17 July 2015: Lord Faulkner of Worcester moved that the Bill be read a second time.

Relevant document: 5th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab): My Lords, I start by expressing my thanks to all noble Lords who have indicated their wish to speak. I hope very much that the Government and the football authorities in particular will appreciate the great support that exists in this House and outside for the principles underlying this short but necessary Bill. Its purpose is to create a civilised and safe environment for disabled people who want to watch sporting events at football and other stadiums.

The Bill does so by giving local authorities a discretionary power to refuse a safety certificate to sports grounds which do not comply with the accessible stadia guidelines published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. I am proud to declare my unpaid interest as a vice-president of the charity Level Playing Field, which has done so much to raise the profile of disabled sports fans and to campaign effectively on their behalf. I pay tribute to the zeal, courage and dedication of LPF’s chair, Joyce Cook OBE, who has raised to great effect the needs of disabled fans in Britain and indeed in Europe.

Your Lordships will be aware that this is not the first time that I have raised the subject in this House. Almost exactly a year ago, on 14 July 2014, I asked an Oral Question about how the Government planned to ensure that professional sports clubs follow the accessible stadia guidance. I drew attention to the letter written in April 2014 by Mr Mike Penning, the then Minister for Disabled People, to all professional clubs, in which he described the situation with professional football as,“‘woefully inadequate’, when it was revealed that only three clubs in the Premier League, the richest league in the world, comply with the requirements for the number of spaces for supporters in wheelchairs”.

I said that,“the time has now come for equality law to be properly enforced and the guidelines, which have been in place since 2004, properly implemented”.

Answering for the Government, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble - who I am delighted to see is in his place on the Front Bench—said that, “the Government are committed to ensuring that all spectators have enhanced and appropriate access to sporting venues and services, and that professional sports clubs are aware of their responsibilities towards disabled spectators. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is working with the Department for Work and Pensions on a range of measures to ensure that the rights of disabled spectators are met by professional sports clubs … Premier football clubs have considerable means and I think that they should be looking to do very much better”. I think that we can all say amen to that.

The “considerable means” to which the Minister referred included the clubs’ share of the latest broadcasting deal, which amounts to £5.34 billion.

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Watch the debate on Parliament TV

Report of debate together with links to media coverage of Lord Holmes of Richmond (Chris Holmes), Equality and Human Rights Disability Commissioner, from Level Playing Field website