I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
In my statement on 4 July, I told the House that additional measures were required to prevent a recurrence of the appalling scenes witnessed in Brussels and Charleroi during Euro 2000. I outlined what those measures should be and why it was important that they were introduced as soon as possible. However, I pointed out that Members of this House and the other place quite properly take their responsibilities for examining legislation very seriously and recognise the need to combine speed with careful scrutiny.
The next international game for the England football team will be against France in Paris on 2 September. The National Criminal Intelligence Service is of the opinion that this is a high-risk game. I hope that in view of this, right hon. and hon. Members will understand why we need the proposed measure in place before the House rises at the end of this month, if that is at all possible.
To assist the House and the other place, I published this Bill as a preliminary draft on Friday last, and I have made myself available ever since to discuss the proposals with Members of both Houses. A very constructive all-party meeting for Members of both Houses was held on Monday, attended by about 60 peers and Members of this House. In the course of that meeting, among many other constructive comments that were made about the Bill, two specific proposals were made by a senior former Law Lord and by a member of the Opposition, the noble Lord Ackner and the noble Lord Alexander of Weedon. Both their suggestions, as I will explain later, have been incorporated into the Bill as presented. I have received other suggestions for improvement from a number of hon. Friends, and I am giving those active consideration.
The Bill is a considered response to the Euro 2000 experience. The extensive United Kingdom policing operation for the tournament, which I have outlined to the House on a number of occasions, was a success in the terms set for it, which were to prevent known football hooligans from attending that competition. Few of the 1,000 football hooligans known to NCIS were involved. It is a sobering thought that only 30 of the 965 arrests of people from England during Euro 2000 were of people known to NCIS—an agency which dedicates a significant proportion of its time and expertise to monitoring the activities of football hooligans.
Whenever there has been crowd trouble in the recent past, some of those involved were not previously known football hooligans. However, it had been thought that if known hooligans were prevented from attending, the likelihood of wider disturbances would be significantly reduced. During Euro 2000, we had to revise that opinion; the disorder at that tournament was of a different dimension. In the main, it was prompted not by a small core of known football hooligans, but by the xenophobic, racist and offensive behaviour of a significant number of drunken white males, typically aged between 20 and 35, although—as we now know—many of them had previous convictions for violence or disorder.
Recent analysis by NCIS reveals that of the 965 English individuals arrested during the tournament, 391 had previous convictions. That figure—40 per cent.—is not a startling statistic in itself, given that about 30 per cent. of all men have a previous conviction for some offence by the age of 30, as I have previously explained to the House. The difference in this case is that the profile of previous convictions of those arrested in Brussels, Charleroi and the Netherlands is skewed powerfully towards violence and disorder. Of the 391, 133 had convictions for violence, 200 for disorder, 38 for possession of an offensive weapon and 122 for criminal damage. I stress that those convictions were, in the main, not football-related.
The Euro 2000 experience may not be unique, but it is the best documented in respect of the profile of arrested English hooligans. As I pointed out, 97 per cent. of those arrested were not convicted or known football hooligans. That is of great importance in framing further legislative measures to tackle the phenomenon.
As Members will have seen from the structure of the Bill, extensive legislation against football disorder has been developed over a 15-year period. That is spelled out in the opening pages of the—as usual—excellent brief provided by the Library. The legislation has progressively widened the powers of the court and the police to deal with the problem. The Bill underlines the fact that the current legal framework has been carefully put in place over the years. However, although the measures currently at the disposal of the police and the courts may be extensive, they were not designed to catch thugs and yobs whose violence and disorderly ways are usually displayed in a non-football setting.
The Home Secretary or those advising him will have studied television and video clips and other evidence. I have not done so. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what proportion of the 965 and what proportion of the crowds seemed to be committing what would be criminal offences?
NCIS is currently studying the available videos. I have not studied them in the way suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, although I have seen the television pictures. I cannot give him an exact estimate at present. If he is anxious about the fact that a large number of people were arrested in Brussels and Charleroi, I can assure him that I have already made it clear in the record of the House that, given that one of the Belgian police chiefs said publicly that a proportion of those arrested were innocent of any crime at all—even under the Belgian criminal code—I am not willing to publish the names of any of those arrested. As we do not know which of them were innocent in the eyes of the Belgian police, it would be oppressive to those people if the information were used indiscriminately.
However, it is palpably the case that, whatever the exact proportions, there was serious violence and disorder during the tournament, although it was not caused exclusively by people purporting to be English fans. A number of German fans were arrested in Charleroi, although most of the disorder was by English fans.
As the House has increasingly realised during the past three years, a legislative loophole allows yobs and hooligans to go abroad to cause the mayhem we saw in Brussels and Charleroi and to escape unpunished either in the territory in which they misbehaved or in our courts. If the England team and our club sides are to continue to be able to play abroad, we have to accept as we find them the criminal justice systems of the countries involved. We cannot impose as a condition of our engagement in tournaments abroad that the judicial systems of other countries are changed to suit us, or to suit people from our country who might get into trouble with the law.
We have already tried to close the loophole. Before Euro 2000, I went to considerable lengths to persuade the Dutch and Belgian Ministers of the Interior and of Justice that English offenders should not only be arrested if they caused trouble, but brought to justice through the courts of those countries and, where there was proper evidence, convicted. Formal memorandums of understanding between the United Kingdom and both the Netherlands and Belgium were signed. In the UK, we legislated through Orders in Council to enable our courts to impose banning orders on those subject to convictions in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. However, although there were 965 arrests in total, there were only five convictions: four in the Netherlands—mainly for ticket-touting offences—and only one in Belgium.
I intend no respect to the Kingdom of Belgium—[HON. MEMBERS: "No respect?"] I intend no disrespect to the Kingdom of Belgium. We have had good times discussing Belgian issues—[Laughter.]. We all remember the great legacy to the House and the country from the work of the now famous Mr. Victor d'Hondt, without whose mathematical algorithm we should not have been able to implement that wonderful and impressive counting system for the European elections that received such approbation from the voters.
In a similar vein, I intend no disrespect to Belgium when I point out that, if comparable disorder had occurred in England, we would expect a significant number of convictions and banning orders to result. That is the truth. However, it is also true that, if we participate in events in other countries, we must accept their legislative and criminal justice systems.
We need legislation to prevent individuals who have a demonstrable propensity for violence and disorder from inflicting further suffering on host populations and on their fellow supporters. We must deny them the cloak of football and the associated opportunities to abuse whoever they choose, either because of their distorted notions of patriotism or through simple thuggery.
I understand my right hon. Friend's suggestion that people with demonstrable problems should be dealt with. Does he accept, however, that some of us are extremely concerned about the provisions in the Bill that give enormous powers to constables to detain people? Will he make it clear during his speech exactly which criteria will be used? There are thugs who own suits; they are capable of carrying in their elegant luggage the clothes that will transform them when they get to the other side of the channel.
I shall deal with the detail of the Bill in a moment. I hope to be able to reassure my hon. Friend and the House that the proposed powers for the police are not large and indiscriminate. They are specific powers of direction so that people with records of disorder or violence can be brought before the courts, and the courts—not the police—will decide whether it is appropriate to impose a banning order.
Our criminal justice system has many merits but, as the House has long recognised, it does not deal effectively with so-called lower level violence or disorder, which can seriously be disruptive of other people's lives. That is why in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 we introduced anti-social behaviour orders and why we need to introduce similar measures in respect of football hooliganism.
The original proposal was to seek banning orders on known but unconvicted hooligans. That was aired during the passage of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and of the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999 and during the build-up to Euro 2000. However, for the reasons that I have sought to explain, it is widely accepted that we need to go further. The measures before the House have been prepared with that in mind. They are intended seriously to tackle the menace that this country now faces from English hooligans who go abroad and cause the kind of mayhem that we saw in Charleroi and Brussels. The measures enjoy the overwhelming backing of NCIS, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales as well as that of the Football Association and the vast majority of bodies that are confronted by hooliganism and its impact on our national game.
To pick up on another point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), all those who deal with criminal behaviour know that there is no legislation in the world that can eliminate criminal behaviour altogether. What we can and must seek to do, however, is to reduce its occurrence.
I will now take the House through the four key measures proposed in the Bill.
The Home Secretary mentioned the anti-social behaviour orders, but will he reflect on the fact that, during the passage of the Bill that introduced them, Ministers assured us that they would be a last resort and that guidelines would make sure that they would be used in a limited way? Once the Bill became an Act and the orders became a power, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have both lambasted councils for not using more of them.
The general view is that the orders have been used too much as a last resort. There was confusion for which I was partly responsible—I have made that quite clear—about the circumstances in which the orders should be used. What we and, more important, the local authorities and the police have said and what is obvious from the Act is that anti-social behaviour orders should be used where the circumstances are appropriate. In some cases, they need to be used very quickly, but in other cases they may be used where other methods, which it is thought would operate, have not succeeded.
The hon. Gentleman represents a Scottish constituency so he will know that, in Scotland, Dundee city council and the police on Tayside have been in the vanguard of successfully using the Scottish equivalents of anti-social behaviour orders.
Mr. Alun Michael Penarth:
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, far from saying that ASBOs would be used as a measure of last resort, we said that the measure of success would be the understanding by those who indulge in anti-social behaviour that police and local authorities intended to nip their activities in the bud? We said that prevention and a reduction in the amount of anti-social activity would be the true sign of success.
I cannot give a full list, but I will ask the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), to provide one when he winds up the debate. It will come as no surprise to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Dr. Jones) that Liberty has expressed its reservations.
Some of the organisations are listed in the Library briefing that I commend to my hon. Friend.
Let me deal with the four key measures that are proposed in the Bill. It is laid out in a way that fits in with existing football hooliganism legislation. It has seven relatively short clauses, and the operative provisions are to be found principally in schedule 1 on page 4.
The proposed new section 14A of the Football Spectators Act 1989 is relatively non-controversial and effectively combines domestic and international orders into one entity. That is vital because, at present, only those people subject to international bans can be prevented from travelling overseas. That is just 106 of the current crop of about 560 people who are subject to football banning orders.
The proposed new section 14E makes passport withdrawal mandatory in respect of the new combined banning order unless there are exceptional circumstances. To provide reassurance to hon. Members, I shall explain what will happen when a passport withdrawal condition is imposed, which we have suggested should be mandatory except when there are exceptional circumstances. It is not the case—nor should it be—that, when a passport condition is inserted into a banning order, the person concerned has to surrender his or her passport so that he or she is not allowed to travel abroad during the period in which the banning order obtains. The arrangement will not work like that in any particular.
The passport condition is designed to restrict someone from travelling only during a controlled period—typically five days before and until the end of a relevant international or club game in Europe. When it is a club game, the football banning authority, which is part of NCIS, will ensure that if the person concerned is not a supporter of that club, he will typically not have to hand in his passport and report to the police station during the controlled period. It is a very constrained arrangement, which is specific to the need to stop these people who have been identified by the courts as known hooligans travelling abroad for particular matches.
Because the matter has been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House, I also point out that, if there is an emergency during the period in which someone has to hand in his passport and cannot travel abroad—for example, the person concerned may want to travel abroad to see a relative who is critically ill—he can apply to the banning authority to have the passport restriction lifted. If, for any reason, the banning authority refuses to do that, a series of appeals can be entered into very quickly.
The third and fourth provisions in the Bill have not previously come formally before the House, but one part has been discussed in some detail in the past. The proposed section 14B introduces the concept of banning orders by complaint where they would be subject to the civil jurisdiction of the magistrates court in the way that the anti-social behaviour order is at present. That is the proposal that we and the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made last year and that we hoped to include in the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999.
The provision is designed to catch hooligans who may not have football-related convictions but who have caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere and in relation to whom there are reasonable grounds for believing that the imposition of such an order would help to prevent football violence or disorder. I say to hon. Members who are concerned about the use of the police power, which is the fourth limb of the arrangements, that the power relates directly to the power that we are suggesting should be provided to the courts to make a banning order on a complaint. The key point is that the court can make such a football banning order on a complaint only if it believes, first, that there is evidence that the individual concerned has caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere and it is then satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the imposition of such an order would help to prevent football violence or disorder.
Earlier, my right hon. Friend rather flippantly passed over the criticisms of the Bill that have been received from Liberty. Should he not take seriously the fact that Liberty—the former National Council for Civil Liberties—has deep misgivings about the Bill and the powers within it, and particularly deep misgivings about the powers of the police to take people's passports away, thus putting the police in the position of being both prosecutor and executor of the law? Does he not think that Liberty's objections alone are enough for him to stop in his tracks and look to some other means of campaigning against racist violence at football matches?
I was not in the least flippant in respect of Liberty, but Liberty has one view of the matter. Liberty typically takes this view; it did so over anti-social behaviour orders which, Liberty suggested, would be completely outwith the European convention on human rights. There is no evidence whatever to support that case.
The House faces a choice. We have been through a series of proposals and measures to seek to control this kind of terrible disorder and violence which is perpetrated by so-called English fans. The simple fact of the matter is that, so far, the current arrangements have worked in part, but they palpably have not worked in full. We have a choice; if we do nothing, we can—I apologise to the Opposition for using this word—guarantee that such problems will continue in the future, whatever co-operation we seek with the police services abroad. We must act proportionately, justly and within the European convention. As I will explain, I believe that we are doing that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) knows that we cannot have our policy determined by one particular organisation. That would be risible in the extreme.
The Home Secretary has accepted that it is likely that a substantial number of people deported from Belgium after the last football match violence were completely innocent. How does he reconcile that with the provision in new section 14C under which magistrates can rely, or may rely, on any decision of a public authority, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere? That must mean that a person who has been deported—possibly arbitrarily and wrongly—will thereafter have a taint that will be taken into account by the magistrates court in deciding on future banning orders.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the phrase is not that the court has to take account of this, but that it may. He knows that the courts are well able to weigh evidence; that is what they are there for. In this case, they are weighing up whether the person has caused or contributed to violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere.
Proposed section 14C defines violence and provides examples of behaviour constituting disorder. The examples given are not new, and reflect current public disorder criteria as contained in the Public Order Act 1986. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said, the Bill also sets out matters that the court may take into account in deciding whether or not to impose a banning order. These include: convictions for violence against persons or property, including threatening violence and doing anything to endanger the life of a person; convictions for disorder, including, importantly, stirring up hatred against persons on the basis of their colour, race, nationality, or ethnic or national origins; any relevant convictions received outside England and Wales; any decision of a public authority; deportation or exclusion from a country outside the UK: removal or exclusion from football stadiums here or elsewhere; and conduct recorded on video or by any other means—for example, documentary evidence of involvement in football-related violence or disorder, such as film of the street brawling in Copenhagen.
In the real world, no police officer would make an application to the court for a banning order where the only evidence was that someone had been arrested during arrests that were indiscriminate in any event and where the police chief concerned had said that many of those arrested were innocent. However, there may be occasions where the evidence before the court includes a string of other evidence and the fact that, on another occasion, the individual concerned had been arrested, detained and released without charge by the court.
In those circumstances, it is reasonable to include those criteria. If there are positive suggestions about the way in which we can better amend the Bill, I am happy to talk to hon. Members outside and inside the House, as my hon. Friends and I have done repeatedly over the past 10 days.
For the measures to impact in a short time, it is vital for the magistrates courts to take account of conduct or convictions inside or outside the UK, whether the relevant behaviour took place before or after the Bill becomes law. Orders will be made under civil law to ensure that all available evidence can be used, but breaching the order would be a criminal offence. In this regard, the order is similar in construction to the anti-social behaviour order.
They could be decisions by the banning authority, or other similar decisions. Again, if my hon. Friend and the House are concerned, we can provide more information. If we can seek to amend the proposal, we shall do so.
The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) made was important. The Home Secretary said that other evidence of disorder will be required besides the fact that the person has been deported. How can a person who has been deported in those circumstances—when innocent of an offence—establish that, when all the events have taken place overseas?
First, we do not intend to make public the list of those arrested in Belgium in any event. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman knows enough about the law to know that it is for the police officer making an application to establish the case, not the respondent to the application. Although the process takes place within the civil jurisdiction of the magistrates court, the standard of proof that is imposed on civil jurisdiction cases such as this is relatively high—and quite properly so.
The court has to decide whether the evidence is admissible and accurate and then has to use that evidence to make a judgment on whether the first condition of new section 14B has been fulfilled: that the person concerned has
caused or contributed to any violence and disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.
Secondly, the court must decide whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that a banning order should be made so as to prevent further violence and disorder.
Wherever they can, I believe that the police will want to apply for these orders well in advance of a particular fixture in order to prevent suspected hooligans from even setting out for the game. Inevitably, however, there will be people who will not have come to the notice of the police until they reach the port of embarkation. During Euro 2000, there were a number of examples of people travelling to Belgium without tickets who had previous convictions for violent offences. The police had no powers to prevent such individuals from leaving the country and although they were able to pass such information on to authorities abroad, no action was taken by them.
New section 21B empowers a police officer to issue a notice requiring a person to appear before a magistrates court for a banning order to be considered and to prevent him or her from leaving the country in the meantime.
The power will be available only when matches outside England and Wales are due to be played, and for overseas games when the control period is operating. The officer needs to believe that the person has at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or that the behaviour, not the appearance, of the person is such that immediate inquiries need to be made to determine whether or not that condition is met. The Bill is explicit. If authorised by a police officer of the rank of inspector or above, the person may be issued with a notice to appear before a magistrates court within 24 hours and not to leave England and Wales in the meantime; and they may be required, if necessary, to surrender their passport.
One of the proposals made by Lord Ackner during the meeting that I held on Monday was that the draft Bill should be amended to make it clear that the police officer had to spell out the reasons for the direction in writing at the time the direction was given. I have included that in the Bill. However, the Bill has also been revised to draw a distinction between being detained to make immediate inquiries and being issued with a notice effectively commencing a banning order by the complaint process.
In the aftermath of Charleroi, there were many demands, in some cases from surprising quarters, that we should replicate the powers that the German police had taken to turn back people at the borders without any further process. That power is not consistent with our tradition of policing or our respect for the rule of law, and it is not in the Bill. Instead, we are providing that where the police believe there are grounds for obtaining a banning order against an individual, they can, but only for a matter of hours, stop that person leaving the country so that they can take them to court. It is then for the court to determine whether a banning order should be made.
The Home Secretary suggested that powers are being given to police officers to act if they believe that people have previously caused or contributed to violence. Why does the Bill give police constables the power to detain somebody for up to 24 hours, simply on the basis that they believe that the behaviour would lead them to make inquiries? There is no requirement that the police officer even believes that the person has a record of causing or contributing to violence.
I am happy to discuss that point with the hon. Gentleman outside, as well as inside, the House, but that is not my reading of the Bill. The purpose of the measure is to enable the police, where they are faced with people whom they believe to have previous convictions for, in the main, violence, to stop those individuals, check who they are, and find out whether there is evidence against them. If there is such evidence, they will be able to serve them with a notice and get them into court. The 24-hour period will start from the moment the direction is made.
There has been much speculation about people being stopped at the whim of a police constable or because of their appearance. That is unfounded. Behaviour at the point of exit from England and Wales will be relevant, but only if that behaviour is violent or disorderly or gives grounds for thinking that the person has been involved in violence or disorder in the past.
Those deported for minor administrative offences such as passport irregularities, or arrested by way of a preventive detention under Belgian public order powers, will not, as I have already spelled out, face bans unless there is other, better evidence that they have caused or contributed to violence or disorder. The genuine and decent football supporter has nothing to fear, irrespective of their appearance.
I recognise that the last two measures are new. During the meeting on Monday, Lord Alexander of Weedon suggested that because the powers were new, it would be advisable if there were a period when they were on the statute book but the House would then be able to consider whether to continue with them. He suggested also that, if possible, there should be a sunset provision in the Bill, so that after a certain period the powers could expire altogether unless they were replaced by additional legislation. I have accepted both those proposals in full, and they are be found in clauses 3 and 5.
Clause 3 requires the orders to be made by affirmative resolution. Clause 5 states that there will be an initial period, which cannot last for more than a year, and that the Secretary of State must ask both Houses for an affirmative resolution if the powers are to continue. Clause 5 also makes it clear that the whole Bill ceases to operate after five years unless other, primary legislation is passed. I hope that that provides important reassurance to right hon. and hon. Members, and I am grateful to Lord Alexander for that proposal.
As I made clear in my statement on 4 July, we have to act with speed to avoid disorder in Paris and during the European club campaign next season. But we must have careful scrutiny of what is proposed. That is why I agree with the Opposition that it would be wrong to try to deal with all the proceedings of the Bill in one day, although I believe that that sometimes happened with emergency legislation under the previous Government. The Committee, Report and Third Reading stages have therefore been delayed until next week. Obviously, we will listen carefully to what right hon. and hon. Members have to say this evening.
I was casting my mind back to the miners' strike in 1984 and 1985, when we tried to travel to other parts of the country but were stopped and sent back home. Would the powers in the Bill have the same effect and make such travel illegal?
I am glad that my hon. Friend raised that point, because there was much evidence to suggest that those powers, which were used by the police before the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 came into force, were arbitrary and without foundation in law. I say to my hon. Friend that many of us saw those powers being used, and many police officers deeply regret today that they were forced to use them improperly and arbitrarily. That soured relations between the police and the public for many years thereafter, to the regret of the police.
Why is this different? There are two reasons. First, almost as soon as the Bill comes into force—if it does so, as I would prefer, at the end of this month—the Human Rights Act 1998 will come into force. If that Act had been in force in the 1980s, in no way could the police have acted arbitrarily, as they did towards the miners. Secondly, the only power in the Bill that is exercisable by a police officer during a control period—an international tournament or an overseas club game—is the power to detain someone and direct them into court. That is completely different from the arbitrary power that was exercised during the miners' strike.
It is plain that if the Bill is to get through the House and the other place in time, it has to have the active support of the official Opposition. The Government have proceeded in good faith on the basis that that support existed. Just three weeks ago, on the Monday following the disgraceful scenes at Charleroi, I made a statement to the House. At that stage, the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) called for police powers similar to those used by the German police and much wider than those in the Bill. She said that my hand would have been very much strengthened if I had
taken all measures that other countries have taken.—[Official Report, 19 June 2000; Vol. 352, c. 38]
The next day, 20 June, in an Opposition day debate, the right hon. Lady promised that if I brought forward emergency provisions, the Opposition would support me.
On 22 June, the Leader of the Opposition gave a speech in Bradford in which he made what he described as an "important offer" to the Prime Minister. He criticised us for a "lack of political will" to tackle football hooliganism and pledged his party to support, in the words of his press notice,
any moves in Parliament to restrict English football hooligans following the trouble witnessed at Euro 2000.
He went on to say:
I am today making this important offer to the Prime Minister. The Conservative Party will give full support and co-operation in Parliament to Government legislation.—
[HON. MEMBERS: "Another guarantee."]
Full support—no ifs, no buts, no maybes—in the Commons and the Lords. The pledge was unequivocal, unconditional, unrestricted and without qualification. I took the Leader of the Opposition at his word. I apologise to my right hon. and hon. Friends for my naivete and innocence.
Within days of that promise being made, it had disintegrated into thin air. The tough talk had been exposed as weasel words. We saw that at the beginning of last week, with the right hon. Lady's less than unconditional response to my statement in the House. Last night that pusillanimous position was confirmed. Within just three weeks of that "important offer" of unconditional support in both Houses, we were told on the wires that the shadow Cabinet had decided not to support the Bill, but merely to abstain.
I am coming to the conclusion of my speech.
How different the Leader of the Opposition's clarion call for new powers would have sounded in Bradford if he had set out what now appears to be the case—that on this issue, the Opposition are neither for what we are proposing, nor against what we are proposing. Instead, they intend to sit on their hands and abstain—saying one thing and doing another, all in the space of three short weeks.
The Bill in all its parts can become law before the recess only if the Opposition stick to the pledges that their Leader made three weeks ago. I hope, even at this stage, that they will measure up to their responsibilities.
Meanwhile, I tell the House that we all have an obligation to deal with the dreadful scourge of English football hooliganism abroad. The Bill contains provisions necessary to achieve that end. The Bill is measured, proportional and consistent with the European convention on human rights. I commend it to the House.
The Opposition have said throughout that we would support appropriate legislation to combat football hooliganism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Any."] Obviously not any. No Opposition, nor any Government, would pledge themselves to support any old bad legislation, would they?
Sit down while I finish. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to proceed by consensus, he is not giving much of an example.
We have said throughout that we would support appropriate legislation to combat football hooliganism, and that we were happy to have a Bill and to ensure that it reached the statute book before the House rises for the summer recess. I made it very clear to the right hon. Gentleman, both in statements in the House and in letters to him, that although we were prepared—I will go on to describe how we are still prepared—to support a Bill.
None the less, I made it very clear that we were not prepared to proceed without due scrutiny. The right hon. Gentleman was seriously suggesting that we got the Bill through in one day. We made it clear that we expected due scrutiny, and that we held out the right to amend the Bill, to oppose parts of the Bill and to try to get it right. [Interruption.]
The Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), from a sedentary position, talks about weasel words. If he seriously believes that it is not the duty of both the Opposition and the House to scrutinise legislation properly, to amend it, to oppose parts of it where that is appropriate, and to try to put a decent Bill into statute at the end of the process, he should not be here, because he does not understand the duties of the House.
I am so grateful to the right hon. Lady, and also for her earlier courtesy.
The right hon. Lady is now making the offer of full support conditional. Did not a Conservative party news release, under the headline
Hague offers Blair help on football hooligans
Conservative Leader, William Hague has pledged that his Party will support any moves in Parliament to restrict English football hooligans following the trouble witnessed at Euro 2000?
Did the right hon. Gentleman say that, or did he not? Is it not the truth that having given that undertaking, the Opposition are now rowing back from it?
The operative word in that is "hooligans". [Interruption.] That is the operative word. The fourth provision that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced goes way beyond convicted football hooligans and way beyond football-related offences. It is not that I do not see merit in that provision, as I shall explain, but we are helping the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister by giving them a decent Bill at the end, rather than the highly undesirable Bill as currently drafted in its fourth provision.
I am grateful again to the right hon. Lady. Of course the operative word is "hooligans". That is what we have been talking about. Her wriggling just now reminded me of the occasion when President Clinton said that it all depends what one means by the word "is".
All I can say is that if the right hon. Gentleman is not interested in scrutiny, in trying to improve the Bill, and in having the help of the Opposition to improve the Bill, he is not taking his own Bill seriously. I am taking the Bill seriously. I want to see it improved. If the right hon. Gentleman will now have the courtesy to listen, I will tell him how I want to see it improved.
No one wants to see in the coming months a repeat of the scenes that we witnessed in Brussels and in Charleroi during the Euro 2000 tournament, or the violence that flared in Marseilles two years ago, during the 1998 World cup. However, it is vital that the whole House ensures that the right Bill is enacted. History tells us that emergency legislation that is not properly considered can all too often be bad legislation.
The Bill in its current form is not wholly satisfactory. There are several possible loopholes, as the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged in my discussions with him. Several important loopholes have been highlighted and need closing.
No. I shall finish my point.
It may be that when the Bill has been scrutinised and revised in Committee and on Report, it will then be the right Bill. If so, the right hon. Gentleman can look forward to active support from the Opposition. Meanwhile, there are too many questions, especially on the fourth provision, on police powers of arrest, which the Home Secretary outlined in his speech.
I will finish the point, then I will give way.
It would be quite wrong to obstruct due consideration of the Bill, given that there is a necessity for appropriate legislation. We want to promote due consideration, so we shall not vote against the Bill in Lobby tonight. If it is substantially improved, we may be able to support it. [Interruption.] All I can say is that over on the other side of the House, Labour Members, with the exception of a few who take the Bill seriously, want anything rather than the right thing. We want the right thing, which is what we are trying to work towards.
Can my right hon. Friend reassure me on one point before I determine how I shall vote? A cardinal principle of any civilised society is that people should not be prevented from leaving their country on the say-so of a policeman. There should be a properly conducted hearing. The Home Secretary tells us that a hearing would take place within 24 hours, but that is not good enough. Will she reassure me that the Opposition will press for an immediate and properly constructed hearing to be held in a suitable place so that policemen cannot prevent a person from leaving the country if they have only the flimsiest of evidence?
I have already asked the Home Secretary about such a measure and he has already said that he will see whether it is possible to include a provision that magistrates will be able to hold hearings at ports so that it is not necessary to wait 24 hours. I do not know whether he will be able to include such a measure, but I have asked him to do so. I share my hon. Friend's view that such a provision is crucial and I shall press for it.
We are already making arrangements for court hearings to be held as quickly as possible—we can talk about that—but is the right hon. Lady seriously suggesting that instead of a hearing being held, for example, at Dover magistrates court, which would offer security, a spatchcock court with trestle tables should be erected in the departure hall of Dover port? What is she proposing? Of course a hearing would be held in the nearest available court. That is made clear in the Bill in any event.
If that is the right hon. Gentleman's approach to serious suggestions, he probably will end up with an absolutely daft Bill that sensible people will not support. Outside the Chamber, he took a more reasonable approach to what I have asked him for. I can at least assure my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) that we shall indeed press for that provision and have already tabled amendments to that effect.
We saw the first draft of the Bill less than a week ago. Yesterday afternoon, we saw a revised draft. Today—the very day of Second Reading—we have received the final version, with only hours in which to study it. I welcome the efforts that the Home Secretary has made in the limited time available to ensure that the Bill is in good order, but he cannot hold it up as a shining example of detailed and satisfactory pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Home Secretary surely must expect Members of the House and of the other place to give close consideration to a Bill produced to such a truncated timetable. If he cannot accept that without pouring scorn and ridicule on serious suggestions, he is himself destroying the spirit of consensus, of which he makes much. Madam Speaker—[Interruption.] It is catching, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is unfortunate because the Government have had two years to get things right. The House finds itself in this position soley because of their delay and vacillation.
More than two years ago, after the disgraceful scenes in Marseilles, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) tabled amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 that, to an extent, are mirrored by some of the Bill's provisions. More than a year ago, during the passage of the private Member's Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), the Minister for Sport said categorically that further Government legislation was necessary. However, as was made plain in the debate initiated by the Opposition last month, the Government failed to act during that period, despite repeated promises to do so. That is the background against which the House is considering this rushed measure. The Home Secretary has deliberately and consistently refused to act over two years, so it is a bit of a cheek to criticise the Opposition for daring to want to amend the Bill.
If the right hon. Lady and her colleagues eventually support the Bill, will that tell the House that she is confident that these measures will deal with the problems of British football hooliganism abroad once and for all?
The short and simple answer is that I would not have total confidence, which is exactly why we ask for a sunset clause. We are attempting to proceed helpfully, but cautiously, precisely because we are trying to get the Bill right and trying to achieve a measure in which we can have confidence.
If I may, I want to make progress on the main part of the Bill.
As the Home Secretary said, the Bill contains four main provisions. Conservative Members have no difficulties in principle with the first two, which combine the two types of banning order and require the imposition of a condition on the surrender of passports, which at present is discretionary. I share his view that that provision is too little used. In addition, we anticipate no practical difficulties with those two provisions. Having studied the Bill in more detail, we may wish to table amendments, but there is no fundamental disagreement between the Government and the Opposition on those proposals. Indeed, we have asked for them, as we have also asked for the third provision, which allows banning orders to be made against persons convicted of no criminal offence whatever. However, that has clear civil liberties implications. Therefore, there will have to be a more substantial debate.
In the context of Euro 2000, it will be important to consider whether the grounds for the power to make the new banning orders under proposed new section 14C have been drawn in such a way as to allow orders to be made against genuine fans who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and subjected to administrative arrest and deportation in Belgium, despite not being involved in violence. Despite the tone that the Home Secretary took towards the end of his speech, I agree with him utterly, and must put it more bluntly, that the Belgians did not handle these matters as I would wish our European counterparts to handle similar occasions.
If we are to legislate to control the behaviour of our own nationals abroad, it is not unreasonable to ask that other countries put those same nationals through their due procedures when they commit crimes on foreign territory. I for one am disappointed that Belgium reacted by rounding up an awful lot of people, some of whom had committed no offence and just happened to be in the wrong place. I consider that an unsatisfactory way to proceed. In addition to whatever measures we take, we should press hard for other countries to ensure that people who commit offences on their territories during such matches pay penalties at law in those countries.
I have received representations from people who argue that they should not be branded in the same way as persistent hooligans simply because of how they were dealt with by the Belgian authorities as a result of happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Does the right hon. Lady agree that the scenes that we saw on television—scenes that did not result in prosecution—of young men hurling chairs at police officers and members of the public, breaking windows and so on, constitute evidence that ought to warrant a banning order?
The hon. Gentleman makes my point for me. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has had his say; let me finish my reply. That is precisely the sort of behaviour that we think should be the subject of a banning order. That is why I just said that I would be surprised if we could not find a means of agreeing on the detail. What is not acceptable is that people to whom such evidence is not available should also be subject to an order.
The right hon. Lady heard the Home Secretary's statistics about those who appeared in court and were subsequently thrown out of Belgium. NCIS is likely to have evidence in respect of some of those people relating to similar violent activities. Surely the right hon. Lady does not want people with a history of violence to represent this country abroad.
The hon. Gentleman assumes that we object to a part of the Bill to which we have no objection. Let me remind him of what I have just said. I would be surprised if, on the basis of the provisions that we are discussing—provisions that are very similar to those requested by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford a long time ago, when they could have been acted on—we could not reach an agreement on the detail. I do not think I can put it more positively than that, although what I have said does not mean that I cannot express reservations about the drafting of the Bill.
Is it not a fact that a number of people were scooped up by the Belgian authorities, almost at random? The right hon. Lady should join my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in saying that the Belgian authorities should have prosecuted those people, rather than our having to rely on video evidence.
I know that the atmosphere here can be quite soporific, but I have just spent a lot of time saying precisely that. Indeed, I put my view of what Belgium did in rather stronger terms than those used, rather diplomatically, by the hon. Gentleman.
The real problems, however, arise not from the first three provisions but from the fourth, which gives the police new and substantial powers to prevent British citizens from leaving the country—or, more precisely, from leaving England and Wales. We shall seek to establish exactly how the powers are intended to be exercised. Concerns have been voiced by members of all the main parties, not just here but in another place. Given the accelerated timetable proposed by the Government—with which the Opposition are co-operating—it is important for us to take those views into account, and to seek to achieve the maximum agreement on the Bill.
There is a general, if not universal, view in the House that such powers should not be exercised without the sanction of a court that has considered all the facts. I am therefore grateful to the Home Secretary for incorporating my request—which was also made by others—for the inclusion of the necessity for the police to give reasons to persons prevented from travelling, so that they may have the opportunity to prepare a defence. The absence of such a provision in the initial draft is just one example of the way in which, given proper scrutiny, we will make this a better Bill.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough pointed out, the Bill allows a 24-hour delay before a court hearing. Despite the rather scornful reaction that I just received—which does not reflect the reaction that I have had from him outside the Chamber—I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to accommodate my suggestion that magistrates should be present and able to conduct hearings at ports in order to reduce the delay, as there will undeniably be urgent cases.
Of course it is true that there are courts in Dover, but if we want this to be a seven-day provision, and if the period designated by the Home Secretary happens to fall over the weekend—which is quite likely—they will not be functioning. My point is not that, where there are courts, we need not ask people to go there immediately; it is that we can prevent 24 hours from becoming the norm rather than the maximum. That is what I seek to achieve.
The Home Secretary will acknowledge that some people will want to travel for urgent family reasons or business reasons—reasons that are nothing to do with football. Indeed, perfectly reasonable football fans who would miss the match if they had to wait 24 hours may want to travel.
Despite the reservations that I am expressing, I see merit in the general principle. The police have footage of offences, both in this country and on foreign soil, following which there has been no conviction. The merit of this provision is that it offers a mechanism whereby such people can be prevented from behaving similarly in Paris, Munich or wherever.
However, there are serious implications for civil liberties, for the principle of "innocent until proven guilty", and for the role of the police vis-a-vis that of the courts. That is why I am so keen to get it right. I cannot believe that Labour Members really disagree with that simple proposition.
The right hon. Lady seems to be saying that the Opposition intend to abstain because they want time to table amendments, but the only amendment that she has suggested is a provision to put courts in the ports. We already have a 24-hour turnaround time. It is absurd if that is the only suggestion that she can make.
If the hon. Gentleman goes to the Table Office, he will find that, far from that being our only suggestion, we have already tabled a substantial number of amendments to various parts of the Bill. He does not want me to give details of every amendment on Second Reading; I am picking out those that I consider to be most important. As I have said, I am trying to help to produce the right Bill.
I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will want a good Bill, but what will happen if we do not get this Bill through and if, at the beginning of September, English fans go to France and a minority of football hooligans cause havoc in Paris? Will the right hon. Lady tell me how she and other Members who oppose the Bill will feel if that happens?
I regret that I gave that intervention precedence, because it was not worth having. I have already made it clear that the Opposition are keen to help to get the Bill right to try to prevent a repetition of such behaviour. Otherwise, why would we co-operate with one of the most truncated timetables that we have ever been offered? We are co-operating precisely because of the point that the hon. Lady makes. There seems to be an attitude among Labour Members that, unless we agree to any old thing regardless of its merits, we are not helping. We are trying to get it right.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that the all-party football group met Scotland Yard's criminal intelligence unit a few days before the big riot occurred, and they told us exactly what was going to happen? They had the information on a database, which is why a clause in the Bill provides that that information can be disclosed. Every club in the country has a list of about 150 supporters who have had their season tickets cancelled, have been evicted for obscene chanting, disruption or racist chanting or have a known history but do not have a conviction. That evidence could and should be used. Is the right hon. Lady arguing that, if those people do not have a conviction, that record should not count?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not listening. Just now I specifically said that the merit of the Bill is that it allows us to move against those who do not have convictions. I was then going to describe the demerits. Instead of hearing total opposition in everything that is said, he should listen to what is actually being said and he may even be convinced.
I thank the right hon. Lady. I have listened closely to her arguments. She has said that the Opposition are no longer willing to support any legislation against football hooliganism. I ask her for a yes or no answer to this question. Are any of the amendments that she and her hon. Friends have tabled a matter of principle such that she will not ultimately support the Bill here or in the other place, so that we do not have the legislation through the House before the recess?
I do not know how long the hon. Gentleman has been in the House, but he presumably understands how Parliament works. I have not tabled any amendments for frivolous purposes. The purpose of the amendments, as a body—
I am answering the question.
The purpose of the amendments is to reduce the undesirable effects of the Bill. I shall have to see what the Bill looks like when it has been through its stages, but tonight we will not obstruct it. We have accepted the timetable, and we are producing amendments. We are doing our best to help, and all we are getting is complete non-comprehension from hon. Members who apparently believe that their duty is slavishly to approve anything that is put before them without going through it in any detail.
I shall now make progress before taking any more interventions. The Bill has serious implications for civil liberties, for the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and for the role of the police vis-a-vis that of the courts. That is why we must get the Bill right. The definition of behaviour that might cause an officer to prevent travel is too widely drawn—or at any rate it appears to be. In new section 14C(3)(b) we are told that such behaviour is not limited to
conduct which constitutes a crime.
Bearing in mind the fact that almost all disorderly behaviour is conduct that constitutes a crime, that behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace is a crime, and the very wide net that constituting a crime would throw over such behaviour, I must press the right hon.
Gentleman to tell me what behaviour would not constitute a crime but would be deemed serious enough to prevent travel.
When I put that question to the right hon. Gentleman in his more reasonable frame of mind, he explained to me—and subsequently followed it up with a letter—that his problem with that argument was that what constitutes a crime in Britain may not constitute a crime in other jurisdictions, that he would have to obtain evidence not only of the behaviour but of the specific offence that such behaviour constituted in other jurisdictions and that that would be time consuming and would be difficult to obtain in a short space of time, would be administratively complex and could lead to a considerable number of challenges. That is perfectly fair, so let me ask him this. Why can he not limit the conduct to that which would constitute a crime under our law even if that conduct had taken place in some other jurisdiction? There would remain a requirement for that behaviour to constitute criminality under UK law.
The right hon. Lady raised this question with me yesterday, and we are thinking hard about the point. I understand her concern and that of her right hon. Friends that the Bill should not inadvertently be too wide. She accepts that it is appropriate that, if behaviour abroad were adduced as evidence in this country for a banning order, we should not have to prove that the behaviour was an offence abroad, because that would cause immensely complicated problems.
The problem then is whether we keep the other limb of that provision which says that the behaviour need not constitute a crime in this country. Although I am happy to listen to the House's opinion and to discuss it with the right hon. Lady further outside the Chamber, that provision is there, as I explained in the third paragraph of my letter, to deal with the issue of intent. It will be the case, almost without exception, that the kind of behaviour that—under the Bill as drafted—would be adduced in court as evidence justifying a banning order would meet the actus reus of one or more offences under English law. However, in many cases, no evidence will exist to prove intent, for the reasons that I set out. That was the point with which the draftsmen were trying to deal. If there are other ways to deal with it, while still ensuring that the Bill covers behaviour likely to cause violence or disorder, we will be happy to discuss them.
That was exactly the spirit in which I had hoped that this debate would be conducted. The Home Secretary has just admitted that there is a problem with the Bill, that it might have undesirable consequences, that trying to tighten it up is not as straightforward as it might seem and that, therefore, he will have to reconsider it. He will understand why we want to reserve judgment to see what he comes up with. That is the spirit in which I hope that we can resolve many, if not all, of the difficulties outstanding on the Bill.
The next difficulty arises over what will be section 21A(2). We need to know whether the behaviour referred to in that provision has to constitute a crime, such as a breach of the peace, or whether it could be as simple as an off-the-cuff remark that an officer overheard and took exception to. In such cases, a constable will have to take account of behaviour taking place at the port or in his presence. What exactly does that behaviour have to be?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for focusing on section 21A(2), because it would give an officer the right to arrest in order to conduct inquiries. She will be aware of the provisions of article 5(1) of the European convention on human rights. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Home Secretary what justification exists for an arrest to be made under section 21A(2) under article 5(1)? I can find no justification for such an act.
I shall add that question to the one that I have just posed, and I shall give the Home Secretary time to deal with them. We would value it if the Bill could be redrafted so that behaviour that attracts action under section 21A(2) will have to be criminal or very carefully specified.
The right hon. Lady is dealing with the crucial point of the Bill. Does she share my concern that the problem is that the constable would be required to form an opinion, on the basis of behaviour, that somebody has committed a crime or been engaged in violent or disruptive behaviour at some time in the past? I am not sure of any behaviour, other than an assertion by someone that he had been involved in disruptive behaviour, that would fit the bill. That concerns me greatly.
My reading of new section 21A(2), as opposed to section 14C, with which I have dealt, is that it is the behaviour of someone who is present there and then. I am asking not whether that behaviour is indicative of something that has happened in the past, but whether it would normally attract a charge—that is, whether it would be a crime.
I entirely accept the right hon. Lady's argument, but does not the Bill make that the grounds on which the police officer has to decide whether further inquiries should be made? It is a strangely retrospective requirement.
That is an interpretation of what the section does. It is giving rise to huge concern on the Opposition Benches, on the Labour Benches—the Home Secretary will admit that—and in another place, and indeed, to concern on the part of responsible commentators. All that we are saying is that the present drafting has dangers. We want to get those dangers out of the Bill if we are to support it at a later stage.
Eddie Curtis, head of the hooligan spotting unit, said in an interview with the BBC that the police would use the new powers—in 14C and 21 A(2)—against those who may well not have come to their attention but who were attempting to travel abroad with known hooligans, or to prevent those already deported from overseas tournaments from returning to them to cause more trouble. That is his definition.
However, the Minister in another place, Lord Bassam, said that the powers could be used against anyone who happened to be acting randomly in an airport lounge. That is what was driving my most recent question to the Home Secretary about whether an act of rowdiness that does not amount to criminality will be a sufficient condition to invoke that clause. That is a much broader application.
If that is my right hon. and learned Friend's reading of the Bill, it is crucial that the provision is tightened up before it is enacted, otherwise we will have well-intentioned but chaotic legislation.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that it is not possible to forecast the things that these people may do? When Leeds fans went to Turkey, they urinated in public in front of Turkish women and pretended to wipe their backsides on the Turkish flag. Those may or may not be criminal offences in this country. A common complaint against this gang is that they urinate anywhere. One cannot say that this or that should be a condition. The police, who are experienced in football behaviour, must be able to exercise their judgment about what these people do.
Both the offensive activities that the hon. Gentleman described would be an offence. That is the criterion for which I am asking: that what should define the conduct that we are discussing in these sections is whether it is an offence under our law. Therefore, I ask the Home Secretary who is right, the policeman or the Minister, or are they both right? We must explore those issues further.
The power in new section 14B for the police to detain someone who has
at any time…caused or contributed to any violence or disorder
is somewhat vague. The terms "violence" and "disorder" are specifically defined in a wider context than football-related violence or disorder.
No, I have taken a lot of time. Many hon. Members want to contribute. I shall make progress and I shall not take interventions from hon. Members on either side of the House for a long time—in fact, until I finish.
To take just one example, would the power extend to someone who might now be a pillar of the community, hold a position of trust, and be of some standing but who, in his younger days decades ago, organised student protests or demonstrations at university? The House will need to look closely at the definition of behaviour in new section 14B(3).
Will police officers be able to stop someone at a port because of their dress or physical appearance?
The right hon. Gentleman says no, and I am grateful for that, but how widely is the term to be interpreted? I also want to explore in Committee the process by which magistrates will hear the case against someone who has been stopped at a port.
There are concerns that the police will effectively be able to detain someone on mere suspicion, without any evidence and without a court hearing, for up to 24 hours. We must also look at the new court powers that the Home Secretary proposes. For what length of time is it intended that people should be remanded by the court under new section 21C(3)? Should they be remanded in custody? Is that the intention?
Loopholes in the legislation have already been highlighted. For example, one of the Bill's silliest effects is that the new police powers will not extend to Scotland or to Northern Ireland, so the hooligans whom the power is intended to catch, rather than travelling from Manchester, Heathrow or Dover, will instead travel from Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Belfast. As things stand, the police there will be utterly powerless to stop them. I understand that the Home Secretary does not propose to institute border checks along Hadrian's wall, so he will be completely powerless to prevent it happening. When he wrote to me on that point, he effectively said that there was nothing he could do about it, but he described it as a remote possibility. It is not a remote possibility because hooligans are a well organised and highly sophisticated criminal element. Therefore, the proposed power may already be so full of holes that it will be rendered practically useless.
I was surprised to read in the draft explanatory notes published last week that the legislation does not extend to Northern Ireland because, the Home Secretary says, criminal law is a devolved matter. I am sure that many hon. Members will have been equally surprised as criminal law remains a reserved matter under the Government's Northern Ireland Act 1998. If the Home Office cannot even get the constitutional position of Northern Ireland right in its explanatory notes, how can we be sure that the Bill does not contain other far less obvious errors?
I welcome the Home Secretary's decision to accept the request of myself and of others that a so-called sunset clause be present in the Bill, but it is important that we should have the opportunity to revisit those matters, I hope with a more detailed and informed consideration than any of us will be able to give to the present Bill. However, given the exceptional nature of the legislation, we should consider reducing the time limits proposed in the Bill even further.
If the Home Secretary allows the Bill a maximum life of two years instead of five, it would still cover the whole of the 2002 World cup qualifying campaign, after which a considered assessment could be made of the need for and, probably particularly, the operational effectiveness of, its provisions. I have therefore tabled amendments to that effect.
The initial period before renewal is far too long. It is one year but, given the exceptional timetable under which the Bill is being rushed through, I propose that we at least consider and debate properly the merits of a first review after six months.
We have indicated that we will assist the Government in ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to combat football hooliganism and we are co-operating fully with the timetable, so that new legislation can be speedily enacted. That cannot mean that we are willing to give the Government a completely blank cheque, or to abandon the process of parliamentary scrutiny. That is especially the case when the Bill proposes some new and wide-ranging powers that did not even see the light of day until last week.
I know that the whole House will want to ensure that the measures that we put in place are appropriate, proportionate and just. I do not think that the Bill measures up to that as it stands, but we hope that, with the co-operation of all sides, we will be able to bring about improvements in the coming days and before it goes to another place that will make a real difference to that assessment.
I fully acknowledge—I am delighted to acknowledge—that the Home Secretary has already taken on board and adjusted his Bill to reflect concerns that I and others have raised. I for one hope that that same spirit will prevail over the next few days and that the result will be a Bill that all sensible persons can vote for, because the menace of hooliganism is far too great to be treated lightly.
I welcome the fact that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) supports the Bill in principle and is prepared to work with the Government to ensure that it meets the desired objectives and goes from here to the other place with all-party support.
I am not a supporter of instant legislation, which usually turns out to be bad legislation, giving rise to confusion and any number of injustices. I well remember being in the Chamber, when we were in opposition, during the passage of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989, which I said at the time was poorly drafted and misdirected. The right hon. Lady nods. That legislation was seen as very much a knee-jerk reaction to serious injuries inflicted on young people and others by savage dogs. There was a great deal of press clamour for Parliament to do something about that. Often when Parliament is pushed to do something, Ministers rush to pass legislation whose passage we can repent at great leisure.
I believe that the current proposals from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary do not fall into the category of instant whip legislation. As the right hon. Lady quite rightly said, the legislation's details need to be examined. However, it is not a matter of rushing legislation through. The problem has not just emerged, but changed and evolved. At times, it is difficult for legislators to keep up with all the different manifestations of football hooliganism. It is therefore essential that we discuss the issue in detail on the Floor of the House, to improve the legislation, which is all that we want to do.
The principles in the legislation have already been discussed at great length in the House. In many ways, today, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is trying to complete the job started with the Football Spectators Act 1989. Hon. Members should remember that the then Government, supported by us when we were in opposition, thought that that legislation was an answer to the problem of football hooliganism then confronting us. Lamentably, that turned out not to be the case. Consequently, the law needs to be changed to respond to changed circumstances.
I hope that this Bill will complete the 1989 legislation. However, the House has to face up to the fact that, after we pass the Bill, eventually, we might discover that its provisions are not adequate to deal with the problem. We are not infallible. We must be prepared yet again to return to the issue. If loopholes are revealed in the legislation which we, in all our wisdom, were unable to foresee, we will have to plug them and further tighten the provisions. This type of legislation is essentially responsive. It cannot be regarded as the final position beyond which the House will go no further.
As we know, hooliganism has been an odious feature of English football for more than two decades. It has earned us a reputation around the world as a nation of soccer thugs. Perhaps that is grotesquely unfair, but that is how we are regarded abroad. Around the world, one can detect in the attitude of football tournament organisers the fact that they dread the English turning up. They also seem mightily relieved when we depart with our national team, usually, and depressingly, quite early in the competition. They are happy to see us go.
I was fortunate enough to be present at the Euro 2000 final in Rotterdam, for the France v. Italy match, which was incredibly exciting. There was a carnival atmosphere at the match, where the two countries' spectators mixed. It was a great feeling to be there—I felt relaxed. Why did I feel relaxed? Because there were no English supporters there. I suspect that that is why many other people there felt relaxed.
Suppose that England had been in that final—which would have been a wondrous thing in itself—and had been in Italy's position, conceding that goal so late in play, in the 93rd minute, and then losing on the golden goal principle. What would have been the atmosphere in Rotterdam that night? I think we know what it would have been like—it would have been poisonous. That is the type of thing about which this country has to worry.
Would the hon. Gentleman care to say why that is? Does he agree with me that the football authorities in this country, the football clubs and some of the players have created that very atmosphere which bedevils the English game as opposed to the others?
In my short contribution tonight I shall touch briefly on some of the reasons why I think we have a yob culture in this country. It is no good turning around and blaming the Government, the Football Association or the clubs. The people who behaved thuggishly in Charleroi and Brussels are responsible for their own actions. We can pass as many laws as we want, but if people are not prepared to take responsibility for their own actions, what can we do? I am not pointing the finger of blame and saying that the Government or the Football Association should have done something, or that the previous Government should have passed tougher legislation. I blame the criminals for the criminal activity that they undertake when they are supposedly supporting this country abroad.
It is worth pointing out that the events in Brussels and Charleroi during Euro 2000 and the subsequent threat to kick England out of the competition not only damaged our reputation yet again, but badly damaged our bid for the 2006 world cup. Although this is a Second Reading debate, I do not intend to go into great detail tonight about that campaign. The true story will emerge over the next weeks and months. I understand that the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport will be having a hearing on the matter of the bid, and that would seem to be the appropriate time to set the record straight. In the meantime, please spare me the gratuitous hindsight about the bid from sections of the press and some hon. Members. If England's bid was doomed from the outset, it would have been more valuable for them to share that nugget of information with the previous Conservative Government, who launched the bid in 1997, and with the Labour party, which subsequently referred to it in its election manifesto.
Those who believe that our failure stemmed from the so-called gentlemen's agreement should read the letter from Sir Bert Millichip, the then chairman of the Football Association, who was supposedly responsible for making the gentlemen's agreement, in which he denies emphatically that there ever was such an agreement. Copies of the letter will be made available to any hon. Member and to any member of the press who is more interested in the facts than in making cheap political points.
Of course we needed more than one European vote to make our bid successful, and we had high hopes of achieving just that until the dismal events of Brussels and Charleroi and the warning from UEFA that England would be kicked out of the competition. Charleroi might not have done us a great deal of damage in the rest of the world, but in Europe it effectively destroyed us and our overall chances of success.
That was before England had launched an official bid. When circumstances change, I change my mind. What does the hon. Gentleman do? A different set of circumstances applied then, and I am quite open about that. In the end, if England was not going to succeed, I should have liked South Africa to have hosted the world cup and, but for the actions of Charlie Dempsey, a Scot who emigrated to New Zealand, South Africa would have been the place for the 2006 World cup. But that is now history and we have to revise our views.
Just to drive home my point about hooliganism, let me say that the events at Brussels and Charleroi caused so much damage that we seriously considered withdrawing England's bid. As will emerge in due course, there was a great deal of discussion. We decided to proceed on the basis that our withdrawal would have been interpreted as a victory for hooliganism and we would have been seen to be surrendering to hooliganism, even though when we went for completion at Zurich, we knew what the likely outcome would be. Hooliganism played a crucial part in the failure, and anyone who says differently is being either stupid or malicious or, potentially, both.
Wherever we went in the world during the campaign, at press conferences we continually came up against the question, "What about your football hooligans?" It came up time and time again. We tried telling people that, if they came to our country, they could see that we had secure, modern, all-seater stadiums just like theirs, with closed circuit television, specialised stewarding, and excellent policing. We have largely driven the problem of hooliganism out of our domestic game, but unfortunately we are still exporting it abroad.
Other countries have worse problems with hooliganism, domestically and internationally, than we do. However, once a country gets a bad reputation, it is a devil of a job to shake it off, and we have something that no other country possesses—a media where the negative is king.
Bad news makes good copy. It seems that we are the only country that sends more reporters to cover crowd behaviour than events on the pitch. No other country ensures that, whatever the level of disruption created by English hooligans, the images of our shame are sent in glorious detail around the world.
I realise how sensitive journalists are about that, and I emphasise that I am not blaming them for the violence. Of course, it would appreciated if they, in turn, did not try to blame the Government or the Football Association for the violence.
Does my hon. Friend think that there is any connection between the ludicrously chauvinistic and nationalistic statements made by the popular press in the lead-up to any England game—which often have racist undertones—and the subsequent behaviour of the crowd?
Absolutely. There are many facets to the causes of football hooliganism, but if a newspaper editor such as Piers Morgan at The Mirror cannot understand the contribution to the problem that he makes through the use of xenophobic language, he is even more wilfully malignant than I thought.
Legislation can deal with the symptoms of hooliganism, but it cannot address the underlying causes, which I believe are deep seated. We in this country are too insular, and we live too much in the past. We glorify war far too much. We seem still to believe that God is an Englishman and that his only mistake lay in the creation of foreigners.
Decent and sensible people can handle such statements and attitudes, but they encourage the belief among a significant number of young men fuelled up by alcohol that world war two is a continuous process which is now pursued through football. As well as introducing legislation, the Government should conduct more research into the causes of the yob culture in this country. Many such research projects are in hand but, although we must deal with the symptoms, we have to do more. We therefore need to identify causes as well as symptoms, and I hope that the Government will tackle that issue.
My hon. Friend said that hooliganism had been driven out of our national game. I agree that we have driven it out of the grounds, but I am less convinced that we have driven it out of the areas around the grounds. Should not the research that my hon. Friend proposes include the incidence of alcohol-related crime around football grounds?
My hon. Friend takes me into an area that I especially want to address. I want the Government to co-ordinate research into such matters and pull together the various studies so that we can have a greater understanding of the problem. We would then be able to implement measures to deal with its various facets.
We have largely dealt with the problem of racism in our football grounds, but I cannot pretend that no racists remain. We have created an atmosphere in which peer pressure makes it impossible for people to stand up and shout the sort of abusive things that they used to be able to shout. For years, such behaviour was indulged in, wilfully and with abandon, even at grounds such as Stamford Bridge, the home of the team I support. That cannot be done any more, because of peer pressure. I am not an idiot, believing that we have somehow dealt with racists. We have not.
We need to understand what creates the sort of atmosphere that there is in our town centres on Saturday nights—not football-related, since, as we have heard in earlier debates, some of our town centres are no-go areas on Friday and Saturday nights because of largely young men drinking large amounts of alcohol. That is the sort of thing we need to examine. It is naturally not dealt with in this legislation, because we are dealing with symptoms, but in a Second Reading debate these matters need to be raised.
I was one of the first in the House to call for more intelligence work on organised football violence. I remember telling the Home Secretary of the day, Douglas Hurd, that we must have more police intelligence. The National Criminal Intelligence Service was a development resulting from some interesting debates. At that time no one in the House was taking the matter seriously. Football hooliganism was something that was happening elsewhere; there was no need for national Government to be concerned. I did not share that view. I pay tribute to the work of NCIS, but it needs more resources, and it certainly needs to have more co-ordination with individual clubs to further identify and isolate potential troublemakers.
I do not want my friends in the House to think that I am turning into a Sir Bufton Tufton type of Member of Parliament. I am not about to call for the restoration of national service, although there are times when it has flitted across my mind. But some sort of national social service might bring back the sense of community. I do not know where it went, and when it went, but I know that it is not there at present. These are matters for us to think about if we want to be thoughtful legislators.
I am not turning into Sir Bufton Tufton, but I have first-hand experience of being surrounded by football hooligans. I was surrounded in Bratislava by a bunch of "Chelsea Headhunters", some of the most notorious football hooligans. I hope that I am not stretching the word "debate" if I say that there was a rather vigorous debate. Perhaps I should say that there was a vigorous exchange between us. It lasted a long time, and at the end one of them said, "We wanted to burn you, but now we've got to know you you're not such a bad bloke". I replied, "Let me offer you a bit of advice. Before you decide to burn someone in the future, if you had a bit of dialogue with them you might realise that they are not bad either."
I know what some of these guys are like. I have met them and talked to them, and I know what is at the back of their minds; I know what drives them. I feel that I know exactly the sort of people they are. My God! They certainly frighten me.
I have seen the damage that football hooliganism has inflicted on our national game, in this country and around the world. I have to tell my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that I am an enthusiastic supporter of his proposed legislation. I hope that all my hon. Friends will join me in supporting it in the Lobby tonight.
It is a great pleasure and privilege for me, as one of the last national service men, to follow the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks). I shall also follow the hon. Gentleman in this respect: I shall be very brief. The House was grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his brevity.
Clearly, civil liberty issues arise in connection with this legislation. No one but a fool would deny that. I was concerned with those issues in the same way when, in 1998, I moved a new clause to the Crime and Disorder Bill, in many ways a precursor of this legislation. However, there is not only one question of civil liberties. I am also concerned with the civil liberties of the shopkeeper who has his shop smashed up by hooligans, the civil liberties of the innocent bystander who is injured by thugs and the civil liberties of the police and the emergency services who all too often become casualties in the battles between the thugs and the hooligans. To put it at its most modest, there is a balance to be achieved; there are other civil liberties to be taken into account.
One issue is beyond doubt—the present position is not sustainable. Hooligans and thugs are getting abroad and behaving intolerably. The latest example, before the European football championships, again saw violence, with English so-called fans involved and English hooligans exporting their own violence. That violence led not only to injury but, as the hon. Gentleman said, to enormous damage to our national reputation overseas in soccer and many other areas. We must take that into account.
No one can claim that this is the first example. The same thing happened in 1998 in Marseilles, which is why I introduced my new clause, so I am entirely persuaded that new action is not only justified but necessary in relation to football hooliganism.
Let me make it clear to the Home Secretary that I support the Bill in spite of the rather crude and idiotic party politics that came into play at the end of his speech, which contrasted with the tone of what he said before. However, although I support the Bill, I have two serious reservations about what the Government are doing.
First, it is absurd that the Second Reading debate on a Bill of this kind should start at 7 o'clock on a Thursday evening. It is also absurd that Back-Bench speeches should start at 9 o'clock. If the Government wanted to maximise opposition, they could not have done it better. They have given the impression that the measure is being pushed through without thought.
The Bill is also unnecessary—the Government have had two years' notice of this. I introduced my new clause in June 1998; I withdrew it on the advice of the Home Secretary who said that the Government would consider it. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), who was here a short while ago, said in the debate on that new clause that it would take only a week or two to examine the Bill and put it into order. The Home Secretary said in his winding-up speech that, given the stage that the Government were at in the parliamentary timetable, two weeks' delay would mean that the Bill could not become law until late October of that year. So we have had not only two weeks' delay, but two years' delay.
A year later, in May 1999, the Minister for Sport also gave support to the proposal. She said that the power to make banning orders in respect of people without convictions was necessary and that we needed to find a way of dealing with those people.
It is a bit rich for the Home Secretary to come to the House and say that the Bill is a matter of such urgency that common sense and the normal rules of Parliament should be thrown out of the window in its consideration. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) was entirely right to make the points that she did. Speaking for myself, I will not abandon the Home Secretary's ship, but it would be more reassuring if there were any sign that someone was actually steering the vessel.
I know; it is catching. I caught it from the Home Secretary, and I do not know who he caught it from.
I agree with the hon. Member for West Ham about violence in town centres. Football hooliganism is not an isolated offence. Many of the people who are hooligans overseas are also hooligans at home. It is unlikely that football matches are the only setting for their violence. Indeed, we know that that is not remotely the case. Some of those who have been arrested at football matches are precisely the sort of people who cause havoc in our town centres on Friday and Saturday nights.
What concerns me about the Government's attitude is that too often they seem to believe that it is necessary only to pass a law and crime will automatically be tackled. However, that law must be enforced, otherwise it is useless. We all know that some laws in this country are not enforced—for example, those relating to crimes such as breaking into vehicles or to traffic offences. We continue to add to our laws with no thought as to how they will be properly enforced.
That is not a new aspect of British criminological history. Before 1829, the powers of the courts to impose the death sentence were constantly increased. More offences in the UK were subject to capital punishment than in any country in the civilised world. It did little good, because so few offenders were detected and brought to trial. Finally, the penny dropped—an organised police force was needed, and so the Metropolitan police service was formed.
The problem of hooliganism gives rise to a more general point: we need stronger police forces and more police officers on the ground. Detection remains the strongest deterrent. If people think that they can get away with it, they will commit crimes. Too many people really do think they can get away with it. That is a lesson that we must learn.
To enforce the law—let alone the zero tolerance regime to which the Home Secretary referred—we need more police. For the avoidance of doubt, I remind the Government of what has been happening during recent years. Under the Labour Government, police numbers have gone down. The Home Secretary refers to the record of the previous Conservative Government, but under that Government, from 1979, there was an increase—15,398 new officers.
I thank the hon. Gentleman. That is the point I am making. I am afraid that I do not know the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] An hon. Member suggests that I am probably not missing much.
I will leave the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell) sitting on the Liberal Benches for as long as he can retain his seat—I suspect that it will not be long.
There is a correlation between police numbers and the detection of crime. However, there is a more serious point that should generate consensus in the House. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) that there is a cultural problem in our society, which, in part, drives football hooliganism? We do not really understand that problem. We need to carry out research into what drives our young men to be generally much more violent and anti-social—especially when they drink—than young people in other countries.
I do not want to spend too long on this point. There is no doubt that more research would be extremely useful. However, that will take time. One action that we can take now is to improve and increase the strength of our police forces. While we are doing that, other methods can be considered.
The Home Secretary used to talk about zero tolerance. The zero tolerance policies pursued in New York are good and extremely effective. They were introduced over the past six or seven years, but they require more police. Such policies cannot be adopted while police numbers are being reduced, as they have been in this country during the past three years.
I mentioned the increase of more than 15,000 police officers under the Conservative Government because, during our previous debates on this subject, the Government constantly use the period between 1994 and 1997 when talking about police numbers. However, for all other comparisons they refer to the full lifetime of that Government. The police are crucial. If we are to make progress, we will, as the hon. Member for West Ham said, need a multi-faceted approach. The police are certainly a part of that.
For the time being, we shall have to operate with police forces of their current size. We can at least acknowledge that the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales welcome the Bill as a sensible way of combating football hooliganism. I agree with them and I agree with the measures in the Bill. I agree about the urgency of the matter because I recognise that the 2 September deadline of the Paris match is important. Frankly, we would look foolish and we would be failing in our duty if we did not act against that background and in time for that event.
I am persuaded by the evidence that many of those who were arrested in Belgium had previous convictions for violence. The same was also true in Marseilles, and we have now had two years to put things right. We are at last taking action.
I support the banning orders in the proposed new sections 14B and 14C, given that the decision rests not with the police but with the courts, which will have obvious discretion. I also support the important safeguards introduced by my noble Friend Lord Alexander for one-year and five-year limits—the so-called sunset clauses. They are extremely important because they will give the House the opportunity to reconsider the issue again and to review progress.
I said that I would be brief, and I have been. I make no secret of the fact that I think that the handling of the Bill has been lamentable. It is a disgrace that an important Bill should be considered at this time of night, and I do not believe that many people with experience of Parliament would say otherwise. I remain concerned that the Government have not put sufficient emphasis on the enforcement of law in this country and have allowed police numbers to fall. However, the case for legislation was made two years ago and the Government have at last accepted it. I support the Bill as it has been presented tonight.
I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) that legislation is a part but not the whole of the answer. He was absolutely right to refer to peer pressure. Indeed, we far too often deal with people only as individuals rather than considering the peer group that has influenced their behaviour. He made a good case for the youth service—a case that I strongly support.
I wish to spend a few minutes on the Bill's underlying principles. It is far too easy to characterise a fast response as disproportionate or intemperate. The words "knee-jerk reaction" roll from the tongue without thought or analysis on the part of far too many commentators. That in itself is a form of knee-jerk reaction.
A fast response may be intemperate. Indeed, we saw that far too often during the term of office of the man described by the shadow Home Secretary as having something of the night about him, or in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989 which my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham mentioned. However, it is not necessarily disproportionate or intemperate to respond quickly and firmly.
I do not regard it as disproportionate to seize the assets of those who profit from drug dealing, from the evil trade in people or from violence and intimidation. There need to be safeguards and checks in place, but those tests should not be obstacles that are set so high as to protect the evil and the guilty.
The hon. Gentleman should listen to what I am saying. The evidence needs to be considered and the response needs to be proportionate to the strength of the evidence. I shall come to these issues shortly.
As for the Bill, I do not regard it as disproportionate to have a due process of law, at the end of which people with serious convictions for violence are told to go home and watch a football match on television. One has only to visit a victim of violence in hospital or see the effect on them months—or sometimes even years—later for it to become clear what it really means to have one's civil rights trampled on. In that context, I agree with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler).
When criminals move fast and change the way they attack the safety of the public, it is the duty of the Government to move quickly to protect the public. The Bill is designed to prevent violence; that is what it is about. Of course there is a need for balance to protect against the abuse or misuse of powers on the part of the police, to protect civil liberties and to be firm but temperate in the measures taken. All of us who are serious about these issues would want to see that balance. It is because these proposals are swift, firm, balanced and temperate that I support the Bill today.
The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), the shadow Home Secretary, made great play of seeking a definition of "behaviour". However, the problem is that it is often the context and the culture in which particular kinds of behaviour are displayed that may make them provocative or insulting. To that extent, I agree again with my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham. As Gibbon warned us in "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", it is difficult to frame laws that successfully require people to behave in a particular way or to desist from behaviour of a particular sort. That is why it is not only the enforcement that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield referred to that is important, but the culture in which legislation is applied. That is why we need to be inventive in the way we frame our laws.
What has changed? Events in Brussels and Charleroi show that things have changed, and that is why we are here on a Thursday night: to try to prevent things which might otherwise have happened during the period when Parliament is in recess. I am struck by the stark facts of the new profile of violent offenders becoming involved in hooligan activity during Euro 2000—not just those who have been involved in football-related violence in the past, but those whose past violence was not necessarily related to football.
We are talking here about 133 people with convictions for violence, 200 for disorder, 38 for offensive weapons, and 122 for criminal damage. Given the fact of those criminal convictions, the general public—and decent football supporters—have a right to expect clear and clinical action by the police and the Government.
There are problems with the style of police action when faced with difficult and challenging situations. Policing has not always been perfect in this country, nor can we expect it ever to be so. However, I pay tribute to the capacity of our police to learn to find techniques for defusing and reducing trouble and to use intelligence to prevent trouble and to co-operate with other forces here and abroad to combat the thugs.
It is worrying to see the failure to prosecute abroad, but I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary because, during the British presidency of the European Union, he organised a conference—for some reason, it happened in Blackburn at a football club—to try to get unity across the European Union on tackling precisely these measures.
Certainly, policing in Holland seems to have been intelligent and sensitive, though firm, and that of the Belgian police seems to have been reactive and sometimes provocative. While we can work across Europe to improve the standards of policing and the reduction of violent activity, we cannot take over responsibility for policing in other countries; nor should we allow such mistakes to excuse the activities of thugs and criminals.
It would be quite wrong to characterise the attitude of the Government as punitive; that would be a wicked caricature. I know the Home Secretary likes his tough image of a man of action—it has spread to junior Ministers lately—but we have also seen him tackle major issues of human rights, with the incorporation of the European convention.
We would not have had the Macpherson report, and the much-needed and dramatic change in police attitudes that it has stimulated, without my right hon. Friend at the Home Office. Nipping things in the bud with young offenders is in their interests, as well as those of potential victims and the public at large. "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" is not an empty slogan—it is a recipe for decent communities.
I have no problem with the way in which an organisation like Liberty defends civil rights; that is what it exists to do. However, I regret its use of intemperate language and the inaccuracy of some of its statements. Liberty said that it
opposes in principle measures such as the imposition of criminal sanctions on those unconvicted of any criminal offence in any country, let alone any football related offence.
Well, first, we are not talking about criminal convictions in those cases, and surely Liberty should agree that prevention is better than waiting until a conviction is secured, and following that with punishment.
There are restrictions and, of course, a breach of an order carries criminal penalties. Liberty has failed to understand the inherent principle, which exists in anti-social behaviour orders and sex offender orders, which is to identify behaviour that is damaging to other people and should be prevented. A breach of an order, on the basis of the criminal standard of evidence, leads to criminal penalties, and it is right that it should do so.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that one of Liberty's serious concerns is that, in effect, one can end up with a criminal prosecution based on a civil standard of evidence? I hope that he has understood that point.
Yes, I have, but, with the greatest respect, I do not think that my hon. Friend has. As with anti-social behaviour orders, which were the first attempt to establish a principle of evidence for behaviour that has to be stopped, it is the breach of the order that has to be tested against the criminal standard of proof that can lead to a criminal conviction. The order itself is not a criminal conviction. The application of that point in sex offender orders and in this legislation is right, and that is what Liberty has failed to understand. As a member of the Labour party's civil liberties group, I believe strongly that we should argue these points, but Liberty's intemperate condemnation of the Government's legislation goes too far.
Similarly, the Law Society says:
we are concerned that the standard of proof adopted by the magistrates' courts would be the civil law "balance of probabilities" standard rather than the higher criminal law standard of "beyond all reasonable doubt". This is despite the fact that any breach of a banning order would be a criminal, not a civil, offence.
The Law Society is right in that it is the breach that has to be tested to the criminal standard that leads to the conviction. I agree with my hon. Friend that the principle is important. The line must be drawn in the right place, as I believe it has been. It should be said that the civil law standard of proof is not terribly low.
The problem is that a series of events over time can be immensely damaging to the public, whether because of disturbance to the local community in the case of ASBOs or violence abroad in this case. We should be able to move in, stop those events and say to people, "If you do not take notice of the court order, you will suffer the weight of the law and receive serious penalties." That will stop the activity, and not misuse the power of the law.
We should learn from experience. I hope that the Conservatives will end their opposition to ASBOs. The message should go out loud and clear from all parties in the House that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated because we want people to be safe and secure in a decent society, and that where there are gaps in the law, we will fill them as we are doing today.
We need straightforward, clear measures to prevent violence; simple checks and balances to keep abuse to a minimum; fast and firm intervention where it is needed, and a light hand when it is not. That is the recipe in the Bill, and the police regime and the use of the measures need to be sensitive and subject to scrutiny. That is why I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for being so willing to listen to Members in the past few days and for giving us an opportunity to comment before the Bill came to the House, a point which has been conceded by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is a sign of strength to listen and to respond to the concerns of others.
I hope that in the speech of the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald we heard the grudging announcement of a U-turn. I am glad to see the Opposition being persuaded, even in that belligerent style. The test will be whether they help the Government to tackle the scourge of violence, which has dragged in the mud the name of England and, sadly, the name of Britain—I see that there were some Welsh hooligans as well, but what they were doing there, I do not know. We should all unite in seeking to avoid such disgrace in the future.
As we discovered in the general debate on the subject on 20 June, there is a large measure of agreement around the House about the fundamental problem. It is not just to do with football matches or away games this year; it is to do with the way in which we as a society deal with violence.
The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) and I, and others, took part in that debate. The prevalent view, as we heard from the right hon. Members for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), the former Home Secretary, is that we must deal with the fundamental issue. That will be the subject of an ongoing debate.
There is too much violence—too much alcohol-related violence, too much drugs-related violence and too much organised violence. It is not all personal and spontaneous; it is often strongly co-ordinated. Violence is unacceptable, whether at home or abroad. It is bad, wherever it occurs. What is worse, in the context of tonight's debate, is that it has an impact on something that is fundamentally good: sport is good, but all the good that sport can do for the player or the spectator at the match can be undone by violence.
The role models are perceived to be playing in a game that is no longer acceptable. Families do not encourage their kids to go and watch games any more. All the natural enthusiasm of young people for sport can start to be dissipated.
The role models have become much better. The players have become less aggressive. The football regime deals much better on the pitch with bad behaviour. The crowds at matches are much better behaved. The football authorities and clubs are much more effective at dealing with trouble. Behaviour around grounds has improved in many ways.
We are left with the exported problems. As the hon. Member for West Ham and others agree, the problems are exported not only on the occasion of football matches, but when people go away for a stag weekend, even if there is no marriage to celebrate, and every summer around the Mediterranean.
Men behaving badly and harming sport also harm our national reputation. I pay tribute to the police who try to tackle the problem, to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which tries to deal with the matter in a sophisticated way, to the clubs and to the Football Association. My right hon. and hon. Friends, including my party leader and me, met again the FA the other day to discuss how politicians and football authorities can work together to deal with the issue.
We can learn from the experience of others. We have heard comments about the experiences of recent months. We must learn that rounding up people when they misbehave and sending them home, but not prosecuting them, is not helpful. I have lived in Belgium and I am not disrespectful of Belgium, but generalising does not help. If people misbehave, they must be dealt with. Across Europe, we must learn from the best practice.
I gather from the Football Association that the pattern of fans travelling to matches without tickets, in hope rather than with certainty, is much more typical of Britain, and specifically England, than of any other country in Europe.
Although only a certain number of match tickets are allocated to this country, a greater number of our supporters get into the grounds because the network for getting hold of extra tickets is sophisticated and works well, although prices are often high. That happens more often with supporters from this country than with those from any other. This issue cannot be managed merely by allocating a certain number of tickets because people have shown that they can still get into grounds.
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has made that point. Does he agree that there was less trouble at Euro 96 in this country because tickets were distributed and sold rigorously at grounds? Touting and free availability were major factors in Belgium.
That point is directly relevant to my remarks, and I agree completely. The sooner we begin to manage the prior allocation and proper sale of tickets—not at ridiculously high prices, but at prices that the ordinary person can afford—the better. That must be part of the solution.
We can legislate—late at night, in haste or just before the summer holiday—but we cannot prevent people from deciding to behave criminally and violently. They must make that decision. All we can do is provide a context within which we can limit, restrain or restrict. People must take responsibility for their actions and face the consequences, but they should know what is coming to them.
Tonight, we are moving from the general to the particular. We entirely understand the Home Secretary's position and I thank him publicly for the courteous way in which we—and, I believe, the Conservatives—have been able to debate what should be in the Bill. We have not reached identical conclusions, but the Bill has benefited from our dialogue. I hope that the House and the country will benefit, too.
It is absolutely proper to introduce a Bill to tighten up the law as necessary to prevent people with a criminal past from travelling to behave criminally abroad. Clearly, we are not doing that well enough and we need to do better. In our view, however, it is not appropriate to propose a Bill that will reintroduce detention as a summary power and take us back to the sus law, which so many of us campaigned to get rid of.
My colleagues and I have engaged in considerable debate in both Houses and with people outside. Our view is that, although certain of its provisions are appropriate, the Bill goes too far and is not justified in certain respects. An invasion of another country by football hooligans is unacceptable, but a raid on and capture of the civil liberties of people who may have done nothing wrong is also unacceptable. To use a phrase that did not originate from these Benches, we must not take away the rights of the many to deal with the offences of the few. We must look after the rights of the majority, even if we do not catch everyone who has ever done something wrong.
I understand the need to act now, because matches will take place this summer before Parliament resumes. I might add that we have always known that, because there are matches every summer, at home and abroad, and one football season starts no sooner than the previous one ends. The football authorities might do well to discourage teams from playing extra friendlies if they think that such matches will lead to trouble. Sometimes, the football authorities have to make the decision and perhaps English teams should not play some of this summer's matches if trouble is expected. The football authorities should not have to make such a decision, but, if they detect a risk, they may have to act.
Should we rush the Bill through Parliament in two weeks? In general terms, I take the view expressed also from the Conservative Benches: we could have legislated previously. Nothing that happened in Euro 2000 was all that surprising; it could have been predicted. The hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made his attempt to deal with the issue, and our view is that the Home Office cannot say that it did not have lots of slots in the legislative programme to bid for. Those of us who deal with Home Office matters have hardly spent a day out of the Chamber since last November. Some of us believe that it would be far better not to introduce a Bill to restrict rights to jury trial—which certainly was not in the Labour manifesto—if the Government insist on introducing a Bill like this.
As for the timetable, as the Home Secretary knows—and as was made clear in business questions—we think that the rest of the Bill should not all be dealt with on Monday. The Committee stage could reasonably be dealt with then, but we think that Report and Third Reading should be dealt with on Wednesday. People outside have an interest, and want to make their views known. We cannot do our job properly—and we need not do it in one day—if we do not give those outside a chance to talk to us about views that have been expressed and amendments that have been tabled.
I consider a Thursday-Monday-Wednesday timetable for the Commons—less than a week—and a similar timetable for the Lords to be entirely reasonable. That would give the Government a Bill by the summer holiday, and would give all Members the chance to contribute, with time to consider what they were doing. As has been said by Members on both sides, we have already made enough mistakes in regard to legislation on terrorism, civil liberties and dogs. We must try to secure as much agreement as possible, and get the Bill as right as possible.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) has spoken to his opposite number. I understand that no final decision has been made about what will happen next week. We will continue to make strenuous representations for the Committee stage to take place on Monday, without a guillotine—we want to try to agree a timetable—and for the business allowing us to complete the Bill to take place on Wednesday. Those in the other place—not just members of my party—do not accept that there should be a timetable that does not allow for an appropriate hiatus between the various stages.
I realise that.
It is bizarre that we should be presented with a Bill that deals with disorder only in the context of football. On occasion, the police may suspect that people with previous convictions are going abroad to take part in a political rally, for example, and may feel that that would be undesirable because they might cause trouble. We cannot legislate for football one year, for ice hockey the next, for cricket the next, and for rugby league the next. Surely it would be far better to produce overarching legislation providing that disorder abroad of a certain type is unacceptable. I hope that, when the end of the life of this Bill comes—if it becomes law—we shall consider a Bill that is more widely drafted and does not refer just to football.
The Liberal Democrats have four proposals. As the Home Secretary knows, we fully support the joint domestic/international ban, and the consequential surrender of passports. I asked for a provision allowing people to apply to get their passports back if they needed them during the period concerned—for instance, in order to attend funerals or keep business engagements. I understand that that will be allowed.
We also argued for an order to renew parts of the legislation, with which I shall deal shortly. The Home Secretary has accommodated that, promising an annual renewal order. We also argued—as, I gather, did Conservative Front Benchers—for a limitation on the life of a Bill passed in haste. Although we may differ on the length of life, the proposition that the Bill should have a limited lifetime has been accepted, and we are grateful for that.
One general measure appears everywhere. I think that draftspeople have it on their word processors. I refer to the so-called Henry VIII clause, clause 3, which states:
The Secretary of State may by order make…any supplementary, incidental or consequential provision…any transitory, transitional or saving provision,
which he considers necessary or expedient for the purposes of, in consequence of or for giving full effect to any provision of this Act.
I understand why those provisions have been included, but the clause gives Home Secretaries and other Ministers unfettered power, which we believe should be limited.
I understand where these clauses come from. We must be careful lest we fail to notice a provision that allows the Secretary of State to do anything in relation to the Bill, even if it was not directly mentioned in the debate.
Another defect in the Bill that has been alluded to is the Scottish and Northern Irish dimension. I have talked to my hon. and learned Friend, the acting First Minister in Scotland, about this matter. The truth is that the Bill is intended to deal with an English mischief, but it produces a bizarre outcome. In time, when we have more considered legislation, it would be sensible for it to cover the whole of the United Kingdom, because the problem is to do with people going out of the United Kingdom. Whatever some hon. Members may think, we do not yet have separate passports for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland: we have one passport and one common national boundary.
It would be infinitely preferable if we could legally block up the loopholes concerning the rest of the United Kingdom, but how would the hon. Gentleman tackle the other loophole, which is that one can travel to Dublin without a passport?
The hon. Gentleman is right that there is a common travel area between us and Ireland. That is not addressed in the Bill. Ireland is the only country with which we have a common travel area. The Bill applies only to England and Wales, not to the whole of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
I want to deal with the two substantive matters. I repeat my plea that we should take them first when we debate the Bill next week. The first is the proposal to extend the current law to allow a banning order to be made on the basis not just of a conviction, but of a complaint. We think that that goes too far. It is entirely understandable to make banning orders warranted by sufficient past behaviour. That is a warning that, as a result of something a person has done, he will have some restriction of his liberty—signing on at a police station and not going to a match, and in some cases having to surrender a passport.
Our view is that it would be sufficient for that provision to be available if a person has a previous conviction or has had a caution for any offence of violence, any offence that is football-related, or a relevant alcohol or drugs-related offence. We do not think that it is sufficient protection for the citizen to allow the civil burden of proof—the balance of probabilities test—to be enough to get a ban when someone has never had a conviction for anything.
That is illogical for the great British public because if there is evidence that someone has a past history of disorder, why has action not been taken and a prosecution brought? There are strong views on that on both sides of the House and in the other place. My colleagues and I do not accept that we should allow a sudden shift in English criminal law from the presumption that a case has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt to a presumption that a person can be convicted and his liberties taken away on a degree of proof that we have never agreed as a general proposition.
I shall not give way for the moment, because I am trying to make progress.
There is one exception to that that we would accept—it was mentioned earlier. If behaviour abroad clearly constitutes something that would be an offence here, because we have no jurisdiction to prosecute abroad, that would be sufficient.
I apologise for intervening again. I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman says about behaviour abroad, but does he accept that there should still be a criminal standard of proof?
I am puzzled by one of the contentions, and I have wondered about the Liberal Democrat position on it. New section 14C states that the magistrates
may take into account…any decision of a court or tribunal outside the United Kingdom…any decision of a public authority, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere—
that is, in other jurisdictions. Is the hon. Gentleman happy with the idea that legal systems with standards of proof or ability to convict that are outside our comprehension or understanding—we do not know whether they meet our standards of justice—may be taken into account? Is that a satisfactory basis for effecting this measure?
I am not happy with that. I share the view that one cannot transport a conclusion of guilt from somewhere else where there may be a totally different process.
I have allowed interventions—I hope, helpfully—because we have an unlimited Second Reading. For the reason that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, this is exactly the sort of Bill that cannot be rushed through—he argues often and well for a non-guillotined, adequate timetable for debating legislation—and it is precisely why we should have a Special, or proper, Standing Committee. We need the time. We need to consider the issue that the hon. Gentleman raised. His is the argument against that part of the Bill being included when it leaves this House, if it does so before the recess. I encourage him to support us in that view.
Two questions have not been asked. First, what about the option of prosecuting here for offences abroad? No one has talked about it, but we do it for other things. Why are we not debating that and why has it not been considered? Secondly, what of the issue of spent convictions and their relevance? That has not been dealt with, but we certainly ought to include it.
The real mischief—I end with this because it is the most important matter—has been highlighted by other hon. Members. It is new section 21A in schedule 1, which is to be inserted in the Football Spectators Act 1989. Our fundamental objection is that the Bill does not say that police constables can arrest and detain someone for 24 hours only when they have reasonable suspicion, knowledge or a belief that they have committed an offence or been guilty of violent behaviour. It states that police constables, acting on their own authority, can arrest and detain someone for up to 24 hours—after which another decision has to be taken, with the approval of someone with higher authority—simply on the basis that the behaviour of the person is such that immediate inquiries should be made. The police constable has only to say that something in the behaviour of the person made him want to make inquiries about their past. That is an unsustainable proposition. What behaviour? Could it be any behaviour? Could it be noise, rowdiness, or even silence? Would not wanting to talk be regarded as self-incriminating?
That was a good intervention. I might be caught under the first category, but not that one.
Could it be bad language, or a T-shirt with something provocative printed on it—perhaps wearing the T-shirt of a particular club, or bearing a particular slogan? Could it be a combination of behaviour and appearance? Someone in a suit, for example, might seem less threatening when they say or do something than someone in a T-shirt and jeans who has a skinhead haircut. It is just not acceptable. I understand that it is not appearance that counts—I am grateful for that—but behaviour is not the way.
If, as the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) said, behaviour is such that it constitutes an offence, we are home under the offence. If a person is using racist language or threatening behaviour, or being aggressive or being violent, we are home; but the provision suggests that there is another category of action, another category of demeanour, that takes us beyond that. It raises the European convention point. It gives the police officer the widest possible discretion. I cannot see how a police officer could have a qualification put on that discretion.
I will in two seconds, because the hon. Gentleman has certainly been persistent.
There is a direction not just to ask a question, but to stop, to arrest and to keep the person there, so that the purpose of that person going out of that port—to go to Bruges to watch a match—is gone; 24 hours later, the match might well have happened and the ticket and travel money and everything else would have been wasted.
What can the person arrested do about it? What could he have done about it? How could he have avoided being in that position? He does not have a previous conviction; he has not done anything wrong. He is not doing anything that he thinks is wrong, yet he finds himself with his civil liberty summarily—to be fair to the Bill, it states "Summary measures: detention"—denied.
I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman. I agree with his criticism of new section 21A and of subsection (2) in particular. Although I support the Bill in principle, it can be improved. It might assist the debate if he indicated what his party would support as a test for detention. Would he, for example, support the test that has been in the Scottish criminal procedure legislation since 1980 and repeatedly legislated for—that a constable should have reasonable grounds for suspecting that a certain state of affairs exists before he can detain?
It is confusing and unhelpful to confuse arrest with detention. The hon. Gentleman used those terms interchangeably; they are not interchangeable. This is about detention, not arrest.
Again, the hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly proper intervention and makes the argument for having a proper, careful, considered, timely, cautious debate. Detention cannot happen without arrest. They are separate in law, but one will follow the other. It does not mean arrest for an offence, because there is not an offence so far, but it is arrest and then detention.
I understand the provision that the hon. Gentleman suggests as an alternative. Personally, I think that that is too similar to the old sus provision and I do not think that it would be appropriate, but, if he will bear with me, I have indicated on the Floor of the House, to the Home Secretary, and outside what we wished to see in the Bill and what the Bill that we would support through both the House and the other place would contain. I will come to that—I want to finish what I am saying.
We do not find new section 21A acceptable, on principle. We do not think it practical. We do not think that the police will like it because it will often give rise to actions for wrongful arrest and wrongful detention. We think that it is disproportionate to what the Government are seeking to deal with. We think that it is a general and very wide power to deal with a limited number of circumstances which no one has proved to me cannot be dealt with by other pieces of law.
What worries us is that it is another incursion into principles that, until the current Parliament, were taken for granted. No one argued that the burden of proof should not be on the prosecution, yet that has been questioned in the current Parliament in other legislation, although we have now had that clarified. No one argued that people should not have a right to choose jury trial for a whole set of offences, yet that is no longer the Government's position. No one had argued before the current Parliament that criminal consequences should flow without a "beyond reasonable doubt" prosecution, yet that is now being regularly argued. Before this Parliament, no one argued that there should be a presumption of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence.
I find it surprising as well as offensive that a Labour Government are increasingly taking those views on board. I tell my Back-Bench Labour colleagues and friends that they should not go along with that simply to appear united, tough and strong. As the hon. Member for West Ham said—he supports the Bill; I am not seeking to misrepresent him—we have to concentrate on dealing effectively with the causes of crime, not on short-term solutions that turn out not to be solutions at all.
My colleagues and I will support a Bill containing the first two propositions. We have already tabled amendments to make the granting of a banning order dependent on a previous conviction. We would support such an amended provision in the Bill.
We will not support the Bill if it includes a summary detention provision. Nor will my colleagues in the other place support the Bill if it contains such a provision. On Third Reading, if the Bill still contains such a provision—and if the banning provision has not been amended—we will vote against the Bill.
I have had a constructive dialogue with the Home Secretary, and I recognise that the Bill has been improved. It would be unfair not to give it a Second Reading, because some of its provisions should be enacted. However, Liberal Democrat Members will not sign up to a Bill that is passed in haste with one extremely undesirable component and one very undesirable component. We have been consistent on that, and we shall be consistent on it in the next two weeks.
No, I shall not give way again. However, I am very happy to pursue the conversation with the hon. Gentleman. We have next Monday, and we may have next Wednesday to do so.
There is an entirely justified case for further anti-hooligan legislation. However, a rushed and badly drafted Bill containing many unanswered questions is not the way to proceed. We cannot allow mere suspicion, based on no evidence, to be enough to stop someone leaving the country. There are rights—European Union rights, international rights and passport rights—to leave the country, just as there are rights to enter the country. The proposed new power is not only open to very grave misuse, but would be very difficult to implement in practice.
We should use banning orders more often, but only in appropriate circumstances, when evidence justifies their use. We also need to deal with the thugs who undermine our decent reputation. However, the Bill goes one significant, dangerous step too far. Some of us have to stand up against a Government who, although well intentioned, take those dangerous steps.
We expect that the House of Lords will not pass the Bill in its current form. If the Government want a Bill on the statute book by August, they will have to listen to our concerns and amend the Bill accordingly. If they do, the legislation can be on the statute book by the end of the month.
In the short time in which the Bill has been available for discussion, it has certainly ensured that Members of this place and of another place have raised various important civil liberties issues, such as how to balance civil liberties with the need to prevent disorder at football matches. I am grateful for the opportunity that the Home Secretary has allowed Members of this place and of another place to consider and to discuss those issues. As we have heard, the Home Secretary has dealt with some of the concerns about the Bill. As we further consider the Bill, there will be more discussion of those concerns.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) suggested that the Bill should have addressed more issues and was perhaps too specific in dealing only with football disorder offences. However, we have to take into account the fact that football-related offences are a very special case.
The legislation that has been introduced by successive Governments, notably since the tragedy at the Heysel stadium in 1985, and the attempts that have been made to deal with hooliganism and other problems at football matches, notably involving drinking and fans going onto the pitch during the match, show that football is a special case.
There have been attempts to deal with the outrageous yobbishness of some young men. The Home Secretary's statistics show that 30 per cent. of men have convictions by the age of 30. As a woman in that age bracket, I find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that so many men of my age have convictions. The problems in town centres—even in my constituency of Watford—at night and during the weekends—result from the same thuggish behaviour.
Some of the legislation that has been introduced over the years has helped to address those problems, but it has not dealt with them all. To some extent, that is why we are here today.
For the Government and for the public, football is a special case, not just in respect of legislation, but as a national cultural and sporting activity, so it is treated differently from other sports. For example, alcohol is not permitted at football matches, yet it is allowed at rugby matches. Fans are segregated at football matches, but not at rugby matches. Magistrates have rights to impose restrictions on licensed premises around football grounds. There is a criminal offence of ticket touting at football matches and other restrictions and exclusion orders apply. All that shows that football is treated differently from other sports. So I disagree with the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey who said that in future we may be discussing legislation that deals with ice hockey, rugby or any other sport. It is not the same.
Despite all those measures, we have had problems. We are all aware of recent events in Charleroi, Brussels and in Copenhagen and those of previous years. In addition, 42 per cent. of the men who were arrested, even under the administrative arrest system operated by the Belgians, already had previous convictions. The difficulty is that the existing legislation in respect of domestic and international banning orders would not have prevented people who were likely to commit offences from travelling abroad.
If I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall elaborate on that point later. Given that thousands of people go through the port of Dover every day, every year, and that any one of them could be detained under the proposed legislation, how does the hon. Lady think that a constable on duty will differentiate between a person who may be going to a football match and a person who is not?
The legislation has started to deal with that. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary also said something about judging people on their behaviour not their appearance. However, I shall return to that later in my speech.
We need action that will prevent thugs from travelling abroad to commit violence. However, we must be absolutely clear that no legislation that goes through this House or another place could prevent it from happening.
It is a fact of life that determined thugs who want to travel outside the country before five days are up, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase and with a ticket in hand, are unlikely to be stopped at ports and airports if they behave themselves. The Bill will not prevent all instances of hooliganism, but it is important to introduce legislation as quickly as possible, to stop as many as possible of those thugs from travelling and causing problems.
Precedent exists for many of the measures in the Bill.
I am a lawyer, and it is important to me that innocent people are not prevented from travelling, but that will sometimes happen. However, police officers will have to give written reasons for issuing summary notices, and a court will consider those reasons within 24 hours. That is an important safeguard.
We should get the matter into perspective. People stopped at ports or airports will be issued with a notice that prevents them from travelling. They will be told to report to a local magistrates court within 24 hours, and at a set time. They will not necessarily be imprisoned or detained; they will merely be prevented from travelling abroad to watch a football match. That is not comparable with suggestions that I have heard in other discussions about restriction of liberty.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the Bill provides that people who breach the notice will be committing a criminal offence. If people want to clear their names, they should put their case in the magistrates court. If they are innocent, they will have nothing to hide and they will not attempt to abscond.
I am not sure that the hon. Lady realises that the Bill would allow a constable to detain a person for 24 hours before the notice is issued. Does she support that provision?
I realise that. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will make the relevant conditions and guidelines clear, and that he will set out the conduct that police should consider to be appropriate for the issuance of summary notices.
Precedents also exist for the removal of passports, which is sometimes set as a bail condition when there are concerns about child abduction, for instance. That is absolutely clear, too.
In such cases, there is no charge or conviction either. A person is still regarded as innocent when on bail, yet a condition of bail may be removal of his passport and a restriction on his liberty, to the extent that he cannot travel abroad. I have never heard of anybody in the legal system or in the House complain about that legislation. It is reasonable, and I ask hon. Members to put all these matters in context.
I am very pleased that we have heard tonight from the Conservative Opposition and from the Liberal Democrats that they support in principle the first two main parts of the Bill—the combining of the domestic football banning order and the international football banning order and the withdrawal of the passport related to those banning orders. They are very sensible measures. Perhaps they should have been introduced some time ago, but we are in our present situation because of the progress of legislation. I am glad that we shall now see some movement.
With regard to the third main measure in the Bill—the football banning order—it is important for hon. Members to take into account the facts and figures from Euro 2000. It is relevant that 42 per cent. of those sent back to this country had convictions for other offences. Without this legislation, we would not be able to prevent that happening in the future.
The provision that a person given a summary notice is to appear before a magistrates court is also very important protection for the individual. However, I stress that as many of those orders as possible should be dealt with within 24 hours. I would not wish the Bill to be seen as simply an attempt to stop as many people as possible leaving the country to watch football matches, purely by their detention for a longer period and delay for as long as possible through the magistrates court process. I hope that my right hon. Friend will work closely with the Lord Chancellor's Department to provide as many opportunities as possible for magistrates courts to sit extended and unusual hours, and possibly even to sit in unusual places, to allow individuals to be dealt with by the courts and have their cases heard.
It is also very important that the legislation spells out in detail the convictions, the offences and the description of disorder. I am a football fan, a season ticket holder, at Watford and a regular attender there. We do not have these problems; we are a very friendly club, and do not have the level of violence that has led to the need for the Bill.
But when attending away games and watching international matches on television, including Euro 2000 matches, in local pubs or in London pubs, I have frequently been disappointed and disturbed by the chanting and the racist, xenophobic language used by those who purport to be fans. It is completely unnecessary. I hope that the legislation and the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister to the Football Association and football clubs—[HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Lady is receiving a note from the Whips."]—will also ensure that as many as possible of those conducting themselves in that unacceptable way are also brought before the courts.
I am slightly concerned about the clause that deals with the court taking into account any decision of a public authority whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. What decisions of other public authorities would normally be considered in a magistrates court, other than previous convictions?
The guidelines on the new police powers must be clear. It should be about behaviour, not appearance. I do not wish to cast aspersions on anyone in the House, but I am certain that some Members of Parliament would, in the right football strip, look very menacing, and could fall foul of a keen constable. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider that point carefully.
I welcome the Bill, which is an important piece of legislation. [Interruption.] The restrictions need to be put into context. It is important to get the Bill through as quickly as possible, given that England will be playing France in a friendly game in September.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there anything that you can do to protect Labour Members from threatening behaviour by their Whips? It is perfectly obvious to those of us here that something of the kind is going on. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you can guarantee to the hon. Lady that she will be allowed to complete her speech in her own time and without harassment.
Order. There is no restriction on the length of speeches in this debate. I am sure that the hon. Lady is quite capable of taking care of herself.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am more than capable of looking after myself and dealing with any form of harassment, from whichever side of the Chamber it may come.
Finally—in my own time, but finally—I welcome the Bill and urge all right hon. and hon. Members to support it. I thank the Home Secretary for taking on board many of the concerns that have been expressed so far. I hope that when the legislation is in place—before the end of the summer, I hope—it will put an end to the thuggishness and violence that have shamed not only our football but our nation.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the chance to contribute to the debate.
These debates are normally dominated by lawyers and football fans. Indeed, the hon. Member for Watford (Ms Ward) pleaded guilty to both offences. I, however, speak simply as a humble parliamentarian and libertarian who believes that it is our duty to oppose bad law and to defend our liberties.
I have noticed over the years that when five factors combine, the invariable result is bad law. The first factor is a demand that something must be done, usually by those who have no specific idea in mind of what can be done to solve the problem. The second is undue, and usually unnecessary, haste about the legislation. The third is Front-Bench collusion, particularly if it is designed to suppress activity on the Back Benches. The fourth is an orgy of sanctimonious vilification of an unpopular minority group, and the fifth is a Government with no firm commitment to the principles that have upheld our liberties in the past. All those factors apply to the Bill; they account for its being so bad.
First, there was the demand that something be done. In the past, that demand tended to be limited to matters that fell under the jurisdiction of the Government who were being urged to deal with them. With the advent of television, however, Governments are required to do something about events that people observe on their screens—even though they occur abroad. Recently, we fought a war largely because the Government were urged to do something about matters in Kosovo that people saw on television.
The Home Secretary proposes that, to prevent unruly behaviour abroad, we should introduce measures that are more severe than those deemed necessary to constrain similar behaviour in our own country. The maintenance of law and order in Belgium, France or Germany is primarily a matter for the Belgian, French or German Governments. They should arrest, charge and—through their courts—convict anybody who breaches their laws and disrupts the peace of their country. If need be, they should take preventive action to avoid the offences occurring in the first place. If it is in their legal tradition, they should exclude from their country people whom they fear may disrupt the peace.
The British Government should co-operate with foreign Governments—in so far as that is compatible with the liberties of our citizens—to enable those Governments to uphold their laws. If we have evidence, such as television footage, that the law has been broken in Belgium and if the Belgian authorities do not have that particular film, we should make it available to them so that they can take due action against the lawbreakers. If it is proper and in accord with the liberties of our subjects, we should inform the Belgian or other Governments about the previous convictions of those who might want to enter their countries, so that those Governments can prevent the entry of those people if they want to do so.
The second factor that contributes to bad law is unnecessary haste—usually through the imposition of an artificial deadline. In this case, we have been told that there is to be a friendly match against France in the autumn before which it is essential that the legislation be passed into statute. However, during the past football season, there were matches abroad every few months—as there will be in the next.
We all know that the real reason for the Bill has nothing to do with that match in the autumn. It is because the Home Secretary had to introduce a measure—he had to appear to be doing something—before a decision was taken on the location of the 2006 world cup. He did not want to be blamed for inaction.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary introduced the measure because of the forthcoming international. Does the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) think that we should have asked the Football Association to postpone or abandon the match in order to give the House more time to debate the issue?
The right hon. Gentleman has made his points clearly. Is he saying that there should be no legislation on this matter because he believes that it is for the French, German or Belgian authorities to deal with it? Is that his view?
I am perfectly happy to accept the first two measures on the amalgamation of international and domestic banning orders if the House wants that and if their acceptance is reconcilable with our beliefs in the principles that I shall shortly describe. Unlike many hon. Members, however, I do not recognise the compelling need for the measures. If hon. Members see such a compelling need for them, they should first make sure that the Bill has proper and due consideration.
If the artificial time constraint of a friendly match against France in September is so important that we have to remove the liberty of British citizens to travel abroad, we should perhaps delay our own freedom to go abroad in August and instead devote sufficient time in the early weeks of the month to consider the Bill. However, Labour Members seem so anxious to go abroad that they are prepared to sign away in about a day and half the liberty of football fans to do so. That is a recipe for bad law.
The third factor, which, from time to time in the past, has given rise to bad law, is collusion between those on both Front Benches. I am glad to see that that collusion is beginning to loosen a bit and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) is wisely considering the Bill and saying that it must be a good Bill if it is to receive our support. That requires significant changes to the measure that has been presented to us today.
I speak from experience. I had to introduce emergency legislation with the co-operation of the then Opposition. That was after Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait and it was necessary to amend the legislation on the control of imports and exports, because we were taking sanctions against Iraq and treating the crisis as a wartime situation.
We sought the collusion of those on the then Opposition Front Bench and they said that it would be much simpler to reduce our relatively simple two-clause Bill to one clause so that the rebels on their Back Benches would have even less chance of creating an embarrassing scene by appearing to support Saddam Hussein. We removed one minor clause that said that, in future, orders would receive proper consideration by the House and I was subsequently criticised by the Scott report for so doing. The report was probably right. I should have not given in to those on the Opposition Front Bench to reduce the Bill and to limit debate so that we could get the Bill through quickly and without embarrassment. I warn those on both Front Benches that collusion can lead to bad legislation.
The fourth factor that gives rise to bad law is Governments who lack any firm principles or any commitment to firm principles. I am afraid that this Government have made it a principle not to have any principles and that approach has infected their legislation.
However, there are certain clear principles to which we should adhere. The first principle is that the restrictions on the freedoms of the subject are a severe punishment, and the restriction on freedom to travel is a particularly onerous punishment.
The second principle is that there should be no punishment unless a crime has been committed. This Bill specifically states that the offence of disorder need not constitute a crime not only in this country, but in any other country in the world. Yet people will, de facto, be punished for doing something that is not a crime.
The third principle is that conviction for criminal offences should be based on criminal and not on civil standards of proof. People should not be detained and arrested because, as it says in the Bill, it appears to an officer that certain conditions have been met. There should be a substantial criminal standard of proof that should not be waived as it has been in the Bill.
Finally, and above all, a person should be considered innocent unless and until he is proven guilty. However, this Bill is so framed that someone can be detained—the detention effectively constitutes punishment—and a banning order introduced because of a decision by public authorities in another country or because he has been removed from a foreign country. The Home Secretary said that the courts would never act simply on the basis that a chap was a hooligan because he had been arrested or expelled by a foreign Government. Yet it was the Home Secretary himself who justified the introduction of the Bill solely on the grounds that 900 people had been arrested by the Belgian Government. The Home Secretary used an analysis of those 900 people to tell us the sort of person who, on a normal probability, could be assumed to be a football hooligan. He then said that the courts should not, on a normal standard of probability, use that sort of evidence to impose a banning order on someone.
If the Home Secretary can justify his own Bill with that sort of evidence, we can be sure that, once the courts are given this power and duty to impose banning orders on someone who, on the balance of probability, will cause trouble abroad—taking into account the fact that the person has been arrested or expelled, if not charged or convicted—the courts will feel obliged to do just that.
These features of the Bill are wrong and damaging in themselves, but, worst of all, they constitute a dangerous precedent to enshrine in our law. We are told not to worry; it is just a narrow group of people being affected. We are told that it is foolish to talk about the measure being extended as a precedent elsewhere. We are told that it is we logically minded people who always worry about such things. Yet the very people who say that justify the Bill in terms of often rather tenuous precedents that they are drawing with other legislation.
The best and most substantive precedent drawn on is the anti-social behaviour orders. That made me realise how worrying a feature of our law they are, because they are now being used to justify similar legislation to extend the arbitrary power of the forces of law and order. Those concerned use more spurious examples, but they use precedent to justify this Bill and they will use this Bill as a precedent to justify other law.
These proposals could be used as a precedent to justify restriction on travelling abroad to potentially rowdy demonstrations. We could be pressured by a foreign Government who do not like Greenpeace activists. The French Government are rather proud of blowing up Greenpeace activists, and they may not like them coming from this country to France to pursue their environmental objectives. We might be urged to take measures against them. The precedent will be there on the statue book, and it will be hard to deny in that case.
The underlying feature of the Bill is that it takes away people's British passports. We used to have decent passports. I have here the rather mangy burgundy-coloured variety that we now have, which at least still has in its front pages the words
Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as maybe necessary.
It is a bit rich for us to ask foreign Governments to treat all our citizens, without exception, on that basis when we are to deprive them of their passports when they have not been convicted of offences. How can we expect our passport to be respected abroad when we treat it with so little respect when people get to the ports?
The right hon. Gentleman must recognise that there is a problem with people who manifestly behave in a manner that would be a criminal offence in this country, but whom other countries export back here without prosecuting them. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that we should do as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) seemed to be suggesting and extend this country's criminal jurisdiction to other countries so that we can prosecute those people according to the standard of proof that the right hon. Gentleman wants and secure criminal convictions?
The Bill suggests that if people are expelled from a foreign country, which does not see fit to charge or convict them, they are none the less to be treated by our courts as if they had committed an offence. I say to the hon. Gentleman that I do not think that that is right, and I do not want it enshrined in law. If foreign countries do not see fit to charge and convict people, we do not need to do that job for them. Hon. Members say that there is a problem of thuggish behaviour; they are right, but that does not justify thuggish law.
I am pleased to be able to participate in the debate, although I am sure that we all wish that there was no need for the debate and the legislation. Unfortunately, events in the past few months and years have proved that it is an absolute necessity. In the spirit of some contributions to the debate, I will avoid the inter-party dispute because, hopefully, we will try to achieve consensus at some point.
I was in Charleroi with my family during Euro 2000 and I witnessed some of the scenes there. That is why I am keen on much of the Bill.
No, not at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps have an opportunity to intervene later in my speech.
After the 1998 world cup in France, I contacted English and Scottish premiership clubs to ask them what they thought the Government should do and what legislation they should enact. I also asked them what they had done to tackle hooliganism. Many have taken firm action, but they acknowledge that they could do more. Prophetically for the Government, the club spokesmen, the senior ground safety officers and the chairmen of Aston Villa and Southampton said clearly that hooligans should have their passports taken away. That is the opinion of those in the industry who want respect for the good name of their club and their country, and it directly contradicts what the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) has just said.
Two of our esteemed clubs, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, said that they had problems with data protection legislation, which prevents them from taking effective action. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that point in summing up, or later in Committee. Another club said that there is no proper communication between the courts and the clubs, and clubs are not informed when convictions are secured. Perhaps the Home Secretary could identify whether the Bill, or any likely amendments to it, will meet concerns about data protection and co-operation between the courts and the clubs. Hooligans who are convicted could then be reported to the club that they supposedly follow, and which they have shamed, which might be at the other end of the country from where the crime took place.
I have also carried out research into the huge number of parliamentary questions on hooliganism. To echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), I should like some of that information to be used in future research. It is an unfortunate fact that English second division clubs have more football restriction and banning orders than do first division clubs. Why is that, when they have smaller stadiums, fewer supporters and a smaller fan base? What is it about those clubs, those towns or the mentality of those supporters that means that they have more orders against them than supporters of much bigger clubs in the first division?
We also hear that the hooligans are all young men. Of course, according to all the recent parliamentary questions, the average age of men who rightly have banning and restriction orders against them is 31. The youngest has just passed his 16th birthday and, believe it or not, the oldest British citizen currently under a banning or restriction order is 61 years of age. That is a huge age range. The average may be 31, and there are a good number of teenagers, but that gentleman, whom I will not name, although his name appears in a parliamentary answer, is shortly to celebrate his 62nd birthday under a domestic football banning order.
I support the Bill. I have followed football throughout Europe, and I follow my own football team. The lesson of Charleroi is clear. I understand that 42 per cent. of those who were there already had criminal convictions, although not specifically for football hooliganism. Some of those who were there may have been banned by their clubs from attending their games, not through a domestic football banning order, but simply through club policy.
We must protect the innocent, but we must also take action against people who are banned by their clubs from attending their own matches but who can travel abroad because they do not have a criminal conviction. The Bill introduces an important clamp-down. It gets rid of the daft distinction between football-related criminal activity and violence, and other violent activity. It brings them under the same legislation, so that police officers at the ports can track those who are banned by the clubs and those who have a criminal record but not an international banning order.
Those are the people who should have been stopped if there had been a foolproof way of dealing with the problem before Charleroi. We could have prevented some of the 42 per cent. who fall into those categories from wreaking havoc in mainland Europe, where their behaviour was all too public and shamed our nation.
According to schedule 2, the Bill will apply only to British citizens. I checked in the House of Commons Library this evening and found that there are officially 2,242,000 non-British nationals living in the United Kingdom. As I understand it from my reading of the Bill, they would not be covered by its provisions. There may be some logic to that, and I would welcome an explanation from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Many of those people care passionately about football and the vast majority are law-abiding citizens, but the tiny minority who are not would not be covered by the legislation. Some may choose to follow England, despite not being British nationals, but they may follow the clubs and, of course, their own country's team. Arsenal has a French manager and many French players, and there are 46,000 French nationals living in London. Chelsea has an Italian manager and the culture of the club is increasingly Italian, and there are 42,000 Italians living in London. The vast majority are law abiding, but why would they not be covered by the Bill if they travelled to a football game in another country?
There are particular problems associated with Scotland, and I accept that there is no easy solution. It is in the nature of devolution. This House no longer has the power to legislate for Scotland; nor should it. A possible longer-term solution is for the Scottish Parliament to consider how it should act and react to the loophole that would allow English nationals to travel to Scotland as a way of getting out of the United Kingdom. Football hooligans from the north of England may even find it easier to travel out of Scotland.
I do not mean that as a criticism of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It is not his responsibility or within his legislative competence. It is a matter for the Scottish Parliament, which I hope will listen and act.
The only other Scottish issue is that many Scottish supporters, including me, often travel abroad via London. I have the advantage of being the only teetotal, non-smoking vegetarian Member of Parliament from Scotland—I lead a very exciting life—but I do not represent the archetypal perception, or misconception, of Scots. Many Scots with whom I have travelled internationally enjoy leisure and alcohol before leaving the country: they are quite boisterous. Nevertheless, Scottish fans have had a fantastic reputation for many years—although I am not complacent about that—and have won awards in many international competitions. Although Scotland perhaps has one of the poorest teams, it has some of the best supporters.
What consideration might the Home Secretary give those matters? Many Scots have no record of violence or disorder when following their national team. They simply enjoy themselves while nevertheless displaying the characteristics of boisterousness and of perhaps having had a drink. If my right hon. Friend cannot reply this evening, perhaps he will address those points in Committee. I hope that we get beyond the inter-party dispute and pass proper legislation. We must not blame each other; and, come the summer games—not just those involving England, but the champions league matches next month—we must not export violence and mayhem to our European partners.
Conservative Members are co-operating with the Government to bring this matter forward, but I deplore the rush; and to use the France match of 2 September to justify pushing through a Bill that involves so many civil liberties aspects is entirely unreal and almost disingenuous. I have a nasty feeling that we had not dropped out of the world cup bidding when these issues were first mentioned and that this hurried legislation may have a good deal to do with that.
Any football hooligan who goes to France on 2 September thinking that he might get away with it as some hooligans got away with it in Belgium has another think coming. The French police are extremely tough on these matters, which is why the Bill involves civil liberties aspects. One of my constituents—a young man—was in France for the 1984 match, which was celebrated at the time because so many Brits were picked up. He was of sufficiently high calibre to have been allowed by his firm, which was a household name, to use a spare room in the George V hotel. He was picked up after the match and accused of violence and causing damage, which he absolutely denied. The British embassy found him only after he had spent two days in a suburban police station in which, he alleged, he had been beaten around the head having been made to wear a motor cycle helmet, and then forced to plead guilty to a minor offence, which he had not committed. We must not let any football hooligans think that they can go to France with impunity.
There is no reason to rush the Bill. We will co-operate, but serious human rights issues are involved, the first of which concerns the power to detain simply because an
officer, on viewing the behaviour of a young man leaving the country, believes it necessary to investigate whether that young man may have committed an offence. I refer to proposed new section 21A(2):
If it appears to a constable in uniform that the behaviour of a person present before him is such that immediate enquiries should be made to determine whether or not the condition in section 14B(2) above is met, the constable may exercise the power in subsection (3)
to detain the person in his custody
for up to 24 hours.
Will the Home Secretary, if he would be kind enough, or the Minister of State explain why that provision is not illegal in terms of being contrary to the European convention on human rights? Why will it not be illegal come October, when the convention is passed into our law? Article 5.1 of the convention states:
Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.
Article 5.1(c) refers to
the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence.
Those conditions are not satisfied in the Bill. The proposed new section 21A(2) merely says that if it appears to a police constable
that the behaviour of a person present before him is such that immediate enquiries should be made
he may exercise that power. That is entirely different from bringing the person before a court to determine whether he has committed an offence, or is likely to do so. I believe that the provision is unacceptable, and should be removed.
Well, it is not unlawful yet, but it will be in October, and it is contrary to our obligations under the convention.
I heard the Home Secretary say that he had received advice from a senior QC who is much respected. I know that such advice is not normally published, but if the right hon. Gentleman felt that that was appropriate—[Interruption.] I thought I had heard the Home Secretary say that he had received advice from David Pannick QC, but perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should get that advice!
With respect, I have said no such thing, here or anywhere else. In any event, the right hon. and learned Gentleman of all people will know that it is never the practice of Governments to publish the legal advice that Ministers receive.
The Home Secretary is absolutely right—and it is not usually the practice of Ministers to say that they have received advice from a particular source. I apologise to the Home Secretary if he did not say that; if he did not, I shall find out from Hansard which of his colleagues did.
My second point relates to the proposed new section 14C(3), which states that
violence" and "disorder" are not limited to…conduct which constitutes a crime under the law of any part of the United Kingdom or any country outside the United Kingdom.
I ask the Home Secretary to look at that again, very carefully.
I am content for a banning order to be imposed if there are proper grounds for the magistrates to consider that necessary under the Act, provided that it is proved—according to the criminal standard of proof—that the person concerned has committed a crime in the past, or has behaved in a way that constitutes a crime under the law of this country. I would be content to change the law—although the Bill does not do this—allowing us to take into account conduct that took place in, say, Belgium, where people threw chairs at the police, and to prosecute those people here. Such behaviour would obviously be a crime here; indeed, I am sure it is a crime in Belgium. That would be satisfactory. What I find wholly unsatisfactory is that people can be banned for something so vague that it does not constitute a criminal offence.
There is another serious human rights point. In relation to criminality, the convention rightly requires certainty.
Using abusive language to a steward at a football match might well not constitute a crime, but if the person concerned was removed, everyone else's freedom to enjoy the match in relative peace would be secured. The provision may be designed to deal with such cases.
The hon. Gentleman raises a serious point, but he is on shaky ground. If a person used insulting language to a steward at a football match entirely in private and he was an exceptionally calm steward, it might not be conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, or insulting behaviour. However, the overwhelming probability is that such a circumstance and the circumstance in which it would be necessary and desirable to have a ban would constitute a crime. Almost every example we have been given would constitute a crime.
I accept that that would not normally be a criminal offence, but many clubs are plcs and such behaviour would result in the person losing membership of the club. Despite being blacklisted or losing their membership, under current legislation such people could still travel abroad or to domestic matches to support the club.
This is where civil liberties come in, and it is one of the reasons why the Bill should not be rushed. I hope that we will have time to deal with these issues, and that the Home Secretary will be a little flexible in the next few days. I shall certainly do my best to focus on the right points, and not to speak overlong on any occasion. If we move away from what constitutes criminality, we will be in dangerous country.
I shall make one other point about the civil liberties and human rights aspects. The Home Secretary has rightly pointed out that about 30 per cent. of all people under the age of 30 have committed a criminal offence that would make them liable to a banning order. That is one of the reasons I am worried about the police being able to hold people for 24 hours to see whether they can bring them before the magistrates. It is rather like fishing for ducks at a fair—the game one played as a child. One pays one's money, pulls out a duck and has a one in three chance of getting a prize. For whatever reason, a police officer plucks a young man out of the crowd and, because 30 per cent. have committed a criminal offence, he has a one in three chance of being able to get a banning order.
That is why I am glad that the Home Secretary has accepted a sunset clause. I think that Labour Members would agree with us that although we should have a firm law and order policy, it is essential in this and in any country that it is a fair policy. It would be draconian to enable people who may have committed an offence many years ago in different circumstances to be plucked out of a crowd, brought before the courts and made subject to a ban that prevents them from travelling abroad for the next three or five years. There may be a great many of these football matches. I should like to table a parliamentary question asking how many periods in a year would be covered by these football matches, because civil liberties could be heavily eroded.
The point that my right hon. and learned Friend emphasises sits ill with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, under which offences are spent. The situation that he describes involves old offences which in ordinary circumstances would be spent, but not for the purposes of the Bill.
My right hon. and learned Friend has posited a question to which I do not know the answer. Perhaps the Minister of State will clarify the position on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. I hope that it applies. If it does not, that would be wrong and it ought to be made clear that it should apply.
The Home Secretary has given weight to the fact that magistrates will be careful whom they ban. I hope that they will be robust and not ban too freely. A person may be brought before them who was convicted of a minor public order offence many years ago but has otherwise been a respectable citizen and has spent a lot of money on his holiday. I hope that such people will not be too lightly stopped and banned, but they will probably miss their holiday anyway, whatever happens.
The Home Secretary should think what pressure we will be putting on the justices if someone has to appear before a court within 24 hours. It will be someone who has been plucked out by the police, who has some previous offence, or who has been sent back from Belgium by a public authority. The magistrates will have to take the risk that, if they let him go, he might offend. They are not likely to take that risk; they are likely to ban him.
The legislation is difficult. I go along with it, provided that there is a clearly established criminal offence and that the section that states that one can be stopped for 24 hours with no comeback while the police make inquiries is reconsidered. If we go through the Bill carefully and remove those unacceptable factors, I think that we can go along with it. However, this legislation is being rushed, it has big human and civil rights implications, and we should proceed with caution.
This has been something of a strange day. Earlier, we heard the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) talking forthrightly about collusion between those on the Front Benches and the dangers of co-operation. If there are such dangers in that co-operation, why did those on the Opposition Front Bench offer it in the first place? That is the difficulty that I am experiencing.
Also, on a day when those on the Opposition Front Bench have made such great claims about the need for the scrutiny of legislation and the ancient procedures of the House, it appears from what they have said tonight that they have not even grasped the way in which legislation is scrutinised. The Second Reading of a Bill is when its general principles, aims and objectives are discussed. If one agrees with those and, broadly, with the means of achieving them, the Bill passes to a stage at which it can be amended. If I understand it correctly, those on the Opposition Front Bench are recommending that Conservative Members should abstain should there be a Division.
The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) perfectly describes someone who firmly agrees with the principles, aims and objectives of the Bill, but has great concerns about its detail. In such a case, surely qualified support should be given on Second Reading, on the basis that, if the required amendments are not made, Third Reading would be opposed. I find it difficult to understand the tactics of those on the Opposition Front Bench.
I do not want to detain the House for too long, so I shall come to the meat of the Bill. First, I must stake my claim. I have supported a football club since I was a very small boy. I am proud of boasting that I am one of the few Liverpool supporters who most people will ever meet who first went to see them when they were in the second division.
In the years during which I have followed my club, I have seen acts of violence, but for every such act that I have observed, I have seen hundreds of acts of kindness. I have heard insults, but for every insult, I have heard hundreds of examples of wit and camaraderie. We are dealing with a small minority of people who commit offences that we all find heinous; that we all repudiate; and that we all want to be stopped. I think that there is common ground among us there: we all want to stop actions that bring incredible shame to our country and to a game that I love.
Furthermore, in the past few years, I have been the joint coach of one of the Ramsgate youth football teams. I took a group of youngsters from the ages of nine to 15. I retired as their manager at the end of the close season. I can honestly say that, because of that involvement with sport and football, every one of those boys, some of whom come from among the poorest council estates in the entire country, has turned into a decent young man. To have that sport, which can achieve so much for people, sullied by hooligans gives me intense pain. That is why I am prepared to support a Bill that can go some way to clamping down on that pain and to excise the sickness from the game.
I cannot tell hon. Members what causes football hooliganism. What I can tell them is that, if explosive chemicals are mixed and a match is thrown into the pot, we often get a bang. Two of the most explosive ingredients that I can think of are testosterone and alcohol. When those two ingredients are exposed to what is effectively a tribal atmosphere, we sometimes get results that are undesirable. If we are going to control that, there is a lot more to it than just what is in the Bill. We need to think beyond the Bill in considering how we will do that.
All tickets for international matches should be sold in advance; I alluded to that in an intervention on the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). They should be sold to identified individuals. We should clamp down throughout Europe on ticket touting—the disposal of tickets to people who have not bought the tickets through ordinary channels. We need to look carefully at alcohol controls. It was obvious during the recent European championships that there was far less trouble where alcohol controls were in place and where low-alcohol beer was available than in places where those alcohol controls were not in place.
I understand the libertarian view that some people are taking. They are right to want an appropriate burden of proof when the Bill is enforced, but some people have missed the fact that the punishment within the Bill is not prison. It is not a fine. It is not to be birched or sent to the gallows. It is to not watch a football match—to be made to stay at home and watch it on television. Let us get that into perspective.
Nevertheless, we need to look at the Bill's limitations and at the things in it that we should try to improve at later stages in its passage. Let me go through some of those, as I see them. The Bill only deals with England and Wales; that issue has been touched on. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary might be aware that the Scots have even more difficulty getting a decent football team together at the moment than the English. These days, people can probably play for Scotland if they have a second cousin who was born in Scotland.
Exactly. The question I have to ask myself is: if someone claims to have Scottish relatives, does he get away with it? Can he be a Scottish football hooligan and therefore not be covered by the English and Welsh legislation? We need to clarify that.
Types of behaviour are covered by the Bill. New section 14C(2)(b) in schedule 1 refers to "insulting words." I remember as a kid singing a song to the tune of "Bread of Heaven" at football grounds. It went:
Man United, Man United, Man United are no good.
It is pretty innocuous by modern day standards. I regard it as being factually entirely accurate, but there may be some Manchester United supporters who would find it insulting. However, how will those "insulting" words be differentiated from other insulting words?
Additionally, although singing that song at the Liverpool end of a football ground might be regarded as unsporting, it would not be regarded as insulting. However, if one sang it in a public house full of Manchester United supporters, one probably would be inciting a breach of the peace. I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider whether the legislation should be amended to require magistrates to consider the context of the act. It would be legitimate to remove a passport if a person had intended to incite a breach of the peace.
I ask my right hon. Friend to take into account one other matter in our later consideration of the Bill. The European club championship campaigns starts in September and continues until May. Of course I hope that many of our clubs will get into the finals. However, will those who are subject to banning orders have to hand in their passports in September and not regain them until May, when the competition has finished, or will they have to hand in their passport each time their club plays in a match? Does the legislation clearly state how the provision will operate?
One of the possible ways round that problem—and the problem of people travelling from Scotland or from another embarkation point not covered by the legislation—is to require people subject to orders to attend a police station when the game is being held. That, rather than concentrating on passports, might solve some of those problems.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the remedies that we might consider.
Having expressed those practical concerns about the legislation's operation and asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to ensure that those issues are addressed later in the Bill's passage, I have to say that I fully support the Bill's principle and what we are trying to achieve. I hope that all hon. Members, even at this late hour, will support the Bill on Second Reading.
This is the eighth piece of legislation on this subject that the House has considered in the past 15 years. I share the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) that it would be utterly wrong for such controversial legislation to be rushed through Parliament in one day. I therefore welcome the fact that we shall have two days in which to discuss the Bill. If we can also have next Wednesday to consider it, so much the better.
Since the Bill was published, the Home Secretary and the Minister of State have been more than prepared to meet hon. Members and Members of another place. They have also been prepared to listen and to change the draft Bill—for the better, I think.
The Home Secretary was absolutely right to say that the issues that this legislation has to address are different from the issues addressed by relevant previous legislation. Although the common thread in all the legislation is to deal with football hooliganism—which, sadly, has for too long been a problem for our country and our national sport—as the right hon. Gentleman said, that problem has effectively shifted from domestic matches primarily to overseas international matches.
The figures show how the problem has shifted. Up to a point, that shift is a measure of the cumulative effect and success of previous legislation. As hon. Members will know, between 1992–93 and 1998–99 attendance at football matches has increased from 20.6 million to 25.25 million. At the same time, arrests in this country have declined from 4,588 to 3,341—a reduction of about 28 per cent. in seven years. That is significant, but, as I said earlier, the problem has shifted overseas and it has shifted with a vengeance.
I would have preferred legislation to be introduced at the beginning of the Session so that it could be taken through both Houses in a more conventional way, but, as that did not happen, there is no point in my wasting the time of the House reliving that battle. It is now important that we have legislation that is relevant to the problems facing the game of football and law and order in this country. We must make sure not only that it is relevant, but that it is workable, and properly, decently and correctly drafted.
I fully accept and support the measures proposed by the Home Secretary to merge international and domestic banning orders. I also strongly support the provisions that if someone is convicted of a football-related offence, the courts will be expected to impose a banning order on that individual in addition to the punishment for the offence that they have committed unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Since the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999, the courts have not carried through the wishes of Parliament. Although we do not have the figures for the number of convictions under the 1999 Act since 26 September last year, since that period there have been 36 international banning orders and 255 domestic banning orders. The obscene variation between the two figures shows that the anecdotal evidence that has been bandied about during the past two weeks is fully justified. When we have the figure showing the number of convictions since September, it will more than bear out the anecdotal evidence. The Home Secretary certainly needed to take action to deal with the reluctance of the courts and I warmly welcome his initiative in the Bill.
I also welcome the fact that banning orders will be extended to people who have been convicted of crimes that are not football related. That is an important measure. The fact that an individual has a conviction for an act of violence or disorder shows that they have a propensity for such acts and that there is a likelihood that they could reoffend in future, particularly in a football environment where there is a propensity for hooliganism and violence among a small minority of people who follow the game. They are not necessarily supporters, but follow the game as leeches in order to carry on their own agendas, which may involve drug dealing, counterfeit tickets and other offences.
I also welcome the Home Secretary's proposals to allow the courts to impose the withdrawal of passports for a control period of five days for a designated match for unconvicted individuals if the courts are satisfied that if those people travel abroad, they will commit acts of violence or hooliganism. The Home Secretary knows that I dearly wanted to include such a provision in my Bill last year. For a variety of reasons, I concluded that it was not something that a private Member could get through Parliament, and that the Government should use their majority to that end.
I share one concern that various hon. Members have expressed already, and it centres on proposed new section 21(A). I do not disagree with the principle of what the Home Secretary wants to do, but I am worried about the practicalities of making the Bill's provisions work. I am also uneasy that someone could be detained for up to 24 hours. If magistrates are made available at ports and airports, people will be able to have access to a court very quickly. That may not amount to what one hon. Member called a "port in a court", but it would aid better natural justice.
The Home Secretary has already built safeguards into the Bill, such as the sunset clause and an annual review along the lines of the similar provision in the prevention of terrorism provisions. I hope that he will think again over the weekend and see whether, without compromising the basic principle behind what he seeks to do, he can improve the delivery of the measures in the Bill.
Finally, I turn to the question of civil liberties, which Parliament has a duty to defend and protect. I would be less than candid if I did not admit that I am beginning to tire of hearing constantly about the civil liberties of the minority and of never hearing about the civil liberties of the vast majority of law-abiding football fans. Such people only want to go to football matches with their families and children for entertainment in the afternoon or evening, free of threatening behaviour or actual violence.
We cannot disregard or disdain the civil liberties of the minority, but, just for once, I hope that we can pay attention to the civil liberties of the majority. For too long, they have been forgotten and placed second to the interests of the minority.
Another complaint in society is that the state too often bends over backwards to justify the perpetrators of crime, or to reduce the blame attached to them at the expense of victims. I think that the House agrees that more attention should be given to helping victims of crime. The same principle should be applied to the civil liberties of the majority of law-abiding and decent citizens.
I rise to support the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) said earlier, it is clear that some of the detail will have to be fleshed out during its Committee and other stages, but, in general, the Bill is well thought-out and necessary.
Indeed, the majority of our constituents, having seen the events in Charleroi and Holland, would find it surprising if we were not seen to be taking the quick and decisive action that the Government are taking now. In the real world, they would find it bewildering that their own Parliament did not regard the problem with the same urgency as they did.
I want to make three general statements about the Bill. I very much agree with the point that the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made. The arguments about the Bill concentrate on the clash between the rights of individuals and on infringements of human rights. It is incumbent upon us as a Parliament to recognise that society restricts the rights of the individual. In a democracy, there is always a clash between individual rights and the public interest. The rights of the individual must not be protected at the expense of creating contempt for the law and allowing major public disturbances. In curtailing the civil liberties of some, we are protecting the common good.
What is the common good? Here, the hon. Gentleman made a valid point. The common good is the right of the vast majority of individuals to carry on their lawful business. It is the right of individuals to drink and enjoy themselves without fear of attack and without fear of violence around them. It is the right of the vast majority of individuals to be protected from xenophobic and racist abuse. It is the common good for the vast majority of individuals to be able to go to football matches without fearing for their personal safety.
Our constituents, the people of this country, demand that we respect the rights of the majority and do not respect the right of the individual to the extent that the rights of the majority are curtailed. Very often, we reverse the law so that the law-abiding majority feel that they are being persecuted in order to protect the rights of the individual. If we do not get this right, as we have seen in debates over the past few weeks, the whole law is brought into disrepute, and we, too, are brought into disrepute, because ordinary people ask, "How can you do these things, which do not relate to our experience in our everyday lives?"
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that critics of the Bill want to protect innocent people from being wrongly punished? Is he saying that it is all right to have a few innocent people wrongly punished so that the majority do not have to see offensive pictures on their television screens?
What I am saying is that, sometimes, the law protects a few individuals at the expense of the vast majority of law-abiding citizens. That is what we want to get right.
Secondly, I ask my right hon. Friend to discuss with governments in the rest of Europe ensuring that when people commit wrongs in other countries they feel the force of the law in those countries. Failure in this respect undermines the situation. I cannot remember the statistics, but I know that large numbers of people were arrested in Belgium and deported having been guilty of the most serious offences—everything that we saw on television, with chairs being thrown across squares, bars being wrecked, people being attacked. Yet how many of those involved have been prosecuted for any crime? Hardly any.
Unless we can ensure that people's actions have a consequence, they will hold the law in contempt. We must make sure that wherever the law is broken, whether here or abroad, those concerned are brought to book. I urge my right hon. Friend to do all he can to continue to speak to other European Governments, so that many of the hooligans guilty of the actions we saw on our television screens can no longer be at home boasting of their achievements abroad and gaining ridiculous kudos for them, suffering no consequences for their actions. Being able to continue to do that would encourage them to carry on and act with impunity.
My third and final point is a general one. We can take immediate measures about this problem, as the Bill does. We can talk about crime, say that we need more police on the street and do some of the things that I have mentioned on previous occasions. However, we must also recognise the peculiar English problem that some of our young people have. Why do we generate this xenophobic, racist culture in so many of our communities? Why do some of our young men respond to a patriotism and pride in our country that we all feel—none more so than everyone here—and the desire to support their national team when they go abroad by getting drunk, fighting and hurling xenophobic abuse? That is a fundamental question for Parliament and the country. The behaviour at football matches abroad is often the same as that in our cities, streets and towns. We must understand why that happens and do something about it.
I hope that we can build a consensus to do something about the problem. We must tackle the problem of why such a xenophobic, racist attitude is prevalent among a significant number of our young men. Otherwise, while all the measures that we take will have some impact and make a difference to some problems, and a few more football matches may take place without that sort of behaviour, we will not get to the crux of the problem because we will simply be treating the symptoms.
I say this with a great deal of passion. As right hon. and hon. Members know from the debates that I generate in the House, we have a very real problem with anti-social behaviour, racism and xenophobia. My right hon. Friend talks about the need to conduct research into the problem. I hope that the Home Office can carry out that very urgent task and do something as quickly as possible. The results could contribute to the debate about the problem in addition to all the other steps that we are taking, in the Bill and elsewhere.
When he was playing to the gallery at the end of his speech, the Home Secretary waved around a press release from my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), claiming that we would pledge support for controlling football hooliganism. The right hon. Gentleman then sought to pray in aid that, as if he had a right to support for a bad Bill.
Marseille was two years ago. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) introduced his amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill nearly two years ago. Some of us came to the House and debated this subject on the morning of Friday 16 April 1999. It ill behoves the Home Secretary to come to the House and, because a football match is being played in the autumn, expect and demand support for bad legislation that he is trying to force through on the hoof. He does not deserve support.
I have very little time and I wish to make some serious points. However, the Home Secretary needs to take it on board that if he wants any support for the Bill, he will have to do a lot more homework to get it into a fit shape to go through either House of Parliament. If he does not, he does not deserve, and will not receive, support from many on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Benches and, I suspect—if they are honest—from many on his own Benches as well.
The Bill, as is blindingly obvious, has no writ in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Any of the people who wish to travel abroad and who live in the north of England can easily go to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Belfast and travel with impunity from there to any place on the continent. That is a flaw in the Bill. It is no good the Home Secretary saying that his writ does not run there. If this legislation is to have any meaning at all, he must get to grips with the real problem, instead of paying lip service in the hope that, somewhere out there, people will think that he is talking a good war so he must be acting a good war against what we all recognise is a real problem.
Most people who go abroad leave through the gateway county of Kent—one of whose constituencies I have the privilege to represent. I am concerned about the measure's potential effects on the passenger service from the port of Ramsgate and its current effect on Dover. As the Home Secretary signally failed to get to grips with the problems posed by asylum seekers and economic migrants, the county constabulary of Kent has its work cut out trying to control illegal contraband and illegal immigration with insufficient resources.
Above and beyond all the points raised by my right hon. and hon. Friends and by some Labour Members, I have a serious question for the Home Secretary, who is leaving the Chamber. Before he does so, will he pay attention to this point? He is the Home Secretary; he has responsibility for the constabulary. When will he provide the resources for the constabulary of Kent to police the port of Dover—not for only one day of the year, not for five days, but for 365 days?
My hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) said that we should not be too concerned with the civil liberties of a minority. Some of us realise that, as the overwhelming majority of people in this country go through Dover on their way to the continent, we need to be concerned with the civil liberties of the majority—all those innocent people who could be caught by this measure. That includes every Member of the House and every member of their family who goes abroad wholly innocently. Under the measure, any of those people could be picked up by the constabulary of Kent and held overnight. The Home Secretary and the Minister of State may think that is satisfactory, but I do not. The Bill does not deserve our support.
I shall be brief, because other hon. Members have said most of what could be said on the subject. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) has left the Chamber. He gave a good analysis of the problems of football violence. I disagreed only with his solution—this Bill.
I have concerns when we rush legislation through the House, as we have often done in the past. An early-day motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) drew attention to the fact that vast amounts of that legislation is never used. The measures lie in the statute book while the House basks in the warm glow of having done something useful. In reality, we have enacted measures that are not well thought out and that, in this case, have serious implications for the civil liberties of other people, organisations and groups.
I do not condone the violence that occurred in Brussels, Charleroi, Marseille or anywhere else; nor do I condone the appalling behaviour of some of those who claim to support the English national football side. Evidence suggests that a racist organisation is involved. A serious problem is the promotion by the popular press of the most backward forms of xenophobia over England games. We pay the price in the violence that results.
It is instructive to bear in mind the different responses of Belgium and Holland during Euro 2000. The Belgian police were extremely heavy-handed; much drink was on sale; there was a large amount of violence and many arrests were made.
The Dutch police were much more restrained. The alcohol was low strength. There was also that wonderful Dutch institution—the Amsterdam coffee houses. They had a good and salutary effect on a large number of people who might otherwise have been up to no good. Those people probably never went anywhere—perhaps they stayed in the coffee houses. I shall leave the issue of coffee houses with my good hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West but ask the Home Secretary to reflect—there is plenty of time to do so in coffee houses—on what might have been.
We must consider the effects of the over-hyping of national football on the youth of this country. I live near Arsenal football ground and go to some of the games. Thousands of youths in the area run around wearing Arsenal shirts, and the club is their life.
Arsenal is a well-run club and there are no problems in its ground. However, problems take place outside football grounds and Arsenal is not immune from them. There were appalling and disgusting scenes locally when Arsenal lost the UEFA cup final to Galatasaray. A number of supporters decided to take it out on every Turkish kebab house in the district. That was abominable.
We have to ask ourselves hard questions about the racism that surrounds football when national feelings are built up. A few years ago, I went to a friendly between England and Cameroon at Wembley. I was disgusted by the attitude taken towards the Cameroon national side and towards individual Cameroon players and by the unbelievable ignorance of many supporters who did not know where Cameroon was, but knew that they did not like it.
I compared notes with my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and she went to a match between Jamaica and Brazil. There was none of the backward xenophobia and racism or violence between supporters on that occasion. As a society, we must face the problems of violence and xenophobia that surround our football and of the violent atmosphere in which many young people are brought up.
I have no truck whatever with the violence that is associated with football, but will my hon. Friend the Minister reflect on the nature of the Bill that is being introduced? Liberty, which was formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties, has produced a briefing on the Bill that does not find much favour with the Home Office. For more than 50 years, it has produced briefings and explanations of legislation that successive Home Secretaries and Ministers have not liked. That is no reason to ignore them, but to listen.
Liberty has pointed to serious deficiencies in the Bill and in particular questioned the powers of a constable who will be able to decide whether someone is likely to be travelling with intent to cause trouble and whether he has caused trouble in the past. Under that power, the constable can remove or reduce that person's liberty. Once the House has agreed to such a principle, where will it end? Can it be extended to other sports? What about cricket supporters who might go to the Caribbean and cause trouble there and behave in a disgusting fashion at the end of a three-day or five-day game? Alternatively, is the Bill a one-off provision to overcome an immediate problem?
I commend to the House the briefing from the Law Society that points out serious legal deficiencies in the Bill. It takes the view that the power to stop people could be contrary to articles 10 and 11 of the European convention on human rights. If the Bill goes through the House in great haste by next Monday and it becomes law and it is then ruled out by the convention, what will we have actually achieved?
I ask the House consider what will happen if the Bill does not work. If it is rushed through and similar scenes occur in Paris in September in the so-called friendly between England and France, in the world cup campaign or in the champions league campaign, what will the House do then? Research has to be carried out and we must consider seriously the way in which violence in society and xenophobia around our national side are built up. We all have a responsibility to do something about them.
Rushed legislation seldom works. The Bill might grab headlines and it might make many people feel good, but it is not likely to lead to a resolution of the problem. It has dangerous precedents, so that is why I cannot support it in the form that it has been presented to the House. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Home Office fully understand the implications of their proposals.
The hour is late, so I shall be brief. I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) said on procedure and in substance.
On procedure, I regret that we are pushing the Bill through in this way. On any view, the Bill has important legal and constitutional implications. On any view, there are serious questions to be asked as to the text of the Bill; that has become apparent from the debate. I believe that the Bill, in a slightly different form, should have been proposed much earlier in the Session. In any event, it should have been considered in Committee in the ordinary way; perhaps by a Special Standing Committee. We should have had the chance to be informed by the representations from outside this place and a chance to consider the text of the Bill in an orderly way.
I agree very much with those who have expressed the view that, by pushing through this legislation quickly, we are likely to enact a Bill that is seriously defective, in that it would seriously diminish individual rights.
I wish to focus on two matters; the "Summary measures: detention" and the banning orders powers on complaint. The "Summary measures: detention", proposed by section 21A of the Bill are a serious infringement of human rights. It is worth pausing and asking ourselves what the measures do, and the answer is that they enable a constable to arrest a person in order to make inquiries.
I believe, as did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell), that that is actually in breach of article 5 of the convention. Even if it were not, I cannot see the justification for giving an officer the power to arrest simply and solely in order to make inquiries. The arrest is not just for 24 hours; it can be for 48 hours. Once the inquiry has been made, the officer can detain a person for a further 24 hours to ensure that the person turns up to the magistrates court. I have grave doubts as to whether magistrates courts would be able to sit within 24 hours.
The Bill may contain one other illegality, in that the powers under section 21C can be exercised only in relation to a British citizen. The Minister will be advised that article 14 of the convention prescribes any discrimination with regard to national status. I have no doubt that, after 2 October, article 14 will be invoked with regard to section 21 C of the Bill.
My last point concerns the question of the general power of the banning order on complaint. This has the substance of a criminal penalty. Let us be clear—a banning order seriously restricts a person's liberty, in the sense that it can be associated with the surrender of a passport and can prevent a person from doing what that person wants to do. The banning order is made by a magistrates court on application by a senior police officer, not because the person has committed an offence or because the person is intending to commit an offence, but, rather, because there is some evidence that the person has been associated with acts of disorder in the past. There may not have been a criminal conviction; it could have been many years ago; it may not be related to football; it may be trivial in kind.
However, if the person is associated with, or has caused or contributed to, acts of violence or disorder, the court has reasonable grounds to believe that the banning order may help to prevent disorder or violence in the future. It may not be necessary, but there may be reasonable grounds to suppose that the order may help to prevent disorder. All that will be done on the civil standard of proof, but this is a criminal penalty. It is being obtained on the civil standard of proof and in the absence of any crime having been committed.
It is late and I could wax passionately about the matter. However, I have spoken for five minutes and, at ten minutes past 12, that is enough. This is a bad Bill. Left to my own devices, I would vote against it. If we do not seek to make serious amendments in Committee and on Report, as I hope hon. Members will do, I will vote against the Bill. I hope that other members of my party, Liberal Democrats and those Labour Members who clearly have doubts will do likewise. We are doing something tonight of which I suspect that we will be ashamed.
It is probably too late at night for a long speech, so, like the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), I will limit myself to points that have not yet been made.
There is a great division in the House between those who believe that to deal with those who behave violently in association with football we should restrict ourselves to identifying their crimes and applying the penal code to them, and those who believe that disorderly conduct needs to be addressed. Speech after speech by Opposition Members—with the exception of the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), whose speech I greatly enjoyed—suggested that any move towards targeting disorderly conduct that stops short of criminal sanctions, as we effected with the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, is a reprehensible step down a slippery slope.
My specific worry about the Bill concerns proposed section 21A. Like most people, I am concerned about that provision, which is at the core of the Bill. I support the Government's general belief that simply identifying crimes is insufficient. I say that for the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks). There is a cultural dimension to the debate, in that large numbers of people behave in a way that is contemptuous of the forces of law and order and of people who seek to steward football matches, as well as others in authority. If we are to have order, there must be respect for authority.
Even if people are not committing crimes, if they are making it absolutely clear that they refuse to go along with reasonable instructions to behave themselves in the airport lounge, or wherever they are, and exhibit xenophobic or racist attitudes, which we have discussed a great deal this evening, visiting their presence on another state may not be a great idea.
We should not only tackle those people, as new section 21A says, on the grounds that they may have committed a crime or behaved in a disorderly, reprehensible or shameful way in the past, but try to identify whether their current behaviour is such that a reasonable person might judge that they are likely to be offensive to people abroad. That is the judgment that magistrates, police officers and others in a position of responsibility are being asked to make. There are clues in the way that people talk and in how they treat the custodians of the legal system which enable us to make such judgments.
I agree with the Home Secretary that banning orders, similar to those in the Crime and Disorder Act, are appropriate. Indeed, it is absolutely necessary to deal with the situation, but, in one important respect, the banning order is not like the orders under the Act.
Under the 1998 Act, when someone is liable to an order, he is informed of the possibility and his co-operation is sought, so that if he mends his ways the order will not be necessary. The order is the final stage of a series of actions designed to improve behaviour and to avoid the need for the order to be imposed. Under the Bill, there is no time or scope to seek the person's co-operation before he is brought before a magistrate.
The Bill should provide for the case where someone who has been behaving offensively is asked to behave properly, and does so. In new section 21A(2) there is little scope for the constable to make a judgment that a football fan will be amenable to the custodians of the law in the country to which he is travelling. The Bill should allow for that.
As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) said at the beginning of the debate, the constable should not be required to analyse whether the person before him had committed some offence in the past. The constable should observe the person's actual behaviour in the airport lounge, and make a decision on that basis—not on the suspicion that he is the kind of person who may be a bit too boisterous to behave himself if he goes to Brussels.
I hope that the Bill can be amended to take account of the issues that have been raised by Members of all parties during the debate. When the Bill comes back to us, I hope that it will be an effective prophylactic against hooligan behaviour and that it will overcome the civil liberty objections that have rightly been raised by many hon. Members.
Some of the earlier remarks by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter) made me extremely worried about civil liberties and lent credence to my concern that the Bill is a dangerous step on the road towards a police state.
We have had about five hours' debate, during which almost every speaker has expressed grave reservations about aspects of the Bill. Hon. Members then qualified their reservations by saying that they were sure that they would all be resolved by the Government on Monday during the Committee stage, on Report, if that takes place, and on Third Reading. However, we will probably not have as much time on Monday as we have today for Second Reading. Hon. Members who think that the Government will get the Bill sorted out to their satisfaction on Monday are being somewhat naive.
The justification for the Bill was encapsulated by the Home Secretary when he said that the National Criminal Intelligence Service considers that the game in France on 2 September this year is a high-risk game. He did not go on to say whether NCIS had told him that if the Bill were passed into law, the game would no longer be a high-risk game. I hope that the Minister who responds to the debate will tell us what the advice of NCIS is on that matter.
I do not like the Bill because it endorses the concept of guilt by association. It gives powers to deprive innocent people of their freedom, merely on the basis of suspicion. If we were worried about the Bill before the Home Secretary spoke, we should be even more worried about it now, after his revelations about what happened to the people who were arrested on the continent during Euro 2000.
Of the 965 people arrested, five were convicted. The other 960 were not charged, yet we know from what the Home Secretary told us that there is a list of those people. In many cases—perhaps the larger proportion—there were no grounds for arrest. Those people were innocent, but they are now on a blacklist. The Home Secretary said that he will not publish it, but he should tear it up and destroy all records relating to those wrongful arrests on the continent, erasing them from the record.
However, we know that such lists will be kept and used in evidence against these people. They will be deprived of their passports and will struggle to explain to magistrates that the deportation orders made from the continent following the European championships were ill founded and that there were no grounds for deportation. It is incredibly worrying that people were arrested on the continent in the absence of proper grounds for arrest and without warrants being issued. I submit that that represents a clear breach of the European convention on human rights, if that means anything to the Belgians. Those people will find that that evidence can be further used against them to deprive them of the right to travel abroad and to use their passports like ordinary British citizens who are free to do so.
I am worried about the Bill. I start from the proposition that it is better that 10 guilty men go free than that an innocent person should be convicted, and I am sorry that so many Labour Members do not do the same. The House should take that proposition seriously once again. The Bill frightens me.
I shall be brief because all the points that need to be made have been made in this good debate. I accept that something needs to be done, but I do not accept that anything needs to be done to tackle what many people have described as a problem that involves a minority of those who attend football matches. I am a Millwall supporter, for what that is worth. I have attended many games at Millwall and have seen the same culprits cause problems for the club. I have also seen those same culprits cause problems for other London teams at other grounds, but little intelligence-based action has been taken on that.
I am concerned about proposed new section 21A(2), which deals with the evidence base. An officer at a port may take a dislike to an individual who wants to attend a football match and decide that he should be detained for 24 hours and taken before a magistrate. I was a youth worker in south London, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), in the 1970s. I remember how the sus laws were abused and that a disproportionate number of young black youths were picked up. I also spent nearly 12 years in an industry in which the police have enormous powers, which are regularly abused, over those who work in it. Police officers are conscious of their power, and I know of several instances of their seeking out London taxi drivers to abuse it.
My point is that checks and balances must be in place, as a law-abiding individual could be prevented from travelling abroad on the say-so of a police officer, which is a serious matter. There should be recourse to a magistrate—perhaps an arrangement similar to that for obtaining a search warrant—and the police should have to show reasonable grounds for detaining a person and preventing him from travelling. That person should have to present himself to a magistrate the next day and the magistrate could decide whether there was a case to answer. Such a check and balance would allow a person to continue his journey if he could prove that he was not a threat.
No; I must be brief.
My point is that we could deal with this issue in other ways. Also, it would be easy for people to get around the legislation by going to Glasgow or Belfast. More thought should be given to the timing of matches. If people present themselves at police stations or magistrates courts at a certain time, they cannot be at the match. They will not be able to use their passports, which will prevent the get-out of travelling to Glasgow or elsewhere.
I share the concern about the Bill that has been expressed by Members on both sides of the House. I am worried about new section 21 generally, but paragraphs (2) and (3) in particular show how far we have gone. We no longer have answers, so we strike out. We strike out against certain basic principles with which we grew up, such as the principle that we are innocent until proven guilty.
The Bill does not even require a proof that we would understand in a court. It enables magistrates to take into account an offence that may take place in a jurisdiction of which we know almost nothing—a jurisdiction that may meet none of the standards of freedom, justice or intent that we consider important in dealing with crime.
Would we consider proper justice necessary in Zaire, or in parts of Turkey? I know that it is invidious to mention other nations, and I have no real understanding of their criminal and justice procedures; but, like many other Members, I have travelled, and know that corruption is not absent in all countries. It is possible for people in those countries to say to British subjects, "I will identify you as a hooligan unless you give me a bribe." That may be a trivial argument in itself, but it presents various questions.
I should like to know from the Home Secretary how many people, on any given day in the early summer, pass through British ports. I think of London; I think of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted; I think of the south-coast ports; I think of the channel; I think of Newcastle; I think of my local airport, Birmingham, and of Manchester. Tens of thousands of people probably pass through, and we are proposing that a police constable should stand there, trying to exercise his power if it appears to him that someone's behaviour demands that.
In life, we sometimes get things wrong. There is nothing more grievous than being wrongly identified by authority. Under this objectionable proposed new section 21, I may be detained for as long as it takes a police constable to satisfy himself that an order may be issued. That is wrong. I have been placed in an intolerable position. As a free citizen with no convictions, innocent of intent, I have been detained while trying to leave the country.
I do not know whether it is possible to sift through tens of thousands of people passing through a port reasonably, quickly and effectively. However, I can tell the Government that, almost within weeks of the Bill's implementation, some young man taking an elderly couple whom he is meeting in Calais to Lourdes in search of a miracle cure will be detained for 24 hours, and someone will die. Then the very newspapers that have driven the Home Secretary to this action will comment on the brutality of the police in denying the wishes of that poor, sainted, benighted youth.
Sometimes, when examining the details of legislation, we question it and discover its defects. I have been in the House for a long time. I remember hearing a Conservative Home Secretary say—this was mentioned in the House of Lords—that all stages of a Bill must go through in one day because dangerous dogs were going to eat us. Hon. Members on both sides of the House said, "Hallelujah", although a few voted against it. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) nods—but the legislation went through. Members of my party sit in courts and have had to make decisions on the execution of dogs and settle arguments about species and sub-species. One of them said that although he had sentenced two dogs to death, he did not think that the sentence was ever carried out.
Errors always creep in, because no one is perfect. I am concerned that the Bill places a burden on the police and will exacerbate their relationship with a generation of young people, as well as older people.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) made the perfectly good point that, according to the Home Secretary's own figures, 30 per cent. of young men—it is always men—have had a conviction by the age of 30. I think that the same applies to those under 40. Any trawl through a group of people passing through one of our many ports is likely to secure someone who has had a conviction. The conviction may be spent, he may be a good person, and the circumstances of many years ago may not be known. My right hon. and learned Friend asked a reasonable question. Are spent convictions taken into account? Registers are kept of people who do not have a conviction but have given the police cause for concern.
We have lived through the troubles in Ulster, and know of the grievous injuries that have been inflicted on innocent people. In hitting out or trying to prevent certain behaviour, we put in the hands of authority powers that cause contention between the citizen and the authorities of the state. That is an intolerable burden to place on the police.
If, in the court's judgment, a person were guilty of committing an offence, and part of the punishment was the withdrawal of a passport, I would have no difficulty with that. I can understand if a crime has been committed, a sentence passed and the nature of the sentence includes the confiscation of a passport, but that is not what the Bill is about. It relies merely on the suspicion of a constable who does not even have to have reasonable grounds. Does the House of Commons really want to pass such a Bill into law? I think not.
I disagree with the Bill totally, entirely and in every aspect. I associate myself with the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) and the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope). I do not agree with the way in which the Bill has been treated and the spurious urgency with which it has been brought to the House.
What has the House of Commons come to when, apparently in all seriousness, we are asked to make fundamental changes to our law because of a football match of all things? That must be the ultimate in absurdity, but that is what we are being asked to put our names to. We risk totally inadequate scrutiny. That would be bad enough at the best of times—we have seen many examples of it recently—but inadequate scrutiny of this Bill covering these subjects and threatening these liberties is triply intolerable. It must not be allowed, and the House must resist it.
This is a bad Bill for a number of reasons. It challenges or undermines the presumption of innocence, which I always thought was a fundamental of our judicial process. It has retrospective elements, which I do not think have been mentioned up to now. New section 14B(2) has an unacceptable element of retrospection. It is loose, sloppy and dangerous. Retrospection has increasingly crept into our law, and that should be resisted on every occasion.
The Bill threatens the liberties of the many to deal with the few, which is the reverse of the point that my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) made. He put it in a different context, but I see it very much in that way. Yes, there may well be a problem with a small number of people and we should find proper ways to deal with them within our domestic law, but no, we should not threaten the liberties of many people, as so many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have described—for example the tens of thousands that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) mentioned—to catch the few who act in ways of which we all disapprove.
Finally, I do not accept that we should take responsibility in this country for misdemeanours committed in other jurisdictions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden argued that so eloquently. It is beyond me why we should take it on ourselves to treat within our judicial system misdemeanours committed in other countries. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) want to intervene?
I make no distinction. I am stating what to me is a general principle: if our citizens travel abroad, the countries to which they go and in which they commit alleged misdemeanours should deal with their crimes. I do not accept the principle that we are importing into our judicial system that we deal with alleged crimes committed abroad. I say that for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that we can never have the quality of evidence that we would expect as a standard in our judicial system.
At every level, the Bill is wrong, defective, undesirable and unacceptable—in its content, in the principles that it would apply, in the way in which it is being treated and the method in which it has been brought to the House. Therefore, I hope that we have an opportunity to vote against it, so that those of us who have those feelings can express them properly in the Lobby. That is my hope and intention.
If the authorities wish to deny people their passport, they should go to a magistrates court to do so. If they are allowed to wait for 24 hours, it would give the police the opportunity to arrest or stop people on the flimsiest of evidence, knowing that they will have 24 hours to collect evidence. If there were an immediate hearing, the police would know that when they stopped the person, at the port or wherever, they would immediately have to justify their actions to a court.
An immediate court hearing would not absolve the Bill of all guilt, but it would improve matters no end. However, that provision is not yet in the Bill, so I cannot support it.
This has been a fairly lengthy debate, in which a number of important subjects have been covered. I shall briefly discuss the many thoughtful contributions that have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I hope that when the Minister replies for the Government, he will also do hon. Members the courtesy of dealing with these serious issues seriously. I see that the Minister is nodding.
The Home Secretary began by talking about those who show a demonstrable propensity to commit acts of violence. The important words in that phrase are "demonstrable propensity". So many hon. Members on both sides of the House have talked of the need for clear evidence that can be put before a court—such a provision is lacking in the Bill.
The first intervention on the Home Secretary was from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—a very senior Labour Back Bencher—expressing her concerns. From the first intervention by a Labour Member to the last speech—a thoughtful speech by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter)—concerns were being expressed. A number of hon. Members were saying that they were not happy with the Bill in its present form, yet the Home Secretary was suggesting, in his rah-rah fanfare—trying to whip up feeling on the Labour Benches—that there was something inappropriate in the official Opposition wanting to subject the Government's proposals to detailed scrutiny.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) made it clear not only today but an earlier stage that it was essential for the Opposition and all parts of the House to give the Bill detailed scrutiny. The Home Secretary, whom I am delighted to see returning to the Chamber, paid tribute to the work of the Library in its research paper and suggested that all hon. Members should read it. What does that research paper do? It draws attention to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald, who, on 4 July at columns 172–73, emphasising the need for the Bill to receive due scrutiny as it would contain some sensitive and significant measures with serious implications for civil liberties. That was before we saw the draft Bill, the revised draft Bill or the final Bill, so there is nothing inconsistent in our saying—we have done so throughout—that we felt that it should receive proper scrutiny.
We greatly welcome the Home Secretary's repetition of his statement that he remains open to suggestions for further amendments, including from Her Majesty's Opposition. In answer to an intervention by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), he said that he believed that the Bill as it stands is not in breach of the European convention on human rights, but, as many Members, including in particular my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), have pointed out, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey is right and the Home Secretary is wrong. Article 5.1(b) of the European convention is clearly breached by the Bill as it stands in relation to the power to detain on the suspicion of a constable, so that inquiries can be made.
In response to an intervention from the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), the Home Secretary then had a distinct change of tone. That may have been brought about by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston talking about people being taken before the courts in Belgium before they were flown home, but the hon. Gentleman, who takes a big interest in sporting matters and for whom I have great respect, was unfortunately mistaken. When he said that, he forgot that no one was actually taken before a court in Belgium before they were flown home.
May I be absolutely clear? The point that I made was in respect of those people whom we saw on television. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the people whom we saw slinging chairs around in Charleroi should be in that country with our support?
I do not. Nor does anyone who has spoken in the debate, but I noticed, as I have said, a distinct change of tone when the Home Secretary said in response to the hon. Gentleman's intervention that the Government were thinking hard about the matter—new section 14C(3)(b)—because there is a need for those people to he brought before a court before they are subject to the kind of powers that the Government are putting forward.
We feel that one of the Bill's grave defects as it stands is that it talks about people being detained on mere suspicion. Not a single leader writer in any national paper that has commented on the Home Secretary's proposals as they stand has supported them. They have all drawn attention to that problem.
The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), in his apologia for the failure of this country's bid to host the 2006 World cup, said that all the blame was to do with the hooliganism in Charleroi and in Brussels. He said that he was not going to turn into Sir Tufton Bufton, but he rightly drew attention to the activities of people such as the Chelsea Headhunters and talked about how unpleasant and threatening those people are. He has had personal experience of such violence at football matches. So have I and so have many Members, but he knows that it has been recorded that many of those extreme violent fans—one could not say that they were fans; they use a football match as an excuse for violence—are capable of dressing up in a suit to fool the police, and of going to Scotland, Belfast or Dublin to fly out. There are gaps in the legislation as it stands, so I think that the hon. Gentleman was supporting the concerns of Members on the Conservatives Benches and in many parts of the House that there is a need for the Bill to be improved.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who has the great experience of being a former Cabinet Minister and a former shadow Home Secretary, talked about the civil liberties of shop keepers and other law-abiding citizens. He pointed out that the law was not working. He said that he was not abandoning the Home Secretary's ship, but that we needed to have a sign that the ship was being steered in the right direction. We undoubtedly do need that. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) said—I quote him precisely—"We need to see the evidence of hooligans committing offences," in response to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope).
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth also quoted Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", which is an unusual work to be quoted in a debate on football hooligans. As he quite rightly said, however, it is difficult to frame laws to get people to desist from acting in a particular way. Precisely so; it is difficult, which is why the Bill needs scrutiny and to be improved.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) made a thoughtful speech, as he so often does. He raised the issue of whether it really is appropriate to legislate only for football. He suggested that the Government might seek to legislate for ice hockey in one year, but for rugby league in another. Like me and all other hon. Members who take a big interest in sporting matters, the hon. Gentleman is aware that, not long ago, in the previous rugby league season—most unusually, because rugby league has not been much associated with violence—there was quite serious violence at a rugby league match. We should therefore bear in mind his comments.
I do not have much time to speak. However, I think that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and my right. hon. and hon. Friends were quite right to say that, although parts of the Bill are absolutely unexceptionable and we could all happily agree on them, other parts of the Bill cause major problems.
The hon. Member for Watford (Ms Ward) suggested that football is a different case from all other sports. Although she welcomed the Bill, she expressed very serious concerns.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) set out his five tests for the bad law that is passed when there were demands that "something must be done". The Home Secretary's response seems to be that this is such a case, and that, therefore, the Government must do something. That is simply not good enough.
The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) talked about going to Charleroi with his family. He also talked about the oldest person who is subject to a banning order, a 61-year-old who is almost 62. He also talked about football supporters' record of 2.5 million successful and peaceful visits to football matches being spoiled by a tiny minority of disorderly and violent fans.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell), the former Attorney-General, quite rightly deplored the rush with which the Bill has been introduced and the lack of concern being shown for serious human rights issues.
The hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) suggested that he somehow had the right, despite being elected to the House only at the previous general election, to lecture my right. hon. Friends who have been in the House for very many years on what parliamentary Second Reading scrutiny is supposed to be about. I suggest that, when he re-reads that part of his speech, he may wish to reconsider it.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), from his great expertise in introducing legislation, pointed out that more mature consideration could have been given to including in previous legislation the type of measures that we are debating.
The hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) talked about the need to get the law right, because otherwise it is brought into disrepute.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) and the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) all drew attention to many human rights and civil liberties problems.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), my hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) and the hon. Members for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter) and for Eltham (Mr. Efford) all drew attention to other problems with the Bill.
We hope that the Bill will be brought into a proper form. It is called the Football (Disorder) Bill, but it is the Bill itself that is disorderly. Parts of it are very good. Nevertheless, the Home Secretary has said that he will listen to ideas to improve it. We hope very much that he will stick to that.
In the House's consideration of an earlier piece of legislation, a member of the then shadow Cabinet talked about the way in which an Opposition can respond to a football Bill. He said:
unreservedly offer the support of the…party for any Bill which is genuinely and effectively concerned with football safety and the enhancement of a great national game. These are not and should not be matters of party political dispute. But this Bill—
the Bill that he was talking about—
does not meet those requirements. As drafted it can never do so. That is why we are opposing it tonight.—[Official Report, 27 June 1989; Vol. 155, c. 862.]
Who was that right hon. Gentleman? It was the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), speaking about the Football Spectators Act 1989. We are not opposing this Bill. That is the contrast and the answer to so many of the Home Secretary's attacks on my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald.
I begin by commending all 20 Back-Bench speeches, and the Front-Bench speeches in an excellent and illuminating debate in which many points of view were put clearly and coherently. It is a tribute to the House.
I want to focus on the common ground that has been expressed during the debate. First, there is strong common ground that Parliament needs to address the problem of international football hooliganism. With the possible exceptions of the right hon. Members for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) who expressed some doubts about that principle, there was a general acceptance that it was a matter for the country and the House to address.
We debated many of the profound issues during the Opposition day debate on 20 June. I do not intend to return to those points save to say that there was consensus that we are dealing with an urgent national issue and we need more research and understanding in order to address it fully.
Secondly, there was common ground that we need stronger legislative powers to deal with these matters in a variety of ways. The hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) said that there had been eight previous pieces of legislation on the matter, from the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985 to the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999, in which Governments of both parties sought to strengthen the law to deal with the problem in the most effective way.
Let me respond to those who asked, "Does it work?". The answer is that it has worked in some respects. We cannot claim that the Bill will solve all the ills that have been described in the debate, but it will make a contribution towards doing so and, on that basis, we should support it. All parties have committed themselves to the need for stronger legislative powers, and previous legislation has reflected that.
The third area of common ground is that we need stronger international co-operation and intelligence work involving police forces in different countries and that we need to find better ways of working together. That is a positive aim.
It is also fair to say—and the point could be made in a partisan way—that there is general agreement that better legislation is produced when there is consensus and when there is sufficient time to consider the issues fully as a proper debate can result in more effective provisions. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) made that point powerfully, as did some of my hon. Friends. I acknowledge what they said.
There was also a clear consensus that people are ready to work together to address the issues in an effective way. In her opening speech, the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) attempted to find consensus and common ground, and I commend her for that.
There has also been common ground on the substance of the Bill. Almost all hon. Members who spoke agreed that the first two provisions of the Bill—a new banning order combining aspects of domestic and international football banning orders and a requirement that all banning orders to include a condition on the surrender of passports unless there are exceptional reasons not to do so—would improve the legislation.
On the third main point of the Bill, enabling magistrates courts to impose banning orders on suspected football hooligans, again there was common ground that legislation might be appropriate although a number of specific points were made. They will correct me if I am wrong, but I thought from what the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said that they were both willing to discuss how to improve the legislation in relation to specific points that were made. I accept that it may not be possible to do that, but I take it from the sincerity of the spokesmen of both main Opposition parties that we could take a direct approach to the issue.
I doubt whether that will be possible completely, but it will be possible to deal with the problem in other ways. I may be wrong, but I thought that Front-Bench Members of the Opposition parties would, like Labour Members, commit themselves to discussing the best way to achieve that. The right hon. Gentleman makes a real point, but I think that we can make progress on the matter.
There was much common ground between hon. Members in the debate. However, the Bill's fourth proposal—that there be summary powers enabling a constable to issue a notice preventing British citizens from leaving the country and requiring them to surrender their passports—aroused dispute. The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) spoke of the European convention on human rights, as did other hon. Members.
After due consideration, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has placed his certificate on the Bill to assert that the Bill complies with the ECHR. The key issue, which emerged during what was a full and fair debate, comes down to a difference of opinion. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey spoke about proportionality, and said that the removal of a person's right to attend the venue of a match—although he or she may still watch the game on television—amounts to a low-level penalty and deserves consideration. My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) made the same point very clearly.
The other side of the argument was expressed mainly by Conservative Members, but a couple of Labour Members shared their view. It is that the potential threat to liberty implied by the provision was so serious and profound that it could not be justified, even though the penalty was relatively small in the greater scale of things.
That debate is a legitimate and important one for the House. All hon. Members will form an opinion on the balance of judgments about that question, and our constituents will do the same. They will look at the proportionality, or otherwise, of the proposal, and they will come to a view. They will see how the House votes, and they will reach a verdict accordingly.
That is right, and fair enough. However, it is important to look at the position of the political parties. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey appeared to say that the Liberal Democrats could not support any proposal to introduce such summary powers in any circumstances. He judged proportionality to be so important that no such proposal could be accepted. He made it clear that there was no scope for discussion, as he would urge his colleagues in the House of Lords to vote against the Bill on those grounds.
The Government come down clearly on the other side of the argument. We believe that it is important to be able to drive out international soccer hooliganism, and we are prepared to take the powers to achieve that, even though they involve a violation of rights in the way that has been described in various ways. Some Labour Members expressed doubt about that, and they are perfectly entitled to do so.
The Minister just admitted that the Bill involves a violation of rights, but he has not dealt with the argument, advanced by me and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), that the Bill sets a dangerous precedent. The Government have been provoked into introducing the Bill by a television programme showing a minority of British football fans behaving in a deplorable fashion overseas. However, the BBC is to screen a programme showing that a large minority of people go to Ibiza to take illegal drugs, under the influence of which they behave in a disgraceful fashion. What is to stop—
The right hon. Gentleman makes the familiar argument about setting a dangerous precedent. It is a perfectly legitimate argument. I do not agree with it. Almost any action creates a precedent. I do not think that in principle we can say that we do not do it because it is a precedent. One looks at the merits of the case, on this and other issues. The right hon. Gentleman made his position very clear.
Will my hon. Friend reflect on what he has just said? If we are to put into legislation, in this Bill, the power of a police officer on his or her own suspicion to remove somebody's right to travel, what is to stop any other legislation giving exactly the same powers to the police, rather than the courts, to act on?
The short answer is "the Parliament"; Parliament decides how it will deal with each piece of legislation as it comes along. Proportionality is an important concept, which needs to be given more attention. The point about it is that one must look at the penalties in relation to the offences committed.
My final point is that I believe that the Conservative party came to the view that it would abstain because there was an irreconcilable difference in approach, which we have seen in this debate. I pay genuine tribute to the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald. I believe that she is concerned to try to reach agreement to deal with the issue in the way that we are discussing. She addressed the fourth principle, and showed that she is prepared to discuss it. I thought, though I may have misunderstood him, that her right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield was saying that issues in this area should be discussed as well, and he was certainly prepared to contemplate—I go no further—legislation that included the fourth principle, provided he could be satisfied on the points that were made. The hon. Member for West Chelmsford, to whom I pay tribute for his private Member's Bill, was also very clear and direct in this regard.
On the other hand, many right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches made it clear that they were with the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. Essentially, there were no circumstances in which they would be prepared even to discuss the section 4 issue. I believe that that is the problem that the right hon. Lady has been dealing with. She has been overruled by her right hon. Friend the leader of her party, who has gone back on the commitments made, and that party is all over the shop.
Now the electorate will come to its judgment. It will judge whether the Government were right to proceed despite the civil liberties issues. It will judge whether the Liberals are right to oppose the provisions because of those issues, despite the problem that our power to deal with international soccer hooliganism would be weakened. And it will judge the Conservatives in exactly the same way. That is as it should be.
My advice to the right hon. Lady—I assure her that it is friendly advice—is that she had better get a system sorted out that can unite her party and present her position to the public, because, with all respect to her, that was not achieved tonight. The fact is that the abstention is a reflection of the deep division within the Conservatives. It is also a reflection of the fact that there is dissension, even to the level of the leadership of her party, about how to proceed. My advice is to sort it out.
I believe, and the Government believe, that our responsibility is to do everything we can, following the eight measures put forward in the past, to eradicate soccer hooliganism. It damages our country; it destroys and blackens our reputation; and we must do whatever we can to eradicate it. That is the spirit in which the Bill is put forward and the spirit in which I hope the House will give it a Second Reading now.
|Division No. 268]||[1.3 am|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Cranston, Ross|
|Ainger, Nick||Crausby, David|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Allen, Graham||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Darvill, Keith|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary||Davidson, Ian|
|Ashton, Joe||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Dobbin, Jim|
|Austin, John||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Banks, Tony||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Barron, Kevin||Doran, Frank|
|Battle, John||Drew, David|
|Bayley, Hugh||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Beard, Nigel||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Benton, Joe||Efford, Clive|
|Berry, Roger||Fisher, Mark|
|Betts, Clive||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Follett, Barbara|
|Boateng, Rt Hon Paul||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Borrow, David||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Fyfe, Maria|
|Browne, Desmond||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Goggins, Paul|
|Burden, Richard||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Burns, Simon||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Grogan, John|
|Byers, Rt Hon Stephen||Hain, Peter|
|Casale, Roger||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Caton, Martin||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Cawsey, Ian||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Healey, John|
|Chaytor, David||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hill, Keith|
|Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Hope, Phil|
|Clelland, David||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Coaker, Vernon||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)|
|Cohen, Harry||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Colman, Tony||Hurst, Alan|
|Connarty, Michael||Hutton, John|
|Cousins, Jim||Jenkins, Brian|
|Cox, Tom||Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)||Pickthall, Colin|
|Pike, Peter L|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Plaskitt, James|
|Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa||Pollard, Kerry|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Pond, Chris|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Pope, Greg|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Pound, Stephen|
|Kemp, Fraser||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Khabra, Piara S||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Rammell, Bill|
|Lawrence, Mrs Jackie||Rapson, Syd|
|Laxton, Bob||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Lepper, David||Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff|
|Leslie, Christopher||Roy, Frank|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Linton, Martin||Sawford, Phil|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Lock, David||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Love, Andrew||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|McCabe, Steve||Snape, Peter|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Soley, Clive|
|Macdonald, Calum||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|McFall, John||Spellar, John|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|McNulty, Tony||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|McWalter, Tony||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Mallaber, Judy||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Timms, Stephen|
|Martlew, Eric||Tipping, Paddy|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Todd, Mark|
|Merron, Gillian||Trickett, Jon|
|Michael, Rt Hon Alun||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Miller, Andrew||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Moffatt, Laura||Tynan, Bill|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Vaz, Keith|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Morley, Elliot||Watts, David|
|Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||White, Brian|
|Mullin, Chris||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Wilson, Brian|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Winnick, David|
|Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Woodward, Shaun|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Woolas, Phil|
|O'Hara, Eddie||Worthington, Tony|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Mr. Don Touhig and|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Mr. Jim Dowd.|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Shepherd, Richard|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas||Mr. Eric Forth and|
|Leigh, Edward||Mr. Christopher Chope.|