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3.45 pm

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Let me make it clear, on behalf of the official Opposition, that although, as was said earlier on the guillotine motion, we have been very unhappy with the way in which matters have been handled procedurally--in what we would call indecent haste and with inappropriate guillotines--we are none the less grateful that the Government have made certain concessions, having recognised the quality of the arguments advanced by my noble Friend Lord Cope and others. I certainly accept what the Minister, and Ministers in another place, have said: that the Government have sought, where they felt it possible, to accommodate points made in both Houses by the official Opposition and by Liberal Democrats.

That should not in any way be taken as reducing our continuing concern about the way in which this matter has been handled and about the fact that, even this afternoon, there has been quite a lot of confusion. The point just made by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) shows once again how the House can get into a muddle and even experienced Members of Parliament such as he can be confused by the rush in which manuscript amendments have had to be tabled. I am pleased that the amendment in lieu was at least selected, but the problem is that, because of the guillotine, some important matters may never be reached, so the Minister may not be able to say anything about them.

Given that we are dealing with a Bill that, quintessentially, may result in court proceedings, the rule in Pepper v. Hart that ministerial statements can be relied on in court is especially important. If important amendments are not debated, by definition the Minister will make no statement and no reference will be able to be made to the Government's view in interpreting what will be the result of this rushed legislation.

There are no amendments tabled by the official Opposition in this group. Because of the rush, we have sought to consider, at short notice, the manuscript amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I hear what the Minister says about delegated powers and the amendment in lieu, relating to line 18 of the second schedule. There is certainly a continuing concern about the broad reach of the provisions, but I recognise that the Government have wisely taken on board a number of points made in debate by Lord Cope and others in another place.

The Government did well to accept those points, but they should recognise that the way in which they have proceeded is not a recipe for good legislation. We hope that they will learn lessons from the peculiar procedural

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complications that they have imposed on the House, and we very much hope that they will never again put us in such a position.

Mr. Simon Hughes: As the Minister said, the amendment in lieu relates to Lords amendments Nos. 18 to 21.

I shall deal briefly with Lords amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3, which improve the Bill by providing more parliamentary control in respect of policy changes and any additional measures that the Government may seek to introduce under clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill, and we support the amendments.

Let me pause for a second to say that all the Lords amendments improve the Bill. My hon. Friends here and in another place--and many other right hon. and hon. Members--share the view that the Bill is fundamentally bad. We continue to disagree with provisions in respect of banning orders and summary detention. Had we the opportunity, we would disagree with the Bill or remove those provisions. However, procedure prevents us from doing so.

Those sentiments were reflected in speeches in another place, such as those by the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman and by Lord Ackner, who is non-party political and a senior and respected lawyer. My noble Friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury compared the Bill with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, which we dealt with yesterday, saying:

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald): So there have been some.

Mr. Hughes: I was quoting Lord Phillips of Sudbury. It is certainly our view that, of the major matters involved, the only significant concession has been in respect of the life of the Bill, which was originally five years. It was conceded in this House to four years and is now down to two years--the so-called sunset clause. My noble Friend Lord Phillips said that although it may be good that the sun sets on this Bill sooner rather than later, the sun should never have risen on this Bill. That encapsulates our view.

So what have we left to do? We have tried to table appropriate amendments in the time available. Our amendment, which would replace Lords amendments Nos. 18 to 21, would remove the power of the Secretary of State to extend the control period. Of course it is better to have a control period of 10 days rather than an unlimited one. However, my hon. Friends and I would rather that the Secretary of State did not have the power to extend the control period as everyone is concerned that the Bill already gives too much power to the authorities.

Mr. Corbyn: The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to extend the control period. What will happen if

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an emergency arises during the parliamentary recess? Can the Secretary of State simply do whatever he wishes--and we will have to scrutinise that long after the event--or is he denied the right to take action?

Mr. Hughes: The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on another important reason why the Bill is nonsense. I understand that the control period can be extended only by the Secretary of State coming to Parliament and seeking an extension. Many powers in the Bill require affirmative resolutions of both Houses. I stand to be corrected, but if that is the case, it can happen only when the House is sitting. I find it unlikely that the House would be recalled for that sort of job.

Mr. Corbyn: Who knows?

Mr. Hughes: Nowadays who knows, but it is unlikely. Some of the urgent issues for this year relate to matches in August, September and October--before the House of Commons returns. Therefore, a power to take urgent action could not be applied if the House was not sitting. That also applies to Christmas and Easter holidays.

I hope that the House will agree that it would be better not to give Ministers the additional power. I realise that we will not be able to vote on my proposal until we have discussed the remaining groups of amendments, but hon. Members should bear in mind that we will seek to divide the House after the next three debates.

Mr. Charles Clarke: I want to deal with the point about Lord Ackner. I have studied the Hansard of the debate in another place, which started at 4.48 pm yesterday and can be found at columns 450-65. There was substantial controversy over the matter, and as the hon. Gentleman has raised it I was careful to read the entire debate.

I believe that no undertaking was given to Lord Ackner that the amendments that he wanted to table could be tabled for today. Indeed, at column 462, the Government Chief Whip made it clear that amendments along the lines of those proposed by Lord Ackner could not be tabled today because they were not variations of or consequential on amendments made in another place. I wanted to make those points to set out my position as clearly as possible.

Mr. Hughes: Like the Minister, I have read the Hansard of yesterday's debate in another place. Does he agree that the reason why there has been a problem is that there was no opportunity for peers such as Lord Ackner to table their amendments as they were working to a timetable that was then changed at short notice?

Mr. Clarke: As is set out clearly in the Hansard of the debate, there was clearly a misunderstanding on Report as to whether or not Lord Ackner could table amendments the following day for Third Reading. The full account of that is set out in the Lords Hansard of the debate yesterday afternoon. Apparently, Lord Bassam said that Lord Ackner could table the amendments "tomorrow" instead of "for tomorrow". That miswording was specifically addressed in yesterday's debate. It is elaborated in the Hansard of that debate, which is

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available to all right hon. and hon. Members who would like to study it. I do not believe that a commitment of the type that the hon. Gentleman was referring to was given.

Mr. Corbyn: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Minister has finished his speech.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 5

Commencement and duration

Lords amendment: No. 4, in page 2, line 40, leave out ("four years") and insert ("one year")

Mr. Charles Clarke: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendment gave rise to the most discussion in another place. I will not hide from the House that the Government are disappointed by the amendment, which reflects the desire of another place to reduce significantly the proposed life span of what are widely known as measures 3 and 4. We were not against a sunset clause in principle and we were quite happy to discuss it, but we feel that the time periods that were agreed in another place are too short for good legislation.

When we proposed one and four-year sunset periods, we believed that the right amount of time had been allocated properly to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the measures in sections 14B, 21A and 21B of the Football Spectators Act 1989. We were especially conscious that a five-year period would incorporate Euro 2004 in Portugal--a high-risk tournament comparable with Euro 2000--and that that would provide an excellent test for the Bill. That is why we opposed the amendment in another place and that is why we regret it now. However, we recognise that the concerns that were expressed in another place that led to the amendment were perfectly genuine and were not facetious in any way. Although we do not share those views, we think that in the interests of the consensual approach that we have tried to follow, we should accept the amendment and for that reason I commend it to the House.

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