Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
Hilary spoke in the recent Westminster Hall debate about safe standing at football grounds. Read what he had to say about this issue below.
I have got it this time. It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh.
I confess that, when I was first approached by constituents who said, “We would like safe standing,” my gut reaction was to say, “I really don’t think so.” I remember replying to, I think, the first person who ever wrote to me on the subject, that, “Nothing we do should in any way jeopardise safety, because we all remember the horror of Hillsborough.” I am here today because I changed my mind.
I pay tribute to the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust for its work—Jon Darch is its lead campaigner on safe standing. It polled its members—to add to what my hon. Friend Emma Hardy just said, 97% were in favour—and recently organised a safe standing roadshow at Elland Road. Angus Kinnear, the managing director of Leeds United, wrote to me, as the local Member of Parliament—it is a great honour to represent Leeds United and Elland Road—and said, “The club wants to see a change in the law.”
My initial reaction was as it was for the reasons that my right hon. Friend Mr Howarth and my hon. Friend Maria Eagle set out. It should be obvious to the Minister, who is passionate about football, that two truths have been expressed in this debate: the current situation is not working and it is not safe. It is not working, because fans are standing. We have heard evidence about that. Everyone can see it with their own eyes when they go to matches or watch them on the telly, and hon. Members have talked about that today. It is not safe for reasons that my hon. Friends the Members for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon), for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) and for Burnley (Julie Cooper) set out very clearly. I am quite tall, and it is a terrible risk for me to stand with a seat in front of me, because if I am knocked, I will tumble forward. I do not see how we can accept the reality that some fans want to stand, but allow the safety risk to be incurred.
I had never heard of rail seating—I did not know what it was—but as part of my education I saw the pictures and read the evidence, which has been referred to today, from places where rail seating has been used. It is not a return to the standing of the past; it is a completely different method. It is safe and gives fans the choice.
I simply say this to the Minister: this is an idea whose time has come. I hope very much that, after listening to the debate, she will respond in a similar way to my hon. Friend Dr Allin-Khan, who has announced our party’s support for safe standing. If she wants to have a trial in the premiership or the championship as a way of demonstrating its safety in that context, fine. I, for one, look forward to the day when Leeds United fans who want to stand are able to do so, and when those who want to sit are able to do so and see, because they are not sitting behind people who are standing.
This point will appeal particularly to the Minister—I am revealing my true passion, as well as my representative pleasure and privilege. I look forward to the day when safe standing is also permitted at the new White Hart Lane.
See the full Hansard of this debate here https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2018-06-25a.235.0