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The Prime Minister: I must correct the hon. Gentleman on two points. First, the Queen pays tax voluntarily and has done so for several years, and I think that that shows the way in which the monarchy has adapted and modernised. Secondly, on inheritance tax, we are talking of sovereign-to-sovereign assets, which are inalienable assets belonging to the monarchy. It would be wrong to treat those differently from the way in which they are treated today. I think that most of the hon. Gentleman's constituents would agree that that is the case.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): How does the reduction in costs that the Prime Minister has announced today compare with the performance of non-executive presidencies in the rest of Europe? Will the right hon. Gentleman re-examine the question of having a royal yacht to boost our exports and inward investment, in the face of the damaging uncertainty of the Government's policy on the euro?

The Prime Minister: We might have known that the Tory party would find some way of getting an attack on Europe into a statement about the Queen's civil list. I do not have the faintest idea about the costs of presidencies abroad. As for a replacement for the royal yacht, I shall take that as yet another public expenditure commitment on behalf of the Conservative party.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): I am sure that the Prime Minister would agree that, without the 1972 Act, he would, in effect, be announcing a third decrease in the civil list because of the transfer of £2.5 million in a year. As the monarchy has become increasingly popular over recent years and will, no doubt, become even more popular with the reduction in cost to the Treasury, is there any lesson that the right hon. Gentleman can learn for the funding of his own office?

The Prime Minister: I am delighted that, as a result of the efficiencies that have been made and, of course, as a result of lower inflation, there is a 55 per cent. real-terms drop over 10 years. That is an indication not just of the efficiency itself, but of the fact that we are now going to use the surplus to incorporate another £25 million of expenditure. It is a great tribute to the way in which the monarch's civil list has been managed. That is probably the right and the most sensible thing to say.

4 Jul 2000 : Column 170

Football Hooliganism

4.1 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw): With permission Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about football hooliganism.

In my statement to the House on 19 June about the disorder perpetrated by England supporters in Charleroi and Brussels, I said that we would urgently consider whether further measures should be introduced so as to improve the effectiveness of court orders against those convicted of football-related offences, and whether to introduce powers in respect of unconvicted football hooligans against whom there was other good evidence. I should now like to tell the House about the conclusions of the review that we undertook following events in Belgium and about the legislative and other proposals that I will be commending to the House.

The House and the country know all too well of the events in Charleroi and Brussels that shamed England's national game and national reputation, and resulted in the arrest of 965 British nationals and the deportation of 464 of them. A very small number of those originally arrested now face trial.

For some years, the widely accepted view has been that football hooliganism abroad is perpetrated by a relatively small minority of known football troublemakers. Measures discussed and approved by the House over a 15-year period have largely been predicated on that assumption. The blunt truth, however, which has become very clear from events last month, is this: football hooliganism abroad is no longer confined to a small minority of known troublemakers. There is now strong evidence of a larger number of England supporters getting involved in violence, drunkenness and disorder; few of them are known in advance to the police nationally as football-related offenders.

As I told the House on 19 June, the policing operation for Euro 2000, against known football hooligans, was largely successful. Of the 1,000 such known offenders on the lists provided by the National Criminal Intelligence Service to both the Belgian and the Dutch authorities, our information is that most either did not travel or were denied entry to the host countries. Thirty were arrested, detained in or deported from either country. However, of the 965 who were arrested in Belgium and Holland, we know that 409 had previous convictions, including convictions for violence.

Against that background, the House will, I believe, appreciate the need for measures to be drawn more widely than has been proposed even in the recent past. I have specific legislative proposals, but the issue runs wider than legislation alone and requires the active co-operation of all involved in football at every level in England.

The legislation that I propose to the House has four key elements. First, we propose to combine the domestic and international football banning orders that are made by a court following a conviction for a football-related offence. We currently have about 400 domestic bans of both kinds in force, but only 106 international bans; only 106 individuals can currently be prevented from leaving the country to attend matches abroad. In future, everyone who receives a banning order will be subject to both domestic and international bans.

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Secondly, we propose that, save in exceptional circumstances, everyone who receives such a ban will have to surrender their passport while major overseas games are on. Courts currently have a discretion to impose such a condition when they impose an international football banning order. In future, that will be the norm for the new combined orders.

Thirdly, there is the proposal for civil process, similar to that for the anti-social behaviour order, for a football banning order. This was included in our consultation paper published in the autumn of 1998, and has been actively supported by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. Under this, the police could propose a football banning order to the courts where they believed that it would help to prevent violence or disorder in connection with football matches. However, I now believe that this order should be more widely available than hitherto proposed. Under the new scheme, therefore, it will not be necessary that the person in question should have been convicted of a football-related offence, or indeed of any offence, though plainly any convictions for violence of whatever kind would be very relevant evidence. The police would of course have to have sufficient evidence in every case on the balance of probabilities that the test set in the legislation was met. That evidence could come from abroad, and it might date from before the proposed new law comes into force.

Fourthly, I propose that the police should have a new power effectively to prevent a person from leaving the country where they believe there may be grounds for making a banning order. There would be a power of arrest in that respect, and a breach of the direction would be a criminal offence. When the police made such a direction, the person concerned would be summonsed to a magistrates court to decide whether a banning order should be made. The value of this power will be that when people arrive at a port or airport and they give grounds for suspicion that they are out to cause trouble or are likely to do so, the police will be able to make quick inquiries. They will then, in appropriate circumstances, be able to prevent embarkation at short notice, where it would not be possible to go through the procedure of applying to a court for a banning order before the person left the country.

Those, then, are the main legislative measures that we are seeking, although the legislation will include other minor measures. I am satisfied that they are compliant with the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Let me now deal with the time scale for this legislation. I have already had constructive discussions with the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats, and I am grateful to both for their co-operation. The official Opposition are already on record as saying that they will support any moves in Parliament to restrict English football hooliganism. The next international game for England will be the one against France in Paris on 2 September. It would plainly be preferable if the legislation could be put in good order for it to be on the statute book by the time the House rises at the end of this month.

However, I well recognise that all Members of this House and of the other place, quite rightly, take their responsibilities for scrutinising legislation very seriously.

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Three of the key measures proposed have been well aired in principle in the past. The fourth has not. In any event, the effectiveness of any legislation comes down to its detail. To combine speed with careful scrutiny, I therefore propose to proceed as follows.

A draft Bill will be made available in the Vote Office for all hon. Members and Members of the other place by the end of this week. I shall discuss its detail with the Opposition parties and hold an all-party meeting early next week for any right hon. and hon. Members of this House and of the other place who have a view on the Bill. We shall also consult outside interests and take account of the conclusions of that process in the version of the Bill that is presented to the House. All the process will be subject to discussion through the usual channels as soon as possible to see whether there is scope for the Bill to have a very speedy passage through both Houses, even possibly before the recess.

Legislation is only part of the answer to the wider problem. I strongly welcome the Football Association's commitment to seek life bans from the home grounds for any England fan convicted of hooligan behaviour, or against whom there is hard evidence of such behaviour, at Euro 2000 or in future. I hope very much that all clubs affiliated to the FA will support their national association in its initiative.

There is however much more that can and must be done to confront the culture from which hooliganism grows. Last week, I met representatives of the Football Association. They themselves recognise the need to take a hard look at ticketing, at travel, at stewarding arrangements, at more effective action against displays of racism and xenophobia at matches and outside, and at closer co-operation with supporters' groups--all with the aim of making support for the England team abroad more attractive to families and to decent supporters, who are currently kept away by the threat of hooliganism. I have asked Lord Bassam to chair a working group, which will involve a wide range of partners from the football world who are committed to make changes for the better in these important areas.

I hope that what I have said will demonstrate to the House our determination to use all the means at our disposal to get rid once and for all of all the dreadful consequences and the obnoxious taint of football hooliganism. The Government have given and will give a lead, but we can succeed as a nation in changing the culture that gives rise to football violence only if we in England are able to claim that the problem has truly been solved. I commend these proposals to the House.

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