Previous SectionIndexHome Page

9.15 pm

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): The hon. Gentleman should not create a largely mythical monster against which he can rail. I do not understand his point; perhaps he can explain it. Why does he believe that police officers would detain large numbers of people? The Bill does not require them to pick up large numbers. The hon. Gentleman should also answer the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Ms Ward) made. What makes him believe that large numbers of people would be caught? If many people were detained by a police officer, what would be the impact on them? If they were innocent, they would not end up with a criminal record.

Mr. Gale: For good reasons, of which I am aware, the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber when my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) spoke about likely numbers. We were considering the possibility of

17 Jul 2000 : Column 110

400 people being apprehended. If the Bill is of any value, which I doubt, and each of the 400, some of whom may be on a day trip and thus have their entire day ruined, is detained for up to six hours--

Mr. Gummer: If not many people are apprehended, and mayhem ensues in some football match abroad, will not the public demand, "Why were not more people stopped?" It would be almost impossible thereafter for the police not to stop more people. That will continue until The Sun suddenly decides that it is on the wrong side, and twists right round and tells us that we have dealt with the rights of the individual in a cavalier manner. That will happen, and my hon. Friend should say so.

Mr. Gale: My right hon. Friend is right. The police are between a rock and a hard place. They will either pull people in, which entails the great danger of pulling in people who should not be apprehended, or they will not, and be blamed the moment another riot occurs abroad. I am concerned on behalf of the Kent constabulary. Neither the chief constable nor any other Kent policeman has said to me, "Roger, this is a wonderful Bill. You've got to get behind it because it gives us a power that we've really been waiting for." Not one police officer has said that.

Mr. Burns: I wonder whether the chief constable of Kent, or any Kent police officer, has approached my hon. Friend to say that the Bill is dreadful and to ask him to stop it.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): They have had no time.

Mr. Gale: As my right hon. Friend says, there has been no time. It is significant that the police have not woken up to the fact that, as well as policing economic migrants and contraband goods, they will be lumbered with deciding who should be detained under the powers that the Bill gives them.

I do not like the blackmail that always accompanies measures such as the Bill: the assumption--which minor, share-dealing tabloid editors will pick up--that anyone who does not support the measure is soft on football hooliganism. My right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) clearly said that we would support any Bill that reasonably tackles football hooliganism. However, the Bill does not tackle it because it has no writ north of the border or in Northern Ireland.

The Bill is holed below the waterline before it has even been launched. Anyone who is seriously intent on making trouble will not go with the innocent through Dover, Folkestone or via Le Shuttle; they will go where they know that they will not be stopped. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) is an expert on the subject and has frequently said that we are considering organised hooliganism. It is folly to believe that people who are so organised that they carry briefcases and wear pinstripe suits will not travel through Glasgow, Edinburgh or Belfast. Meanwhile, those who use our ports in Kent will pick up the wreckage of a bad measure.

I shall go with the Home Secretary on the Bill's initial provisions, which we can all support, but when the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey presses the amendment to a Division, as I trust he will, I shall support it. It will take the rotten guts out of a bad Bill.

17 Jul 2000 : Column 111

Mr. Hancock: The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) spoke with conviction and referred to a Minister having to return to these matters; he seemed to be speaking from personal experience. Ministers should take careful note of what he said might happen because there was more than a true word in his comments. The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) began to explore the scenarios that might arise not only in Kent, but in other parts of the south of England and elsewhere. Heathrow is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), and he made a similar point. I represent another port of entry to, or exit from, the United Kingdom.

Let us consider the scenario of a weekend game being played in France. Let us start in London. Eurostar trains leave Waterloo at the rate of one an hour throughout the day and, on the way, stop in Kent--the county of the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale). Policemen would be needed at Eurostar in Waterloo and at Ashford International. Let us consider the ferry ports. People would be needed at Ramsgate as ferries go from there to Dunkirk. There are dozens of ferries a day from Dover, all of which would have to be manned by policemen. The same applies at Folkestone and, a little further along the south coast, at Portsmouth.

Mr. Simon Hughes: Newhaven is on the way.

Mr. Hancock: Ferries do not currently operate from Newhaven, but I hope that they will return in time. Up to 12 ferries a day regularly travel from my constituency to four ports of entry in France. Ferries also cross to France from Poole, which is a little further along the coast. All those sites will have to be manned.

Three shuttle trains leave this country every hour. I have often travelled on Le Shuttle and have seen perhaps 30 transit vans on some trains. Most of the people in them are going over to France to buy booze, but I suspect that, in future, they will be full of people who want to watch football matches. Every car and person will presumably have to checked.

If policemen had to be at all those ports during the three or four days leading up to a match, an enormous strain would be put on the resources of the police forces of Hampshire and Kent and on the Metropolitan police to ensure that all those trains, ships and cars were properly inspected; otherwise the law would be unfair: it would not operate universally.

Let us consider what could happen if a policeman were to detain someone--the point made by hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins). If a policeman had reason to believe that someone was worthy of detention, what would happen at that moment? Would the policeman have to spend a considerable time with that person? Would he have to take the person to a place where he can be detained, perhaps in a room somewhere at the port, which would have to be manned by other policemen who would ensure that the paperwork would be done? Would the policeman then simply return to his place at the front of the queue to look for other people, or would there be other policemen waiting to fill his place so that the process could continue, ensuring that people were properly checked?

How will the selection process take place? Obviously, the police will use their network of sources, and those sources will point out known offenders who have not got

17 Jul 2000 : Column 112

convictions. Will those people be put on the list and identified? At least a dozen ports and airports would have to be covered by that process and policemen throughout the country would have to be briefed extensively over a long period to ensure that they picked out the right people.

Let us suppose that a busload of football supporters turned up wearing their England jerseys, jeans and sneakers with their jumpers tied around their waists, and they had all drunk a can of beer on the way to the port. The policeman would say, "I have a reasonable belief that one of you 30 could be a problem on the other side." What would happen to the other 29? What judgment would the policeman exercise? Would the passengers all have to get off the coach at Le Shuttle, although that does not have to happen at present? Would the other 29 be paraded in front of the Kent constabulary and would those who look more suspect than the others be picked out? That would be nonsensical.

Mr. Browne: Again, I seek clarification. In Scotland, drinking in a coach on the way to a sporting event is a criminal offence. Is it not an offence in England and Wales?

Mr. Hancock: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has the better of me. I am not sure whether that is a criminal offence in England, but no doubt the Minister will put us right. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have passed or travelled on many a coach on which a can or two has been taken. The provision would open the door to all sorts of scenarios that would be difficult to police, difficult to control and difficult to resource.

Ms Ward: Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. Under the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985, that is an offence under English law, as it is under Scottish law.

Mr. Hancock: The hon. Lady once again refers to sporting events, but people may be travelling abroad on a coach for another purpose. Presumably that would not be covered.

Next Section

IndexHome Page