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Mr. Charles Clarke: A number of points have been raised in this short debate. Let me say first to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) that we believe that the Bill is well constructed, but we do not yet have a view as to what to do at the end of the period. We genuinely want to look at the situation, see what has happened and decide whether the legislation should be improved or whether further legislation is necessary. To that end, my hon. Friend is right to say that it will be necessary for a report to be made on the legislation so that the situation can be fully discussed. That report will be made. I cannot give the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) the commitment--I could not give it to him on Second or Third Readings, either--that the report will be "independent". However, I can give the commitment that we will make a report.
As for a debate in the House, that is a matter for the normal process. Of course, all the normal processes of the House, including Select Committees, will be able to stimulate debate on those matters.
Mr. Corbyn: Is there any possibility of ensuring that an independent report is done on the operation of the legislation, perhaps through surveillance of the matches taking place in September and this autumn? Could someone appointed by the Home Office report independently on the Bill so that we do not have to rely only on statistics and police reports?
Mr. Clarke: I am not ruling that out. I understand the point made by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. However, we will consider how to report in a way that will maximise confidence in what we are doing among all those in the House. A variety of reports are produced--police reports and others have been mentioned--which we look at. We will decide exactly how to report in due course. I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that I cannot give an absolute commitment that the report will be independent in the way that he wishes.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the recess. The order referred to under proposed section 22A(2) is subject to the negative resolution procedure. It can therefore be laid and can come into force during the recess in the event that such circumstances arise.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) mentioned the Germany/England game in 2001. The process being considered today is that proposed sections 14B, 21A and 21B will be subject to a one-year initial review period which will take us to the end of August 2001, subject to an order extending it for a further year--to August 2002--which will be subject to affirmative resolution.
In the event that the Bill is agreed to today, the match in September 2001 will be covered, provided that the House agrees an affirmative order before August 2001, which would extend the Bill for another year. That takes us to the period in which the report must be made, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North.
Mr. Corbyn: I thank the Minister for giving way again. I just want to be clear about this. In the event that the Government decide to extend the life of the measure beyond August 2001, can the Minister assure us that that would be done by an affirmative vote of the House rather than an instrument ordered by a Minister, as that would be ordered during a recess and would therefore have to be voted on retrospectively? That would obviously be too late, because the Bill would already have come into effect.
Mr. Clarke: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The extension of the legislation by a further year after the first year would be by affirmative, not negative order. So the Government would need to table--presumably before 31 July 2001--an order to extend the measure for a year to August 2002. I cannot commit myself to the exact date, but that is the framework. That is the meaning of the process that we are discussing.
Mr. Hughes: Does not the report, whether or not it is as independent as we would like, also have to be laid before we have the affirmative resolution votes, not just at the end of the two years of the Bill's life?
Mr. Clarke: The report will be about the first two-year period, assuming that an affirmative order were passed, to consider whether further legislation will be necessary to extend the measure beyond the period that we have discussed. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that we should have the report before the affirmative order to extend the measure for a further year is made, I understand his point, and so will those who read our proceedings. We will consider what is the appropriate reporting mechanism to the House at that point.
Obviously, in any debate on the affirmative order, right hon. and hon. Members will be able to make any points that they want about the basis of information that is being considered. A report on the content of the legislation has to be laid beforehand, as clause 5 clearly provides. However, I am more ambiguous in my response to the hon. Gentleman about the nature of the report, because that will be important to the House in considering the situation.
Mr. Clarke: This group of amendments contains a number of Government amendments brought forward in response to points made here and in the other place. Amendment No. 5 responds to criticisms made in another
Amendments Nos. 6, 8 and 9 meet the points made in this House by the former Attorney-General, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell). Their effect is that conduct more than 10 years old cannot be taken into account in considering an order under proposed section 14B unless it relates to an unspent conviction. The amendments also make it clear that the powers under that section do not affect the position under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974--that spent convictions cannot be taken into account in civil proceedings.
Amendment No. 7 removes from proposed section 14C the reference to decisions of a public authority. The potential breadth of that position was commented on widely by several right hon. and hon. Members throughout our debates, and the Government have therefore removed it from the Bill, to remove any uncertainty about the meaning of the phrase.
Amendment No. 17 is an important amendment, ensuring that legal advice and assistance, including advice by way of representation, may be made available for proceedings for a banning order by complaint under proposed section 14B, and for proceedings arising from the issue of a notice under proposed section 21B and all subsequent appeals and abdications. For those reasons, I commend the amendments passed in the other place to the House.
It may be of convenience to deal with the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I am afraid that I cannot advise the House to accept the amendment, which we believe would prevent a court from taking into account circumstances ancillary to a conviction where they occurred more than 10 years previously. That is unnecessary, as the amendments in the Lords have already set up safeguards which we believe ensure that spent convictions will not be taken into account where a conviction remains, even if it is more than 10 years old. It will have been of some gravity and I can see no reason why either it or circumstances ancillary to it should not be taken into account in the making of a banning order.
It might be of help to the House if I make it clear that the phrase "circumstances ancillary to a conviction" which the amendment seeks to delete is defined in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 as including conduct leading to the conviction and the offences which were the subject of that conviction. Only circumstances ancillary to an unspent conviction will be admissible. Any other result would not be sensible. We cannot commend the amendment, but we do commend those passed in another place.
Mr. Hawkins: A number of the amendments from the other place respond to concerns expressed by the Opposition; in particular, the serious concerns raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for
On amendment No. 5, the Government have taken up a Liberal Democrat amendment which we supported in another place. I have dealt with amendments Nos. 6, 8 and 9, which would give effect to the Government's recognition of the importance of the points raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North- East Bedfordshire. I accept that amendments Nos. 10, 12 and 15 are drafting amendments. However, do the Government recognise that the question of matches in Scotland and Northern Ireland must be kept under review? The Minister will be aware that there has been serious violence at matches in Ireland in the not-too-distant past.