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Mr. Hughes: That is why the Liberal Democrats--and some Labour and Conservative colleagues--have resisted

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a provision that would permit a banning order when there was neither a previous nor a current offence. Amendments tabled in Committee and on Report would meet the hon. Gentleman's requirement. They provide that people should not be detained unless they are committing an offence.

That point returns us to an earlier debate. Most relevant offences are those for which people can currently be arrested--the use of racial abuse, or violent or drunk and disorderly behaviour. The power of arrest already exists for such offences. No one has satisfactorily answered the question: what are the offences for which a person would currently not be arrested that would cause the police to act in the context of football? I do not think that there are any. Dropping litter is technically an offence, but it cannot be considered relevant in these circumstances. I share the hon. Gentleman's view that the test must be that a person has committed an offence in front of a police officer.

Ms Ward: I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman and he might have been planning to come to this point later. However, will he explain how the amendment would assist when someone is arrested abroad and there is evidence--it may be documentary or video evidence--to suggest that he was involved in an offence? That person might not be charged but would be deported, so how would the amendment assist in such a case?

Mr. Hughes: The hon. Lady asks a perfectly proper question. I suggest that she looks at the other amendments in the group. I do not want to deceive the House because amendment No. 7 is controversial. It would allow for a slightly wider past history to be taken into account for offences that take place abroad. We had an interesting and important debate on Second Reading and in Committee, and amendment No. 7 keeps the Bill's current wording for offences committed outside the United Kingdom.

There must be a conviction for offences committed in the UK, but the question is how we deal with offences, such as those that we saw on television being committed in Charleroi, for which no one is convicted. Clearly any sensible person would regard hitting someone over the head with a chair in a town square or throwing something through a window as an offence.

I do not pretend that amendment No. 9 is perfect, but a similar amendment was tabled in Committee by the Conservative party and ourselves. It attempts to deal with the second half of the question that the hon. Lady reasonably asked. We wanted to find a way that ensured that something that happened abroad could be prayed in aid as long as it passed the test that it was a criminal offence. The amendment states that

if it had been committed here.

I am slightly nervous about that proposal, but it is only a probing amendment. I am nervous about it because of a point raised by Conservative Back Benchers last week. We do not know what the tests of a foreign court might be. Let us take an extreme example. In China, one might be convicted by processes that we would regard as

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anathema to us and as entirely unacceptable. We would not want to sign up as a Parliament to the automatic importation of a conviction that took place abroad. We have tabled that probing amendment to try to discover the Government's view because we have not yet had a chance to find out their thinking.

Ms Ward: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make, but I read from the amendment that he accepts the principle that someone in this country can be stopped under the provisions in the Bill without having been convicted of an offence. We are referring to offences that were committed abroad and would have constituted a crime in the UK if they had been committed in the UK. In this very amendment, he accepts the principle that someone can be caught by the provisions in the Bill without actually having a conviction.

Mr. Hughes: As it happens, we do not. We intend to press amendment No. 6 to a vote later and it insists that the precondition should be a conviction in the courts of this country. Amendments Nos. 7 and 9--the latter was originally tabled by the Conservatives in Committee--are probing amendments. We are not persuaded--certainly my colleagues in the other place are not persuaded--that what might or might not have been an offence abroad is sufficient reason to trigger the powers in the Bill. Our view is that the precondition--part one of a two-stage process--is that there must have been a relevant conviction in the United Kingdom. That would be achieved by amendment No. 6. The second part of the process is that a offence needs to be committed if someone is to be marched off to the magistrates court for a banning order.

12.45 am

Mr. Browne: I have been following the hon. Gentleman's remarks closely, but it seems to me that amendment No. 6 would not achieve that objective because it leaves the word "elsewhere" in proposed new section 14B(2). If amendment No. 6 were made, the Bill would read:

Mr. Hughes: To be fair, the hon. Gentleman is right. I do not pretend that the amendment is perfect; we have been acting under the same time constraints as he has. We want to ensure that there can be action by the police and in the courts in the United Kingdom--or England and Wales--only if there has been a conviction. The hon. Gentleman may be right to imply that we should have sought to delete the word "elsewhere", and if amendment No. 6 is not made, we should seek to delete the word in amendment No. 7.

Mr. Corbyn: I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could help me because I have become completely puzzled by his arguments. I cannot understand why he has tabled amendment No. 9 at all because he appears to be speaking strongly against that amendment, which in effect would

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allow a prosecution to take place in Britain for an alleged offence in another jurisdiction, where the quality of evidence and prosecution is unknown and it would be hard to collect any serious evidence other than photographs in newspapers. I gently suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he may be better off withdrawing that amendment.

Mr. Hughes: That is a perfectly reasonable objective, and we have been trying to tease out all the issues so that we can debate them. I reassure the hon. Gentleman that amendment No. 9 is a probing amendment and we will not pursue it.

In a debate triggered by the Government, it was said that video footage and evidence of activities abroad could be prayed in aid and would be sufficient, but we do not accept that--it is a dangerous view. I gave an extreme example, and we may not play football against China very often, but there are countries closer to home where we would be suspicious about evidence. In Euro 2000, some of the activities and administrative procedures carried out by the Belgians gave cause for concern.

The hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) referred to such a case. Some of us heard the contribution on the "Today" programme on Monday morning from the father of the one person who has been charged by the Belgian authorities, and he said that his son had an alibi and was not even on the scene. I do not want to prejudge that case, but there are good reasons for arguing that such activity should not be imported into domestic law.

I reassure the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) that our objective in the debate is to make sure that the first leg of the process is achieved by a previous, relevant conviction in the UK. We accept the Government's argument that relevant convictions should not only be alcohol related, but we believe that those convictions should be limited to violence, football and alcohol and should not include spent convictions. The Bill certainly should not import activity from abroad that has not resulted in a conviction in the United Kingdom. I hope that that is clear, and we shall ask the Committee to divide only on amendment No. 6.

Mr. Leigh: I like amendment No. 6 because it has a certain neatness. It deletes the provision that has always worried me about the Bill, which is that one can be subject to the measures if one has

It is terribly hard to define exactly what that means in terms of bad language, gestures, demeanour or actual violence.

The strongest part of the speech made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) was his point that amendment No. 6 will make it clear that if one is to be the subject of an order, one must have been properly convicted in a court of law. All of us have confidence in our courts, so we believe that that provides a clear basis. Therefore, I am perfectly happy with amendment No. 6.

I hope that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey does not mind my saying that the weakest part of his speech was that relating to amendment No. 9.

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I do not blame him for that because he is working under time constraints that are unfair to him and others who have sought to table amendments. His provision would apply--he may certainly interrupt me if I have this wrong--a very different test abroad from that applied here.

I accept the part of amendment No. 9 that states:

That is sensible. The hon. Gentleman is right that there are jurisdictions not in Europe but elsewhere in the world of which we are very suspicious and in which civil liberties are infringed. Why is he not also insisting that the conduct is of such a nature that it would not only constitute a crime here but result in a conviction abroad? Would not that be a double test, a belt and braces approach?

If the hon. Gentleman had tabled amendment No. 9 in such terms, he would be insisting that the person would have had to be subject to a conviction either here or abroad for such an order to be made. I do not know why he has not made that clear.

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