|DRAFT FOOTBALL (DISORDER) (DURATION OF POWERS) ORDER 2001
Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): I join other hon. Members in welcoming you to the Chair, Mr. Sayeed. I can tell my right hon. Friend the Minister that the order has worked. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) now stands on the side of the angels, but I do not remember him being so supportive in the debate on the principle of the order. Several hon. Members objected to it, including some Labour Members, arguing that civil liberties were involved and that the proposal was too draconian. However, the order went through, and football has improved as a result. It is essential that the order be renewed, and it is good to know that Opposition parties are prepared to see it renewed for a further year.
The violence of Euro 2000 at Brussels and Charleroi was a contributing factor to England's losing the chance to host the 2006 World cup. It was humiliating for the English Football Association to be brought before UEFA and threatened with expulsion from Euro 2000 because of that violence. I believed that that was a political gesture by UEFA, which supported Germany. However, it was humiliating for our game and our country. The order, which was welcomed by football generally in this country and internationally, has had a dramatic effect on the level of violence committed by the minority of so-called England fans who travel abroad and cause trouble, as the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) suggested.
It is important that we continue the measures, and tighten them up wherever necessary. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath correctly suggested that the time may come when we have to consider extending such measures to cricket. That would be a sad day--it is a sad day when we have to take these steps for football, but we have to protect the reputation of our national game. We also have to protect decent fans who travel abroad, because they become caught up in the violence.
It takes only a few people to cause trouble, and others are sucked in. I know that from personal experience. As a result of the mayhem caused, all English football supporters are branded as hooligans, which is wrong. We are not limiting the civil liberties of individuals, but protecting the civil rights of the great majority of people by taking action against the minority who cause the trouble. Anyone who does not understand that, clearly does not understand what goes on in football.
My right hon. Friend needs carefully to consider the related problem of ticket touting. Ticket touts who operate outside most of our Premier League grounds cause problems for football order, and they also contribute to international problems. We must consider the fines that are imposed, and we must give the police greater powers to deal with ticket touts, whose activities threaten the principle of crowd segregation. When crowd segregation breaks down, the order within a football ground also tends to break down.
It is interesting to see what happens when English clubs host international matchessuch as the UEFA cup. Fans visiting from abroad who have no tickets are sold so-called tickets, which are clearly not tickets at all. They then present those pieces of paper at football grounds and are denied admission. That can cause problems. When the Minister considers the banning orders and the whole issue of crowd control, he must look into ticket touting. It is a significant contributory factor to the problem of football hooliganism.
I welcome the order, as I did during the original debate. Those who said that we were seriously attacking civil liberties and the rights of individuals have been proved utterly wrong. We have helped to restore order among those who travel abroad to support our national team. That has brought our country much international credit. I support the renewal of the order, and I am glad that Opposition Members are doing likewise.
Bob Russell (Colchester): Given that Euro 2000 was held in two countries, will the Minister comment on the differing results of the policing of hooliganism and the arrests that were made in the Netherlands and in Belgium? Are there lessons to be learned? Will he confirm that the ratio of arrests in Belgium was markedly higher than that in the Netherlands?
The Minister mentioned that 965 England followers were arrested, 40 per cent. of whom had convictions for offences. One assumes, therefore, that 60 per cent. did not have any previous convictions. Given those figures, is he pleased or disappointed that of the 965 arrested, only one was subsequently convicted of an offence?
Mr. Denham: I welcome the support of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, as he has considerably more expertise in this area and in a wide variety of sporting matters than I do, and he played a significant role in progressing these matters in the past. His comments about the threat to our participation in Euro 2000 and to our World cup bid underline the point made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. Many of the people who become involved in these activities cannot reasonably be described as sports fans, because they are prepared to bring down on everyone's heads consequences that genuine sports fans would not want.
I listened with interest to my hon. Friend's comments about ticket touting. It is illegal, and we would expect action against it. However, I shall be happy to discuss with him any further measuresoperational or legalthat he thinks could be taken. I shall also be happy to discuss with him his experience of international arrangements. It strikes me that although actions such as the formation of England fans significantly tighten up the availability of tickets for away matches for that group of fans, they do not necessarily tackle the whole problem of availability of tickets to those matches. I would welcome my hon. Friend's views about whether further discussions should be held internationally.
The hon. Member for Surrey Heath asked about the longer-term prognosis. At the time of the Queen's Speech, we said that we intended to introduce a Bill in this Session to make the provisions permanent. The timing of that is for discussion with the business managers.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether we had any further plans for legal changes in the domestic policing of football matches, and referred to a television programme that I did not see. Perhaps I should find a video of it so that I am up to speed. We are not contemplating additional domestic legislation at this stage. We will continue to build on the considerable time and energy that is invested in tackling domestic violence problems, and will work with the police and the football authorities. We should never closes our mind to possible changes, but quite a lot of legislation has been put in place over the years, and the primary challenge is to find out whether it is uniformly applied.
The ECHR provisions have not been tested in court, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says. On the advice that we have received, we are satisfied that the provisions are compatible. A judicial review caseGough and Smithhas been heard, but we await the judgment.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about cricket, and it is not too far out of order to explain our view on that. The cricket authorities have raised concerns with us. A few weeks ago, the Minister of Sport and I met Tim Lamb from the England and Wales Cricket Board and representatives of some of the ground authorities. My view throughout has been that it is probably an illusion to think that legislation solves the problem. The football legislation that we are considering sits on top of, or underpins, a panoply of other measures about how grounds are stewarded, tickets are sold, fans are searched when they enter grounds and policing and intelligence operations are undertaken.
Football has a background of persistent, serious, organised violence by people who have got together with others solely for the purpose of creating mayhem in or around football matches. Deeply regrettable and unacceptable though the events that we saw in some cricket matches this summer were, we do not yet have evidence that they were comparable to the violence surrounding football matches. In the meeting with Tim Lamb, we agreed to ask the cricket authorities and officials from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and my Department to consider the issues involved in the stewarding and policing of international cricket matches, and to report in four weeks on improvements that could be made and on the current legislative position.
I appreciate the fact that the cricket authorities want to satisfy their international counterparts in the International Cricket Council that measures are being taken, especially to ensure that visiting cricketers as well as members of the England team are not subject to attack. A steward was physically injured in a serious incident, and in another an Australian cricketer was hit by a can of beer. That could have been a nasty incident. We will have to await further work on the issue, but I hope that I have provided a reasonably extensive background.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey asked about the type of cases involved. For reasons that he will appreciate, it is not possible to provide summaries in public of every case that comes before the courts. However, I asked for a couple of examples as illustrations. In one section 14B case, an order on complaint was imposed on an individual on the basis of a public order conviction, a club ban for misbehaviour and extensive video evidence of violence at a match overseas. In another case, an order was imposed on the basis of several convictions for violence and public order offences and evidence of misbehaviour during the 1998 World cup in France. Those brief thumbnail sketches are fairly typical of cases in which orders have been made.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey again asked about the breakdown of the statistics, and I am pleased to say that my early inquiries were set more in train that I understood to be the case. The appropriate authorities have been asked to produce the analysis he asked forthe link between the number of section 21 orders and those that resulted in action being taken under section 14B. I shall write to him when we receive that information, which may be of interest to other members of the Committee.
The hon. Gentleman asked about a further debate, but that is a matter for the usual channels and I cannot promise Government time for it. However, like other Members, he may apply for an Adjournment debate. He also asked a number of question about the statistics. In each example, the figures are cumulative. If a figure increases from 11 to 45, the 11 is included in the 45. That is so in all three tables, each of which shows the number of section 14 orders and the other types of banning order available under other legislation. They represent a count not of section 21 orders, but of all banning orders.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 10 July 2001|