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Policing: European Championship Final

Volume 813: debated on Thursday 15 July 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the policing of the 2020 UEFA European Championship final on 11 July.

My Lords, we condemn the scenes of violence and disorder that took place at Wembley Stadium and in central London on Sunday. I am grateful to the police for their efforts to restore public order in hugely testing circumstances and to deal with those committing violence and other criminal offences.

My Lords, it is easy enough to condemn these actions, but it is quite clear that there was a breakdown in intelligence on the part of the police force and that the stewarding arrangements and the police support at the stadium were inadequate. What steps will the Government take to make sure that this is corrected, bearing in mind the damage that this has done to our bid to host the World Cup in future?

My Lords, the noble Lord touches on a point when he says that some of the stewarding was deficient on the day. However, I would like to put this in the context of the whole of the Euros tournament. The vast majority of events ran smoothly, and it is a real shame that a few people have ruined it for the majority. It is also of great regret that some 19 of our brave police officers were injured on the day.

Does the Minister agree that stewards are not paid, trained or kitted out to be substitute security staff, let alone riot police? Many were incredibly brave, sustaining injuries and trauma. Will the Government ensure that every single steward who worked last Sunday—for the minimum wage, I might add—is provided with counselling from the public purse?

I understood the noble Baroness to say that stewards were not paid, and then that they were paid the minimum wage. However, no matter what, yes, they should be trained; yes, they are brave and we are grateful to them; and, yes, there are lessons to be learned from that event.

My Lords, however one looks at this sorry state of affairs, there is no doubt about the fact that the stewards at the ground and the police in and around it behaved with great professionalism to protect the safety of fans. However, there were obviously grave failings that go to the top of the Met, and surely someone, including the Commissioner, must take responsibility for these failings, apologise and explain how this will be improved in the future.

My Lords, as I said, there are certainly lessons to be learned, but I for one am incredibly grateful to the police for the role that they played. Some 19 of them were injured, and of course there are lessons to be learned from that day. However, there was a surge event and on the whole the police did incredibly well to manage it.

My Lords, the Minister and I come from the north-west of England—Greater Manchester—where clearly we have tribal loyalties to football clubs. But this is about information. On the day that Manchester United’s football ground was invaded and broken into and a Premiership match was abandoned, that was fully on the internet, everybody knew what was going on and very little happened. What happened at Wembley is a mirror image of that. These people see this happening, see that there are few consequences, with no arrests or prosecutions, and try it again. It is only by the grace of God that nobody was killed at Wembley, and I just hope that, instead of apologising, the Minister actually does something.

My Lords, I will not at this point state which team I support, because that might get us into another row. However, I agree that lessons have to be learned. I understand that there was very regular communication on what was going on, and I think the police on the whole did a very good job. As the noble Lord says, it is a very good thing that nobody was more injured than they were, particularly the police officers. Nineteen officers were injured but, thankfully, none died.

My Lords, I attend a lot of football matches in London and went to two of the European Championship games. The police do an exemplary job in policing football matches, and let us not forget that arrests have fallen by 50% in a decade. I was astonished to learn that the police can reclaim policing costs from football clubs only if they are in the ground, and that of the £48 million a year it costs to police football matches, they get only £5 million back. Will the Minister look at this legislation so that the police can start to reclaim the costs from the football clubs and not have this artificial situation where the football clubs keep them out of the grounds in order to save money?

I totally agree with my noble friend in praising the police for the exemplary job they do, and I will take his point back.

My Lords, people who attended the match told me that the chaos, the threats and the violence caused by thousands of drunken and ticketless fans outside the stadium, many of whom forced their way inside, made this a frightening experience. That was especially because there were very few police officers to be seen. I do not understand how the Minister can say that the police did a good job on this occasion. It is surely all very well for the Minister to say that lessons need to be learned, but I suggest to her that the lesson that should be learned is that someone in the police service should take responsibility for all this and should resign.

My Lords, as regards the chaos outside, the noble Lord is absolutely right. In fact, I understand that many of the people who did not have tickets had no intention of watching the match; they came to cause trouble. On the numbers of police, I understand that almost 2,000 officers were deployed to Wembley on Sunday. To put that in context, it is the size of an average police force.

The scenes at Wembley were frankly appalling, and they ask serious questions of the police and the authorities. Given the risk, why was there not a greater police presence at the gates and turnstiles? All of us have seen the shocking scenes and images on social media, so what people in the country want to know is how many of these individuals are being investigated and how many have been arrested so far.

The noble Lord will know that this is obviously an ongoing investigation, and therefore I cannot comment on exact figures at this point. However, as I say, almost 2,000 officers were deployed to the stadium on Sunday. It was a very unfortunate episode and I am not in any way trying to defend it. What I am trying to defend are police’s efforts to restore law and order when chaos broke out.

I hope the Minister has seen the videos shown on Italian media of Italian fans being beaten, apparently as they came out of their stand, by so-called British “supporters”—better described as “thugs”. That video shows it taking place for a substantial time before any stewards arrived. The stewards do then intervene, rather bravely, but there is no sign of the police. These individuals are clearly identifiable on the videos. Can we have some assurance that all these videos from social and professional media are being circulated to the police and that prosecutions will take place where individuals are identified?

I can certainly assure the noble Lord that all the evidence that is being put forward from Sunday is being considered and taken forward by the police. Perhaps I may join him in saying that it is an appalling situation where our non-home fans are beaten and I reassure him that the police will do all they can to bring these criminals—“thugs”, as he says—to justice.

My Lords, I spent many years focusing on ways to tackle hooliganism and subsequently on the preparation for a secure and trouble-free London Olympic Games. Does the Minister agree that it is incomprehensible that the FA and the police did not erect barriers hundreds of metres away from the stadium, as we did in London 2012? That would have prevented tailgating, which was flagged as a major concern in the semi-final. Does she also agree that such an approach must be comprehensibly built into the bid documentation for the 23rd World Cup, to demonstrate that security firms, stewards, the police and volunteers are far better prepared for that tournament, along with far tougher lines against racially provoked attacks, both physical, verbal and online, which quite simply have to be stamped out if we are to earn the right to host the World Cup?

I totally agree with my noble friend. On the racial attacks, the Prime Minister could not have been clearer about his abhorrence for and willingness to deal with them than he was yesterday. On lessons learned from the Olympics, I agree with my noble friend. I am sure that that will be considered and that the House will be kept updated on the progress made.

My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. We now come to Oral Questions to the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, the noble Lord, Lord Frost. There will be three Questions, with 10 minutes allowed for each, and we will proceed in the same way as for other Oral Questions.

Before I call the first Question, it may assist the House if I make a short statement about the sub judice resolution. I have been advised that there are active legal proceedings on the legality of the Northern Ireland protocol. I assure the House that Members may make full reference to the challenge to the Northern Ireland protocol, which is a judicial review of an issue of national importance.

I am also advised that there are active legal proceedings and open inquests in relation to historical Troubles-related deaths. Mr Speaker made a Statement in the House of Commons yesterday; I share his view that this is an issue of national importance. When cases relate to issues of national importance, the Lord Speaker can allow reference to the cases in the House. I am exercising that discretion to allow limited reference to active legal proceedings and open inquests in relation to historical Troubles-related deaths. However, references to these cases should be limited to the context and the events that led to the cases and not include details of cases nor the names of those involved in them. Members of the House should be mindful of the matters that may be the subject of future legal proceedings and should exercise caution in making reference to individual cases.

I also remind Members of the presumption that court orders, such as anonymity orders, will be respected in Parliament. I draw attention to the report of the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, which made clear that

“privilege places a significant responsibility on parliamentarians to exercise it in the public interest. The presumption should be that court orders are respected in Parliament; and that when a Member does not comply with one he or she can demonstrate that (it) is in the public interest.”