BUSINESS QUESTION – FOOTBALL GROUNDS – 28 November 2002
Dr Julian Lewis: Will the Leader of the House consider approaching the Minister for Sport for a statement or preferably a debate on the growing feeling that it is time to consider introducing safe standing areas at Premiership football grounds? That debate has been called for by the Southern Daily Echo, which serves Southampton and the New Forest. Experienced people such as former Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy, who was present at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, told the Echo's campaign:
"There is enough evidence now to prove that standing areas should be allowed and would not cause any problems if they were in areas behind the seated portions of the ground."
This is an occasion where a past tragedy should not be allowed to obscure the advances in technology that enable safe seating to be considered in future.
[Robin Cook: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the reasoned way in which he made his point. My own experience of attending Livingston football matches is in a modern all-seater stadium — [Interruption.] No, there is a large attendance, and we have sought to foster a family atmosphere, which is important and provides for the future of football audiences. There are divided views on the issue raised by the hon. Gentleman. I have long realised that if I wish to maintain a position as a consensual Leader of the House I should avoid expressing too strong an opinion about football, but I will convey his point to the Minister for Sport.]