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The Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs (Mr. John Denham): Last night and today, in preparation for the debate, we have finalised some further figures, which it would be useful to put on the record. The major development since the Committee stage is that, arising from the Munich matches, where section 21 was used, 22 cases had been to court and been adjourned. I can tell the House that of those 22 cases from Munich, 11 have been resolved. In five cases the banning order was confirmed or imposed, and in six it was refused.
Mr. Grieve: I am grateful to the Minister for his intervention, which allows us to take a brief overview. Under the section 21 procedure, I remind the House, a person is stopped summarily at the port of exitairport or harbourthe police officer inquires into the circumstances and decides within six hours whether to allow the person to proceed or whether to bring him within 24 hours before a court. The court must determine whether the order banning that person should be imposed or not.
According to the figures available to me and discussed in Committee, 98 people have been detained under that procedure. Against 55, there had been previous complaints leading to banning, but on the basis of what the Minister has just told us, we should add five or six to that figure. At the time that we were in Committee, 23 cases had been adjourned by the court, and 18 had been refused. If I understand the Minister's figures, another five or six cases should be added to that figure. Thirteen refusals had taken place at initial hearings and five after adjournments, but that figure of five would now have risen to 10 or 11I am not sure precisely which.
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Has my hon. Friend noticed that the figures 55, 23 and 18, which he mentioned, add up to 96, rather than the 98 cases in total? I wonder what happened to the other two.
Mr. Grieve: I had indeed noticed. I reproduced the figures that we were given in Committee. Part of the problem seems to be some muddle about cases arising from the England v. Germany match and cases that may relate to other instances. The Minister may be able to help us, but I can only go on the figures given to us in Committee.
My right hon. Friend rightly highlights one of the problems that we encountered in Committee and on Second Readingthe paucity of information about how the legislation works in practice. The Minister says that the provisions are good; that they have served their
It is extraordinary that the information has come out in dribs and drabs. My right hon. Friend highlighted a minor inconsistency in the total figures, but the Minister may be able to clear that up. It remains extremely difficult to form a view about how the legislation is working. All that one can sayit may be unfair to the Minister and what he is trying to achieve, but one must face up to itis that a substantial number of people who have been put through the section 21 procedure have ended up without banning orders. If that is the case, the House should rightly be worried about it.
In Committee, we spoke about the infringement of the liberty of the citizen or the subjectI do not mind which word we use, for the purposes of this evening's discussion. It has often been said in the House that we prided ourselves on being subjects precisely because we had so much freedom in relation to those who claimed to be citizens. Now that we call ourselves citizens, it seems that our liberties are constantly being eroded.
People are being put through a process not previously known to the criminal law. It may be administratively convenient, but it can create injustice. We are anxious to ensure that we are not about to enshrine in law and permanently a measure that we may come to regret. Because the people who will be subject to it may not necessarily be the No. 1 pin-ups of liberal societyfootball hooligans as a group are not people who commend themselves particularly to right-thinking peoplewe might bury the argument as a matter of administrative convenience, whereas we should be willing to review it.
That is the basis of amendment No. 1. It is difficult to see that it would interfere with the working of the Bill. The relevant sections would simply come up for review in four years. Considering the amount of time that we have taken over the Billan evening for Second Reading, an hour and a half or slightly more in Committee, and the time that we will take this eveningI do not believe that the progress of legislation four years from now will be massively handicapped if the Government are forced to revisit issues that have previously been considered.
As the Minister fairly acknowledged in Committee, there are plenty of issues relating to the legislation which legitimately cause disquiet. A balance must be struckwe are fond of that word in this placeand we are not striking a balance if, on slender evidence of the working of the legislation, we enshrine it once and for all.
Simon Hughes: The hon. Gentleman and I share many concerns about process and substance in the legislation, but I intervene simply to put one point on record. It concerns further evidence in relation to previous convictions among people in the following two categories: those against whom banning orders have eventually been imposed, and those who have been held but against whom no order has eventually been made. Has the hon. Gentleman's research since we last debated this matter revealed whether either category has ever included people who have never been the subject of any previous conviction? If that is the case, there is a greater apparent
Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. I remember well that he made it in Committee, where he asked the Minister for clarification of the extent to which the legislation was catching people who had not previously been prosecuted for an offence of violence linked to a football match. If those whom the legislation is catching had been caught previously, it would not be necessary, so it would be interesting to find out the category of person whom it is latching on to. Of course, I accept that somebody might have had a conviction a long time ago but not be an active hooligan. In that regard, I correct myself, as I have to accept that that is also the case. None the less, we have never been given the information.
That returns me to the basis of our anxiety: lack of information. The problem is not lack of understanding about what the Government are getting at or lack of sympathy with their aims. It is certainly not a desire to see football hooliganism return to rear its ugly head, as happened only very recently. We want the ability properly to scrutinise and to make an informed decision. Indeed, the renewal was introduced precisely to enable Parliament to do that, yet, one year down the road, we are being asked to renew the legislation earlier than was originally required, even though we need not have done it until next summer.
That is why amendment No. 1 not only meets the Government's desire to introduce a greater note of permanency but provides a way in which the legislation can automatically come up for review. Many international football matches, including the World cup, will have occurred by the proposed time. All sorts of things will have happened that will enable Parliament to make a decision that is much better informed than what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to the success of the legislation in a single instance. We are being asked to take a decision without knowing anything much about the downside.
The issue is very simple and I do not think that I would be treating the House properly by turning what should be a short speech into a lengthy one. However, before I finish, I want also to consider the other two amendments in the group, which provide an alternative approach. We touched on it in Committee, but it is worth repeating. For reasons that I have mentioned, the alternative is this: we could decide to give permanency to section 14 of the Football Spectators Act 1989, but to leave the situation in relation to section 21 under the present system.
I should like to amplify that point very briefly. I have explained the Opposition's considerable anxieties about the way in which section 21 is working. In contrast, we have far fewer anxieties about the way in which section 14 is working. Section 14 is, after all, a complaints procedure. Civil complaints procedures in the magistrates courts are a form of activity that has historically had a long track record. One of the ways in which one used to bring paternity cases was to go to the magistrates court and make a complaint. So it is not as if magistrates courts are not familiar with this form of injunctive proceedings.
I say to the Minister that that is the way in which Parliament expected the legislation primarily to work. The section 21 procedure was expected to be an emergency procedure in the immediate run-up to a football match abroad. I think that I am right in sayingwe considered the issue in Committee, and the Minister will correct me if I am wrongthat, in reality, far more complaints appear to have been made through the section 21 procedure in relation to a banning order than through the section 14 procedure. In itself, that must reinforce anxiety in the House about making the section 21 procedure permanent.
That is why amendments Nos. 2 and 3 together provide an alternative to amendment No. 1. They allow for the possibility, if the Minister and the Government prefer it, of making section 14 permanentabout which, on the face of it, we would have very little anxiety. At the same time, they would allow the section 21 procedure, which is new and has been applied fully only on this one occasion, to continue under the present system while there is a lack of statistical evidence and detail about its effect on individuals.
Those are the choices. For obvious reasons, I principally commend amendment No. 1, but I wait to hear the Minister's view. In Committee, he was conciliatory. He appeared carefully to take on board the points that had been made. I do not see the issue as party political, as all parties are united in their desire to ensure that football hooliganism is controlled, so I had rather hoped that by the time we reached Report, somebody in the Home Office might have sat down and concluded that a sunset clause was a reasonable way of proceeding. We could then all leave here very happy, but I fear that that is not going to happen unless the Minister has suddenly experienced his Damascene conversion. If he has done so, I will be delighted. I dare say that, if that were the case, we could all go away very quickly and bring this Report stage to a conclusion.
I wait to hear what the Minister has to say, but I must tell him that we are considering a fundamental issue. Civil liberties and the rights of individuals must not be eroded for the convenience of the state or even the majority unless there is good and sufficient reason. Such reason is based on evidence. At the moment, the evidence is lacking, and the common-sense approach is to ensure that the issue can be revisited.