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Mr. Straw: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his co-operation. It is true that about 30 per cent. of people under 30 have convictions. In the debate on 20 June, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) asked for an analysis of the nature of the convictions of the 464 people out of the 965 who were arrested, and who had previous convictions. We are still doing that analysis, but it looks as though there is a greater preponderance of people with convictions for violence in that group than there is in a similar cohort of the general population.

I entirely accept that the House has to act proportionately in legislating. Not only are we required to do so by the Human Rights Act and our obligations under the European convention on human rights, which we have had for 50 years, but it is right and proper that we should do so. In the past, it has not been judged proportionate to take action, or to give the police powers in any circumstances, to turn people away at ports, because the mischief identified has not been sufficient to justify the action. In the light of what happened in Belgium, I now believe that the mischief is great enough to justify that action. However, the hon. Gentleman, like any other Member of the House, is entirely correct to say that he wants to read the Bill's small print before he makes a judgment. I, too, have been in that position. It would be wrong for the House to buy a pig in a poke, and I am not suggesting that it should do so.

The football banning order will be similar to the anti-social behaviour order. Whether or not people like such orders, they are consistent with this country's traditions. We are working carefully to ensure that there is proper, traditional oversight of banning orders and the operation of the fourth proposal, which is new. It is not a peremptory power, of the kind that I believe was operated in Germany, for the police simply to turn people back on an officer's say-so. A police officer will need to have reasonable and sufficient grounds for believing that a person should be subject to a banning order, first to stop him, and then to seek a banning order, for which there will be a reasonably quick court process.

The hon. Gentleman asked why a warrant could not be issued in advance. The police will not be able finally to identify the person concerned until they have stopped him. We are introducing the equivalent of a warrant by ensuring that there is supervision by a judicial bench as quickly as possible.

The hon. Gentleman made a point about hasty legislation. All Members who have been in the House for any length of time know that legislation can be introduced sensibly and speedily, but if speed turns into haste, a Bill may not be properly or adequately worded. I hope, and it is only a hope, that our discussions and the drafting of the measure will ensure that the proposal becomes law before the end of July, but I recognise that Members on both sides of the House want to examine it carefully. If there is a choice to be made between content and haste, the content must take priority, even if we face delay in getting the legislation through. I am sure that the whole House

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will agree that it must be passed by the end of this Session and, if possible, by the end of July. I will make myself available at all times.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Would my right hon. Friend like to comment on reports that extreme right-wing organisations have been involved in organising some of the trouble abroad? Does he accept that there are serious implications for civil liberties which it would be foolish to deny? Bearing in mind the scenes that we have seen on television and that he has mentioned today, it is difficult to see what alternatives there are to the proposals that he has outlined. Those scenes have undoubtedly disgraced our country, and people abroad understandably ask why we cannot keep our thugs in order.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. I am afraid that, in my judgment, there is now a yawning chasm between the average football fan who attends club games and England games at Wembley, and the so-called fan who goes abroad in alleged support of this nation. As someone who has been a long-term football supporter with his family, I have seen a change very much for the better over the past 15 years. Clubs now cater for families, many more women attend club games and there is a great effort--not entirely successful, but considerable--to stamp out racism and xenophobia in grounds and away from them. However, I am afraid that a big proportion of so-called England supporters abroad express strongly racist and xenophobic views. They are not remotely representative of the majority of England fans at home. We have a big problem tackling them, and I believe that a Bill may help.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford): Better late than never. I warmly welcome the four legislative proposals that the Home Secretary has announced today, especially as one of them is along the lines that I have long advocated. On the point that he was making to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I urge him to consider that it is crucial to overcome and minimise the culture of violence and obscenity by enforcing the existing legislation, such as the public order measures and the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999, to crack down on those mindless morons and the extreme right who use racist chanting and other obscenities at football matches to inflame people, thereby doing so much damage to this country. Such chanting is both disgraceful and distasteful.

Mr. Straw: I express my thanks to the hon. Gentleman for all his efforts during the past two years to have such legislation put on the statute book, and also for the constructive proposals that he made in his speech on 20 June. He will know that we have taken careful note of the suggestions that he made in the House and outside. He raises an important point--which, ironically, was raised by his party spokesman on 20 May--about the need properly to enforce the existing legislation. It is not acceptable that only 33 of the 100-odd international banning orders imposed so far include passport conditions, which could have been imposed in every case. That is wrong. I understand that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are applying for such orders, but magistrates are not granting them. That is why we have

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had to change the nature of the legislation to ensure that passport orders are granted almost automatically and that other proposals are taken forward as well.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): My right hon. Friend will be aware that many of those involved in the violence had no previous convictions of any kind, so he will understand why those of us who have spent a lifetime opposing racism have considerable reservations about his suggestions, which will give peremptory powers to police officers apparently on the basis of very little evidence. I hope that he will tell the House the rank of police officer who will be enabled to take such decisions and what time scale he is proposing.

Above all, may I tell my right hon. Friend that the history of legislation agreed by both Front Benches and put through the House at considerable speed is extremely sad and unhelpful? I hope that he will reconsider his timetable, because this is a difficult and intractable matter. Before we allow very serious liberties to be put at risk, it is absolutely vital that the House have time to consider every aspect of the proposal, not just some of them, and that we do not respond to knee-jerk bigotry.

Mr. Straw: Of course I understand that the House should be very careful about taking forward into legislation proposals that use the force of the law through civil processes before conviction, but that is by no means unheard of in our system.

The civil courts themselves have many powers of enforcement. The anti-social behaviour order, which has been widely welcomed by Members on both sides of the House and by local authorities and the police outside, is increasingly being used. It makes use of civil process. Good evidence has to be obtained for the order--unfortunately, in many cases, that evidence cannot be only criminal convictions.

There was support for the football banning order from both sides of the House, although it was by no means unanimous. The police may have evidence that may not have been sufficient to obtain a conviction, but that is plain evidence of football hooliganism. For example, there may be available video tapes of people committing straightforward acts of hooliganism in Charleroi and Brussels. If those individuals could be identified, I see no reason why they should not be required to go to court or why the police should not be able to apply for a banning order. They would be given a proper opportunity to answer. Such tapes would not represent evidence that could lead to a conviction, mainly because an extraterritorial offence had been committed, but would certainly be evidence that should lead to an order of the kind that I make.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) asked about the level of police officer who could make what would effectively be a direction to prevent someone from travelling so that a banning order could be obtained. I make this very clear: as far as I understand, these are not the exact powers that the German police have used nor a power of what they call administrative arrest, which leads to no court process at all. We propose that such a direction should be made at inspector level or above.

My other point to my hon. Friend is that it is not true that all legislation that is put through the House at some speed suffers from the defects that she mentioned,

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although it is true that some does and some has and that speed creates a greater danger of those defects occurring. I seek to provide a process that involves not only necessarily private discussions with the opposition parties, but a perfectly open system in which all hon. Members are able to take part. There will not be unanimity, but we must see whether there is sufficient consensus to get the measure through before the summer. I hope that that is the case and that I can reassure Members on both sides of the House about its contents, but we shall see.

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