|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield): Does the Secretary of State agree that his proposals are similar to those that I made from the Opposition Front Bench in June 1998? Therefore, I obviously support what he has said--given also that the decision would rest with the courts, not the police--but has there not been unnecessary delay in handling the issue? Had those measures been in place, some of the recent troubles might well have been avoided. Will he answer a further point? Does not this issue go beyond football hooliganism and are not those who riot overseas also those who cause problems on Friday and Saturday nights in this country? Frankly, nothing will be done about that until we have more police on the streets and more police detecting those hooligans.
Mr. Straw: I thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his suggestion when he made it late in 1998. This is no criticism, but, as he said at the time, it was a proposal for discussion that was not in a form that could have been put into the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. We have gone over the history of what subsequently happened but, if he wants to go down that track, I remind him that a whole host of right hon. and hon. Members on his side--
The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) described the confiscation of passports as "wholly unconstitutional"; the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that the proposals, which were less strong than these, were
Ms Claire Ward (Watford): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and the measures that he proposes. I urge him to continue with the timetable that he has set out. Will he take into account the fact that some hon. Members, especially the maverick tendency on the Opposition Benches, will seek to ensure that the proposed legislation is delayed? They will be the very people who will attack the Government and others if the proposed legislation has not been enacted by September and we see repeated scenes of football hooliganism of the sort that we saw the other week.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that those Members who oppose a sensible, speedy but not hasty debate on the proposed legislation will try to ensure that we are not in a position to stop hooligans from disgracing our country and our national game?
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks and for her strong support for the proposed Bill and other measures. I hope that we can achieve the timetable that I have set out. My hon. Friend is right to highlight the inconsistency of the Opposition Front Bench. The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) was suggesting that we should have introduced legislation within two days of the beginning of Euro 2000. Two days was too long for that. She now suggests that four weeks is too short a time. I hope that, in more thoughtful moments, she will recognise the problem with which we are dealing and the need to get legislation through Parliament by the end of July. Plainly, it would be far better to have the proposed legislation on the statute book, if it is in good order, before the football season starts again in September.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): What the right hon. Gentleman has outlined to the House sounds to me to be a serious curtailment of ordinary civil rights. I doubt whether some of these proposals, particularly the third and fourth elements, as he has described them, are compatible with some of the articles of the European convention on human rights.
The House should not depart from the ordinary rules of scrutiny and inquiry into what is proposed. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can properly get the proposed legislation through both Houses by the end of the month unless he is prepared to suspend much other parliamentary business. Is he aware that this is a serious matter involving civil rights? It is our business to champion such rights, and what I have heard from Labour Members suggests that they are suspending their duties in that respect.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) asked me--I am sorry that I did not answer this particular question--if I would exceptionally make the advice of the Law Officers available. Anyone who has been a Minister will know that it is never the practice to make such legal advice available, any more than legal advice to any other individual or corporation is ever made available. Moreover, the legislation does not require that the Attorney-General certifies the compatibility of any draft Bill before the House, but requires that the Minister responsible for that Bill should make that certificate. That is the proper way to proceed.
The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) spoils his case by suggesting that the normal processes of legislation should never be abrogated in any way. Like many of those on the Opposition Benches, his memory started on 2 May 1997. He has sat in the House long enough, as has the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald, to remember many occasions under the previous Administration when those processes were compressed, sometimes into a far shorter time, with far less open consultation, than I am proposing.
Mr. George Mudie (Leeds, East): May I associate myself with the remarks and question from my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)? I quietly ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the case that he has made. As we are discussing a tournament that ended less than 48 hours ago, the review seems rather rushed. Although I support proposals 1 and 2, we have heard the point that has been made about proposals 3 and 4. I wonder how my right hon. Friend will justify those proposals to Labour Back Benchers. In his statement, he gave the impression that he had had discussions with the Opposition parties and that they were compliant with moves to push the legislation through urgently. In view of the mood of those on the Opposition Benches, I urge my right hon. Friend to re-appraise those discussions and reconsider rushing the legislation through Parliament.
Mr. Straw: I understand the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend. As I have made clear, I am not intending to rush the legislation through in the terms that he suggested. I have already said that, if a choice ultimately has to be made between haste and content, content must be the determining factor. I hope that he accepts that, if we can achieve proper speed--I do not know whether we can--if we can achieve the legislation by the end of July and it is in good order, that would be to the benefit of the country as a whole.
I note what my hon. Friend says about proposals 3 and 4, which I announced today. The third proposal has, albeit on a narrower basis, achieved wide support on the Labour Benches. As to the fourth proposal, of course I will consider what my hon. Friend says, and I hope that, in turn, he will look at the small print of the proposal. He is likely to be reassured by that. On co-operation, we look forward to the usual co-operation with the usual channels.
On the question of undue haste in passing legislation that affects individual liberty, will the Home Secretary give thought not just to the process of the House, but to the interests of organisations outside which will want to comment closely on his proposals in the coming months?