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Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): We all agree that seeing the current season and the World cup through will enable us to judge sensibly the long-term effectiveness of the measures. Will the Minister update the House on the number of orders issued and implemented, and the number of convictions that have followed? He will be aware that in the past Ministers have tried to keep us up to speed, and if he has up-to-date information it would be helpful if he passed it on to the House.
Mr. Ainsworth: I shall try. I was present during the debates, so I know that the hon. Gentleman is right to say that the main concern expressed when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State introduced the Bill in the Commons was that there should be an opportunity to see the measures through a number of obstacles, so that we could decide how effective they were. There can be no doubt that both Houses hold the strong view that the measures need to be tested over a longer period, which is why we did not hesitate to table a five-year sunset provision in Committee in the Lords. We were delighted that the Front-Bench spokespersons for the two main Opposition parties felt able to join us in presenting an agreed amendment, the outcome of which is before the House now.
The Bill as amended will extend the lifespan of the relevant measures for a further five years, after which they will lapse or be renewed by statute. I assure the House that the five-year period was chosen not at random, but after careful study of the international football calendar. It will ensure that powers are in place for the 2006 World cup in Germanya point made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes)and, importantly, for the 2008 European championship qualifying matches that will take place while the measures undergo further parliamentary scrutiny. Once the measures have been exposed to both those situations before the expiry of the five-year limit, we should be able to discuss and evaluate their effectiveness.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey asked about the number of orders. Of the 984 current orders, 722 deal with conviction under section 14A of the Football Spectators Act 1989, and 107 deal with complaints under section 14B. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman to understand the current position. I repeat the commitment given in the other place and by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State in this House to provide Parliament with regular impact reports on how the measures are working. Detailed reports will be submitted on an ad hoc basis before the question of renewal is resurrected so that we can see how the measures are being used.
Mr. Ainsworth: If we are to maintain cross-party coherence on the issue, we must be as open as possible and provide Front Benchers and Back Benchers with timely information. That will assist with consideration of the proposals and with whether they need to be renewed, amended or otherwise. I am therefore more than happy to try to provide the hon. Gentleman with that information. If I cannot do so today, I shall certainly do so as soon as possible.
Simon Hughes: I wish to pursue a similar line of inquiry. Can the Minister provide us today with one final key piece of information that would help us to judge the Bill? Can he tell us how many of the 107 people subject to banning orders have relevant previous convictions for assault or anything to do with football disorder? As he knows, that issue has come up on previous occasions.
Mr. Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman has raised those issues before. The reports that we shall try to make available must be comprehensive and must cover such issues so that everyone gets as complete a picture as possible; that is our intention.
Mr. Grieve: I shall not detain the House long. I welcome the Minister's comments and the Government's approach to the matter, which illustrates how Parliament can work effectively. The Government had good intentions in coming to Parliament to seek to extend the life of the measures. At the same time, the Opposition had genuine concerns about the civil liberty impact of the measures, even though we fully acknowledged the need to renew the orders. A compromise has been reached, which means that the orders will come back for consideration in five years' time; the House will be able to see whether they are working and whether they are still needed. You never know, we may reach a happy point at which, owing to the continuing decline in football hooliganism, measures of this kind are no longer required. That may be a little over-optimisticI rather suspect that they will need to be renewed againbut at least the House will be able to retain some control over measures which, although required and well intentioned, have an impact on the civil liberties of the individual. It is clearly desirable for the House to monitor how they are working over the coming five years.
The measures include a provision allowing a police officer to stop someone at a place of exit from the United Kingdom and detain that person for up to 24 hours before he is brought before a court, so that a complaint can be made and a banning order obtained. That is quite draconian. The complaints provision itself is an unusual hybrid, in that it is neither criminal nor entirely civil, but
We welcome the spirit in which the Government have worked in the other place, and their response to our representations in Committee. We are happy to support the amendment, and look forward to the enactment of a Bill that extends necessary powers.
As the Minister will recall, we have returned to this subject quite often in recent years. The Government wanted the original Bill to be unlimited, but they were up against a deadlinethe summer holidays and the football matches leading up to the World cup qualifying games, particularly the Germany gameand were consequently forced to make some concessions. Effectively, a compromise was agreed.
The first Bill produced a two-year Act with a one-year renewal provision. As the Minister implied, it will expire this summer. It was given a maximum lifetime of two years because, as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said and as the Government conceded, here was Parliament legislating to remove from people with no previous or relevant convictions the power to leave the country. Parliament was, potentially, preventing people from leaving in order to attend a match abroad, although eventually they might be found to have done nothing to justify that. That detention power could have made a trip to Belgium or Italy useless to people who were able to continue on their way later.
The Liberal Democrats felt that the Government had brought back the legislation rather earlybefore we had had a proper chance to assess the consequences of the original Act. As it happens, however, although they brought it back in Octoberat the beginning of the Sessionit has taken nearly six months for it to go around the course. It went to the Lords before Christmas.
The Minister said that discussions had resulted in a further compromise on both sides. The Government had accepted that the successor legislation should also have a limited life. The first Act will have had a two-year life, and the second will have a five-year life. That is a good principle. When evidence exists but it is not certain that it will be there indefinitely, we should not legislate to keep a law on the statute book indefinitely. We should give ourselves the power to return to the matter. We can do that in one of two ways: we can have a Bill with a limited life, or we can have renewal orders. We feel that emergency powers, and particular restrictions of liberty, should always have to return to this place.
We welcome the Government's acceptance that the legislation should have a maximum lifetime of five years, starting this summer. We in turn have agreed that rather than seeking an annual or two-yearly renewal order, we will let it run for that period.
On the principle, we are still unhappy and uncomfortable about the idea that people with British passports should be precluded from travelling on the basis of a complaint and no relevant previous conviction. That is still the law and it will continue to be the law. We do not sign up to that proposition, but we are effectively signing up to a trial period to see what happens in the courts, what banning orders are made and what effect
I have no problem in declaring my allegiance to Millwall football club, whom I support regularly. The club went through a period when it had bad supporters. There are now mercifully very few of them and the club has worked very hard to make sure that the bad practice of the pastthe abuse and racismhas gone.
We all want football that we can be proud of, whether we win or lose, in terms of the behaviour on and off the field. We have a potentially excellent English team for the World cup and an exciting Irish team, for those who have Irish allegiance. We want them to do well. They are going to two parts of the world which have no reputation for football disorder and where the behaviour of fans is extremely good. The last thing that we want in Japan or South Korea is bad behaviour in the name of supporting the English team.
There is one other comment that seems appropriate. It will allow us to avoid having the second debate, although the Minister may be kind enough to come back with the figures for which we asked. There is clearly a link in the public mind between the behaviour of footballers on and off the pitch and that of their so-called supporters in the ground or going to or from the ground. I have always believed it right for the management of a club and of a national team to take the view that if footballers publicly misbehave and are found by the court to have misbehaved, they are punished professionally because of their role model status.
I do not know Mr. Jonathan WoodgateI have never met him. He was taken to court and convicted. People might say that he has served his punishment. He has served his punishment to society, but as well as being a citizen he is a professional footballera very good footballer. We must stand behind the decision of the manager of the England football team that because of that bad, disgraceful and unacceptable behaviour, Jonathan Woodgate is not entitled to be part of the squad going to play in the World cup. Good behaviour by footballers on the pitch and in their civil life off the pitch is far more likely to lead to good behaviour on the streets by those who go to football matches.
It is not coincidental that the great debate about law and order, crime and juvenile crime is hugely influenced by the role models that young people have. They could be seen on television or video; it could be someone like the person convicted yesterday who is a musician in a band, or it could be footballers. Unless the role models behave, people will always be subject to banning orders. Impressionable teenagers will often follow the example of people whom they regard as heroes. Sadly, the people who misbehave are often no longer teenagers; they are in their 20s, 30s and 40s and are simply thugs. They certainly need to be dealt with, and dealt with firmly.