Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mrs. Brooke: Would the hon. Gentleman care to extend his comments to political party conferences? I understand that whatever party is in government makes a profit on its conference. The cost of policing is enormous. Although my local authority is welcoming to all parties that visit, we really suffer as a result. The answer is to have central funding to support democracy at party conferences—

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Lady is making a long intervention. I do not think that party conferences are covered by the new clause.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I suspect that that was another red herring.

The Minister will be able to respond and tell me whether the six-week wait that I have enjoyed in Committee has been worth it. The new clause is tiny. It would seem like nothing in the Bill, but its impact on the streets of our communities would be massive.

Mr. Hawkins: The hon. Members for Lewisham, East and for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) might have waited six weeks to move their new clause, but I have certainly been waiting six weeks to comment on it. I shall not have much time because it is important to hear the Minister's response.

I received a detailed briefing from my friends at the FA premier league, but I also have a constituency interest. We are talking about charging for the cost of policing outside events. Outside events have affected my constituency. I know that you, Mr. Stevenson, will rule me out of order if I mention this in more than one sentence, but Surrey police suffered hugely from the additional cost imposed on them by the previous Home Secretary's decision to keep Senator Pinochet under house arrest. We did not receive money back for that.

I return to the new clause. I shall not have chance to read all the sensible points that my friends at the FA premier league sent to me. They are my friends because I have worked very closely with Philip French in my capacity as a deputy chairman of the all-party sport and leisure group. In the past, I have been involved with the Minister in various sporting matters in the House.

I think that the hon. Lady and hon. Gentleman were unwise to include the words

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    ''including Premier League football games''

in the new clause. I know that the point was raised in the Select Committee, and I read the exchanges between the hon. Lady and other hon. Members with the senior leadership of the Met. The hon. Lady provoked the FA premier league into feeling singled out. We recognise that much of the crowd trouble that has been experienced over recent seasons has not been at premier league games, although I know that the new clause refers to other sporting events.

Let us consider the costs of policing. During the Wigan against Queens Park Rangers match on 26 February, the cost of the police within only the ground amounted to more than half the revenue raised through gate receipts. The hon. Lady did not mention something that the Select Committee concluded after the issue was raised. It said:

    ''We are conscious that the ability of clubs to pay for additional policing costs may well be unrelated to the differing demands their matches put on policing in the vicinity. Such recovery of costs might bankrupt smaller clubs.''

That is an important reason why, in the interests of sport, I hope that the Government will not accept this new clause.

Mr. Denham: I regret to inform my hon. Friends that we will not accept the new clause—although we acknowledge the importance of the issue—primarily because, in principle, a matter such as this, which involves discussion with many different organisations, should not be curtailed by a particular timetable.

We are concerned about the costs incurred in policing entertainment venues that are open late at night, for example, or major sporting and outdoor entertainment events. In response to the comments of the hon. Member for Lewes, I say that where someone is conducting a business activity that is creating additional policing costs, in principle, it is reasonable to seek some contribution towards them. The key question is how should that be done?

As I acknowledged to the Home Affairs Committee, concerns have been raised that the police service is unable to recover a fair proportion of the costs that arise from football matches. There are occasions when it is clear to any sensible person that incidents that take place outside football grounds are an integral part of the fact that a football match is being played. That is a significant issue. I do not agree with those who say that the matches and such incidents are not connected.

In our discussions with the football authorities we also acknowledge wider issues. The first of them, which has been referred to, is that the highest costs are not always associated with the clubs that are most able to pay them, which raises the question of how to address that. Secondly, football clubs are not merely businesses; they also play a role in the community—and that might be especially the case with regard to less successful clubs. Measures that would put them out of business would probably not serve anybody's interests. Thirdly, the football authorities claim that it is not always easy to relate the bill that they receive

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with the level of policing that has been provided. Therefore, there are a series of issues that we must work through.

We must also work through issues with the entertainment industry. Once again, we have good models of voluntary schemes in several city centres, including Manchester and Sheffield, where late-night venues contribute to the cost of having additional police officers on the street. We would like there to be an extension of such schemes, and more formal arrangements might be explored.

My hon. Friends have raised issues that are important and complex. The Government will not ignore them. We wish to discuss them with the football authorities. I have been working closely on them with the Minister responsible for sport, and the interests of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have been acknowledged. I hope that we can find a satisfactory way forward, which enables us not only to deal with the police and cost issues, but to find ways of working with the football authorities so that those clubs that attract a violent following are encouraged to deal with that more effectively. That would reduce costs in the first place, which would be valuable. Football clubs support community cohesion and youth sporting events. If we can continue to support them in their contributions to their communities, that would also be valuable.

However, I must resist the new clause, because it does not offer the right way forward.

Ms Prentice: We understand the difference between the premier league and the smaller clubs, which is why the smaller clubs were left out. I accept what the Minister has said. I know that ACPO, the Home Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the FA premier league are involved in discussions. I hope that we will get something that is consistent out of that, because this is a complex area. We do not want clubs to suffer any more than we want local communities to suffer. We hope that we will have a fair and accountable system at the end of the day. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 269, in title, line 5, after 'orders;', insert 'to amend the law relating to sex offender orders;'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Mr. Denham: I thank you, Mr. Stevenson, for the way that you have conducted the Committee's proceedings, and Committee members for their contributions. I believe in parliamentary scrutiny, and this Bill is better now than it was when it was first laid before Parliament. The contributions of hon. Members of all parties, both here and in another place, have helped to achieve that.

Mr. Paice: I wish to associate myself with the Minister's remarks—which surprised me, as he made them, although they should not have done. I thank you, Mr. Stevenson, and Miss Widdecombe, Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Griffiths, for chairing our sittings, and I thank Committee members. I especially thank

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both the Ministers for the way that they have responded to our concerns. We have had differences, and we will continue to do so. We believe that the Bill is better than the original version that was presented to the other place, although, as it emerges from the Committee, there are aspects of it that have been re-inserted that we wish were not in it. That is an issue for another day and another place.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Stevenson, and to the Minister for the way in which he has handled the Committee's proceedings.

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The Chairman: It is now 5 o'clock. Before I formally bring the proceedings to a close, I thank my co-Chairs, the Clerk, Hansard and all the staff of the House of Commons who have been so diligent in supporting and helping us in our work. Most of all I thank Committee members for their patience and forbearance.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Stevenson, Mr. George (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Bob
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Borrow, Mr.
Brooke, Mrs.
Challen, Mr.
Denham, Mr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Hawkins, Mr.
Heppell, Mr.
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Kumar, Dr.
MacDougall, Mr.
Mercer, Patrick
Osborne, Mr. George
Paice, Mr.
Prentice, Ms Bridget
Stinchcombe, Mr.
Stoate, Dr.

 
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Prepared 27 June 2002