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Clause 1 — Repeal of Provisions of Football (Disorder) Act 2000

Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 14th November 2001.

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Votes in this debate

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 7:15 pm, 14th November 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 4, leave out "subsections (2)" and insert—

'(a) subsection (2) is substituted by the following—

"(2) But—

(a) no application under section 14B of the Football Spectators Act 1989 (banning orders made on a complaint) may be made, and

(b) no power conferred on a constable by section 21A or 21B of that Act (summary measures) may be exercised, after the end of the period of four years beginning with the day on which section 1 of the Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Act 2001 enters into force", and

(b) subsections (3)'.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 4, leave out—

'subsections (2) to (5) are' and insert "subsection (2)(a) is".

No. 3, in page 1, line 5, leave out subsection (2).

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

We are considering a very short Bill and we return to a subject that was aired and that was of considerable concern in Committee. Because the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs has alas not felt able to respond to those concerns by tabling Government amendments, it is necessary to ask the House to reconsider the position.

I do not wish to take up too much of the House's time or rehearse too much of the background. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, might rule me out of order if I did. However, it is necessary to say a few words about the thrust of the Bill. Parliament enacted legislation that was designed to try to halt football hooliganism, and that legislation has commanded much cross-party support. Conservative Members certainly support it.

That legislation has introduced what can only amount to infringements of what would normally be described as ordinary civil liberties, particularly in respect of the procedures under sections 14 and 21 of the Football Spectators Act 1989. Under them, either a procedure by complaint may lead to a banning order or—and more draconian still—under section 21, it is possible for police officers to stop people at ports or points of exit and detain them until the police decide whether they wish to bring them before the magistrates within 24 hours so that a banning order can be made. That is an unusual infringement of liberties, because there is no criminal element to the jurisdiction; it can be based simply on the nature of previous evidence relating to the conduct of that person.

In simple terms, the Bill will get rid of the necessity to renew the unusual powers conferred on the enforcing authority. The thrust of amendment No. 1, which enjoys the support of the Official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats, is to signal to the Government that, although we understand their motives, we think the provision should be subject to a sunset clause.

In Committee there was considerable debate about sunset clauses. The official Opposition, for whom I was the spokesman, suggested that a five-year sunset clause might be suitable. Simon Hughes thought that five years might be sufficient, but an amendment tabled by his party proposed annual renewals in the meantime. We therefore suggest in amendment No. 1 that at the end of a four-year period, the powers under the Bill fall to be renewed in relation to sections 14B and 21A or 21B of the Football Spectators Act 1989.

It is worth examining in detail the powers conferred on the enforcing authority. In Committee, the Minister helpfully provided some indications of the way in which the legislation was working. He made it clear, and we accept, that in respect of the England v. Germany match in Munich, the powers that Parliament had conferred on the enforcing authority had been successful. The match was a success, and it is generally accepted that the level of violence surrounding it was tiny compared with some of the problems that existed in the past. There was little evidence that English fans or supporters were the major culprits.

That is a favourable omen for the working of the legislation, but against that we must consider the statistical evidence which emerged in Committee about how it is working in relation to the powers under section 21. According to the last information that I had, 98 people had been detained. The Minister said in Committee that if he had any further information of any substance, he would provide it, but none has been put in the Library or communicated to us, although I believe that one of the statistics may have changed briefly.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

Last night and today, in preparation for the debate, we have finalised some further figures, which it would be useful to put on the record. The major development since the Committee stage is that, arising from the Munich matches, where section 21 was used, 22 cases had been to court and been adjourned. I can tell the House that of those 22 cases from Munich, 11 have been resolved. In five cases the banning order was confirmed or imposed, and in six it was refused.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for his intervention, which allows us to take a brief overview. Under the section 21 procedure, I remind the House, a person is stopped summarily at the port of exit—airport or harbour—the police officer inquires into the circumstances and decides within six hours whether to allow the person to proceed or whether to bring him within 24 hours before a court. The court must determine whether the order banning that person should be imposed or not.

According to the figures available to me and discussed in Committee, 98 people have been detained under that procedure. Against 55, there had been previous complaints leading to banning, but on the basis of what the Minister has just told us, we should add five or six to that figure. At the time that we were in Committee, 23 cases had been adjourned by the court, and 18 had been refused. If I understand the Minister's figures, another five or six cases should be added to that figure. Thirteen refusals had taken place at initial hearings and five after adjournments, but that figure of five would now have risen to 10 or 11—I am not sure precisely which.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

Has my hon. Friend noticed that the figures 55, 23 and 18, which he mentioned, add up to 96, rather than the 98 cases in total? I wonder what happened to the other two.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I had indeed noticed. I reproduced the figures that we were given in Committee. Part of the problem seems to be some muddle about cases arising from the England v. Germany match and cases that may relate to other instances. The Minister may be able to help us, but I can only go on the figures given to us in Committee.

My right hon. Friend rightly highlights one of the problems that we encountered in Committee and on Second Reading—the paucity of information about how the legislation works in practice. The Minister says that the provisions are good; that they have served their purpose; that we have the wonderful example of the England v. Germany match; and that we should make them permanent, whereas previously Parliament was not prepared to do that, because of the infringements of civil liberties that the legislation entailed.

It is extraordinary that the information has come out in dribs and drabs. My right hon. Friend highlighted a minor inconsistency in the total figures, but the Minister may be able to clear that up. It remains extremely difficult to form a view about how the legislation is working. All that one can say—it may be unfair to the Minister and what he is trying to achieve, but one must face up to it—is that a substantial number of people who have been put through the section 21 procedure have ended up without banning orders. If that is the case, the House should rightly be worried about it.

In Committee, we spoke about the infringement of the liberty of the citizen or the subject—I do not mind which word we use, for the purposes of this evening's discussion. It has often been said in the House that we prided ourselves on being subjects precisely because we had so much freedom in relation to those who claimed to be citizens. Now that we call ourselves citizens, it seems that our liberties are constantly being eroded.

People are being put through a process not previously known to the criminal law. It may be administratively convenient, but it can create injustice. We are anxious to ensure that we are not about to enshrine in law and permanently a measure that we may come to regret. Because the people who will be subject to it may not necessarily be the No. 1 pin-ups of liberal society—football hooligans as a group are not people who commend themselves particularly to right-thinking people—we might bury the argument as a matter of administrative convenience, whereas we should be willing to review it.

That is the basis of amendment No. 1. It is difficult to see that it would interfere with the working of the Bill. The relevant sections would simply come up for review in four years. Considering the amount of time that we have taken over the Bill—an evening for Second Reading, an hour and a half or slightly more in Committee, and the time that we will take this evening—I do not believe that the progress of legislation four years from now will be massively handicapped if the Government are forced to revisit issues that have previously been considered.

As the Minister fairly acknowledged in Committee, there are plenty of issues relating to the legislation which legitimately cause disquiet. A balance must be struck—we are fond of that word in this place—and we are not striking a balance if, on slender evidence of the working of the legislation, we enshrine it once and for all.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman and I share many concerns about process and substance in the legislation, but I intervene simply to put one point on record. It concerns further evidence in relation to previous convictions among people in the following two categories: those against whom banning orders have eventually been imposed, and those who have been held but against whom no order has eventually been made. Has the hon. Gentleman's research since we last debated this matter revealed whether either category has ever included people who have never been the subject of any previous conviction? If that is the case, there is a greater apparent infringement of liberty, because such people will have been subject to restriction on the basis of no previous evidence.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 7:30 pm, 14th November 2001

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. I remember well that he made it in Committee, where he asked the Minister for clarification of the extent to which the legislation was catching people who had not previously been prosecuted for an offence of violence linked to a football match. If those whom the legislation is catching had been caught previously, it would not be necessary, so it would be interesting to find out the category of person whom it is latching on to. Of course, I accept that somebody might have had a conviction a long time ago but not be an active hooligan. In that regard, I correct myself, as I have to accept that that is also the case. None the less, we have never been given the information.

That returns me to the basis of our anxiety: lack of information. The problem is not lack of understanding about what the Government are getting at or lack of sympathy with their aims. It is certainly not a desire to see football hooliganism return to rear its ugly head, as happened only very recently. We want the ability properly to scrutinise and to make an informed decision. Indeed, the renewal was introduced precisely to enable Parliament to do that, yet, one year down the road, we are being asked to renew the legislation earlier than was originally required, even though we need not have done it until next summer.

That is why amendment No. 1 not only meets the Government's desire to introduce a greater note of permanency but provides a way in which the legislation can automatically come up for review. Many international football matches, including the World cup, will have occurred by the proposed time. All sorts of things will have happened that will enable Parliament to make a decision that is much better informed than what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to the success of the legislation in a single instance. We are being asked to take a decision without knowing anything much about the downside.

The issue is very simple and I do not think that I would be treating the House properly by turning what should be a short speech into a lengthy one. However, before I finish, I want also to consider the other two amendments in the group, which provide an alternative approach. We touched on it in Committee, but it is worth repeating. For reasons that I have mentioned, the alternative is this: we could decide to give permanency to section 14 of the Football Spectators Act 1989, but to leave the situation in relation to section 21 under the present system.

I should like to amplify that point very briefly. I have explained the Opposition's considerable anxieties about the way in which section 21 is working. In contrast, we have far fewer anxieties about the way in which section 14 is working. Section 14 is, after all, a complaints procedure. Civil complaints procedures in the magistrates courts are a form of activity that has historically had a long track record. One of the ways in which one used to bring paternity cases was to go to the magistrates court and make a complaint. So it is not as if magistrates courts are not familiar with this form of injunctive proceedings. However, we are talking about such proceedings occurring in a framework where there is no emergency and where there may be ample opportunity to consider the issues carefully.

I say to the Minister that that is the way in which Parliament expected the legislation primarily to work. The section 21 procedure was expected to be an emergency procedure in the immediate run-up to a football match abroad. I think that I am right in saying—we considered the issue in Committee, and the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that, in reality, far more complaints appear to have been made through the section 21 procedure in relation to a banning order than through the section 14 procedure. In itself, that must reinforce anxiety in the House about making the section 21 procedure permanent.

That is why amendments Nos. 2 and 3 together provide an alternative to amendment No. 1. They allow for the possibility, if the Minister and the Government prefer it, of making section 14 permanent—about which, on the face of it, we would have very little anxiety. At the same time, they would allow the section 21 procedure, which is new and has been applied fully only on this one occasion, to continue under the present system while there is a lack of statistical evidence and detail about its effect on individuals.

Those are the choices. For obvious reasons, I principally commend amendment No. 1, but I wait to hear the Minister's view. In Committee, he was conciliatory. He appeared carefully to take on board the points that had been made. I do not see the issue as party political, as all parties are united in their desire to ensure that football hooliganism is controlled, so I had rather hoped that by the time we reached Report, somebody in the Home Office might have sat down and concluded that a sunset clause was a reasonable way of proceeding. We could then all leave here very happy, but I fear that that is not going to happen unless the Minister has suddenly experienced his Damascene conversion. If he has done so, I will be delighted. I dare say that, if that were the case, we could all go away very quickly and bring this Report stage to a conclusion.

I wait to hear what the Minister has to say, but I must tell him that we are considering a fundamental issue. Civil liberties and the rights of individuals must not be eroded for the convenience of the state or even the majority unless there is good and sufficient reason. Such reason is based on evidence. At the moment, the evidence is lacking, and the common-sense approach is to ensure that the issue can be revisited.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am very pleased to speak to the amendment, which, as the House will have noticed, was tabled jointly by Conservative Front-Bench Members and Liberal Democrats. We tabled it because we have a common view on the key issue, which was raised by Mr. Grieve and has been the dominant theme—as it was bound to be—of our consideration of this very short Bill.

I guess that this discussion is a trailer to the debate that we are about to launch into next Monday. Although the Bill appears to be rather limited and circumscribed, and is apparently not of great national importance, it none the less touches on the same issues that the anti-terrorism Bill will, on a much larger canvass, bring before the House from next Monday onwards for a few weeks. This is the foothill, as it were, to the mountain of important legislation that will come before us within a week from now. The legislation is linked by this common theme: the question of when it is right to restrict the liberties of British citizens and others in terms of doing what we would usually expect to be able to do. In this case, we are considering travel around this continent, within at least the area of the European Union in which there is a common travel entitlement.

An article in the New Law Journal by Ian Blackshaw reviewed the debates on football disorder legislation, especially recent court cases. The first paragraph of his conclusions mentions the Gough case, which, as the Minister knows, was decided only a few months ago. It states that the case

"illustrates the fine balance to be struck between the need for the Government to effectively prevent football related violence occurring when the English national team plays overseas and the demands upon the State to act in accordance with human rights legislation as well as the freedom of movement requirements imposed by UK membership of the European Union."

We are all trying to deal with getting the balance right.

Let us consider the key arguments. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield, other hon. Members and I argued in Committee that we should do only what is necessary, and that precautionary legislation, which takes away liberties, is probably bad and should exist only if it is justified by the evidence. We put the case that the evidence does not yet justify permanent legislation, and that it could not do that because we have not had sufficient time to collect, consider and assess it.

In Committee, a Labour colleague, who has a special interest in and knowledge of football because he is the chairman of a league club, argued that we should not have permanent legislation—I hope that I do not do him a disservice—because football disorder will not always be with us. We hope that we will not need to display in our shop window that England needs permanent special legislation to deal with football hooligans. Even those who argue that the measure is currently necessary hope that it will not be required in weeks, months or years from now.

There was a difference of opinion at the beginning of the debate on the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 about the duration of the sunset provision. It was fair of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield to point out that different proposals had been put before Parliament. We are trying to make the Government the most generous offer by proposing a long period and by picking up on a suggestion that the Minister's predecessor made, who hoped that the House of Commons would agree to a sunset provision of five years. We sought a better deal. The House of Lords included in the 2000 Act a maximum limit of two years. It also provided for a one-year renewal requirement. That is why we are debating the subject again this parliamentary year.

I want to make two further points about the need for more evidence. First, the Government have inexplicably introduced the Bill at almost the earliest opportunity in the parliamentary cycle instead of waiting until the end of the football season and the weeks before its expiry date next August. Even if they wanted to move urgently towards permanent legislation, their case would be better supported by waiting.

Secondly, I want to consider the argument that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield presented in detail. The figures are worryingly unsupported for three reasons. First, banning orders have not been imposed on a significant number of people whose movements were prevented. They were not allowed to attend a match abroad, but the prohibition was not found to be justified. Secondly, of all those who were stopped, many were permanently in the category that I have just described. Some were told, as soon as they went to court, that no banning order would be imposed.

Thirdly, I am not aware of any case of a banning order being imposed on anyone who has no relevant previous conviction. That was the subject of my intervention on the hon. Member for Beaconsfield. It has been suggested that there is one such case, and I am sure that the Minister will put the record straight. My colleagues and I believe that we should not include in permanent legislation a restriction on a British passport holder who has been convicted neither of a football-related offence nor of any violent or public disorder offence.

My noble Friend Earl Russell asked a parliamentary question in the House of Lords on 10 July of Home Office Minister, Lord Rooker. He asked:

"What types of evidence have been held to justify the making of orders under Sections 21A and 21B . . .

How many appeals there have been" and how many orders had been made and on what evidence. Lord Rooker replied:

"The Football Banning Orders Authority advises that in addition to the 44 banning orders on complaint cited in the Home Office report, two orders were imposed and subsequently overturned on appeal. Detailed information on the evidence laid before the courts in each case is not held centrally. However, the authority advises that all persons subject to complaint proceedings, including those prompted by section 21B notices, have convictions for violence or public order offences, not necessarily connected with football, committed within the time-scale specified in the Act."—[Hansard, House of Lords, 10 July 2001; Vol. 626, c. WA69.]

My colleagues and I cannot support amendments Nos. 2 and 3 because we have consistently argued that, without better evidence, we should not ban people with no previous relevant convictions but proceed gradually and incrementally. There is therefore a difference of opinion between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties about what is currently acceptable as a permanent position.

In considering appropriate duration for the measure, the hon. Member for Beaconsfield and I believe that there should be a decent period to collect evidence on which to make a judgment. We have not simply plucked the proposals—for five years in the amendments that we tabled in Committee and for four years in amendment No. 1—off the shelf without thinking them through. Our alternative covers a cycle of football matches that will produce every case that could be used as evidence for a reasonable conclusion. It would cover next year's World cup, a further cycle of domestic and international competition, and the European championships two years later. That competition prompted the measure. We hope that no one will argue that four years is not a reasonable period. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield implied, it does not require the House to do lots of work regularly, but it gives everyone a chance to ascertain whether the legislation has been effective.

We are not keen on the Bill; we believe that it goes too far. However, the inclusion of our qualifications would improve it. It is bad enough when emergency legislation stays on the statute book for years, let alone measures that are not justified by evidence.

My second point is that, since we last debated this issue in Committee, one of the Minister's colleagues in the Home Office ministerial team was asked what became a topical question in the context of the international alliance's action against the Taliban regime. The question was whether there is a power to stop a British citizen leaving the country, if it is their declared intention—in practice or in theory—to go to fight against British troops. The Minister suggested that that was something that could be considered, and referred to the fact that legislation already exists to stop British citizens going abroad.

I argued elsewhere—perfectly straightforwardly, I hope my colleagues will agree—that it sets a dangerous precedent to have a piece of legislation in one corner marked "Football disorder" and another somewhere else that could, in theory, be marked "Baseball disorder" or "Basketball disorder". It is much better to address the principle: do we, as a country, believe that we should have legislation banning people from travelling and, if so, in what circumstances?

If there is an issue to be addressed in the Home Office of whether people can be prevented from leaving the country on the basis of evidence that they might be going off to become mercenaries or to join in some military action, we ought to have a debate in the round and to debate these issues together. The restriction of liberty to travel is the bigger issue, even though it is being presented at the moment only in the context of football. That is another argument for coming back to this issue in due course.

The third issue is this—the hon. Member for Beaconsfield and I agree that these measures constitute a significant infringement of people's liberty. Mr. Lilley, the former deputy leader of the Conservative party, who has assiduously followed this debate, has also made strong speeches on the issue. No one has yet reminded the House of what, in practice, the length or the severity of the penalty might be. Under section 14B, it is possible for a ban to last between two and three years. Its upper limit is three years. Contravention of the conditions of a banning order can attract a penalty of six months imprisonment or a level 5 fine of £5,000.

In relation to banning orders generally, if they are imposed at the same time as a custodial sentence is imposed under the existing legislation, they have to be for at least six years and they can be as long as 10 years. If they are imposed off the back of any other conviction, the period must be at least three years and can be up to five years. Obviously, I do not know what is in the minds of all colleagues on both sides of the House, but we are not talking about a measure that stops someone travelling for two minutes, two days, two months or even two years. In many cases, we are talking about a long-term restriction of liberty.

The measure risks turning someone with no previous conviction of any sort into someone who is defined by law as a hooligan because they have been banned from travelling on the basis that suspicions about their previous behaviour—for which they have never been convicted—and suggestions about their future activities make it appropriate to say that a restriction of liberty should be imposed.

I am sorry that we cannot put to the House the opportunity of discussing the matter of previous convictions; I accept that that is not possible this evening. In the circumstances, I hope that there will be maximum agreement for the restriction of the life of the measures, as the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives jointly propose. I have a sense that if, down the corridor in the other House, the Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers vote together—even without the independent peers, although they are often supportive—we may be able to persuade the Government by our numbers in a few days' time, even if we have not persuaded them by our argument tonight.

It would be more gracious, and probably save a bit of time, if the Government accepted the amendment this evening. We have given them plenty of notice and plenty of opportunity, and our proposals are eminently reasonable. I hope that I am being fair to the House in saying that I hope that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield and I will be regarded as having put the case reasonably. It is a strong case, and we really must not make this legislation permanent now. There is just not the evidence to do so.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 7:45 pm, 14th November 2001

I shall endeavour to be brief. The position is very clear—sections 14B, 21A and 21B give the authorities the power to deprive British subjects of their liberties and rights even though they may not have been convicted of any offence. That power ought not to be on the statute book at all. It certainly ought not to be on it permanently, and I therefore support the amendment. None the less, the power is on the statute book temporarily. We have some experience of its operation. That experience may not be adequate or complete, but none the less we have to use it to make an assessment of whether the powers are effective and of whether they are necessary to meet desirable objectives.

Since the powers were introduced, there has been a period of calm at home and abroad with respect to English football hooliganism. Clearly, the Football Spectators Act 1989 as a whole has either been effective or it has coincided rather happily with a period of calm for which it is not responsible. Let us assume that it has contributed to that calm. We know that, of the 400 or 500 people who have been detained or prevented from travelling, only about 10 per cent., or a little more, have been detained and prevented from travelling under these offensive sections. Therefore, about 90 per cent. of any improvement that has been achieved by the measure has been achieved by their inoffensive or less offensive aspects.

The Government say that although only a relatively small number of people have been detained, the sections provide a deterrent effect. The other sections presumably also provide a deterrent effect, so I still maintain that 90 per cent. of the effect of the Act could be achieved without these sections. They have not been shown by the experience of the legislation to be necessary to achieve the aims that the Government set themselves. That is certainly not a reason for putting them permanently on the statute book, and it reinforces the case for this sunset clause.

I shall consider the position in principle. The reason that section 14B is offensive is that it enables people to be detained even when they may not have been guilty of any criminal offence. In particular, it requires the court to be satisfied that the condition in subsection (2) is met. Subsection (2) states:

"That condition is that the respondent has at any time caused or contributed to any violence or disorder in the United Kingdom or elsewhere."

Broadly speaking, therefore, three kinds of behaviour are involved. The first is behaviour which may constitute an offence in the United Kingdom, but for which no conviction has yet been obtained. In Committee, the Minister pointed out that Lord Justice Laws had said that the standard of proof required would be practicably indistinguishable from the criminal standard. If, therefore, it is possible to bring forward proof of a criminal standard that someone has engaged in behaviour that constitutes an offence, why do we not simply charge them with that offence and convict them? For that kind of behaviour, we do not need section 14B.

The second kind of relevant behaviour is that which does not constitute a criminal offence in the UK or abroad. If something is not a crime, it should not be punished. If it deserves to be punished, it should be a crime. The Government have not resolved that or told us whether they believe that there is a category of behaviour that does not constitute a crime but can none the less be described as

"causing or contributing to any violence or disorder in the UK or abroad."

What is particularly abhorrent is that non-criminal behaviour is to be punished, quasi-administratively, retrospectively. People acting legally can be retrospectively punished by being deprived of their right to travel and of their freedom in the UK for some hours or days.

The third category of behaviour is that which constitutes an offence abroad but has not resulted in conviction abroad. The Minister said that we all understand that foreign Governments do not want to charge and convict British hooligans but prefer to send them home. Foreign Governments have that right but, essentially, their duty is to uphold the law in their territory and our duty is to uphold the law in ours. There has always been a strong presumption against extra-territory legislation—against us legislating in this House for offences committed outside our jurisdiction and in other parts of the world. We have always believed that that is wrong and undesirable. It should be avoided partly because it can lead to a double jeopardy—people can be held accountable by our courts and courts abroad—but, more practically, because it will always be more difficult for a British Government and our courts to have the necessary access to evidence, witnesses and so on for offences carried out abroad. That applies in these circumstances.

If Belgium, France and Germany do not wish to charge and convict British citizens for behaviour in their territories, it is certainly wrong for us to do so. Obviously, we should co-operate if we have evidence about people by sharing it with foreign Governments so that they can either pursue cases in the courts or, if they wish to restrict British citizens' access to their countries during football tournaments, they can do that and it is their responsibility. We should not set ourselves up as legislators for the rest of the world. The Government have a slight tendency to think that they rule the world, but that is a wider issue and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would not allow me to deviate in that direction.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 8:00 pm, 14th November 2001

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the Government wanted to present extra-territorial legislation or seek an agreement with foreign Governments, they have plenty of immediate opportunities to do so? An extradition Bill is coming up for debate this year and there are plenty of European Union directives dealing with common practice that the Government seek to implement. The Government have plenty of opportunities in other forums to get the agreement to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Whether he or I would agree with them is a separate question.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

Yes. Emphasising the hon. Gentleman's final point, I agree with the principle of what he said.

Practically, these measures account for at most a tenth or an eighth of the total consequences achieved by the Act as a whole. Within that 10 per cent. or so, a significant element of behaviour must be criminal, established to a criminal level of proof, charged under the relevant criminal statute and taken out of the legislation. The residual element, which is either non-criminal behaviour in the UK or criminal behaviour abroad, should either not be punished at all or left to the foreign authorities.

I hope that the House will pass this amendment and time-limit the offensive clauses of the Bill, remembering that, as Simon Hughes said, they have been quoted by the Government as a precedent for other legislation restricting British citizens' rights. We shall consider in due course whether that other legislation is necessary, but we must be aware that if we allow offensive legislation on to the statute book, it tends to spread. It is infectious. Bad precedents lead to further bad legislation, so I urge the House to pass the amendment and ensure that the offensive clauses are with us for only a short period.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

I hope that this has been a useful debate, although inevitably we have covered as much ground as we did on Second Reading and in Committee. One of the responsibilities that falls on Governments is to assess evidence, take decisions and offer some leadership to the House. One of the Opposition's jobs is to find reasons to oppose specific pieces of legislation without coming off the fence about whether in principle they support them. Mr. Grieve did an admirable job this evening, because I was left none the wiser by the end of his speech about whether, deep down, he thinks that this Bill is acceptable.

Mr. Lilley was clear: he does not like the Bill. He does not believe that the measures that it takes are justified in order to tackle the problem that it seeks to address: the damage done to England's reputation and English football by hooliganism. That is a tenable position for the right hon. Gentleman to take, but it is not the position of the Government or of most hon. Members.

I want briefly to go through the arguments that have been made tonight, assess them and say what I think the House should do under the circumstances. When the original legislation was going through the House, the then Home Office Minister, now Minister without Portfolio, my right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke, suggested that there should be a five-year sunset period. Ultimately, he was faced with arguments in another place that we should assess the original legislation after a year, and we are now doing that. Each individual Member will have to decide, on the basis of the available evidence, whether we should now put the legislation on the statute book on a more permanent basis. I believe that sufficient evidence is available to the House to do that.

We set out our reasons in the impact reports that we published on Second Reading and in Committee. The measures contained in sections 14B, 21A and 21B of the 1989 Act have already faced the stiffest challenge that they are likely to encounter before the 2004 European championships in Portugal. I anticipate that we shall not see such huge movements of fans to Japan or Korea as we have seen in the past, although we will liaise with the authorities in those countries ahead of the World cup.

Therefore, the argument that it would have been better to wait and try to rush the legislation through in the very few weeks between the World cup and when the legislation needs to be renewed does not stand up to examination. It is not obvious to me that a vastly greater body of significant evidence would be available to the House had we operated on that time scale.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Has the Minister thought ahead about what the Government would do if, after five years or so, there was no evidence that the English disease was continuing? Do the Government think that hooliganism by so-called English football supporters will, like sin, for ever be with us, or does he hope, like the rest of us do, that in time it will no longer exist, in which case we should not need to keep legislation on the statute book just in case one day it might recur.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

We approach many pieces of legislation on the basis that the problems that they seek to resolve might not be with us for ever. It is sometimes argued that all legislation should have a sunset clause built in for that very reason. I shall not go through the detailed chronology of events, but we have lived with the problem of hooliganism for at least 20 years, possibly longer.

Let there be no doubt that we are being looked at by the rest of the world and tested on the seriousness of our commitment to tackling the thuggery and violence that has been associated with England. I think that the rest of the world would look at us rather oddly if we sent the message that we truly thought that, with that 20-year history that we have only just started to reverse, the problem can be eradicated in only three or four years and that there is no need for the legislation. Although I would love to believe that that will be the position, at this stage, I think that that would be asking a lot. It would be wonderful if there were no need to use the legislation.

My personal view is that, given the time scale that we have talked about, we are likely to continue to need to have in place a legislative framework. On Second Reading, it was recognised that although domestic premier league football matches are very largely free of trouble at the grounds and immediately around the grounds, there is still a significant amount of violence at some of the fixtures of lower division clubs. We have not yet eradicated the problem in our domestic game as we should have liked.

It is quite interesting that, although we have had debates on the legislation's impact, no individual cases have been cited either in the House or in the media that suggest a real risk to the civil liberties of anyone other than known troublemakers. I think that, on the basis of the evidence available to us, it would be appropriate to enshrine sections 14B, 21A and 21B in statute.

I have tried to be as open as possible with the information that we have on the Bill and to update the House as information became available. I shall again run through some of the figures, and deal with the point that was made in earlier exchanges on the missing two cases. The total number of banning orders amounts to 808, 708 of which prevent travel to matches overseas. That is an increase of about 200 since the Munich match, and an increase of about 600 since the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 came into force.

As the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden said, about 10 per cent. of the total number of banning orders have been made using the section 21 route. However, his conclusions and mine are diametrically opposite, as I think that it is a good thing that the majority of banning orders are obtained by routes other than the five-day control period that applies to section 21 orders. Nevertheless, I also believe that the provision's existence, and the knowledge that there is the possibility to act against someone who was not previously subject to a banning order on complaint or conviction, is a powerful and important deterrent that we should not lose.

Since the law was changed, after Euro 2000, 537 orders have been imposed after conviction for a football-related offence, and 90 orders have been imposed in accordance with the 14B complaint procedure. As the records show, the remainder of the orders were made under previous legislation.

I shall go through the figures on 21B notices. The reason for the apparent discrepancy of two in the figures is that the figure of 98, as it then was, included two orders that had been imposed but were subsequently overturned on appeal. Therefore, the initial figure is the maximum number of orders that were imposed, and the final figure is gained by deducting from that the two orders that were overturned on appeal.

In the control period applying to Munich, there was a total of 67 21B notices, of which 41 orders were imposed, 15 refused and 11 subject to adjournments. The Munich figures incorporate the earlier figures that I gave to the House.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The Minister said that 90 per cent. of the cases have been vindicated and 10 per cent. have not, but he surely cannot say that the civil liberties of that 10 per cent. who were stopped from going about their lawful business have not been unjustifiably infringed. If that percentage applied to the population more widely, it would be regarded as a national outrage. He seems to be saying that it is not a severe infringement of liberties simply because it affects only a small number of people. 8.15 pm

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

The hon. Gentleman has to be slightly careful about that. There may be many cases in domestic situations in which individuals have an encounter with the law and are arrested, for example, but those individuals do not sue for wrongful arrest although they are not convicted of an offence. The House has to be realistic that, in court-based proceedings, we are unlikely to have a situation in which 100 per cent. of the orders that are sought are granted. Although it would be wonderful to think that a system could be so precise as to produce that outcome, such an outcome is inherently unlikely.

The House has to decide, on the basis of the figures before us, whether the situation that has so far been operating is satisfactory and sufficient to be enshrined in law. The question that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield failed very carefully to answer is whether he would find the legislation unacceptable if that situation continued. Perhaps he will answer the question.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Minister asks an interesting question. However, the answer depends also on whether there is a perceived need for such legislation at all. Labour Members, for example, consistently opposed the renewal of internment because they considered that, in the Northern Ireland context, it was a serious infringement of civil liberties. The Government are now about to reintroduce it. The example demonstrates at least a willingness to consider the situation in which one introduces legislation affecting the individual's liberty. Surely the same criteria should apply to this legislation.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

The House will note that the hon. Gentleman did not answer the question. However, I do not blame him for that as he is an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman and does not want to commit himself on the issue. We have all been there. Nevertheless, he did not offer an answer to the question whether he finds the situation satisfactory.

I have had to consider these issues, and I have considered the possible impact on people's civil liberties. I think that there will be most concern about the issue of adjourned cases. However, as I said in Committee, it is important to recognise that any restrictions to travel arise from the bail conditions imposed by the court, which is a separate decision from the one to seek a section 21B order. It is the courts that have to be given evidence and persuaded that there are sufficient grounds to prevent the individual from travelling. It is a separate decision, and that is an important point.

Reference has already been made to the quality of evidence that is required, and Simon Hughes talked about human rights considerations. As of today, no human rights challenge to the legislation has succeeded. Therefore, the human rights implications have been tested in the courts, and the courts have come out in support of the legislation. If I had more time I would read out what was said in those judgments. However, I have already done that in Committee.

I certainly do believe that as experience grows among police, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and magistrates the accuracy of the orders will further improve, as it has already done since the legislation was passed. I draw to the House's attention the Lord Chancellor's recent speech to the Magistrates Association in which he pointed out

"some inconsistency in the application of the law".

The Lord Chancellor went on to stress that

"under the Football (Disorder) Act, where the legislative criteria are satisfied, there is no discretion and the court must make an order."

I think that, in that case, the Lord Chancellor was prompted to make the comment by data provided by police that showed that banning orders are imposed only in respect of one third of all football-related convictions. Of course each case must be treated on its merits, but, again in the words of the Lord Chancellor,

"the magistracy has a key role to play in ensuring Parliament's intentions are realised—particularly in the run up to major international tournaments."

The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey also mentioned the issue of whether there should be a test of conviction before section 14B orders are obtained by means of the section 21 route or by direct application.

Let me restate the Government's position. It would be rather odd if the qualifying criterion were a conviction for violence incurred, possibly, 30 years earlier, rather than more recent evidence that might be available to the court—for example, video evidence of participation in violent events in Munich. In that event, someone who had had a violent conviction many years earlier might be subject to a section 14B order although there might not be such strong evidence of recent association with violence, while someone who had clearly been involved in violence at an overseas football match might escape because he had never been convicted in this country.

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman and I will have to disagree on the point, but it is an argument that we rehearsed in Committee.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

None of us are arguing that spent convictions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 should be resurrected for the purposes of this debate; we are only talking about "live" convictions. Will the Minister tell me, however, whether I am still right in thinking that—as it happens—there has been no banning order under the legislation that we seek to continue that has not involved a previous conviction in relation to an individual? If that is the case, it shows that so far previous convictions have provided the justification, and that there may be good reasons for continuing in that way for the foreseeable future.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. This is, I think, no bad thing, because it reflects the fact that the activity we are discussing is intelligence-based, co-ordinated by NCIS and local police forces. It would not be surprising if there were more concentration on those with convictions for violence, but I nevertheless think that the safeguard represented by the ability to bring in wider evidence, such as international evidence, is important.

The drafting of amendments Nos. 2 and 3 is flawed, although it would not be helpful if I spent time explaining why. I believe, however, that the use of section 21A and 21B powers is integral to the operation of the Bill. If we could not take action against those who had not been previously identified as going to a match with the intention of causing trouble in the five-day control period, the legislation would be seriously weakened. I do not think that the attempt to make this a separate part of the legislation, leaving the rest as it is, holds water.

I hope that I have replied to the vast majority of points raised this evening.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

As I think the Minister understands, the great debate within what is a narrowly focused issue concerns the additional powers introduced by the Bill. I refer to the right to intervene at the port of exit, at the last moment, when by the time the person who has been stopped can deal with the situation it will be too late, because the match will already have been played and that person will not be able to attend it.

There is a much more logical justification for acting beforehand under the old procedure, involving going to the magistrates court to seek an order. Those who believe they have been wronged can appeal, and have time to do so well before needing to travel. The real mischief occurs when intervention by the authorities comes so late that there is no time to do anything about it.

The combination of that factor and the lack of the necessary evidence fuels the argument for giving this more time to run. I hope that the House will support us, and those on the Conservative Front Bench, and agree that it is better to legislate carefully and for a limited time than to legislate for ever, when we have no assurance that any future Government will find time to reverse the legislation, even if it is absolutely clear that we do not need it.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I found the Minister's response disappointing. I was particularly startled by his comments about the relationship between sections 21 and 14 of the 1989 Act. I had never understood that it was other than the Government's case that section 14 was the principal instrument that they intended to use for enforcement purposes; yet the Minister now tells us that section 21 is the indispensable tool.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

There is an important difference between saying that section 21 is an integral part of the legislation and saying that it is an indispensable tool. I pointed out myself that 90 per cent. of banning orders are obtained by other routes. I believe that it would seriously weaken the legislation if the procedures relating to sections 21A and 21B were not part of it.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I thank the Minister for that, but we have seen that section 21 is used more than section 14.

The issue is simple. The Minister has kept asking what a future Conservative's Government's attitude might be. He must understand that the legislation restricts civil liberties. The House will discuss such matters next week—in a much more serious context, but the principle will be exactly the same. There may be circumstances in which the restriction of civil liberties for which we should fight tooth and nail in the House are necessary because of circumstance. There is no doubt that football hooliganism has been a terrible scourge, but before putting into a permanent form legislation that, by its very nature, should be subject to constant review by a House eager to get rid of offensive legislation wherever possible, we should bear in mind that principle.

The Minister, however, wants permanency. The amendment is surely a sensible and constructive way of giving the Minister what he wants—no annual renewal procedure—while also ensuring that the legislation comes up for review when, perhaps thankfully, all Members may agree that we can safely get rid of it. For that reason, I wish to press the matter to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 106, Noes 278.

Division number 62 Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Bill — Clause 1 — Repeal of Provisions of Football (Disorder) Act 2000

Aye: 106 MPs

No: 278 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Question accordingly negatived.

Order for Third Reading read.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction) 8:40 pm, 14th November 2001

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill may be short, but it has been the subject of careful scrutiny by the House. I shall not repeat what was said in earlier debates although I was surprised by the power of my oratory when Mr. Grieve decided after all to enter the same Lobby as the Government instead of supporting his own amendment.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

The Minister had better be careful as I understand from the Conservative Whips that he wandered into the wrong Lobby too.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

Far from it.

There is a strong case for placing on the statute book without time limits sections 14B, 21A and 21B of the Football Spectators Act 1989 as amended by the Football (Disorder) Act 2000. The Government believe that the measures are a tailored and effective response to English football disorder abroad and that they strike the right balance between national and international interests and civil liberties.

I should say for the record that earlier I was referring rhetorically to a conviction 30 years previously being taken into account. As Simon Hughes said, convictions can be taken into account only if they occurred within 10 years.

The available evidence demonstrates that the measures work. Apart from some disturbances in Germany, which were discussed at length on Second Reading, there has been no significant disorder involving English fans abroad since Euro 2000. The current football season has been up and running for about four months and I am pleased to report that the excellent record of English fans is still in place.

The number of troublemakers prevented from travelling to matches overseas is growing significantly and Governments and police forces across Europe and in Japan and Korea continue to welcome the measures as an on-going declaration on the part of the United Kingdom of our intention to tackle the menace of hooliganism before it leaves these shores. The UEFA threat to expel English football from European competition has not been resurrected.

In short, there is powerful evidence for enshrining sections 14B, 21A and 21B on the statute book without time limit. They withstood a thorough practical and legal examination in the past 14 months and it would be a blow to our national reputation and the image of our national game if they were to be lost next August. That would send out a negative message to our European partners, undermine the English and Welsh anti-hooligan strategy and weaken the power of the police and courts to act against thugs. It would also be seen as an encouragement to hooligans to resume the pattern of repeat offending overseas at a time when England is preparing to embark on its Euro 2004 campaign. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 8:43 pm, 14th November 2001

During consideration of the Bill, the Minister has failed to take on board what I believe to be sensible, moderate and justified concerns expressed by Opposition Members. They would not in any way have negated the thrust of the Government's intention, which was to put on a more permanent footing legislation which, on its introduction, had commanded support from both sides of the House, and even though it caused some hon. Members to express deep anxieties, was something that could be understood.

We find it very difficult to understand the logic behind the course of action that has been adopted, but we draw some reassurance from the prospect that, given the concomitance of views among Opposition Members, it is likely that individuals in another place will put up a robust defence for civil liberties and try to persuade the Government that, although they should have their Bill, it should not be permanent. That will certainly be the thrust of what we shall seek to achieve later.

On that basis, we are in no position to support the Bill and we do not intend to do so. After all, only last year the Government were prepared to consider a five-year sunset clause, but now they seem set against it. They have introduced this legislation to make permanent what in any event ought only to be temporary on such a paucity of evidence and on the back of one undoubted success—the England v. Germany match—but not on the basis of material on which a rigorous detailed analysis could be conducted as to whether civil liberties were being adversely affected.

In those circumstances, I can tell the Minister that he will have to carry the Bill on the support of Labour Members. We do not wish to have any part in it, and we will seek to review the matter elsewhere.

Photo of David Wright David Wright Labour, Telford 8:45 pm, 14th November 2001

I did not get an opportunity to speak on Second Reading, so I appreciate the chance to contribute this evening. I welcome the Bill. It sends the message to those involved in football violence that their actions will not be tolerated, in Britain or abroad.

It is easy to discuss these matters when football violence is absent from the headlines, but we should not forget the shame experienced when supporters of England or of any of our club sides engage in misguided violence abroad in the name of football and the nation. I am sure that many hon. Members share the emotion felt by many when the England team plays in an international tournament. It is an awful feeling when one wakes up, switches on the television and sees hundreds of people rioting in towns in Europe and around the world. It brings tremendous shame on our nation. The Bill makes it clear to the people involved that such violence is unacceptable.

My right hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the need to demonstrate to UEFA and FIFA that the Government have an on-going commitment to dealing with that violence. It is important that we do that, and that we do so in good time. The Bill shows the world and the football authorities that we are serious about dealing with the matter before, during and after the World cup. I hope that the House will support the Bill this evening, so that we can make progress in trying to change our national game, and in dealing with the scourge of the violence that mars international fixtures.

I intend to focus on some of the wider issues and motivations behind football violence, and on how the Bill can contribute towards stopping it, especially in connection with matches involving the England team. On Second Reading, my hon. Friend Dr. Gibson spoke about some of the reading material that he had enjoyed over the summer. It included a Marxist analysis of football violence.

The Whips will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to pursue a Marxist analysis of football violence this evening, but some of the intellectual analysis of football over more than 20 years has been interesting. In 1981, Desmond Morris published a classic book called "The Soccer Tribe", which deals with the following that football attracts at national and international level. He likened football to tribalism throughout the ages, and noted that football had many tribal symbols, such as team colours, the status of teams among supporters, the territories involved in home and away games, and the displays of triumph.

I follow lower-league football. I support Shrewsbury Town and Telford United, so there are not many tribal displays for me to become especially worked up about. However, my point is clear: football is a tribal pastime. It provokes a tribal atmosphere among its followers which can, and does, provoke conflict. It is at its most dangerous when allied to a warped sense of nationalism.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is in danger of making a Second Reading speech. His speech must not be too wide-ranging, because on Third Reading we can debate only the contents of the Bill.

Photo of David Wright David Wright Labour, Telford

I understand your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I will endeavour to follow it.

The Bill assists us in dealing with people who engage in a warped form of nationalist violence on the continent and throughout Europe. The Bill gives the police and the courts the authority to deal with people who intend to go abroad and commit violence in the name of a warped sense of nationalism. That is not helped by the way in which the press and media cover football violence. We all remember the front cover of The Mirror at the time of Euro 96. Prior to the England v. Germany game, England players were depicted in second world war helmets. Such coverage, and the link to a warped nationalism, does nothing to assist us in tackling football violence.

The influence of the far right on this warped sense of nationalism—which I hope that the Bill will prevent people taking to Europe—is particularly alarming. It is worrying to see people chanting certain songs at football matches in Europe. I recall hearing "No Surrender"—the watchword of organisations such as Combat 18—being sung during Euro 2000. The Bill endeavours to stop people who provoke violence and warped nationalism from going across the Channel into Europe and taking their hatred abroad.

Other supporters in Great Britain do not seem to have this problem. Scottish and Welsh supporters do not behave in a violently nationalistic manner. The disease seems to apply particularly to England's so-called football supporters.

The Bill will help to alleviate the problem of people travelling abroad to display the nationalism that is linked to football. However, change will be difficult, which is why the measure needs to be enshrined in law in the long term. I share the view that this problem may be with us for some time, unfortunately. We have to show the football authorities that we are committed to dealing with it.

Desmond Morris said in his book on the subject in 1981:

"The trick for the future, clearly, is to retain this—" tribal—

"tension, but at the same time to dispense with its most extreme and destructive forms of expression."

The Bill attempts to do that.

The other key reform that needs to accompany the Bill is the rejuvenation of the England supporters' formal structure. I know that the Government have considered that and have come forward with proposals.

We need to prompt a more modern and internationalist perspective in relation to our broader national identity and to the approach taken when supporting our national football side. It would be great to have some moderation and support for that in the national media. I hope that the appointment of a non-English football manager will help to change the emphasis on the particularly warped view of nationalism held by many England supporters. I hope that the Bill will go a long way towards stopping people from travelling and causing trouble. People wake up with a terrible feeling in the pit of their stomach during international football events when, once again, we have been disgraced at a national level.

Football is a gift that our country has given to the world; the Bill will help us to celebrate it together.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, Westbury 8:54 pm, 14th November 2001

There is a sense that, in their haste to clean up our national game, the Government are using a large sledgehammer in sections 14B and 21A and 21B. Recent tragic events, the human rights issues that surround them and our response perhaps put the Government's perfectly understandable desire to control football violence in some sort of context. I believe that Simon Hughes hinted at that, and we will debate it on Monday. Proportionality is the key and I am not convinced that the balance has been correctly struck. The Law Society appears to agree, in particular about the standard of proof.

We must divorce the argument from notions of national pride and the disgust that we feel at the actions of a small number of our countrymen abroad. We should not be in the business of curtailing traditional liberties to repair our national image or pander to the threats of other bodies, national and international, many of which are also burdened with a violent and distasteful minority. In that respect, David Wright was wrong. To attempt to do so would be a gross presumption on the part of an authoritarian Government. Paradoxically, it would diminish one of the most attractive features of this country in the eyes of others—the freedom that we enjoy and the presumption of innocence.

This Bill is a sticking plaster designed to remedy a small but significant lesion. We do not know, but we surmise, that it will help. Whether or not it does, it has huge implications for the traditional liberties that we enjoy and for which this House stands as guarantor.

I could understand the Government's enthusiasm to curtail the liberties of subjects, or even citizens, if this was a problem that affected sport generically. There might then be more appetite for magisterial legislation of this sort. However, the Bill is designed to deal with a discrete problem and, arguably, a declining one at that, notwithstanding an upward blip in arrests relating to football in 2000–01. As such it is surely not appropriate to award the authorities the ability to act against persons without criminal records in the summary manner that is proposed. To do so strikes at the very heart of our system.

While one could be persuaded that the circumstances make it reasonable to support the general thrust of the Bill, one would do so with a heavy heart. Amendment No. 1 and the sunset clause that it proposed would have made the legislation conditional and would have set a time limit for the evaluation of evidence of its effectiveness and operation that we will now lack.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 8:58 pm, 14th November 2001

The House of Commons is extremely helpful to hon. Members when we are preparing for debates. Football disorder matters have come before the House often in recent years, so the Library has on more than one occasion produced briefings for colleagues. The research paper that it produced in July 2000 on what was the draft Football (Disorder) Bill, which became the Act that we are trying to make permanent now, contained the reminder that this issue has been knocking around for an extraordinarily long time. On the first page it states:

"Measures have been taken or sought since the fourteenth century to deal with the problem of disorder relating to football—a 1314 proclamation of Edward II declared:

Forasmuch there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls, from which many evils may arise, which God forbid, we command and forbid on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in future."

—[Hon. Members: "Millwall".] I hear completely unjustified allegations from colleagues, such as the Members for Colchester United and for Hereford United and even, for all I know, the Member for Telford United, that the fans of certain clubs might cause trouble. I must place on record that, although it has been around for a long time, the great and ever-rising Millwall football club, which is eighth in the first division and on its way up to the premiership, was not around in the 14th century, much though it would have benefited the country had it been there. Playing football was an imprisonable offence in those days.

The research paper notes that we have introduced the following legislation to deal with football-related matters: the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) Act 1985; the Public Order Act 1986; the Football Spectators Act 1989; the Football (Offences) Act 1991; the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) (Amendment) Act 1992; the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994; the Crime and Disorder Act 1998; and the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999. However, the Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs tells us that the most recent measure, which became law in July 2000 and took effect in August 2000, to which we gave a life of two years—the Opposition defeated the Government in the House of Lords and amended the Bill accordingly—and for which we approved a second year only in July 2001, should now come back to us only four months later in order to be made permanent legislation.

I was happy to hear the speech made by Dr. Murrison—I had not previously heard him speak in the House. He made the point that we tried to teach the Government the lesson of history: that, on the basis of logic and precedent, it is nonsense to believe that we know now what we shall need in four years.

My view and that of my colleagues is clear. We did not support an unconditional Bill when it was introduced a year and a half ago. We tried to restrict it as much as we could, but we were only partially successful. However, we obtained a guarantee that it would be brought back within two years. We got it back after a year—at half-time—but we did not make a big fuss because we knew that it would return shortly. It is now back with us.

We do not believe that it is appropriate for Parliament to make permanent legislation that bans people from travelling without allowing them enough time to make an appeal that would let them attend games. We believe that things may be much better in four years. It may be enough to introduce limited powers to curb the right to travel of people with previous convictions and about whom there is suspicion.

The test for us is whether the Bill is temporary or permanent. By defeating the amendment, jointly tabled by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, the Government present us with no option but permanent or nothing. We believe that it would be better to defeat the measure so that this Bill with permanent provisions should not go to the other end of the building. The Government have plenty of time—until August next year—to introduce the simple one or two clause Bill that would be necessary to extend the life of the existing legislation, either for four years, as we recommended, or for a lesser period.

A permanent Bill is not justified. We agree with Mr. Grieve that that argument will prevail in the other place. We ask the House to vote against permanent legislation. It is a bad practice, unsupported by the evidence, and we shall divide the House.

Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Labour/Co-operative, West Bromwich West 9:04 pm, 14th November 2001

As I spoke on Second Reading and in the Standing Committee, I had not intended to speak on Third Reading until my hon. Friend David Wright and other hon. Members talked about their football clubs. My hon. Friend referred to the tribal affinities in football clubs and I realised that, as a lifelong supporter of Cheltenham Town, I must be a Chelt. On the other side of the House I recognise a fellow-Chelt—Mr. Jones—so I suppose that we could say that the Cheltic hordes are here today, although I suspect that the hon. Gentleman will not be joining me in the Lobby on this issue. However, I want to make a couple of points because they have not been given ample recognition in the debate so far.

Much has been said about the need to include a sunset clause because of the basic civil liberty issues involved. However, the Bill will operate only for designated international football matches, and it has a mechanism by which some matches, for a variety of reasons, may not be designated as requiring the full weight of the legislation to be brought into operation.

If hooliganism at international matches diminishes as time progresses and the balance of civil liberty considerations changes, the sensible way to deal with the reduction in violence is not to designate those matches. So we can keep the powers in reserve without having recourse to debate further legislation in Parliament, but we do not have to signal to the fans at large that the legislation is no longer operational.

That is a far better way to balance the civil liberties and the anti-crime and disorder policies necessary to protect our international football matches and the status of the England team and its supporters than simply including a sunset clause or not having the legislation at all. The Bill represents a much better way to deal with those issues and it should not be opposed, so I ask the House to back it.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction) 9:07 pm, 14th November 2001

With the leave of the House, I shall reply very briefly to the debate. The hon. Members for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and for Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) will not mind my saying that the fact that other hon. Members have contributed to this evening's debate is welcome. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield said, subject to the outcome of any Division tonight, the Bill will be discussed in another place.

My hon. Friend David Wright made the very important point, which we should always acknowledge in considering such legislation, that we are dealing with cultural and social problems, and legislation can only ever represent one part of our strategy for dealing with the underlying difficulties that have been with us for several hundred years, as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said. During this debate, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey asked us not only to understand that the problems have existed for 500 years, but to anticipate that they might all be resolved in the next 18 months; therefore, the legislation will be needed for no longer than that.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

It may be introduced every year.

Photo of John Denham John Denham Minister (Home Office) (Police and Crime Reduction)

The hon. Gentleman wishes us to legislate again, but the Government want to put the Bill on to the statute book.

Dr. Murrison raised several issues. He talked about the standard of proof, which we dealt with in Committee by quoting from Lord Justice Laws' judgment on the standard of proof required under section 14 of the Football Spectators Act 1989. Although the hon. Gentleman said that hooliganism is, arguably, declining, it is doing so at least in part because of the success of the legislation and the targeted policing operation that supports it.

My hon. Friend Mr. Bailey made the important point that flexibility and safeguards are built into the legislation, as is evidenced by the fact that some 20 people subject to banning orders were allowed, on application, to travel abroad during the five-day control period in the run-up to the Munich match because they had good business, personal or family reasons to do so. We have examined the issues thoroughly tonight. I believe that we should proceed with the Bill, and I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 270, Noes 51.

Division number 63 Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Bill — Clause 1 — Repeal of Provisions of Football (Disorder) Act 2000

Aye: 270 MPs

No: 51 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.