Unauthorised Entry to Football Matches Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:05 pm on 23 February 2024.

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Second Reading

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing) 12:08, 23 February 2024

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Yes, it’s me again; earlier, I was playing up front, but I am back at the back for this debate, and I hope to be back on the Front Bench later if my Bill makes the progress that I hope it will after Second Reading.

On Sunday 11 July 2021, the final of the men’s Euros football tournament at Wembley could have resulted in not just the sad loss for the English football team, but in a tragic loss of life. That was the finding of the independent review that was conducted by Baroness Louise Casey into the events of that day, suggesting that we narrowly escaped a disaster that could have resulted in fatalities or irreversible injuries. For everyone here, the mere thought that such a catastrophe is still possible in this country at a football match in the 21st century, after the tragedies of the latter part of the last century, is profoundly unsettling. Some Members of this House were present at the Euro 2020 final, which took place in 2021, and witnessed at first hand the reckless behaviour of some people seeking to enter the stadium without a ticket.

I admit that I was genuinely shocked to discover, when the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, of which I was a member at the time, undertook an inquiry following the Euros, that entering or attempting to enter a football match without a ticket is not a specific criminal offence. That is why that Committee acknowledged the need for my Bill in a recommendation in its “Safety at major sporting events” report, published in December 2023. That demonstrates the broad cross-party recognition of this problem, and the consensus on the need for legislative action to put it right. If hon. Members take a glance at the Bill, they will see that all the members of that Select Committee with seats within its territorial scope—Wales and England—are named co-sponsors, so it has the full support of that Committee. My Bill would bring into law recommendations that came out of the Select Committee’s findings and the Baroness Casey Review by amending the Football (Offences) Act 1991 to introduce a new offence of unauthorised or attempted unauthorised entry to football matches.

It is estimated that at the Euro 2020 final, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ticketless individuals were able to gain entry. Many people will have seen the disorder, the overcrowding and the safety hazards that resulted from those events. Those actions not only compromise the safety and security of stewards, police officers, spectators, players and officials, but greatly tarnish the reputation of the sport and this country.

Photo of Mark Tami Mark Tami Opposition Pairing Whip (Commons)

The thing that really surprised me was that Wembley is not just your average stadium; it is a purpose-built stadium that we would expect to have the best security, yet that number of people were able to get through. As my hon. Friend said, that could potentially have caused the loss of life.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We were all shocked that those events were able to take place at a relatively new flagship national stadium, so we must think about how stadiums are designed. Wembley has a particular feature—the long Wembley way, which goes back to when the stadium was originally opened in 1923. Traditionally, lots of fans approach in that direction in very large numbers.

One thing that my Bill does that might address my right hon. Friend’s concerns is to make it possible for the offence to be enforced not just at the turnstile but around the premises on private land, so an outer security cordon can enforce the offence that the Bill creates. That should help in a place like Wembley. As he says, it was shocking to see the number of people who were able to get past the stewards and rush entry into the ground.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

I support the hon. Gentleman’s Bill and think he is right to introduce it, so I say this in the spirit of scrutinising legislation: he is using what happened at the Euros as a justifiable reason for his Bill—I go along with that—but by increasing its scope to include areas that the explanatory note seems to suggest include bars and car parks, it seems that he is making someone trying to blag their way into a car park the same offence as trying to tailgate their way into the semi-final of the Euros. Does he really think that those two things should be treated in the same way?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. He is always assiduous in his scrutiny of legislation, and rightly so.

In isolation, it will not be an offence to try to get into a car park, but the Bill reflects the reality of the areas around football grounds. Cardiff City stadium, which is located in my constituency, was built a few years ago to replace the old Ninian Park stadium across the road. Like a lot of newer stadiums, it is in a slightly more out-of-town location, surrounded by car parks that specifically serve those attending matches.

In some instances, to enforce the intention of this new offence, it might be necessary to set up an outer cordon immediately outside the premises of the stadium itself, which is the purpose of the provision. There may be other hospitality settings close to the stadium but outside the turnstiles. In that instance, if another security cordon needed to be set up, my Bill could be enforced to prevent people who came along not with a ticket and with the intention of attending the match but simply to try to jib their way into the ground from doing so. Such actions compromise the safety of individuals and potentially tarnish the country’s reputation. The Euros are returning in 2028, and we cannot afford a replay of those events.

The current legal framework does not address the problem. Those caught entering a stadium without authorisation face no legal repercussions. Those attempting to enter are simply moved on, and often try to gain entry multiple times. There are no consequences for their selfish actions, which risk jeopardising matches and could recklessly endanger the safety and lives of others.

The Bill is intended to respond directly to those challenges by making unauthorised entry into football matches a specific offence. The aim is to deter people from attempting to enter stadiums without a valid ticket. Before the debate, I did an interview with, among others, Martin Keown—the former Arsenal footballer—on talkSPORT. There was a feeling in our discussion that the deterrent effect is a significant part of this measure. A fine of up to £1,000 might be a deterrent but, under the Bill, a conviction for this offence could lead to a court-imposed football banning order, under the Football Spectators Act 1989 and the Football (Offences) Act 1991, which would prevent a person from attending football matches for a specified period of between three and 10 years. That would be an even greater deterrent. This Bill seeks to address all forms of unauthorised entry, recognising the broad spectrum of tactics employed to gain illicit access to stadiums.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

That raises the question of why the Bill is designed only to apply to football. The same thing could apply to a Rugby world cup final at Twickenham, the Olympics—we might have them again in the future—or any other big sporting event. Is this problem unique to football? Is there any reason why the Bill should not apply to any major sporting event that might have the same problem?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I have spoken to the Football Supporters Association about this Bill, and it is concerned about any legislation that singles out football in this way. The reality is that the current legislative framework includes a significant suite of legislation that applies particularly to football, born of the events of the latter part of the last century. We have moved on hugely, and I think we all thought that we had moved on permanently, from the sorts of scenes that were witnessed at the Euros final.

Because there have been problems at other types of event in recent years, I accept that there is a case for taking a wider look at the issue of gaining illicit entry to venues, whether for a music concert, a festival or another type of sporting event. The Government—and His Majesty’s Opposition, if they are to become the next Government shortly—should look further into the best way to achieve that outcome.

In the relatively narrow confines of my private Member’s Bill, when there is the opportunity to amend legislation already on the statute book and when significant football events are imminent, I think it is justified to bring forward a measure that applies specifically to football, but the hon. Gentleman’s broader point is absolutely valid.

The scope of the Bill extends across the top tiers of domestic football. We are not talking about the local park match. The Bill includes the premier league, the championship, leagues one and two, the national league, the women’s super league and championship, and the Cymru premier competition, as well as international matches in England and Wales.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I am glad he has clarified that the top tiers will be included. Although we hear about the super leagues and all the rest of it, teams like my own beloved Newport County are important, too. Although they might not be in the very top tier—they are obviously as good as those clubs, but they are in a slightly lower tier—it is important that we have clarification that they will be included, because it is important to them.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Someone chuckled when she said Newport County are as good as the top tier, but the fright they gave Manchester United in their recent FA cup tie confirms the veracity of her judgment.

I remember as a young man who grew up only 5 miles up the road from the old Somerton Park—they play at a different ground now—often sneaking away without telling my mother on the 123 bus to watch Newport County play. It was always at 3.15 on a Saturday afternoon, because of the proximity to the Llanwern steelworks. It allowed the steelworkers finishing their shift to attend the match. When the results were read out, those of us who are old enough might remember that Newport County’s home games were always “late kick-off”, rather than being announced at 4.45 in the usual way.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Bill will apply to Newport County and right down as far as the national league in the men’s game in England and the other leagues I mentioned.

In fact, Cardiff City’s stadium, which as I have said is in my constituency, hosts the home games not just of Cardiff City, but the Welsh national teams, and it would be remiss of me not to mention the impeccable behaviour of Welsh fans attending matches there and the cracking atmosphere they create with their passionate renditions of songs such as “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” and “Yma o Hyd”. The vast majority of football fans across the country supporting clubs such as my team, Cardiff City, or any others do so in the right spirit. It is important that they feel safe and secure when supporting their football teams. I make it clear that the intention of the Bill is to support real football fans and to keep them safe and secure while they are enjoying the spectacle of supporting their team.

Football is a big part of our culture. As Members know, I represent a Welsh constituency and was born and brought up in Wales. We are often associated with rugby, and I hope after today’s debate to hop over to Dublin for the Wales-Ireland rugby match in the Six Nations at the weekend. However, in recent years, football has grown ever more important in the national culture of Wales, and it has always been of huge importance across the rest of the UK, bringing together individuals from all walks of life in shared support of their teams. The actions of a few should not be allowed to compromise the safety and security of the majority.

In drafting the Bill—I thank civil servants for their help in that—I have been mindful of the balance between enhancing security and maintaining the open and inclusive nature of football matches. The intention is not to criminalise fans or create barriers to genuine supporters enjoying the game; instead, the focus is on preventing those who would seek to cause disorder and harm from entering stadiums, thus ensuring a safer environment for all. By strengthening the legal framework, we can deter unauthorised entry, reduce the risk of disorder and violence, and ensure that football continues to be a source of joy and community for everyone.

I urge the House to give the Bill a Second Reading

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

Before I finish my remarks, I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has just successfully got his Bill through Second Reading, and will, I am sure, want to reciprocate for this one.

Photo of Jonathan Lord Jonathan Lord Conservative, Woking

I am highly supportive of the Bill, and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on introducing it. Back in 2011, I had another successful private Member’s Bill, which is now the Sports Grounds Safety Authority Act 2011. His Bill is another in that fine tradition of improving safety at our sports grounds for fans and people in the area. If I heard him correctly, the territorial extent does not include Scotland and Northern Ireland. If his Bill succeeds, will he and the Minister share their learnings with colleagues in Scotland and Northern Ireland—we are all delighted that we have a Northern Ireland Assembly again—so that if they host future Euro and World cup events, they have this sort of excellent measure in place, as England and Wales will?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on getting his Bill through its Second Reading—his second such Bill, which is quite an achievement—and I hope that he gets it through its remaining stages before the general election. I do not usually approve of Lords, but he is an elected Lord, so I approve of his Bill going through. He is absolutely right that my Bill applies to England and Wales, because that is the scope of the legislation that I am seeking to amend. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own laws on safety at football matches and so on, but I certainly encourage them to take a look at my measure. I am a big believer in devolution, so I would not tell them what to do, but they might find some useful ideas in it. He is right to point that out to the House.

We can, from all sides of the House, come together to send a strong message that such behaviour will not be tolerated and that the safety and security of people attending and working at football matches are of absolute importance. The Bill reflects our collective responsibility to address the challenges facing the sport and to ensure that football remains a positive and uniting force in our society. I thank the English Football Association and the Football Association of Wales, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, civil servants, Clerks and so on for their support in drafting the Bill. I also thank Mary in the Members’ Tea Room, with whom I discussed my Bill this morning. She gave it her full support, showing that it passes the common-sense test. I commend it to the House.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 12:28, 23 February 2024

It is a pleasure to follow Kevin Brennan. I am delighted that he managed to get “common sense” in before the end of his speech, because my wife would not have forgiven me if I had not mentioned common sense in my speech, and he gave me a perfect opportunity to do so, for which I thank him.

I rise to support the hon. Gentleman’s Bill, which is important and worthwhile, and to wish it safe passage through both Houses of Parliament. However, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I take my role on Fridays very seriously. The danger with private Members’ Bills is that they start with a worthy sentiment but end up going through both Houses with very little scrutiny because everybody agrees with that sentiment, so we end up with bad legislation and unintended consequences. I raised a couple of points with the hon. Gentleman earlier, and I want to test them and maybe another point or two a bit further. It will be interesting to get the Minister’s view when he responds, and the hon. Gentleman’s view when he winds up the debate, on whether or not—it may well be that the answer is “not”—any amendments may be considered in Committee or on Report to improve the Bill or take out something that was not intended. I do not intend to speak for long, which will be a huge relief to everybody, particularly on a Friday. I make my remarks genuinely and in the spirit of trying to be constructive and raise potential issues. It is important that they are considered, even if they are then dismissed.

The hon. Gentleman set out in his opening remarks why the Bill is important. It is about what happened at the Euros final, where it is estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 people without tickets gained entry. They did not just try to gain entry; they actually did it through mass forced entry at turnstiles. I do not think that they necessarily gained entry by tailgating; it was through the deliberate ploy of forcing their way into the stadium.

Of course, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the problems that such behaviour causes. It is unfair, because people might end up sitting in seats that others have legitimately paid for, and ticket holders cannot get to their seats. That is bad enough, but there is also a massive issue with safety and security. Tragically, we have seen in the past what can happen at football stadiums when things are not as they should be. On that basis, he is absolutely right to introduce the Bill, and I would not want to gainsay any of what he said.

Although I accept that my concerns are minor, they are genuine. I would not want to see rules that are designed to tackle very bad behaviour being applied excessively to people who I do not think the Bill is necessarily aimed at. I talked about people blagging their way into a car park, and I am slightly concerned about the way the Bill is written. I do not know what you think, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I have always considered the hon. Gentleman to be a bit of a cheeky chappie. He looks like the type of person who, before his political career—not today, as he is a serious politician—may well have tried to blag his way in somewhere. He just has that look about him.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

The hon. Gentleman is a very astute individual. I first attended Twickenham in 1978, when I was very young indeed, to go and watch Gareth Edwards win his 50th cap for the Welsh rugby team. I and three of my friends got into the ground by virtue of a £5 note, for which we were given £2 change, even though we did not have tickets. I was very young, but I should confess that, as he has raised it.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

I am sure we are all very grateful for that intervention. It is amazing what you find out on a Friday, isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker? It is like a confessional. Perhaps other Members will want me to give way so that they can declare their interest as well. We have probably accidentally found out why the Bill applies only to football and not to any other sport.

My point is that there is a world of difference between a group of people who have a deliberate strategy of engaging in public disorder to force their way into an event through sheer weight of numbers, causing all sorts of potentially serious repercussions, and people who are desperate to get into an event who do not have tickets and who cheekily try to blag their way in through one means or another. I think most people would accept that there is a world of difference between the two. What I would not want to see is the full weight of the law clamp down on the second group in the same way as it would on the first. My slight fear is that that that could happen, given the way the Bill is written.

A young person who tries to cheekily blag their way into an event could find themselves facing the same repercussions as others. I do not think that anybody would want that to happen. I am not sure whether there is a legal way to differentiate between those two things—it may well be that we say it is for a court to make that adjudication—but I would not want somebody who tried to cheekily blag their way into an event to find themselves treated as severely as a criminal making a forced entry with public disorder designs. It would be nice if we could at least think about how we could do that.

The explanatory notes make clear that the penalty is a fine “not exceeding” £1,000. We could argue, with justification, that the fine should be varied according to the situation, so that a minor offence would be reflected in the fine. However, the explanatory notes go on to state:

“A court must”— not may, but must—

“also issue a football banning order following conviction for the offence”.

They go on to state:

“unless it considers that there are particular circumstances that would make it unjust”.

I accept that, but in effect they are saying that ordinarily, whatever the scale of the offence, that is what the court should do. It does not even say that it should do that, but that it must do so.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that that is the way the legislation currently operates, but there is discretion available to the court not to issue a banning order in exactly the sorts of circumstances he describes, where somebody is not intent on causing serious disorder but what might be referred to colloquially as a cheeky bit of attempted jibbing. I would envisage that in those circumstances someone might at first get turned away, but that if they were persistent they could be subject to the offence in the Bill.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

I am very grateful for that clarification, which was genuinely useful.

The other point I want to spend very few minutes on, which I raised in my intervention on the hon. Gentleman, is about other events. If such unauthorised entry is an issue, it should not apply just to football matches. I would be very interested to hear what the Minister and the shadow Minister have to say about that. This country is renowned for hosting world-leading sports events across the piece: the rugby world cup, the rugby league world cup, the Olympics, athletics and so on. Most of those events have tickets that are very much sought after and oversubscribed—we are a sport-loving nation. The Bill has been brought forward largely as a result, as the hon. Gentleman said, of what happened at the Euros—the UEFA European Football Championship. Often in this place, we pass legislation as a result of something happening. Something goes wrong and we think, “Something must be done,” so we pass legislation reactively to deal with an issue that has already happened. To the best of my knowledge, what the Bill addresses has not happened—it may well have happened, but I am not aware of it; other people with more expertise will know—at the rugby world cup final or the rugby league world cup final, so nobody has brought forward any legislation on that.

It might seem unusual—I am unusual, before you get in there first, Mr Deputy Speaker—but rather than just always passing legislation reactively, perhaps we might sometimes have a crack at passing legislation proactively, and try to anticipate things that might happen and nip them in the bud beforehand. The hon. Gentleman has brought forward the basis of a Bill which we could use to do something a bit more proactive. Is there any reason why the provisions in the Bill could not apply to a range of other major events, in particular major sporting events, so that we do not have to wait for such things to happen before we do something about it? We could actually get in there first and try to stop them from happening in the first place, or at least make sure we have appropriate penalties.

The hon. Gentleman is renowned for his huge support for the music industry, and I commend him for everything he does for that industry. He is one of its greatest champions in the House. I am not an expert in the way that he is; I may be enthusiastic, but I do not possess the same expertise. However, as a layman, I should have thought that this would be more of an issue at music events than at sporting events. I could be completely wrong about that, but I suspect I am right. I will certainly bow to the hon. Gentleman’s greater expertise if I am wrong. There may well be existing legislation to deal with these matters at music events. I admit my ignorance in that regard, but it seems to me that legislation of this kind must be just as important for big music events such as concerts—which, by the way, are often held in stadiums and other locations that are also used for sporting events, such as Wembley—so why are we restricting ourselves to football? I genuinely do not understand why this is seen as just a football issue, although I suspect that it is because of the reaction to what happened at the Euros. Surely we in this place must be able to use our wit to say, “It has been a problem in this location”, while also anticipating that it could well be a problem at similar events, whether sporting or musical.

May I just ask the hon. Gentleman and the Minister, who I know will continue to take a great interest in all these issues anyway, and also the shadow Minister, to give this some thought? If we are so adamant that the Bill is necessary in this regard—and I think it is; as I have said, I support it, with a couple of reservations—I urge all those with far more influence than me to think about whether we could introduce similar legislation, if necessary, to cover other big sporting events and perhaps music events as well.

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble 12:42, 23 February 2024

I thank Kevin Brennan for introducing the Bill. He has done a great job in setting out the reasons for it, and I am happy to say that I support it. My hon. Friend Philip Davies asked a couple of questions, and I want to ask a couple in a similar vein, but let me first explain why I think the Bill is important.

People who aggressively try to enter events without tickets are not just putting their fellow attenders at risk, but potentially putting the stewards at risk. At the Euros, as we saw, extra security staff were drafted in. They are often people who have had only a basic level of training from their company, and when faced with tens if not hundreds of people, individuals who were trying to do the right thing and protect the establishment were put at risk during those events—apart from the potential risk to attenders posed by overcrowding. Let us never forget the tragedy that was Hillsborough, although, as we now know, it was not connected with the issue of non-ticketed fans. Large groups of people in small spaces are a frightening prospect, and can lead to a tragic loss of life. I want everyone to understand that we need to look out for those who are seeking to uphold the rules, as well as those who have paid for their tickets.

There are, however, a couple of exceptions that I hope can be explored in Committee. I do not think that either Ruth Jones or Alex Norris subscribes to the Manchester United fan club, as I do. I suspect that the hon. Member for Nottingham North may even be a Manchester City fan, which probably explains his positive reaction to the—totally under control—Newport game that took place earlier in the season. Arguably, being a United fan in recent years has been a triumph of loyalty over pleasure or enjoyment. Just as an aside, let me say that, not so long ago, my father and I took my nephew to watch United at Old Trafford and we discovered that he was the fifth generation of Fletcher to do so. I can be accused of being very many things, but a glory supporter is not one of them.

United are experimenting with changing tickets from paper or plastic card to QR codes. Although this is happening only in the premier league, it is likely to roll down to the lower leagues. Quite famously, there was a problem with that ticketing system—Members can look back at the press reports. I will make a confession to the House, in the spirit of the admissions made by the hon. Member for Cardiff West. I was in possession of a valid ticket for that game, but the failure of the system led to a huge number of fans being locked out. There was a big press of people, so I, along with hundreds of others, hopped over the turnstiles. I did so partly in fear of the crush of people behind me. They could not hear what was going on and did not understand why people were not flowing through the turnstiles as normal. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that incident. I seek assurances that we will not criminalise people such as myself who, although in possession of a valid ticket, did not make the most legitimate entry to the grounds, but did so through genuine reasons of fear for personal safety—and a desire to watch United lose again. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that and provide some assurance that that consideration will be taken on board should the Bill reach Committee stage, as I hope it does.

Finally, being a member of the Stretford End, I hear chats and noises. In particular, I have heard how people have been accidentally caught up in football banning orders. Let me just say this for the record: it is absolutely abhorrent when people go to football games to cause trouble, to have fights and to put people at risk. Football has transformed over my lifetime. In the past, children could not be taken to football because it was not safe for them, but that is no longer the case. It is now a family-friendly activity that people can enjoy. It has some edge to it, but I do not want to see that go. Football is almost the acceptable face of the Iron Age tribal system writ large. I think it was Arrigo Sacchi who said it is the most important of the not important things.

There have been instances of people who were just bystanders to trouble being sanctioned by clubs or given a football banning order. If we are seeking to extend those orders from people committing violence to people trying to get into grounds without a ticket, which I agree is important, are we confident that those who both evaluate and issue those football banning orders uphold the levels and standards of evidence that we would expect to see as part of a law? Who has the final say? What is the mechanism of appeal? We need some clarity on that. I understand the point that the hon. Member for Cardiff was making about including car parks, especially at out-of-town stadiums, but what threshold of evidence would be used? Is somebody hopping into a car park to get an autograph the same as somebody aggressively trying to knock down a turnstile? How do we make sure that we find the right level of justice?

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

My hon. Friend is making a very serious and a very good point. On a more humorous level, could it not be argued that, given the way that Manchester United have been playing in the past few years, a banning order would be a reward rather than a punishment?

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble

When my hon. Friend next comes over to watch Manchester United at Old Trafford, we should make sure to check his passport as he comes over the top. Manchester United is one of the greatest and most important clubs. It is important to remember the Busby Babes and this year’s important anniversary of the Munich air disaster. However, I concede that future peaks are to be scaled by our magnificent team, and I will support them all the way. Let me give an honourable mention to Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who this week got final confirmation of his purchase and support of the club. On a serious note, how are Leeds doing these days?

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble

I have always enjoyed the colour of the kit. Mustard is such an aggressive colour to go to battle in. Semi-seriously, my hon. Friend makes a very good point—football is about fun, banter and local pride. People seeking to aggressively get into grounds without tickets puts all that enjoyment at risk. I support this legislation, but perhaps we could get some clarity to make sure that the enthusiastic kid, as my hon. Friend says, or perhaps the overenthusiastic tourist, is not caught up by it. Crucially, if someone is caught by this law and wants to appeal, can we make sure that they get the right level of justice? Going to see Manchester United may not be the most edifying experience at the moment, but being accidentally banned for life would be a travesty, and we should make sure that does not happen.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing) 12:51, 23 February 2024

It is a pleasure to speak for the Opposition. I congratulate my hon. Friend Kevin Brennan on his Bill, which I support. He is a skilled parliamentarian, but he has demonstrated—as Mr Lord did, who is no longer in his place—that the best “skill” is to be drawn in the private Member’s ballot. It is also a skill to choose a Bill that has a chance of succeeding. Keeping it narrow, short and cheap is generally a good way to do that. My hon. Friend’s Bill has passed those tests.

Britain does sporting events really well. We have great infrastructure and stadiums, and volunteers flock to be part of those events. Who could forget that, having seen the Olympic games? Whether it is the Olympics, the champions league finals or games every weekend, we do them very well. We also do football better than any other place on the planet. A huge part of brand Britain is the global TV product, but the beauty is in the fact that every weekend—this weekend will be no exception—for the premier league alone, half a million people make journeys, short, long and in some cases very long, across the country to see their team, share allegiances, perhaps swear at other fans and sing songs with incredible creativity. There is a real beauty in that; it is very British and very special.

Those two things together—that success in holding major events, and that love of football done well—made what we saw in 2021 at the final of Euro 2020 even more shocking. We do not want to see 3,000 to 5,000 people jibbing in, as my hon. Friend said. It is dangerous. As we read in the independent report, it was very lucky that greater harm was not caused. What my hon. Friend proposes is a good, smart way of addressing that. I want to cover some of the points made by him and other hon. Members. What my hon. Friend said on the radio earlier about the deterrent effect is exactly right, and what he predicts is likely to be the case. It cannot be overstated that the maximum fine of £1,000 is a lot of money by anyone’s standards. The banning order in particular will get people’s attention, because that is a really serious sanction. For a fan, supporting their club becomes a big part of their identity. For a fan who goes to matches at home and away, that is a huge part of their lifestyle and involves their friendship groups. That gets people’s attention, so it is a good sanction.

Let me address a couple of points made by Philip Davies. I share a lot of his views when it comes to sport; he knows what he is talking about. He is a match-going fan, and he talks a lot of sense on sport. His point about scrutiny on Fridays is important. We owe it to our constituents to perform that scrutiny as well as we can, whatever day of the week it is, because the intention is for these Bills to become the law of the land. We always have to keep in mind the test: hard cases make bad laws. I always think about that, particularly on Fridays, but I think the hon. Gentleman has passed the test today.

The hon. Gentleman made a point about un- intended consequences. Proposed new clause 1A(3) to the Football (Offences) Act 1991 should give quite a lot of comfort in that regard. The explanatory notes are very comprehensive about what the Bill is not intended to do, and certainly gave me comfort, particularly about proposed new subsection 3(b)(i). A 17-year-old using an under-16’s ticket is a breach of terms and conditions, and they probably should not do it, but the law should not criminalise that individual. The club can manage that with a sanction, which is likely to be a short internal ban. That is the right level, so I think that the right balance has been found.

I might disagree with the hon. Gentleman on the cheekiness point, though. These are big stadiums; as Katherine Fletcher said, we are talking about large concentrations of human beings in one place. The capacity at Wembley is 90,000. The hon. Member for Shipley and I may agree a lot on sport, but I suspect we disagree quite a lot on health and safety legislation—on its effectiveness and necessity. In this space, health and safety is exceptionally important, and for a stadium to be even one person over capacity is dangerous. I agree with his sentiment that someone just trying their luck should not have a criminal record and face a really significant sanction, but we should not encourage such behaviour in general. People need to know that it is dangerous, and that they should not do such things.

Turning to the hon. Member for Shipley’s point about breadth, my view is that the approach taken in the Bill is good and right for football; it follows that in those other examples he mentioned, it would be good and right, too. I understand and agree with the approach that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West has taken: keeping the Bill narrow and basing it on legislation that is already on the statute book is the best way to ensure that the Bill succeeds. Going broader may imperil the Bill as a venture, but it is incumbent on both the Government and the Opposition to look at what approach could be taken to broaden it. Of course, we will need to follow the evidence and consult relevant organisations, but the basic principle applies: people entering an event for which they have no ticket, which is a really dangerous health and safety breach, is bad, whether at the football or elsewhere. As the hon. Member for Shipley pointed out, football fans often get a rough ride; they should not be unduly singled out. I think everyone has said that, but we should make that point.

The contributions of the hon. Member for South Ribble again show the cultural hegemony of football, and its importance in British life. The first conversation that I had with her, near the doorway to the Chamber, was about football.

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble

It was a very pleasant way to be welcomed into the behind-the-scenes bipartisanship that is not always visible to the public. I think it is important to get that on the record, even if the hon. Gentleman does support totally the wrong football team.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

I absolutely agree. My friendship with Dame Karen Bradley came about because she goes to City, as I do—that is something we talk about—and as does Dr Mullan. In fact, I can name every City fan in Parliament with absolute certainty, and I reckon I could do pretty well at naming everybody’s teams, although not that of Tom Tugendhat.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I am absolutely shocked that the hon. Gentleman is not an avid follower of the Tonbridge Angels.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

There we go. I will resist the temptation to ask the right hon. Member who their left back is, because I think that could expose him.

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble

I risk the wrath of my colleague on the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Graham Stringer, if I do not mention that he is a United fan.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

I can name similar miscreants on our Benches very well. My hon. Friend Justin Madders is the first who springs to mind.

Football is part of our cultural life. It is part of the bonds that bring us together. That is why it is important that it is safeguarded, and done properly and safely. I think quite a lot about the point that the hon. Member for South Ribble made about security staff, and I will talk later about recent experiences at football that have really concerned me. Those staff, who are generally not permanent employees of the club—they are probably third-party contractors—and not necessarily well paid, are in dangerous circumstances. Frankly, I worry less about those near the pitch than those who have to steward near the toilets. Again, I will talk about that shortly.

The hon. Lady made important points about what the Bill is and is not designed to deter, and she used her own example. We can take comfort from the fact that she would have had a defence under proposed new section 1A(2) of the 1991 Act, as she had a ticket. As she said, that was not a desirable way for entry to happen, but she would not have committed an offence under the Bill, which speaks to the effectiveness of its drafting.

In closing, it is important that we do not demonise football fans. I am no match-going fan, though I was for a bit. I think we were all legacy fans, though I do not take kindly to that term. However, my love of Manchester City is a huge part of my life and personality. My wife might say it is a much bigger part of it than it ought to be. From the third tier to the champions league final, I have been there and seen it all. Every so often, on my social media feed—I apologise in advance to the hon. Member for South Ribble—the İlkay Gündoğan goal in last year’s FA cup final will pop up, and I cannot go past it; I am incapable of doing that. I will watch it at least half a dozen times, because it was just such a great moment.

Football fans are having a tougher time. They are messed around with kick-off times, and being asked to take long journeys. City fans will be at Bournemouth on Saturday for a game that will end at nearly 8 o’clock at night, and then have to get back to Manchester. That is very difficult. There is also still some stigmatisation, which is not good. Some of these challenges are present in other sports, too, so it is important that football fans are not singled out.

I think that we have found the right balance, but there is an issue coming down the line that either this Government or a future Government will have to address: some of the things that are happening at football matches. What happened at that Euros final did not happen in isolation. Social media can skew our perception of these things, but we see videos that show that behaviours are changing.

As I said, this year, I have witnessed some things in toilets, both away at Brentford and at home to Chelsea, that really shocked me—illegal acts, generally centred around drugs. Poor stewards are left to try to deal with that. There are behaviours at football matches that should not be condoned. People go to have fun, and we know that they are going to shout, swear and drink. All that is fine, but the laws of the land must still apply, whether in public or in the toilet of a football stadium. It behoves us to look at some of that, but what we do must be evidence-based, and we must work with the Football Supporters Association, which does such good work, to ensure that interventions are proportionate. The Bill is absolutely a proportionate intervention, and I give it my full support.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 1:03, 23 February 2024

It is a huge honour to be here under your chairship, Madam Deputy Speaker, and a huge pleasure to speak about a Bill on what I must admit is not what I would have immediately thought was my specialist subject.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Hang on—that is a bit harsh. The Bill raises very important security considerations, so it has been an enormous pleasure to read about the Bill and the impressive work done by Kevin Brennan. The debate has shown quite simply that the passion in the House for what has always been known as the beautiful game twins with the passion for it in our country. Though it does not always attract the affections of everybody in the Chamber—I know that I disappoint some in the Tonbridge Angels when I say that, though many other sports clubs are obviously spared the pain of my support—it really does bring people together. When travelling or serving overseas, I was often touched by the fact that a community of Brits from any part of our country could immediately find an easy conversation and bond over various football teams, which some may support and others may vigorously and majestically oppose. I do not know why I find myself looking at my hon. Friend Katherine Fletcher, as a Manchester United fan, but for some reason Manchester United seemed to come up quite a lot as a divisive subject.

Photo of Katherine Fletcher Katherine Fletcher Conservative, South Ribble

Like the Minister, I have lived and worked around the world. He makes a humorous point about the opportunity for bonding, but I would say that it happens not just with Brits. I lived and worked in Africa: at that time, the first words out the mouths of people there were “Bobby Charlton” and the second words were “David Beckham”. Although “jumpers for goalposts” is often used and can be a trite phrase, I have had conversations with people whose language I could speak not a jot, but we were united by the language of football. Does the Minister agree and is that perhaps something he has experienced?

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Funnily enough, I agree that it is something I have witnessed; I have always struggled to join the conversation. I recently found myself in New York at the funeral of Henry Kissinger, and a few people there were discussing his passion for Arsenal football club and asked me about the latest season in London football. I have to confess that I found myself slightly wanting for words, but it was an environment in which many others were able to supply them, so I was delighted to stay silent as the prowess of the various football teams was discussed. As we are discussing Arsenal, among the research I have been doing into the Bill, it turns out that Cardiff City won the FA cup in 1927 by beating Arsenal, which is a remarkable achievement.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

One-nil. I believe Hughie Ferguson was the goal scorer—there you go; it’s amazing what you can get help with if you ask the right questions, isn’t it? That game was on St George’s day as well. How is that for a triple? It is absolutely true that football binds people together around the world. The number of conversations that one can have travelling and meeting Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, officials—and, indeed, taxi drivers and folk around the world—is extraordinary, because football really does unite. That is why the Bill is so important.

I will start with one of the points raised by Philip Davies raised, when he asked, “Why does this apply only to football and not other sports?” The reality is that football is hugely dominant in terms of sporting appearances and interest in the United Kingdom. It is clear that, over the past few decades, football has dominated that sporting appeal for spectators. It has been so dominant and, sadly, that has caused problems. I do not want to blame fans—that would not be right—but when large crowds gather, there are challenges with managing those crowds. Sadly, other sports are yet to attract quite the same interest.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

I understand the point the Minister makes, but last year at the grand national at Aintree, we saw lots of people entering the racecourse without a ticket whose only purpose was to cause as much destruction and misery as possible, and it led to quite a lot of disorder. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that nobody has been punished for that particular outrage and carnage, which also led to animal welfare issues. I gently say to him that this issue applies to more than just football, and if he wants to look for another sport, horseracing—what happened at the grand national at Aintree last year and may well happen again this year—would be a good case in point.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point; I will certainly look into it. I will ensure that we have a proper scrub of other sporting events that might qualify. The point I was making was that the vast majority of such situations are football events, but he is right that there are standalone sporting events, like Aintree, that attract huge crowds as a one-off. I was delighted to be at the fantastic Market Rasen ground and at Lingfield not long ago, but the reality is that the crowds were not quite the same. It is not quite the same pressure that my hon. Friend describes, but I take his point and he is right to make it.

The hon. Member for Cardiff West has made an extraordinary effort to bring together hon. Members from across the House and to ensure that previous work is summarised into this short Bill to keep fans safe. I am very grateful that he has done that because, as Members have demonstrated, the words he has chosen have reached across the House and united people. When we think about our own sporting events, we know that those precious moments of family time can be threatened by individuals who might disrupt them.

The hon. Gentleman carefully made the point that automatic bans are not within the scope of the Bill. Such bans can be issued only by courts following a conviction for a football-related offence and are covered by other legislation. In reality, the Bill is constrained. As my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said, the key to good legislation is to write it in a way that works—not so that it expands—and this is a tight piece of legislation that does exactly what it is supposed do.

The Bill will not do some of the things that were feared. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble raised a question about whether it would criminalise those who were in possession of a valid ticket, as she was in her leapfrogging days. It certainly will not do that. Those who are in possession of a valid ticket are free to enter a ground and should be able to access the ground. The fact that the turnstile does not work really is a test of her athletics, not of the law. I am delighted to say that I have no doubt that she would vault it again were the same situation to arise.

A question was asked about whether an offence is committed only if a person is attempting to attend a football match. The Bill does not cover those trying to get into pubs or car parks unless they are part of the controlled zone. As we all know, some football stadiums have a controlled zone; others do not. Anybody who has been to the Army and Navy rugby match will know that the car park is the most important part of that controlled zone. In fact, I have had the great privilege over many years of attending the Army and Navy rugby match—I have been on half a dozen to a dozen occasions—and in that time I am proud to say that I have watched 15 minutes of rugby in total. Although I should acknowledge that it is a security nightmare, it is the most extraordinary reunion and the car park of Twickenham stadium becomes a gathering of people who have not seen each other since Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever it might be. It is extraordinary how many formerly terrifying sergeants major or generals seem to be somewhat more friendly shortly before kick-off—I am sure it has absolutely nothing to do with extremely generous sponsorship of Pimm’s, Greene King or any of the other suppliers who ensure those events go with the passion and drive hon. Members would anticipate.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

On a more serious point, the Minister has prompted me to think more about the subject of car parks. Maybe I am dwelling on this too much, but if somebody has a valid match ticket but does not have a valid car park ticket, would they be committing an offence? The Bill says that an offence is committed only if they do not have a match ticket at the time of entry, so it seems to me that they may have a match ticket but they could still be trying to enter a place that they are not entitled to enter. I just wondered whether that is by design or a problem in the Bill that needs to be ironed out.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

At the risk of being corrected by officials, I am going to say that clearly this is about the match ticket, not about the car park ticket. The reason is that the match ticket allows access to the stadium—to the event—and that is what is being criminalised. The access to the car park, as long as it is not within the controlled zone or an area that would otherwise be impermissible without a match ticket, is not covered by the Bill. A car park ticket can usually, mostly, be bought later. In this circumstance, we are not seeking to criminalise that. We are seeking to make sure that the Bill allows those who have a valid right of access to the event to get into the event without allowing those who think they have grounds for disruption, tailgating or whatever it may be to exploit a loophole in the law to get away with jumping over a wall, pushing through turnstiles or whatever it may be.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

The Minister is being very generous, and his explanation makes a great deal of sense. But if he wishes to come to Bradford City on any match day, as part of his research for the Bill, he would be very welcome. I will let him come with me and I will make sure he has a valid ticket so that he does not fall foul of the legislation. What he would find at Bradford City is that there is limited car parking, which is often at a premium and people would very much like to take advantage of it. There might be an issue with lots of people trying to tailgate in and barge their way into the car parking. Even though they had a match ticket, it would still cause quite a problem, but they would not fall foul of the Bill because they had a match ticket.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I would be delighted to take up my hon. Friend’s invitation. I have never seen football played in Bradford—

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

I will ignore the contribution from the hon. Member for Cardiff West, who is very disparaging about Bradford City. I am sure Bradford City would offer a fantastic afternoon and I would very much enjoy it. I simply cannot believe that my hon. Friend would not be backing a winner, given his reputation, so I will stay silent on that accusation.

The Bill deliberately does not go into car parking. As my hon. Friend will be well aware, in many areas car parking is very different. Some stadiums have car parking available and some have car parking on the street or in neighbouring car parks which would be covered by local government ordinances and so on. It would add complication and not clarity to the Bill. To his eternal point, Occam’s razor is to get to the heart of the matter; he would rightly be the first critic of any Bill that started to be expansive and to look like it might include supermarket car parks, or indeed any other kind of car park. That is why the Bill is written and drafted as tightly as it is, and why so many of us support it—the Bill has given us the space to focus on that part of the offence that is actually important.

The Bill has been very carefully drafted to set out this new offence of unauthorised entry or attempted unauthorised entry to designated football matches in England and Wales. In practice, “designated football matches” really means elite football matches. For these purposes, that does include Manchester United—[Laughter.] The Bill will also enable a court to impose a football banning order against a person convicted of this offence. Banning orders provide an effective tool to combat football-related disorder by preventing disruptive individuals from attending regulated matches for between three and 10 years.

I would like to pay my own tribute to Baroness Casey and her extraordinary work, not just on this issue, but in reforming and reviewing various other aspects of our national life that have required attention. Her independent review of the appalling disorder that occurred during the Euro 2020 final resulted in a clear recommendation that action needed to be taken to deter the practice of tailgating, which is the phenomenon that we have been covering of a ticketless person following a legitimate entrant into the stadium. Of course, the Bill is drafted in this way because tailgating is not the only problematic behaviour.

There are many other routes to attempted entry into football matches, such as jumping over walls, which we have seen at some stadiums, or hanging down from buildings and jumping through windows—we have occasionally seen videos of that happening abroad. That is extremely concerning, not least because it can lead to enormous personal harm and can encourage people to take extremely unwise risks. It can also lead to a crush within the building that could cause harm not just to fans but to those working in the stadium. As we know, stadiums these days are major businesses, and many employ a large number of people on match days.

Estimates suggest that somewhere in the region of 3,000 to 5,000 England fans without tickets gained entry to the Euro 2020 final, largely through mass forced entry. Witnesses spoke of being terrified by their reckless and aggressive behaviour. Despite my own lack of passion in this regard, I have taken my children to football matches and have enjoyed the days with them. I must admit that my children were much more impressed with the games than I ever was, but I enjoyed the experience very much. The opportunity to see it through their eyes was a great blessing; I found it enormously warming.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Thank you very much.

It would be concerning—this is why the Bill is so important—if football were closed off to families because people felt threatened and wished to keep their kids away from such events.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Exactly—my hon. Friend correctly points out that they used to be. I suspect that that is one of the reasons we were not encouraged to attend when I was a child, despite my uncle’s great passion for Tottenham Hotspur. In fact, happy birthday to him. It is his birthday today—he is in the other place, so maybe if we shout loudly enough he will hear it.

The reality was that at that point in our national life, football was disrupted by significant violence. Indeed, some areas appeared to be almost lawless. I am very grateful not only to the Football Association but to police forces around the United Kingdom and the various organisations that contributed to making football safe. Even at the Tonbridge Angels, which is not traditionally a hotbed of dissent, the family welcome is remarkable—that is extremely important.

There are other unauthorised methods of entry at football matches, ranging from surreptitious entry—including, as the hon. Member for Cardiff West said, bribing club staff—to various forms of deception. I am therefore very pleased that the Bill seeks to make all forms of unauthorised or attempted entry an offence. That is eminently sensible, given that all attempts at unauthorised entry draw upon stadium security resources and can result in individuals with dangerous disruptive intent gaining access to the stadium and to spectators, and that overcrowding has health and safety risks and implications. This is therefore an important change in the law.

It is also right that the Bill includes not just the entrance points but the outer perimeter security. As the hon. Gentleman set out clearly, it is about preventing a concertina effect, whereby pressure on one area has repercussions on others. He is correct that the Bill sets out carefully why that is so.

We cannot tolerate decent, law-abiding football fans being left frightened or distressed, and neither would it be acceptable for football stadiums to become unsafe because of a selfish minority. The Government are clear that the safety of those attending sporting events is of the highest importance, and it is imperative that football fans are able to enjoy the sport safe in the knowledge that those who attempt to cause disorder will be dealt with swiftly. The Bill will help to achieve that, which is why we support it.

It is right and proper that those who engage in unacceptable criminal behaviour face the full force of the law, and the introduction of a new football-specific offence will send a deterrent message to would-be perpetrators. The measure enables the courts to impose football banning orders against offenders, and I remind the House that football banning orders have historically proved successful in preventing known troublemakers from continuing to offend, and in deterring others from offending. As such, the Government wholeheartedly support their use in the context of unauthorised entry to matches.

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Conservative, Heywood and Middleton

The Minister speaks with great passion, and I know this subject is close to his heart. Who among us has not enjoyed a matinee performance by England Rovers at the Oval? I must press him on a technical detail raised by the shadow Minister. Who plays left back for Tonbridge Angels?

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

Discretion is important at such moments. As my hon. Friend will be aware, Tonbridge Angels have recently bought a few new players. It is far too early for me to start picking the team, which is the manager’s job after all. He would not thank a Minister of the Crown for stepping on his hallowed turf.

It may be helpful for Members to be aware that both the police and the Football Association are similarly supportive of the Bill and have contributed helpfully.

Once again, I thank the hon. Member for Cardiff West for introducing the Bill. I also thank Alex Norris and the Opposition for their approach. I hope the Bill sets an example that is adopted by other Assemblies, which seems appropriate given the importance of football in the national life of Scotland and Northern Ireland. I thank everyone who has contributed to this debate.

This important measure will ensure that the perpetrators of these disruptive and dangerous offences face justice, and it should provide a strong deterrent effect. I therefore join the hon. Member for Cardiff West in urging the House to get behind the Bill.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing) 1:27, 23 February 2024

With the leave of the House, I will briefly sum up. I thank all hon. Members who have contributed and intervened. This debate has given an extremely useful airing to the issues related to Bill. Philip Davies raised some very valid points, some of which were subsequently addressed in interventions by me, the shadow Minister and the Minister. I am sure we will delve further into those points in Committee.

I thank all Members who contributed to the debate. Katherine Fletcher is obviously very knowledgeable about supporting football, even when it is painful. We also heard interventions from my hon. Friend Ruth Jones and my right hon. Friend Mark Tami, who is now sitting in the Whip’s seat, having moved from the Back Benches during the debate.

The Bill has had a good airing, for which I thank everyone. I thank in particular the Minister and the shadow Minister. The Minister mentioned the Football Association, which covers England. The Football Association of Wales has also been very supportive of the Bill. All members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee have supported the Bill, which featured in the Committee’s report. I also thank the civil servants; the Clerks; you, Madam Deputy Speaker; Mr Speaker, who was here earlier; Mr Deputy Speaker; and everyone else in the room. The Whips on both sides of the House have been extremely helpful. And I thank Mary in the Members’ Tea Room for supporting the Bill.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Parliamentary Works Estimates Commission, Chair, Parliamentary Works Estimates Commission

That is a fitting end to the hon. Gentleman’s speech. We are always thankful to Mary and everyone else who looks after us in the Members’ Tea Room, especially on a Friday.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).