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Football Stadiums

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 27 June 1990

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6.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when his Department's draft consultation document on issues of planning policy guidance on the considerations relevant to new and redeveloped stadiums for Football League clubs will be issued.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State hopes soon to issue a draft planning policy guidance note on sport and recreation matters, and it will also deal with all-seater Football League stadiums.

I do not know whether I should be thankful for that laid-back reply. Now that the Under-Secretary of State has been stripped by the Home Office of most of his football responsibilities, at least we cannot blame him for not setting up the Football Licensing Authority. As he has extra time on his hands, will he at least get to grips with his remaining responsibilities and give clear guidance to the football clubs on the safety standards laid down by Lord Justice Taylor? It is clear that the clubs are much more anxious than the Government to implement Taylor's proposals.

That clear guidance has been given and as soon as the Football Licensing Authority has been established, the guidance will be reinforced.

Although everyone associated with football regrets the delay in implementing the proposals and setting up the licensing authority, does my hon. Friend agree that it is better that we get such matters right and that the right people are appointed to the authority? Does he accept that, in any event, the interim recommendations of Lord Justice Taylor's report have already been implemented by most clubs?

I agree completely with my hon. Friend's second point. Several clubs have taken positive action to pursue the recommendations in Lord Justice Taylor's interim report. I shall pass the comments that my hon. Friend made in the first part of his question to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Does the Minister agree that if all 92 clubs in the Football League are to have the stadiums that their spectators deserve, some imagination will have to be shown by those who propose developments and more particularly by the local authorities to which such proposals are addressed?

Yes, I agree completely. It is precisely for that reason that relevant paragraphs will be included in the planning policy guidance note that will be issued shortly.

My hon. Friend will be aware that Liverpool, one of the clubs which participated in the match at Hillsborough where the tragedy that gave rise to the Taylor report took place has endorsed the concept of all-seater stadiums. Does my hon. Friend agree that the remarks of Lord Justice Taylor and the policy of the Government have been endorsed by the behaviour of the crowds at the World Cup, who were mainly in all-seater stadiums? There have been almost no incidents in the grounds.

Is not it 15 months since 95 people were killed at Hillsborough, one year since the legislation went through the House and three months since cash was promised in the Budget? Yet the whole system of improving grounds has been held up by the bureaucracy at the Minister's Department and at the Home Office. The two Departments simply cannot agree on the chairman of the committee and the setting up of the Football Licensing Authority. Since then we have had the riots at Bournemouth. The four years laid down for putting seats in stadiums has been eaten away and soon there will be only three years left. The whole scheme is in danger of being postponed and further accidents may take place because the Home Office and the Department of the Environment cannot get their act together.

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. If he had listened to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and my reply he would have learnt that many clubs have been responsible and moved ahead with the recommendations in their own right.