That the Bill be read a second time.
My Lords, first, I declare an unpaid interest as vice-president of the Football Conference.
It is a great pleasure for me to have been asked to take forward this legislation, which was introduced in another place by Jonathan Lord, the Member of Parliament for Woking, who was elected in May last year. I am pleased to pay tribute to his commitment to steering this Private Member’s Bill through all its stages in the other place, and to his extraordinary good fortune in securing a Second Reading before he had even made his maiden speech.
The Bill enjoys all-party support, and is one for which the previous Administration had hoped to find time but was unable to do so. The Bill, if enacted, will rename the Football Licensing Authority the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. It will enable the provision of advice, on request, about safety at sports grounds to any national or international organisation, person or body. It would also allow the new authority to charge for these services in certain circumstances.
The FLA was set up under the Football Spectators Act 1989, originally to oversee the introduction of a compulsory membership scheme, which at the time was seen—particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher—as the best way to respond to the many incidences of football crowd violence in the 1980s. However, before the Act could be implemented, almost 100 people lost their lives at an FA Cup semi-final match on 15 April 1989 at Hillsborough in Sheffield. A major public inquiry was then conducted by Lord Justice Taylor, which reported that the scale of the disaster might have been even worse had a compulsory membership scheme been in force. That section of the Act was then shelved and has not reappeared since.
Instead, Lord Justice Taylor’s principal recommendation was that the grounds of Britain’s professional football clubs should eliminate standing and become all-seated. This was accepted by the Conservative Government of the day, and supported by subsequent Labour Administrations. The one variation was to exempt clubs in the lower two divisions of the Football League from the requirement to go all-seated. The Football Licensing Authority was given the responsibility of licensing grounds and helping to ensure spectator safety. It is the author of the world’s leading sports safety publication, known as the Green Guide. Its expertise is valued and respected nationally and internationally. No other country has an organisation quite like the FLA. It is a lean and efficient organisation that offers excellent value for money. It has a small but experienced workforce, including nine inspectors who are based in the regions. These inspectors work closely with football clubs and local authorities to educate, advise and influence. The majority of football spectators who attend matches on a weekly basis are unaware of the outstanding work of the FLA behind the scenes to help ensure that their experience is safe, comfortable and secure, and the FLA works hard to ensure that this experience should be available to all spectators, regardless of age, gender, ethnic origin, disability or, indeed, the team that they support.
The proposed changes will not extend the FLA’s licensing functions, or local authority oversight duties under the 1989 Act to sports grounds other than football grounds. There will therefore be no increased regulatory burden. Extending the FLA’s advisory role will, however, make it easier to provide advice to a wider range of sports and bodies as we approach some of the biggest sporting events that this country has ever staged. These include the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, who is an expert. I declare an interest as honorary president of the Football League, and for the past seven and a half years as its chairman, so I endorse all the good things that he says about the Football Licensing Authority. Given that this is an up-to-date reflection of a 1989 Act of Parliament, is it not missing an opportunity to allow the Football Licensing Authority to promote safety as well as to offer advice on it?
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, for his kind words. I would like to reflect on what he has said. Perhaps I can respond to him when I reply to the debate. I certainly understand completely the point he is making about the importance of promoting safety.
The FLA is already providing expertise on non-football venues to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and the joint local authority regulatory services. However, at present, this is possible only by negotiating individual temporary secondment arrangements. Creating the Sports Grounds Safety Authority would make it easier to provide such advice and help to provide greater consistency in its application nationally and internationally. An example of this can be seen in the Green Guide. The FLA is retained by the DCMS to provide detailed guidance on measures to improve safety at sports grounds through the Green Guide. The advice applies to all sports, not just football, and is used around the world by technical specialists such as architects and engineers, and by relevant authorities that oversee safety in sports stadia. Although the guidance applies only to outdoor sports venues, its recommendations are often applied to indoor sporting venues as well.
At present, the FLA cannot readily offer more detailed advice on the contents of the Green Guide to sports other than football, or outside England and Wales. This Bill will enable that advice to be provided nationally and internationally, and to a much wider range of sports than ever before. The FLA carries out some international activity, but it is at the moment somewhat limited. The FLA currently supports the Council of Europe and the European Committee for Standardisation by providing UK representatives to their working groups. The FLA’s contribution is highly valued by their international counterparts, and their involvement enhances the FLA’s knowledge, understanding and credibility. This activity brings reputational benefits for the UK, with the chance to promote our role as a world leader in sports ground safety throughout Europe. However, under current provisions, the FLA is constrained in the extent to which it can operate at an international level.
The Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill would increase the opportunities for international activity at a very opportune time. In 2012, Poland and Ukraine will host the European Championships. In 2014, Brazil will host the World Cup, and Russia and Qatar have already begun preparations for 2018 and 2022. The FLA is uniquely placed to offer expertise and guidance to help ensure that the safety management arrangements are in place for these events and are properly robust. It is important that the FLA acts now to realise those benefits, and this legislation would help it do so.
In the other place, questions were rightly asked about costs as well as benefits. One or two of your Lordships who are speaking in this debate might wish to raise the subject of costs. The provisions in the Bill would enable the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to charge in certain circumstances. The legislation allows for charges to be applied, with the consent of the Secretary of State, to bodies or persons outside England or Wales, or to bodies in England and Wales where the advice is provided at the request of the recipient. The key point here is that consent would be required. It has been made clear that any charges levied would be reasonable and proportionate, and that, where charges were applied, they would be calculated on a cost recovery basis. In the event that the Bill is successful, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority would need to look in more detail at the options for charging and cost recovery. However, I have been assured that the requirement to seek permission from the Secretary of State will offer appropriate safeguards. I should say that, in bringing forward this legislation, it was never the intention to apply charges for activities that are currently provided free of charge. However, it will be important for the authority to be able to levy charges that are appropriate and necessary, particularly for new or additional services, or services that are provided above and beyond the authority’s statutory obligations.
The provisions in the Bill extend to England and Wales only. However, bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be able to access the expertise of the new Sports Grounds Safety Authority on request. The FLA has been in contact with officials in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about provisions in the Bill and will continue to keep in touch with them as more detailed plans for how the new safety authority will operate are developed.
Establishing the Sports Grounds Safety Authority is an important and necessary step in the evolution of the FLA. In Committee on the Public Bodies Bill, the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said in response to me that the FLA,
“will continue as a separate body … until after 2012 when its expertise and functions will be transferred”—[Official Report, 11/1/11; col. 1345.]
elsewhere. I think the Minister would be the first to admit that this was a slightly vague commitment. I hope that we shall hear more from the Government about where the authority will be located before the Bill completes its passage through your Lordships’ House.
Before I conclude, the House may find it convenient if I quickly run through the various parts of the Bill. Part 1 sets out the further powers that will be conferred on the Football Licensing Authority as a result of the legislation. Clause 1 would rename the Football Licensing Authority the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. The existing functions of the Football Licensing Authority, as set out in the Football Spectators Act 1989, will remain, and the authority will continue to receive funds from the Secretary of State. Funding will be as set out in the current funding settlement, with grant in aid of £1.197 million in 2011-12, reducing to £1.14 million by 2014-15.
Clause 2 provides for the authority to advise Ministers by placing an obligation on the authority to advise Ministers, if requested, on sports grounds or the functions set out in the relevant legislation or sections of legislation. These include the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, Part 3 of the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987 and the Football Spectators Act 1989.
Clause 3 allows the authority to advise on safety at sports grounds to local authorities, other bodies or persons in England and Wales. This enables the authority to provide advice beyond football and in relation to other sports grounds.
Clause 4 enables the authority to provide advice to bodies or persons outside England and Wales, subject to that advice being at the request of the body or person concerned, and with the consent of the Secretary of State. This could include an international organisation or Government, or other body or person with responsibilities for sports grounds outside England and Wales, and would include the local and national government and sports bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Clause 5 includes provisions to enable the authority, with the consent of the Secretary of State, to charge a fee for advice. The fee could be charged to bodies or persons outside England and Wales, or within England and Wales where the advice is provided at their request. Any fee charged must not exceed the cost of providing the advice, and consent from the Secretary of State may be given generally or specifically for particular advice or types of advice.
Clause 6 makes provision for the consequential amendments that will be required in other legislation to reflect the change to the new body. These are set out in more detail in Schedules 2 and 3.
Clause 7 confirms that the Act extends to England and Wales only. However, as I have said, the authority will be able, under certain conditions, to advise bodies outside England and Wales.
Clause 8 provides for the commencement of the Act on a day specified by statutory instrument. It is the intention that the legislation, if passed, should commence as soon as possible to enable the full benefit of the authority’s expanded role to be realised.
Schedule 1 sets out provisions relating to the board, employees and accounting arrangements of the authority. These would mirror arrangements that are currently in place for the FLA.
Schedules 2 and 3 include consequential amendments, repeals and revocations that are required to update existing legislation in the event that the Bill is passed.
The Bill provides a unique opportunity to share the FLA’s unrivalled knowledge and experience with other sports and nations. It will maintain the services and standards provided to football, but will extend the FLA’s reach and influence for wider benefit. I commend the Bill to the House, and I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, has gone through the Bill very clearly and concisely, and there is not much that remains to be said about it—so I shall not take long.
The basic principle behind the Bill is that we have a successful body that was born out of a series of tragedies. It has worked fairly well, addressed problems and gained a reputation for doing what it does well. However, it was designed only for football, which is the dominant spectator sport in our society. There has been a slight growth and diversification in the spectator base, which has probably been provided by the professionalisation of rugby union. However, the fact is that football remains the dominant spectator sport.
The Bill takes the best practice from the main area and passes it out to other areas. I can see no objection to it. There may well be one, but it has not occurred to me. Earlier on, the noble Lord was kind enough to show me what he was going to say. When I asked questions of him then, I could discover no reason why the Bill should be changed. I recommend that we take the Bill on board roughly as it is, if not totally as it is—the noble Lord nods, suggesting that the second option would be preferable—and put it through the House. To be honest, I really cannot see how there can be any problem with the Bill. It may not be absolutely perfect, but it is a damn sight closer to that than most pieces of legislation that come before this House.
My Lords, I, too, hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and that it will proceed satisfactorily through all its stages.
I congratulate my noble friend Lord Faulkner on introducing this constructive measure. It is not the first legislation that he has introduced in the field of sport, particularly football. The first time that I met my noble friend was in the august structure of Wembley Stadium where he kindly presented me with a cup. I hasten to add that it was not the Football Association Cup, which is a thing of my childhood dreams, but a cup given to the parliamentary football team, because we had succeeded, for once, in beating the press that year at Wembley, before a crowd of nine ardent spectators, of which the noble Lord was one.
Subsequently, of course, I came to recognise the extent to which the noble Lord involved himself in a range of constructive activities with regard to sport, particularly football. I am not surprised that he has introduced a Bill that is both helpful to sport—even beyond football—and carefully constructed. It probably assuages any of the anxieties that might attend noble Lords.
The noble Lord, in introducing the Bill, was bound, with regard to its safety role, to make reference to the horrors of 1989 and the changes that we were obliged to make to football grounds at that time. I was brought up when it was still a joy to be on the terraces. I cannot say that there were no moments of anxiety, but they were generally when we were leaving stadia and coming down steep stairs among masses of spectators who were all leaving at the same time, rather than in the grounds themselves. Nevertheless, we all recognised the importance of the 1989 Act and that is why the Bill builds on the significance of that Act.
I ask my noble friend about one point. If there is an area that causes me considerable concern—I have to say that at around 8.15 this morning my anxieties were raised again regarding the United Kingdom Border Agency—it is that when any organisation puts itself forward for enhanced operations, someone is able to say, “We are going to carry out these additional functions. We will be much more efficient. We are going to be hugely more successful, despite the fact that we anticipate a savage cut in our resources”. You have to say to such chief executives, “Why did you not act in that way before? Or is this merely a cover for what, in fact, will be a significant deterioration in services?”.
I am not suggesting that my noble friend has not thought about these matters and I entirely understand that some enhancement of the functions is related to the ability to charge a fee to cover the costs. The Bill indicates other areas where additional help may be given but it also clearly indicates that no additional resources will be needed. Therefore, my noble friend will not mind if I ask him to address that question when he sums up. However, I of course wish the Bill well and I am confident that my Front Bench will do so too.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the fact that the Bill has been promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and there can be no more appropriate person to do so, given his history, as the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham have attested. I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend Lord Faulkner, particularly for his role at the Football Grounds Improvement Trust and its later incarnation, because many football grounds the length and breadth of this country, and in the UK as a whole, have facilities that were paid for largely through the auspices of that organisation.
I have to declare an interest—not as a former director or current supporter and season ticket holder of Dundee United, but as a member of an organisation called the Dons Trust, which owns AFC Wimbledon, a club with which my noble friend Lord Faulkner will be familiar in his role at the Football Conference. AFC Wimbledon was formed nine years ago when the original Wimbledon FC had its identity stolen by the FA and handed in the form of a franchise to some people in Milton Keynes who wanted to start a club. The supporters’ reaction was to form their own club and, four promotions later, the club stands on the cusp of the Football League—regaining the status that it lost nine years ago. In nine days’ time, I very much hope that that is something they will duly achieve.
The Bill is welcome, and there have been past attempts to introduce a Bill with similar aims. It certainly makes a good deal of sense, not least with the approaching Olympics and the many requirements of sports grounds and facilities that have to be put into proper order for that momentous event. It is also important to extend those improvements to sports such as cricket and rugby.
Rugby has expanded exponentially south of the border—I should say that as a Scot—but it has tread a considerable amount of water north of the border, and continues to do so. South of the border, the professional game is very successful and new clubs are emerging, such as Worcester some years ago, who are poised to regain their place at the top level, and Exeter, who did that a year ago and have happily retained it. Clubs such as those will be looking to the new authority for advice, and it is appropriate that it should be open to receive such requests. There is also cricket. Twenty20 cricket has taken off considerably now and it is not just at test grounds that considerable crowds are attracted by that form of the game. Therefore, it is important that smaller grounds should have advice made available to them if they want it.
I read the Hansard reports of the debates when the Bill was being considered in another place. I noticed that in Committee, Mr Ian Austin, who is the Opposition's spokesperson on sport and the Olympics, asked the Minister, Mr Robertson:
“The Secretary of State with responsibility for the Cabinet Office has been reported as saying that responsibility for safety at grounds would now shift to local authorities. Can the Minister provide some more detail about that?”.—[Official Report, Commons, Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill Committee, 19/1/11; col. 5.]
In his response, the Minister said many things, but he did not respond to that point. I should be grateful if the Minister could say something on that when he responds.
Another point I want to make, although I know it is not within the remit of the authority at the moment, concerns allowing spectators at the top two levels of football to stand at football grounds. I understand the sensitivities of that, post the dreadful events of Hillsborough in 1989, which led to many of the safety precautions that we have and take for granted today, but there ought to be room for consideration of the reintroduction of some standing areas at grounds. I notice that the Minister, Mr Robertson, recently met the Football Supporters’ Federation, a body that represents about 150,000 football supporters in England and Wales, and said that he would consider the strong case that it put to him on the question of standing.
Although I am sensitive to what caused standing to be outlawed at the top two levels originally, I simply say that the attitudes and behaviour of supporters have moved on considerably in the two decades since, and so has stadium technology. That makes it much simpler for the police to control crowds in ways that were not open to them then. Given that a Private Member’s Bill has been introduced in another place by Mr Don Foster, given that that is apparently the policy of the Liberal Democrats, and given that 145 MPs signed an Early Day Motion in favour of that, I hope that the Government are considering it and listening to representations, and that at some stage the new authority will be able to consider representations on that important subject.
Finally, I wish to raise a point of clarification; this may be aimed at the clerks as much as anyone else. I notice that Clause 2(1)(a) states:
“The Authority … may provide relevant advice to a Minister of the Crown”.
Clause 3(2)(a) states:
“The Authority may not under subsection (1) provide advice to … a Minister of the Crown”.
There must be a perfectly simple explanation as to why those apparently contradictory clauses are there, and I would value someone informing me about that apparent contradiction.
My Lords, I support wholeheartedly the introduction of this Bill today. It is welcomed and supported on all sides and widely throughout sport. That football has changed and developed in this country to such wide acclaim today throughout the world is due in no small measure to the safety and ground improvements implemented following Lord Justice Taylor's report into the Hillsborough disaster. Like other noble Lords, I can recall clearly the events that fateful day in April 1989, as I was at Villa Park watching the other semi-final between Everton and Norwich City. I declare my interest as an Everton shareholder and former director of Everton Football Club.
Noble Lords will recall that many spectators in those days went to football matches carrying radios to listen to other games while watching their team. It was a very eerie atmosphere that day as news of events at Hillsborough rippled through the crowd. I pay tribute to the work of the Football Trust and to my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester for his tireless work on safety issues as deputy chairman of that body and since.
My noble friend has explained that the core safety and licensing function and local authority oversight role of the FLA will remain, while it will extend its advice, expertise and experience gained to other grounds, venues and sports on request. As a result, it will change its name to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. He gave an excellent account of the Bill and its passage through the other place, where it has been endorsed on all sides and has afforded another opportunity for the Government—given the high regard that they and the football authorities have for safety—to reassure us of their continuing funding and expertise.
It makes abundant sense that that valuable knowledge and experience regarding safety at football stadia be shared. That is especially pertinent to LOCOG in the run-up to the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012. The conduct of the Football Licensing Authority has been admired widely and its work endorsed by the Football Supporters’ Federation and supported by the Hillsborough families and their Members of Parliament in another place.
I just ask one or two questions for clarity to my noble friend and one question to the Minister. I appreciate that safety is not a devolved matter and that the Bill extends to England and Wales only. Bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be able to access the expertise of the new Sports Grounds Safety Authority on request. Is my assumption correct that the original footballing provisions of the Football Spectators Act 1989 setting up the FLA applied to Scotland and Northern Ireland? Can my noble friend or the Minister confirm that? Can my noble friend clarify that football grounds in Scotland and Northern Ireland are subject to the same rigorous control regimes and that that will be undertaken free of charge?
I follow up with a question about charges and fees. Although I understand the sensitivity of costs in any new order, the Bill will not require additional funds as the safety authority extends its services. The safety authority will be able to charge for its advice and expertise extended to other sports grounds and venues. However, I understand that that is discretionary. Has my noble friend any more information on how that may operate? Has he any guidance on what level of fees may be levied and in what circumstances? It would be a matter of great regret if safety were jeopardised should advice not be sought from the safety authority because it incurred a cost that the relevant sports ground did not want to pay.
Lastly, can the Minister clarify the position of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority under the Public Bodies Bill, now starting its passage through the other place? The position was debated in your Lordships' House in Committee on the Public Bodies Bill, and the Bill was subsequently amended and provisions of various clauses altered. I understand that post-2012, the new authority is in jeopardy of being taken over by some other authority. Can the Minister, on behalf of the Government, be any clearer today regarding their intentions for the safety authority? Will she correct any impression—perhaps inadvertently given in Committee—that once the high-profile events of the Olympics and Paralympics during 2012 are over, the Government will drop their guard regarding safety issues and that the focus on safety can be downgraded or subsumed under some other authority. Can she reassure us that the operation of the safety authority will not become historical; that its work will not be finished and its licensing function will continue? Football and other sports grounds need to continue upgrading, and the work continues under the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, which has now reached its 10th anniversary, funding more than £102 million-worth of benefits through funds provided by the Football League and the FA.
As has been stated, the Bill has made progress through the other place without amendment. I can remember only one other such Bill, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority Bill, achieving such a measure of success. It is an indication of widespread support. I wish for similar speedy passage for the provisions of the Bill.
My Lords, at first sight one might think that the Bill is somewhat unnecessary as it contains many of the essential undertakings of the Football Spectators Act 1989. However, after studying it, and certainly after listening to my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester, one recognises that some important additions are necessary to the 1989 Act, and I endorse his thinking behind the Bill. Indeed, I cannot add anything of substance beyond what he said, as I think has already been recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Addington.
To my mind, the change in name is important only because the remits of the FLA have been extended beyond football so that it can share its vast wealth of experience and knowledge with other sports. It is also important to note the additional powers, pointed out by my noble friend—notably, to provide additional advice about safety not only to national venues but, more surprisingly, to international organisations, persons or bodies, local authorities and, indeed, Ministers of State.
It is true that many of us in the other House who took part in the proceedings of the 1989 Act were perhaps in a bit of a hurry to get the legislation on to the statute book in the wake of the football disasters of Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough, and therefore in our haste we did not look in as much detail as we might have done at how health and safety legislation could affect other sports as well. As outlined by my noble friend, this Bill, which was started in another place, has taken us a step further, ensuring that other sports grounds meet the necessary safety requirements.
However, it is somewhat worrying that sports other than football may well have to pay for the expertise provided by the new authority, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. It is especially worrying when one considers that the FLA’s funding was cut by 4 per cent in the comprehensive spending review, even though the good work that it undertakes has been recognised by successive Governments. It must be taken into consideration that the new body may be tempted to recoup some of that money by charging unrealistic levies to other sports. However, I was somewhat reassured by what my noble friend said, and I am sure that when he replies to the debate he will undertake to answer the points raised on this subject by me and by my noble friend Lord Davies.
Having said that, I give my complete blessing to the purpose of the Bill, whose main thrust will continue to be geared towards football. As a result of the Bill, other sports will be assisted and, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games looming, numerous sports in this country will be beneficiaries of the renamed FLA. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority will be able to benefit from the FLA’s experience and staff, and will ensure that the original intentions of the 1989 Act are carried over for the benefit of sports other than football.
My Lords, I apologise very humbly to your Lordships and above all to the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, who might have thought that she was going to be able to make a quick start. However, I shall be very brief. It is entirely appropriate that an earlier speaker in this excellent Second Reading debate was the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, who I think said he had mislaid his glasses. I frequently do the same and did not notice that I had not put my name down to speak, and for that I apologise.
The one point that I want to make concerns what I refer to as the Berwick question. This is the more puckish view of a Scot, and I declare my interest as honorary patron of a wonderful football club in the county of Angus called Forfar Athletic. Indeed, the only clean tie that I found in my drawer this morning was that of Forfar Athletic. I know that one is not supposed to advertise too much in your Lordships’ House, but the tie is blue and I am happy to do so.
I have one query, of which I have given warning to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, who so ably presented the Bill. It concerns Berwick Rangers, who play at Shielfield Park in Berwick. Indeed, with luck, at about seven o’clock this evening I shall be passing their ground. As your Lordships will be aware, Berwick is in England—in Northumberland—but Berwick Rangers play under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Football Association and currently they are in Division 3. Is the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, able to give me what I call the “drill” for this stadium? I am sure that there have been formal or informal links with the Scottish football authorities, but which is the responsible authority under the provisions of the Bill?
Of course, as one would expect, the Bill is concerned with the structures of stadia and sports grounds, but so much reference has been made to activities and things that have happened at those grounds that I am beginning to think that the Bill is concerned not just with the grounds but with the human aspect.
I understand that Berwick’s average attendance for what I would call a normal league game is in the region of 300, 400 or 500 spectators when they play at home. However, on two or three occasions in my lifetime they have had an enormous invasion of fans from all over Scotland—perhaps even from the north of England as well—when one of the major Scottish teams has arrived to play in a Scottish Cup tie. Indeed, 1967 is for me, both professionally and in football terms, a very important year, as that was when what we called the Wee Rangers—Berwick Rangers—beat the Rangers from Ibrox in the Scottish Cup, and their name went into the history books on that occasion. Can the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, give me some guidance as to—
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I understand his point and it is an important one but, given that Berwick Rangers are in the Scottish league and the local authority of all Scottish league clubs have to issue a safety certificate, surely Berwick Rangers already have a safety certificate issued by Northumberland County Council—a situation and relationship that will continue when the authority changes its name.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, may seek to clarify the point but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, will deal with it when he comes to reply.
I am particularly grateful to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, for tolerating my intervention. I was very happy to spend one early morning at Everton’s ground, Goodison Park, in 1975. I spent another morning at Filbert Street, Leicester, in 1976 and received an enormous amount of instruction from the police and the safety authorities, who are going to have to implement the measures in the Bill, so ably presented by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.
I was particularly grateful for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, about gangmasters. I hope that his remarks are well read at the wonderful training ground of Finch Farm, as they will go down well there. However, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and wish his Bill every success. I conclude by apologising for not having put my glasses on, which is why I am speaking in the gap.
My Lords, we have had a series of excellent speeches this morning—everybody would agree with that—all of which are in broad support of the Bill. Each contributor had expert knowledge on the Football Licensing Authority and the implications for its successor body—the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. We are fortunate to have such in-depth wisdom in this House and all noble Lords are to be thanked accordingly.
In his forensic speech—and it really was—my noble friend Lord Faulkner reminded us of the Hillsborough tragedy, which is burned into our national memory. From that dreadful experience, the FLA came into being. As a result, spectator safety became the priority and football stadia were transformed. As my noble friend reminded us, all-seater stadia were guaranteed—which is more than we can guarantee in this Chamber with the number of Members we now have. All of us who enjoy watching sport now enjoy enviable safety standards, and our children and grandchildren can visit major grounds in safety.
One question in my mind arose from the Explanatory Notes, which accompanied the Bill. They identified the grounds,
“for over 10,000 spectators where sports are played (which in practice includes rugby, cricket and football matches, including internationals)”.
The 15,000-seater centre court at Wimbledon immediately came to my mind, and most certainly the new facilities being built for the forthcoming Olympic Games must surely be included. As I read on, and as I have learnt more from noble Lords from all around the Chamber, those fears are now allayed and will be dealt with accordingly.
With those questions answered, it is with confidence that we can wholeheartedly endorse the need for change and for the measures laid out in the Bill. This has been a well scrutinised and fully debated Bill, which deserves unopposed passage through both Houses. It is to be warmly welcomed.
I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for sponsoring this important Bill. I pay tribute to his expertise and enthusiasm on this subject and indeed, for the cross-party support of many Members of both Houses of Parliament.
I am unable to confirm or deny which football club, if any, I played for in my youth but I am pleased to be able to reaffirm the Government’s strong support for the Bill. As has been explained, the Football Licensing Authority—the FLA—was originally established to help ensure safety at football matches in England and Wales. In doing so, it has played a key role in transforming spectator safety at football grounds over the past 20 years. Over this time, it has built up a national and international reputation for expertise in the area of sports ground safety. It is also the author, for DCMS, of the world’s leading sports safety publication, which has already been referred to: The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds—the Green Guide.
However, the statute limits it from sharing its expertise, through advice direct to other sports or those in other countries and it is right that we remove this restriction. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill will therefore extend the advisory role of the FLA. As has already been mentioned, this will be especially important in the run up to the Olympics and Paralympics. It therefore makes complete sense to free the FLA from the current constraints and allow it to provide advice directly to LOCOG and local authorities in relation to non-football Olympic venues. It will also allow it to offer such advice to other sports. This has the potential to help ensure a greater consistency in the application of sports ground safety advice across all sports.
It is important to recognise and build on the FLA’s work over the past 20 years. This Bill gives us an opportunity to raise the profile of the valuable work of the FLA. We are very clear that the FLA carries out an important role in relation to football ground safety and we want this to continue. We are committed to maintaining the services and standards provided for football but we also want to allow it more freedom to build on, while not compromising, this core role. We have a unique opportunity to extend the reach of the FLA for the wider benefit.
It is important to clarify some potential misunderstandings about the extent of the Bill. It will not extend the regulatory role of the FLA, add any burdens to football clubs, other sports or local authorities, or change the safety regime which relates to football or other sports grounds. In addition, local authorities and others will not be required to seek advice from the authority in relation to sports grounds. To ensure that the authority’s publicly funded resources are not diverted from its core role in relation to the safety of football grounds we have included some safeguards in the Bill. The consent of the Secretary of State will be required to provide advice to bodies or persons outside England and Wales. I shall leave the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, to identify the anomaly that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson.
The authority will be able to charge for its advice to bodies in England and Wales, where such advice is given at the request of the recipient or bodies outside England and Wales, but it will also need the consent of the Secretary of State to do so, and the charges will be limited to the recovery of costs so there is no risk that they will be unreasonable. These charges will simply ensure that the costs of providing the advice are met by those who receive the benefits of the expertise rather than any increased public expenditure.
The noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Grantchester, and others, raised the Government’s commitment through the Public Bodies Bill to transfer the functions and expertise of the FLA—or, if the Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill is enacted, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority—to another body after 2012. They have raised concerns that more should be said about where the authority will be located before this Bill’s passage is completed. We recognise the concern to know where the functions and expertise will be located. However, we believe that it would be premature to rush to a decision without full consideration of the options. We want the benefits for the FLA, any partner body, and all sports to be maximised.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is working with the FLA to develop a range of criteria that will enable us to ensure a successful transfer of functions and expertise to another body and allow further growth. These criteria are still to be finalised but may, for example, include: the preservation of the FLA’s ethos and independence; the enhancement of the FLA’s expertise and reputation; continued effective delivery of the regulatory role and expanded advisory functions; improved value for money; and the ability to develop and to build on successes to date. It would be wrong for me to speculate at this stage as to which organisations might be considered. There could be obvious and natural linkages with sports or safety bodies, but we are open-minded on that.
I can assure noble Lords that we will not commit to any transfer until we are confident that we have an appropriate home for the FLA’s expert role and functions, when judged against these criteria. We have also made it clear that we want to discuss the proposals and options with those affected as part of the necessary consultation process, as set out in the Public Bodies Bill. To pick up the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, and referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, about standing, we currently have no plans to change the policy of all-seater stadia in the top two domestic leagues. All-seater stadia are the best means of ensuring the safety and security of fans, and they have been a contributing factor to the increased diversity of those attending matches in recent years. But change in the policy could not happen unless the football authorities, those charged with stadium safety and the police all indicated their support. There is currently no appetite from the police or safety authorities for any change in that policy.
For some noble Lords the efforts to extend the advisory role of the FLA will be familiar. There have been a number of attempts to do so over recent years that have not progressed through lack of parliamentary time, including the Bill put forward not long ago by the noble Lord Faulkner of Worcester. I thank him for the co-operative way in which he has involved all parties in this Bill to ensure its success. I am delighted that progress is at last being made and I trust that this Bill will continue to have similarly strong cross-party support.
My Lords, I am a little overwhelmed by the degree of support that this Bill has received in all parts of the House. It is very gratifying and I am sure that when the honourable Member for Woking comes to read this debate, he, too, will be gratified that this Bill has had so much success. I am not allowed to refer to the fact that he is here listening to it.
In taking up some of the points raised, perhaps I can start with the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, who asked why we do not take advantage of using the Bill to promote safety. That is a good question but the FLA already has a remit to promote safety, which it does though education, advice and persuasion. It takes the view that the publication of the Green Guide and its safety management booklets are part of that promotion of safety. It also runs a number of courses at places such as the Emergency Planning College in York to do that. That part of the FLA's work is already under way, so the promotion of safety is covered.
A number of similar comments were made by several noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, was concerned—as I would expect from a great rugby player—about the role of the FLA in helping rugby. The authorities in both rugby union and rugby league are already very interested in talking to the FLA. So are the authorities for cricket and horseracing. They are keen to seek advice and talk about the experience that the FLA has had. The hope is that with the passage of the Bill, the work can be extended. I say to my noble friend Lady Billingham that if tennis authorities are concerned about safety at their institutions, the opportunity is there for them as well.
My noble friend Lord Watson, in an interesting and thoughtful speech, raised a number of subjects that I will try to cover. First, I thank him for his kind words about the role that I played in the 1970s and 1980s. The body of which I was deputy chairman—which the late Lord Aberdare chaired—was the Football Trust. The Football Grounds Improvement Trust was a sister organisation. We were charged with providing the funding to assist football to comply with the provisions of the Hillsborough report from Lord Justice Taylor. The safety work had been carried out from 1975 onwards by the Football Grounds Improvement Trust.
If plaudits are being offered to people working in this area, my noble friend Lord Pendry, who succeeded Lord Aberdare as chairman of the Football Trust, and was then the first chairman of the Football Foundation, also deserves a great deal of credit. There has been a consistent, cross-party approach to these matters. We have all done our best to ensure that the terrible disasters that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s are not repeated.
My noble friend Lord Watson referred to AFC Wimbledon, which may next Saturday be members of the Football League. It is already in discussion with the Football Licensing Authority, and I am assured that its ground will comply with Football League standards and the requirements of the FLA, and will obtain a licence.
The Minister answered the difficult question, which I did not wish to enter into, about the reintroduction of standing at matches. That is not a matter for me; it is one of public policy. The FLA will do what the Minister asks. She has given her view on whether standing will come back at the top level, in the Premiership and Championship.
My noble friend Lord Grantchester also made some important points. He referred of course to Hillsborough. I, too, have a personal recollection; I was there on that day and it was the most terrible event at any sporting occasion that one could imagine. Certainly it gave all of us a sense that the world had to change and that we could never run the risk of similar things happening in future. The report from Lord Justice Taylor and the establishment of the Football Licensing Authority, with its role after Hillsborough, are important elements of that.
My noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham asked searching questions about funding, which the Minister answered. The funding of the FLA is a matter for the DCMS, not for me. However, I am assured that the FLA takes the view that it came out of the spending review settlement rather more favourably than other bodies, and I have heard no suggestion that it will not be able to take on the increased role that the Bill will give it if it becomes an Act. A number of noble Lords, including the Minister, made it clear that charges will be proportionate and will be based on cost recovery. There is no question of the grant in aid that the FLA receives being replaced by a charging regime paid for by the bodies that receive either advice or licences from it.
My noble friend Lord Watson raised an interesting question about whether there were conflicting requirements for advice to Ministers in Clauses 2(1)(a) and 3(2)(a). I am delighted to say that I have an answer. The new authority may not provide advice to the Minister under Clause 3(2)(a) because the Minister would then have to pay for it. Therefore, the advice will be given under Clause 2, not Clause 3. That seems to be a very sensible approach.
My noble friend Lord Grantchester referred to Scotland and Northern Ireland. I will deal in a moment with the Berwick question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lyell. It is important when looking at Scotland and Northern Ireland, and at sports ground safety in general, to bear in mind that there are three pieces of legislation that cover sports ground safety in the UK. Only one applies specifically to England and Wales and is relevant to the Football Licensing Authority. The first piece of legislation is the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, which came about as a result of the disaster at a Glasgow Rangers game at Ibrox. It provides for the designation of any ground that has accommodation for more than 10,000 spectators, or 5,000 in the case of Premiership or Football League grounds in England and Wales. All designated grounds, including those in Scotland, are required to have a safety certificate issued and enforced by the local authority under the provisions of the Act.
The second Act also came out of a tragedy, in this case the fire at Bradford City’s ground. The Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987 extended provision to cover regulated stands. A regulated stand is any covered stand at a non-designated ground with accommodation for 500 or more spectators, whether seated or standing. The local authority is responsible for determining which stands at sports grounds in its area are regulated.
The Football Spectators Act established the Football Licensing Authority. It gave it the power to oversee how local authorities discharge their responsibilities under the provisions of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act, and the power to issue licences to admit spectators to sports grounds that are used for designated matches. A designated match is defined, in the Football Spectators (Designation of Football Matches in England and Wales) Order 2000, as
“any association football match which is played at Wembley Stadium, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff or at a sports ground in England and Wales which is registered with the Football League or the Football Association Premier League as the home ground of a club which is a member of the Football League or the Football Association Premier League at the time the match is played”.
That does not include Scotland; Scotland's grounds are licensed under different legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, raised the question of Berwick, which was covered in what I have just said about the different pieces of legislation. As he rightly points out, Berwick is in England but the team plays in the third division of the Scottish Football League. Therefore, the provisions of Part 1 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 do not cover Berwick Rangers. This Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill does not seek to alter the FLA's powers under the 1989 Act. However, it will allow the FLA to provide advice and guidance to any sports ground in England, Wales or Scotland, if it is sought. Therefore, the Bill will allow Berwick Rangers to a obtain advice, but the club is not covered by the legislation. I hope that that answers the noble Lord’s question.
The noble Lord has been more than gracious and kind. Clause 27(6) of the Football Spectators Act 1989 states:
“This Act, except paragraph 14 of Schedule 2”—
which I think covers Northern Ireland—
“extends to England and Wales only”.
Will the noble Lord please write to me and explain why the provisions that he has been explaining about the Scottish Football League should not apply to Berwick Rangers because its ground is in England? The 1989 Act applies to England and Wales. Will he write to me to explain why he said that it is different because Berwick Rangers plays in the Scottish Football League?
I would be very happy to write to the noble Lord. The answer is that Berwick Rangers plays in a competition that is not covered by this legislation—but I will write and give the noble Lord chapter and verse in answer.
I think that I have answered the main points which have been raised. If there is anything that I have missed, I hope that noble Lords will allow me to write to them. I thank the Minister for her gracious and very helpful answer. We await with great interest the deliberations of the Government on where the FLA or the Sports Grounds Safety Authority finally finds a home. I am sure the fact that the Government are committed to the Bill and its continuation will be read with great interest and a great deal of relief. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken for the support that they have given to the Bill, and it is my pleasure to commend the Bill to the House.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.