with the condolences which have been offered to the bereaved and to those who were injured in the terrible events of last Wednesday.

May I also tell the Prime Minister and the House that the people of Liverpool feel not only acute grief but a profound sense of shame at the mindless acts of a minority who dragged the name of a great foolball club and city into the dust by their actions? Those actions cannot be forgiven by people trying to sweep aside the blame and pass it on either to the Belgian authorities or to UEFA.

Will the Prime Minister consider extending the ban on alcohol to areas around football grounds? When matches are played away from home, alcohol should be banned not only on the coaches taking people to matches but on the duty-free ferries.

I ask the Prime Minister to urge those who witnessed the scenes in which there was a breakdown of personal responsibility last Wednesday, and those who have some say in running the affairs of the city of Liverpool at this critical time, not to break the law or to elevate mob rule to some sort of cult, but to endeavour to achieve the highest levels of personal responsibility which are necessary if we are never again to witness the kind of scenes that we saw last Wednesday.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am grateful for what the hon. Member said. There are, I believe, no excuses for what happened, and we must not try to find any.

With regard to the hon. Member's comments about alcohol being available in areas around football grounds, the police can already apply to the magistrates, so that public houses and places where alcohol is sold can be closed on a particular day for a particular time. Use can be made of that power.

I echo the hon. Member's suggestion that we should all attempt to ensure that there are the highest levels of effort and commitment to stamping out violence, because we all have some part in setting the standards by which our society lives.

Photo of Mr John Carlisle Mr John Carlisle , Luton North

I have been particularly interested in the subject since the Luton and Millwall game. Does my right hon. Friend accept that there will be some disappointment at her statement?

The remedies that she has put forward in regard to legilsation concerning alcohol, club membership tickets and all-ticket games will not necessarily eradicate the problem. I listened in vain for some hint of the severe penalties that might be imposed upon hooligans. Nowhere in my right hon. Friend's statement was there any suggestion about penalties that would impose on hooligans the sort of physical pain that they so readily impose on other people.

In addition to the legislation that my right hon. Friend intends to bring before the House, which will receive all-party support, could not some amendment be made to the Criminal Justice Act 1982 to enable hooligans to be punished so severely that they will not commit such crimes again?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The penalties available for these serious crimes are already severe. The penalties meted out at Cambridge about a fortnight ago were of the order of five years' imprisonment, and we all thought that they were appropriate sentences. There could, indeed, be even more severe sentences. The Court of Appeal has already said that severe crimes of that nature should in general meet with a prison sentence. Recent events will probably mean that heavier sentences are meted out, and I think that that would be right.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

Is the Prime Minister aware that, of course, it is right to act against violence? Does she recall that it was Frank McElhone, a junior Minister at the Scottish Office, who did the research upon which the Scottish legislation was based? I speak as someone who lives alongside Elland road football ground. We know that violence occurs outside the ground—in city centres and on the trains— and that people are afraid. Violence does not just occur in the grounds. Has the Prime Minister considered—it is what I asked myself when I was Home Secretary—what has gone wrong? On 3 September, 40 years ago, the Welsh Guards went into Brussels as its liberating force and anyone with a daffodil in his hat was well received. Then we saw what happened last week. Something has gone wrong in this country and the right hon. Lady as Prime Minister must give some thought as to what it is.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that there has been what one of the newspapers called at the weekend

a chronicle of violence in soccer for over 15 years. There has been violence elsewhere also. Violence is frequently caused by people who have quite a bit of money. Violence is caused partly because there is now more money and far more mobility than there was in the past, and that enables people to move from one soccer club to another much more quickly. In the meantime, we must act on prevention and punishment. Punishment is part of prevention. I do not believe that it would help to have an extended, indefinite inquiry into the causes of crime which has been with us as long as man has existed.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Is my right hon. Friend aware that amid all the shame and humiliation to which our country has been subjected abroad, the only reaction so far that has cut any ice overseas is her clear condemnation of the atrocity, her outright apology and the announcement that she has made today that we intend to put our own house in order? Will she nevertheless accept that no words and no legislation will be effective unless the police can enforce that legislation? The police are fed up with being used as the "poor bloody infantry" in such disputes. They are fed up with asking for powers and being denied them. In particular, they need to be able to search for weapons, liquor or drugs under the clothing of those who enter football grounds. That power was denied them in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. They need the power to ban a football match if those going to it pose a clear threat to public order.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I have made it clear many times that there are no excuses for what occurred. There is only shame that it should have occurred. With regard to legislation, under the proposed public order legislation, we shall try to see that the police have increased powers to decide what goes on in football grounds if they apprehend that there might be public disorder. I have said that that legislation will come forward during the next Session. I understand that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 does not prevent the police from searching for weapons in any case where that is considered necessary.

I hope that my hon. Friend will take the view that we are increasing the available powers. In the proposed legislation we shall be implementing measures similar to those contained in the Scottish legislation and we shall be prohibiting the supply of alcohol on trains.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

Is the Prime Minister aware that the despair and disaffection of so many young people in Great Britain today is the breeding ground for the mindless and appalling aggression that we saw in Brussels last week? However, that is no excuse for it. I agree with her that we must not try to find excuses.

However, she must face the fact that aggressive economic and social policies exacerbate the problem and that, unless those policies are softened or modified, what happened in Brussels last week may well be a tragic and chilling prelude to what may happen in Britain in the future.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I accept a good deal of what the right hon. Gentleman says. I think that this nation has done something creditable, which shows its underlying and overwhelming sense of decency, by accepting that there are no excuses and by feeling a national shame. That shows that civilisation and civilised values in this country still run strong. I believe that we have the overwhelming majority of people behind us when we take rather sterner action than we might have previously thought necessary. I believe that people expect that action to be taken now.

Photo of Mr Stefan Terlezki Mr Stefan Terlezki , Cardiff West

People in Wales are shocked and horrified by what happened in Brussels. Wales has only four professional clubs. We understand the horror of what occurred in Brussels, and we hope that such a thing will not happen in Wales or the rest of the United Kingdom.

I agree with the proposals that my right hon. Friend has announced this afternoon, but I was somewhat perturbed when she mentioned membership cards. I should like to see a membership card with a photograph issued to young supporters aged between 12 and 20. I am convinced that that would go a long way to help. When I was associated with Cardiff City football club, such passes were issued to young supporters. I remember one evening when Cardiff City played Hereford United. There were 35,000 people watching, but there was not one arrest or prosecution. I should like to see such passes introduced by every football club before the kick-off in the autumn.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

A number of views are held about membership cards. Unfortunately, they are different. Some believe as fiercely as my hon. Friend that there must be club membership cards containing a photograph. Others say that there should be national membership cards. I am assured that with modern technology either is technically feasible. I shall be discussing that point again with the Football Association which, before the events in Brussels, was resistant to the idea of membership cards. I shall be doing my utmost to persuade it that club membership cards are necessary to achieve the requisite control.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

As the Member representing Hampden park who has seen the Scottish experiment in operation, may I ask the Prime Minister to consider the closure of all licensed premises within a radius around a football ground as well as banning the taking of alcohol into football grounds in the legislation that she intends to introduce? Secondly, and more positively, may I suggest that when she studies the Scottish experiment she reads the report produced by the late Frank McElhone and considers the positive ideas that he proposed — in particular, all-seat stadiums and that there should be more community facilities within them to make football grounds part of the community, not just part of the football scene?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's first point, it is already possible for the police to apply to the magistrates for the closure of licensed premises near to grounds. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is necessary. We have already discussed with the Football Association seating in stadiums, the provision of family enclosures, to which the Football Trust frequently makes special subsidies to the various clubs, and more all-ticket matches. All these things are under discussion already with the Football Association. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Photo of Mr Barry Porter Mr Barry Porter , Wirral South

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the majority of people on Merseyside do not and will not attempt to justify or excuse the actions of the drunken and homicidal hooligans in Brussels the other night? Does she accept also that Merseysiders, who were so disgraced in Brussels, will support whatever measures are necessary — the measures which are announced or measures which are suggested in future — to ensure that what took place in Brussels never happens again?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that there is a national sense of shame and that the people of Liverpool feel especially deeply about what took place in Brussels. We shall be introducing appropriate legislation to deal with the drink problem. However, I think that it would be a mistake to believe that that will solve all the problems. The term "mindless violence" is used frequently, but my worry is that it is often calculated and mindful violence, which is an important factor. We must try to apprehend and punish severely those who commit acts of violence wherever violence occurs.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

The Prime Minister will be aware that there has been universal condemnation in Liverpool of the actions of those who were responsible for the violence last Wednesday. Liverpool does not abrogate responsibility for the part played by so-called Liverpool supporters. I hope that the right hon. Lady will make every effort to ensure that we seek out those who were responsible and that our actions do not amount to a universal condemnation of the city. As I have said, Liverpool has profound sympathy with the families which have been bereaved. Indeed, that sympathy was reflected in a service that took place in Liverpool on Saturday.

Will the Prime Minister recognise that the violence which we saw on Wednesday has been developing over the past decade and is not an overnight phenomenon? That is my view as a Liverpool supporter of many years' standing who has stood on the terraces. Little attention has been give to those who now occupy the terraces, which used to be occupied by those who wanted to watch a sporting game. The present occupants are those who go to matches for purposes that are limited to violence, thuggery and hooliganism. Will the right hon. Lady ensure that proper access is given to all those who witnessed certain events at the Brussels match so that the fullest and most comprehensive inquiry can take place? Only that approach will lead to the elimination of violence at football grounds.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I agree very much with the hon. Gentleman's contribution. Given the scenes that we saw on television and the terrible consequences, it is something of a disappointment that so few have so far been apprehended or arrested. The anonymity of the crowd is one of the deeply disturbing factors in such crimes, and that is why we are trying to do so much with closed circuit television. We are going through the photographs to ascertain whether we can identify those who were responsible for what took place. That is why we are so anxious to see the introduction of identity cards and other means by which we can readily identify those who attend football matches. Everything possible will be done to apprehend those who were responsible and to bring them to justice. That would be the best thing possible, and for that we need the co-operation of those who were present who know those who were responsible.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Warren Mr Kenneth Warren , Hastings and Rye

I accept that there is no excuse for the violence that took place in Brussels. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that every co-operation will be given by her Ministers and by our police to the Belgian police, especially in the light of evidence that has come before me today and which I intend to place before Ministers? The evidence suggests that there was inadequate policing at the stadium before and after the match and that Belgian police officers were seen selling tickets at random outside the stadium before the match.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I think that these matters will emerge as the inquiry into the events which took place in the stadium, which the Belgian authorities are conducting, continues. My hon. Friend is aware that the inquiry is taking place. We must have the right arrangements to prevent these violent events from taking place and these must include seating and limitations of crowds and of who shall be present. The matters to which my hon. Friend has referred would not have been harmful if there had not been a tremendous streak of hooliganism within the stadium.

Photo of Mr John Cartwright Mr John Cartwright , Woolwich

Does the Prime Minister accept that the anti-hooligan measures that she proposes make sense but involve major financial problems for the less wealthy football clubs in the lower divisions? Does she accept that pool betting duty is now raising £220 million a year for the Government and that a 2·5 per cent. reduction of the duty would generate £15 million? If that sum were distributed throughout the Football Trust there would be enough money to bring all league clubs up to acceptable safety standards and to pay for the anti-hooligan measures in the lower divisions which she proposes. Will she consider that as an urgent measure?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The football pool betting levy is a tax on gambling, not on football. The Government must have income to carry out the many social and other services for which they are responsible. We are prepared to find more money if the committee which is now sitting says that that is necessary. As I have said, £7 million goes to the Football Trust each year and £5·5 million goes to football league clubs for the copyright of the matches which are played. Television rights amount to £3·5 million. Last year, in the absence of further applications for improvements to grounds, the Football Ground Improvement Trust disbursed £3·3 million in support of improvements which had already taken place. We must direct ourselves to the money which is available and is being used for safety purposes and to the new rules which the Football Association, after discussion, may think fit to introduce. There is no point in re-doing up old stands which are far too large for the numbers of spectators who now attend matches.

Photo of Mr James Lester Mr James Lester , Broxtowe

I am sure that we all accept that football should not be a vehicle for violence, that there are no excuses for violence and that violence has become a disgrace for teams, towns and the country. Will my right hon. Friend accept that there are millions of football supporters who watch matches every week and that many of them organise supporters' clubs? Is she aware that the supporters' clubs have a great deal to offer in terms of prevention and identifying the hooligans? Will she ensure that the supporters' clubs have a full part in all the discussions that take place?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I take note of my hon. Friend's remarks. I am sure that we shall have the overwhelming support of all members of supporters' clubs who love football and who wish to see an end to hooliganism and violence. I am sure that these supporters want once more to be able to take their families to football matches to see the game played as it used to be played.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Opposition want to co-operate as much as possible with the improvement of legislation and with other measures which are intendedd to combat hooliganism at football grounds and elsewhere. However, I listened intently to the right hon. Lady and I heard no effective proposals for co-ordination between the various interested bodies. She has given no undertakings of adequate finance being made available, despite the fortunes that are made out of football. She has given no undertaking to investigate the causes of violent criminality. Instead, we have heard the Prime Minister confine herself almost entirely to addressing the symptoms of the sickness, and only as they relate to football, which is only a part of the problem afflicting our society.

I ask the Prime Minister further to reflect on these matters and to reconsider her attitude so that we can get directly to the sources of the savagery and by that means find real answers. I plead with the right hon. Lady to do that before she commits herself irrevocably only to dealing with a small part, albeit a horrific one, of the problem.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I said in reply to the right hon. Gentleman's earlier contribution that there is already a co-ordinating committee on finance under the chairmanship of the Minister with responsibility for sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane). On his working party there are represent-tatives of the Football Association, the Football League, the Football Trust, the Football Grounds Improvement Trust, the Pools Promoters Association and the Sports Council. The committee is considering the very finance to which the right hon. Gentleman refers.

Regarding the right hon. Gentleman's desire for a general inquiry into the causes of violence, there are books and books, papers and papers, and courses and courses upon it. They have not found the answer and they never will. I do not intend to ask for yet another inquiry.