|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Burns: In that context, should we not also remember that, if the measure does give rise to problems, there will be an annual review by the House--as there is for the prevention of terrorism Acts? The sunset clause also affords additional protection in case the legislation is not as ideal as we hope.
Mr. Banks: The sunset clause and the review are important, because if the measure is wrong, we can do something about it. Although I support the Bill because I have seen the damage that football hooliganism has done to our reputation all over the world, I point out to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that this will not be the last time that we deal with the subject. This Bill is not the complete answer but I am sure that, if the Liberal amendment were accepted, there would be nothing in the Bill to prevent hooliganism abroad--[Interruption.] I am asked if I have read the amendment: of course I have.
Mr. McDonnell: Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the argument that the innocent have nothing to fear was also used to justify all the stop and search measures that were used so prejudicially against the black community in London?
Mr. Banks: I did not say that the innocent have nothing to fear, because some innocent people will undoubtedly be caught by the legislation. There will be inconvenience. However, in this place, we have to draw lines--we have to decide on the issues. Although there are times when I would wholly agree with my hon. Friend's point about the use of sus laws to stop black youths in our community, I can also see a reason for the Bill. We have to draw lines. Sometimes we cross or fall short of a line, but we ultimately use our judgment. Our judgment may prove to be wrong.
Mr. Banks: It will be our judgment tonight and a police officer's judgment tomorrow. We will then see how the provision operates in practice. Tonight we must use our judgment alone, and my judgment says that this is a good Bill and that the amendment is a bad one.
Mr. Simon Hughes: The hon. Gentleman misrepresents one point. Those of us who argue that we should remove this measure from the Bill would leave three of the other four measures in it. We would also give the other half of a two-Chamber Parliament a chance to do a much better job than the Government have so far done with this measure.
To return to what I was saying to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), our judgment is as good as that of those in another place. Why do we not trust it? I trust our judgment and I trust my judgment on this point. I believe that we should pass the Bill tonight. If we get the Bill wrong, we shall test it against the reality of practice and change it if necessary.
We are dealing with people who will find their way around the legislation, but we must never give up. If we give up, they will make fools of all of us. Quite frankly, enough of us have already made fools of ourselves.
I have now had a chance to examine the Bill carefully and I think that some of the Bill's basic thrust on banning orders is misunderstood. It is interesting that the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) seems to misunderstand aspects of that. Leaving aside the summary procedure to which I shall come shortly, it is clear that it will be a searching and ponderous procedure to secure a banning order against someone when it is not immediately linked to his being convicted by a court.
One only has to examine the procedures in schedule 1 to learn that the process will not take one, two or three hours; I suspect that, in some cases, it will involve a court case that will spread out over several days. That is even before we come to the process by which one goes to the Crown court on appeal. [Interruption.] The Minister of State, Home Office, the right hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), is making suggestive gestures--that might be the best way of describing them--but he knows the reality.
A complaint will be made, a summons will be issued, an individual will be targeted and he will be told that, notwithstanding the fact that he is not standing trial for an offence, he will be brought before a court because the police have accumulated sufficient evidence that they consider to be valid to obtain a banning order against him. There will then be a substantial hearing. That hearing will take place--[Interruption.] I shall continue for as long as necessary to make the Home Secretary understand the importance of the point that has to be made. That procedure will take time and it will involve witnesses being called. Undoubtedly, character witnesses will be called for the person against whom the allegations are made and, if we are dealing with video evidence, I am sure that there will be issues of identity and a host of other problems.
Notwithstanding those points, I do not think that the procedure that the Home Secretary is introducing for banning orders for people against whom a complaint is made will in any way be unfair. I think that individuals will be targeted who have previously escaped conviction and on whom the courts can make an order and enforce it, which will be regarded as right. In view of that,
Those who will have banning orders brought against them will be few in number. However, the summary procedure is being depicted as a measure that will result in large numbers of people being picked up at a port or place of exit from this country and prevented from leaving on a general hunch of the police, backed by a few hours of investigation. I therefore hope that the Home Secretary will pay careful attention to amendment No. 9, which would at least require the intervention of a magistrate before such an order is made. He may also wish to consider carefully whether the summary procedure marries easily with the safeguards that he has introduced in the main procedure for getting the banning orders. I cannot help but think that, in reality, when such a situation arises the police will have to make on-the-spot decisions and will have plenty of time to repent at leisure as they subsequently discover that they have inhibited the exit from this country of those against whom they do not have sufficient evidence to obtain a banning order.
May I return the compliment to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who invited me to listen? I shall not follow up everything that he raised as, although I am sure that he had good reason for not being here earlier, I have been into considerable detail about the reasons for the orders. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman accepts that the procedure will not be unfair. Whether it turns out to be ponderous depends on the nature of the court, but it is proper that it should be searching, as our courts established.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that a limited number of people will be processed under the civil procedure in the third part of the Bill, which allows me to answer in the negative the question asked by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) about whether I knew how many orders would be processed in the ensuing period. Of course the answer is that one cannot tell. However, I must tell the hon. Member for Beaconsfield that I suspect that how long a particular case takes depends, as in any other case in the civil or criminal courts, on the strength and complexity of the evidence. It does not follow that, in every case involving an individual who is subject to the civil process, he or she--although typically he--will resist the complaint or have much of a case to make in defence.
In situations in which it turns out that the application is founded on thin evidence or there is argument about identity, it is perfectly possible that proceedings may take some time. However, we have learned from the process for anti-social behaviour orders that as courts gained experience of the process, they obviously became more skilled in dealing with the matters before them.
In my opening remarks, I made the point at length that the summary power needs to be seen as supplementary to the core power, which involves obtaining a banning order by a civil process. It is to be hoped--the police have this hope--that, so far as possible, candidates for banning orders will be dealt with by the slower process of a normal complaint issued in the magistrates court, where, if a matter is adjourned for a week or so, it will not materially affect the risk that the individual poses.
There has also been much speculation about whether the police in Dover or any other port will be able to identify every person who will cause trouble abroad. Of course they will be unable to do that because, as the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) said, they are not clairvoyant. The Association of Chief Police Officers, superintendents and the National Criminal Intelligence Service strongly support both the powers because they believe that they will assist them in better controlling hooliganism.
I make it clear to the Committee that the Bill will not in itself end football hooliganism abroad any more than the Football Spectators Act 1989, which was the subject of a guillotine exactly 11 years ago today, led to an immediate reduction in football hooliganism in this country. Over time, however, the powers should greatly assist in reducing the threat of football hooliganism abroad.
There is another effect, which I point out in response to the hon. Member for North Thanet. There are people who would be intercepted by the police if better information were available, but at present they may slip through the cordon, go abroad and cause trouble. If there is evidence against them that we can use, it can retrospectively be brought into play to obtain a banning order by the slower process when they return to this country.