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6.1 pm

Mr. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): I agree with almost everyone who has spoken in the debate, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks). He lobbied me in the past when I was a Foreign Office Minister on the civil and civic rights of people in many other countries, so he surprised me when he said that, if we were not football fans, we might not understand the problem.

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I agree with the hon. Gentleman on one point. I presume that he is right to say it is necessary for the Bill to become law before the summer recess. I cannot judge accurately the seriousness of the possible hooliganism that might follow the matches that are held abroad, so I shall take it as read that the Bill must become law by the beginning of August. However, even if we accept that assumption, we are involved in a hazardous parliamentary process.

There are good reasons for the structure of Second Reading and then a pause, Committee stage and then a pause and then the final stages of a Bill before it goes to the Lords. That is the only way that the House generates decent legislation. On every other occasion when we have not followed that procedure, we have ended up with bad legislation. Even when we follow that procedure and there is insufficient argument about the issues, we sometimes end up with bad legislation.

The Bill and the amendments demonstrate my argument. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell), who is a former Attorney-General, and I tabled amendments Nos. 28 and 29. In their amendments, the Government have accepted amendment No. 29 and substantively accepted amendment No. 28, but our amendments were tabled at the last minute--on Thursday evening, because the House did not sit on Friday--after relatively short consideration of the Bill. That the amendments were necessary was fairly obvious at that point; so much so that the Government probably agreed to accept them because, if they did not, the Bill would be illegal under the European convention on human rights. On that basis, the Bill was badly flawed even at first sight and who is to know what would have become apparent between Committee and Report?

The fact that there is no gap between the Committee and Report stages is what aggrieves me most about the process suggested for the debate. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) told us that it would be possible to create a timetable for the Bill so that its Report stage would be taken on Wednesday. That would still allow the Lords sufficient time to complete its consideration of the Bill and send it back to us before the summer. That is the only intelligent way to consider the Bill. If we do not take that approach, flaws will undoubtedly remain in it.

The Bill is designed not just for the summer, but for the foreseeable future. It will be the basis on which the courts deliver law and it will impinge fiercely on the civil rights of individuals--not just football hooligans but all football fans and probably all those who travel on the day of international football matches. All of us--whether we are football fans or not--represent people in that latter category. Therefore, it is our duty--not just our right--to make the points that we have made today.

Although I tried to table a manuscript amendment to break consideration of the Bill into two parts so that we could debate it today and on Wednesday, that was unfortunately not possible under the procedures of the House. That is a tragedy, in my judgment. It will lead to the Bill having a harder time in the Lords and it may lead to its being greatly flawed when it becomes law.

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6.5 pm

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow): I have listened to much of the debate this evening and on Second Reading and I am persuaded that the case for the Bill is not made. Certainly the case for proceeding with the indecent haste that the Government propose is not made.

The problems stem from the failure of law enforcement authorities to invoke existing powers. Doubts must have been created in the minds of those Members of Parliament who listened to the "Today" programme this morning and heard the father of the only football fan who was charged as a result of the scenes in Charleroi. Scores of arrests were made, but only one person was charged and the manner in which that was done appears to have been unsatisfactory. The proposed new law is unnecessary because existing law is not being invoked. We are in danger of doing the wrong thing--albeit for the right reasons--because of the indecent haste with which we are proceeding with the Bill.

We are in danger of legislating for one specific event in September because of the unacceptable behaviour of a very small minority. However, as has been pointed out, we have a duty and a responsibility to legislate for everyone in our society and in a way that does not prejudice the civil liberties of the majority. Any law that is made without the arguments for and against it being properly tested in debate risks becoming bad law.

Hon. Members have made the point that it is important to listen to a wide range of views. Parliament does not have the monopoly of wisdom on such subjects. Although Parliament has listened with great interest to those Members who have a specific interest in football and have knowledge of the problems occasioned by soccer hooliganism, many Members do not have such knowledge. Therefore it is wrong for us to proceed at break-neck speed without having time to consider the other views that might have been fed into the debate had it not been timetabled in such an unsatisfactory fashion. Given the fundamental civil liberty issues that are at stake, truncating the debate in the manner suggested by the Government is ill advised and offends against the finer traditions of law making in this Parliament.

6.9 pm

Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire): I shall be brief, but I want to associate myself with what has been said by almost everyone on both sides of the House. In particular, I refer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), who made a catalogue of points that all deserve serious consideration.

I do not want to sound churlish because I am grateful to the Home Secretary for accepting the substance of the two amendments that I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis) tabled. As my right hon. Friend said, they were tabled late at night, and many more amendments need to be tabled.

I strongly support the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock), who said that the proposal is a sticking-plaster palliative and that it would be much better to have the Report stage after 10 pm on Wednesday, rather than after midnight tonight, as at least that would provide two more days for some kind of reflection. It is quite wrong that a Bill that delves deep and make a major attack on the civil liberties of people in this country should be rushed through in this way. We have already

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said that it is not necessary, as there have been eight pieces of legislation on football matters since 1980, and a friendly match with France in September is no justification for rushing in this way.

I shall briefly highlight the important points. The Home Secretary has already acknowledged one human rights error by accepting our amendments. However, the Bill contains another human rights error as, under schedule 1, proposed new section 21C(1) of the Football Spectators Act 1989 makes the measures applicable only to citizens of this country, which directly contradicts article 14 of the ECHR, under which such action is discriminatory. If the Home Office cannot get such matters right and, as is his statutory duty, the Home Secretary states on the front of the Bill that, under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998, in his view

within a few days he will be demonstrated to be wrong on one occasion and, I believe, wrong on a second. I say that with deep respect for the Home Office lawyers who are advising the Home Secretary, many of whom I know personally and who are of a high calibre. However, if they can get it wrong when advising the Home Secretary, as we must presume, and the Home Secretary is wrong about fundamental human rights, about which the Government have made such a song and dance about introducing, the need for close scrutiny is strongly demonstrated.

I shall say a quick word about extraterritoriality. My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden tabled an amendment with which I have a good deal of sympathy, as it proposes that a criminal action that takes place abroad but is not dealt with there could be dealt with here. However, before we breach that dam, big issues are raised.

Let us suppose that one is seen on videotape in a crowd that is milling around and clearly taking part in public disorder. If one is in such a crowd, one is likely to be contributing to disorder, whether or not one wishes to. However, one's opportunity to defend oneself may be extremely limited. Consequently, I am hesitant about supporting a measure which, if we can get the wording right, might be sensible.

I have made the few points that I need to make immediately, and which add up to the fact that the rush on the Bill will cause us to regret at leisure what we have done in haste.

6.13 pm

Mr. Straw: With the leave of the House, I shall seek to reply to the debate.

I recognise that those who have consistently opposed guillotine motions while supporting their party in government as well as in opposition have strong moral authority for what they have said today. Of those members of the official Opposition who have spoken against the guillotine, the only person in that position is the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) who, throughout the period in which he was a Government Back Bencher, honourably opposed Government guillotines. As the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) rashly spoke about Jekyll and Hyde and people saying one thing and doing another, I must point

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out that what I said about the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills does not apply to him, the right hon. Member for, famously, Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell), the right hon. Members for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis), and the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), the shadow Leader of the House.

Those Members, when Ministers or Back Benchers in the previous Government, all voted for guillotine motions, including that on the Football Spectators Act 1989 which was debated exactly 11 years ago today. I have refreshed my memory on that debate but, for those right hon. and hon. Members who have not, the case for guillotining that Bill was much less urgent than the case for guillotining the Bill today.

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