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Mr. Grieve: I thank the Minister for that answer. That brings me to the nub of the issues that we have to face. He has acknowledgedindeed, he knowsthat just before the summer recess we renewed the order for a further 12 months. I know from reading Hansard that points were made about the opportunity that more time would offer to assess the impact of those draconian measures.
For reasons that I do not fully understand, the Minister has decided on the back of the success in Germany that the time has come to introduce a completely new initiative and get rid of the sunset clause so as to make the measures permanent. Our anxiety is based not on the principles on which the Government operatedindeed, when the Bill came before the House last year, we understood those principlesbut on the fact that we face an astonishing paucity of information about how, in practice, the legislation affects individuals.
In an intervention, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey made the point that few people have been affected by the measures, saying that most orders arise from convictions and asking whether that was not a reason for not allowing the measures to proceed? I do not entirely agree. If a small number of people are being caught properly by the system, and bearing in mind that it takes only a small number of people to initiative violence at football matches or in their vicinity, that may be persuasive and good reason for maintaining the legislation as it stands. Against that, however, we must assess how the legislation affects individuals.
Then we come to the bland statement that is the only information that the House has to go on as to how one of the measures passed by Parliament is affecting people's liberties. Under the heading "Outcome of Court Proceedings Prompted By Issue of Section 21B Notices", the document notes that 36 banning orders were imposed, nine banning orders were refused and that 22 court proceedings were adjourned with a travel ban temporarily upheld.
I assume that those statistics are right. I mean no criticism of the Minister when I say that it does not need a great mathematics exercise to see that the position has been shifting. Getting an updated position for the House to consider is difficult and this latest example seems to be as close as we shall get to one. However, the statistics
Mr. Denham: The hon. Gentleman says that we have no other statistics. In my speech I referred to a report that was laid before the House in June which also includes statistics. It is true that more recent figures are broken down in more detail, and I shall endeavour to provide him with a consolidated set of figures before we reach Committee.
Mr. Grieve: Again, I am grateful to the Minister. He is right: the earlier document does include some broad statistics, but they are not very informative. We are told that 44 orders were made on complaint and that 30 section 21B notices were issued preventing travel and initiating on complaint banning-order proceedings. However, we do not know the outcomes. If I am wrong about that, any information that the Minister can provide will be gratefully received. I have certainly searched.
Mr. Grieve: I thank the Minister. I made a note of what he said, but before I came into the Chamber the House did not have that full information. That is a source of anxiety because these processes were the subject of much comment last year, and I have re-read the comments that I made on 17 July 2000 at column 123. There had been a lot of debate involving the then Secretary of State for the Home Department, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), about how ponderous the system would be. How long would it last? To what extent would people be dragged into an administrative and bureaucratic system that required many court attendances and that would interfere with their liberty and put a taint on them until it was resolved? The then Home Secretary took the view, which he was fully entitled to take, that that might be a price worth paying. However, he believed that, as the system bedded in, there were unlikely to be many problems. He seemed to believe that they could all be dealt with fairly expeditiously.
The problem is not that the matter has not been dealt with expeditiously but that we simply do not have the relevant information. Yet the Minister is asking the House today to extend those measures to make them permanent. What is made permanent in the House is difficult to undo later.
Simon Hughes: The hon. Gentleman did not quite get to the end of his maths. Does he agree that, on the figures that we all havethose in the report that we were given today on the England-Germany game in Munichthe totals show that the majority of cases against people initially detained were not upheld. While I take the point that we do not need a majority to win the argument, in the case of the majority the intervention appears not to have been justified in terms of their loss of liberty.
It is difficult to know precisely what went on. If people were detained for only 15 minutes to check their identity, the House might feel that that was a price worth paying, but if people were detained for up to six hours, the House might take a different view. The House's real problem is that it is being asked to take an important decision nearly a full parliamentary Session before it needs to be taken and with what appears to be remarkably little information.
I do not wish to take up much more of the House's time. The issues fall within a narrow compass and the House will have to come to a decision. The Minister said that some of the points can be cleared up in Committee and I hope that they can. Given the content of the Bill, I anticipate that the Committee stage will be fairly short. Unless the Minister or the Committee Chairman is prepared to extend a certain amount of indulgence to those who wish to table probing amendments to ascertain exactly how the Bill will work in practice, we could easily find ourselves back in this Chamber on Third Reading no better informed than we are now about how the legislation will work.
The fact that few orders have been used is a good thingthe fewer the better. Any change to the ordinary course of criminal justice is undesirable. However, the fact that only a few orders have been used does not mean that the rights of a few should be forgotten. I remain unconvinced and undecided whether the time has come, in the light of the good results of the Germany match, to endorse the legislation until kingdom come. In those circumstances, the Conservative party will not oppose Second Reading. However, unless during the passage of the Bill, which is likely to be brief and rapid, some cogent and proper evidence is presented to us on how the legislation will affect individuals, there must be a serious question mark over whether the Government should be able to carry the Bill through without opposition.
I hope that the Minister who winds up the debate will take the opportunity to set out clearly the detail of how the Bill will work. If that cannot be done today, it must be done before the Committee stage starts. I urge the Government to give us an opportunity in Committee to look at these matters; otherwise, we shall do a disservice to civil liberties in this country for what appears to be a bad reasonthat there has been a successful football match and that therefore we can introduce something now that could wait another nine months.
I hope that the Minister will take my comments in good part, because the Opposition's purpose is to be co-operative on this matter. We fully understand what the Government seek to achieve, but that is not a good reason to impose on individuals a bureaucratic system and process that ultimately does not treat them fairly.
I was interested in what the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), had to say. I accept that there is a trade-off and that the process of this legislation will on occasions catch individuals who, if allowed to attend an England game abroad, would cause no problems. However, we must recognise that, as well as those people's civil rights, there are the civil rights of many people who live abroad, whose countries England
The Opposition must recognise that we are talking about a minority of English fans, but a significant minority who have inflicted violence and attacked others when they have gone abroad. Within that minority there is probably a smaller, very hard-core minority of people who instigate, lead and provoke the trouble. This legislation is targeted at those people in particular.
I attended a number of matches in Euro 96, the World cup in 1998 and the European championships in Holland in 2000, and I witnessed the completely different attitudes of fans. The approach of many foreign fans who come to this country is totally different from the past behaviour of England fans abroad.
I was in Sheffield during the 1996 European championships when we had the Danish supporters. No fans are more enthusiastic about supporting their country than the Danes. They did not hold back from drinking: they drank Sheffield pubs dry in the city centre, but that did not provoke attacks or antagonism towards the citizens of Sheffield or the football fans of other teams. Their support and enthusiasm was totally directed at backing their team to the full.
Unfortunately, as I have witnessed at first hand, all too often when some England fans go abroad the support for their team goes hand in hand with xenophobia and hatred of the country they are in and its citizens. It is revolting and nasty to behold. It comes out in chanting and in the personal dealings they have with the people of that country when they are in a bar, when they talk to passers-by or respond to ordinary citizens.
I was in Marseille for the England game against Tunisia in the 1998 World cup. I do not blame English fans completely for what happened, because there was much provocation from some of the local supporters of north African origin. Nevertheless, a significant number of England fans were prepared to be provoked and a small number of them led the attack against that provocation. Far from the delights of mixing with the Danes in Sheffield in 1996, my experience of that game was of hiding under a table in a café as glasses and chairs were thrown. I just missed the CS gas, as the café owner recognised that some English supporters were not there to cause trouble and pulled us into the café before he closed the shutters to avoid the police response to the attacks by the other England fans. That was an absolute disgrace, and it is no wonder that the people of that city wish that English fans had not descended on them.
I remember going to a game in the early 1990s when Sheffield Wednesday ventured into Europeit was probably the last time it will do so for an awfully long time. After the game I asked some people in a bar whether they went to the match. They said, "No, we were frightened about what English fans would do. A couple of years ago another English team came whose fans wrecked the town." What an appalling reputation we have. People were frightened to go to their own home football club to see a game because of what English fans might do to their town. Possible unfair action under this
I support the legislation. There is a balance of civil rights to be made, and I believe that we have got it just about right. We shall discuss this matter again in the future, but it would be wrong at this stage to weaken the legislation and to change the balance to the detriment of the people of the cities where England are playing and of the vast majority of English fans who want to go abroad to enjoy the game.
Many English fans who go abroad are also affected by the appalling behaviour of the minority of supporters who cause difficulties. I went to see the England-Romania game in Toulouse during the 1998 World cup. I walked through the main square with a friend and we started talking in a low voice about the appalling chanting and behaviour of some English fans in the square. I did not realise that someone was listening to our conversation. He confronted me and was joined by two or three of his friends, who started accusing us of not supporting England and of supporting the IRA. They accused us of all sorts of things because we dared to challengein a conversational way, as we were not speaking to themthe appalling xenophobic, racist chanting. I was assaulted. The person would not listen to any comment, and when we tried to walk away he started throwing punches.
That was an England fan responding to another England fan. Such people are not merely xenophobic and racistthey support the British National party and its viewsin the attitude they take towards foreigners when they go abroad, they also make life hell for many ordinary English fans who go with the team. To prevent the small minority of troublemakers from going abroad is right for that reason as well.
The target of the legislation is right. I refer back to the proposal that every football supporter in this country should have a membership card that they must show before they are allowed into a football game. That was the policy of the Conservative Government when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. That proposal was wrong, because it tried to criminalise all football fans and to make them responsible for what was going on in the game. It did not target the individuals who cause the real difficulties. The Bill is different because it pinpoints and attacks those people who are likely to cause problems and prevents them from doing so.
What we have done in the game in this country, which must be reflected when English fans go abroad, is to make the grounds more welcoming for the ordinary fan, so that more women and children go to matches. When such an atmosphere is created and grounds are full, it is much more difficult for the yobs, the hard cases and the racists to engage in their activities. That has happened in the premiership, as we have "decriminalised" English football. People who go to a game are there to enjoy themselves. We have tried to target the hard core minority, and to make the game more acceptable and more welcoming for families.
I agree with my right hon. Friend about the response of the police in the game against Germany in Munich. Co-operation between police in this country and police abroad is vital. Much of the Bill is based on the evidence and knowledge that our police have, which can be transferred to foreign police forces, so that they can be on the look out for people who are likely to cause problems.
I draw a contrast between the response of the police in Munich and the events in Marseille. The French police were hopeless. The violence should never have happened, but the police must have known that there would be trouble with English fans in a city such as Marseille, especially as some of the locals were also looking for trouble. When we walked to that café that night there was no sign of police officers on the streets or on the street corners. There were a dozen or 20 police officers grouped together in riot vans at 300 yd or 400 yd intervals, but they were there to police the riot when it happened and not to control the situation and monitor the crowd to prevent trouble from breaking out.
In Eindhoven, the Dutch police were in groups of two here and three or four there. They were on the spot, giving a clear signal to fans about what would happen if trouble erupted. There were small disturbances from time to time, but the police were immediately on the scene from 10 yd away. They talked to the fans beforehandit probably helped that most of them spoke English. They showed that they were in control of the situation and were going to police it effectively and reasonably but strongly right from the beginning.
I talked to the British police after that event, and they drew a contrast between the way in which the Dutch police had behaved in Eindhoven and the approach of the Belgian police in Charleroi, who saw their job as that of policing riots rather than preventing trouble in the first place. There was no excuse for the violence, but it is important to recognise that our police have, by and large, got it right. They have changed their approach from the 1980s. They are around in numbers on street corners outside the grounds, and they mix with the crowd rather than try to control trouble once it has broken out. It is important that we pass that approach on to foreign police forces.
My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) spoke earlier about racism in this country, and about misbehaviour of that kind at football grounds. I applaud what the Football Association and football clubs are trying to do about awareness of racism, but I suspect on occasion that some of the campaigns are simply that. I have seen stewards stand by at football grounds, observe racist chanting, and do nothing. I wonder how many stewards who will attend English football matches next weekend will have been given any kind of racial awareness training. How many will have been taught about legislation against racist chanting, and how many actions have been taken against people for racist chanting at football matches over the past 12 months? My guess is that the number of actions is in single figures.