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Miss Widdecombe: While I am grateful to the Minister for not resisting the proposal that there should be a fairly stringent sunset clause, I am also slightly disappointed as we proposed an original renewal period of six months rather than the one year which has now come from another place. On the other hand, the final date by which the legislation falls, which is two years away, is exactly what we proposed.
Although I hear what the Minister says about the matches that the Bill will not cover, it will cover the whole of the qualifying period for the World cup and should therefore provide a sensible opportunity to assess its effectiveness.
We have made it clear throughout that we would not oppose the due process of the Bill's progress through the House, although it has not had much of that due process. However, the measure's flaws and dangers have become clearer with debate, and it has become increasingly necessary to provide that the Bill has a clause to ensure their short, sharp life.
Miss Widdecombe: Neither have I. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) said that he had a specific opposition to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989. He and I share many interests when it comes to animal welfare. I was not happy either with the outcome of deliberations on that legislation, although at the time I was obliged to pretend that I was.
Therefore, I feel strongly that we must always ensure that legislation introduced at a fast pace can be reviewed. Such a review should take place at an early stage, not after a long period of possible injustices, failures and undesirable effects. In that way, hon. Members would be able to assess whether the legislation was better or worse than they believed it to be when it left the House, or exactly as they expected.
I welcome the amendment. It is close to what we asked for in the first place, and I am grateful to the Minister for accepting it. I hope that it will meet with no serious opposition from other hon. Members.
Mr. Corbyn: Like other hon. Members, I am pleased that the Bill's review period will be shorter than originally planned--as long as my hon. Friend the Minister does not come back to the House for a renewal clause within a year. I hope that my hon. Friend will say whether there is a serious intention of extending the provisions beyond a year.
More importantly, what assessments will be made of the Bill's effects and operation? How will those assessments be reported to the House, and what opportunity will hon. Members have to debate them? This Bill seriously and fundamentally reduces the civil liberties of British citizens. It has to be monitored, as the prevention of terrorism Acts and other legislation are.
Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South): It was a bit rich of the Minister to complain about the amount of time for assessment of the Bill's effects being reduced to two years, as he was an enthusiastic supporter of denying either House of Parliament the chance to debate properly what the Bill was meant to achieve. No doubt his lack of enthusiasm for the amendment is tempered by his enthusiasm to get the Bill through the House today.
There has been widespread concern about the Bill in the House. That was evident on Third Reading and at other stages of its progress. It left this House in pretty bad shape, and has returned slightly improved, but the acceptance by the Government of the amendments tabled in another place shows that there was real room for improvement. The reduction of the assessment period is one element of that, but it would have been better if this House had had at least one more day for deliberation on the amendments. We were denied that opportunity. It would also have been better if the House of Lords had had the opportunity to discuss the amendments more fully.
Everyone who wants legislation to curb football hooliganism to succeed will be disappointed with the lack of time for debate. The problem for those who object to aspects of the Bill is that it will return to the House before two years are up. There is no doubt that the provisions will be challenged in the courts, and the Home Secretary will have to come to the House to amend the legislation accordingly.
The Bill may solve this summer's problem, but it will not help in the long term. I agree with the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), who said that we have to stamp out hooliganism and make football worth going to see, so that people can be proud of the national team. The Bill will not achieve that. I hope that the Minister will say what he would add to the Bill to improve it.
Mr. Banks: I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I also said that the Bill might not work. That is because the beast that we are dealing with changes shape according to the legislation that arrives on the statute book. I do not want to create a hostage to fortune, but I am fairly certain that we will have to revisit this territory again and again, until we get the matter right. We must exercise judgment and, although hon. Members from all parties have pointed out the potential problems, that is what we are doing in introducing the Bill.
I am reasonably agnostic about the amendment. I preferred the original proposal in the Bill for a four-year review period, but I hope that my hon. Friend will clarify one point. I understand that the legislation will come into
Will my hon. Friend the Minister say to what extent we can be certain that the Bill will still be in place at that time? Will it be adequate to handle problems that might arise in the run-up to the match against Germany on 1 September 2001?
Mr. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): I shall be brief, in the hope that the House will be able to vote on the Liberal Democrat amendment at the end of this short debate. For me and a number of other hon. Members, it is the only way in which the Bill can be rendered remotely acceptable.
Many hon. Members were worried about the use of civil standards of proof and civil process to exercise the criminal sanction of a banning order. After the sunset clause is triggered, it is inevitable that the Bill will return to the House to be recreated. I hope that the Minister will look then at the option of using criminal process rather than civil process, and in that way ensure that the legislation properly respects civil liberties.
Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire): We must remember that the Bill is very rushed. It is inaccurate to say that there has been real opportunity for proper scrutiny. Consequently, I think that one year is quite long enough before the measure is reconsidered. It is thoroughly undesirable that we should legislate in this way. To restrict the Bill's time limit to one year--six months would have been better--is the only ameliorating factor. I am very glad that the other place has proposed this amendment.
Mr. Simon Hughes: As colleagues have said, this is where the Government were defeated in the other place, by a majority of 38. The amendment is the attempt of the other place, given the rush, to do something.
I echo the words of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis). We do not make the removal of civil liberties acceptable by saying that they are removed only for the next two years. My hon. Friends and I take the view that there should be a criminal pre-condition for a banning order, which is not in the Bill, and that there should not be summary detention without judicial authority. However, those views apply whether the measure is for one year or two.
No Government would put so much effort into a measure if they did not intend to use its powers. It is not as if the Government want these powers to remain in the locker--they want to apply them. We will be able to judge how effective those powers are.
The sunset provision clearly improves the Bill. The Minister undertook that annual reports would be made, although there is a question about their independence. Before we agree to the amendment, will the Minister confirm that we will have an independent report on the working of the Bill before the renewal orders--which