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Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but does the noble Lord happen to know what percentage of young men aged around 25 in the population at large have convictions for violence or public order offences? It may be an alarmingly high percentage.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I do not doubt that the noble Lord is right. Unfortunately, given the society in which we live, this is a recurring problem. Alarming figures are published for those charged with one offence or another--although the offences are not normally violent, those people will have appeared before a court before they are 30.
Lord Hoyle: That is right, my Lords. But we have allowed many among that 30 per cent to travel abroad. What we seek to do is to deal with the matter in this country and to prevent those people travelling overseas. Is anyone suggesting that we should turn a blind eye because a similar percentage of people are arrested in this country? Surely that is not a logical argument. If we can begin to prevent such people travelling abroad and causing trouble, we should do so. I was merely quoting the percentage of those arrested. The offences may follow the pattern in this country, but it behoves us to take any steps that we can to prevent it occurring.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. It follows from the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that this Bill will allow the police to stop 30 per cent of the population under 25 from going to a football match simply on suspicion.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I do not agree with that. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, can speak for himself. I see the noble Lord shaking his head in disagreement. If we can take measures to improve relationships between this country and others we should do so. I do not claim for a moment that the disturbances resulted in the UK being unable to host the next World Cup. Many say it is probable that the decision as to that had been taken before the disturbances. However, I do not believe that anyone in this House or outside it would argue that those disturbances materially helped our cause in trying to stage that particular tournament.
Lord Alexander of Weedon: My Lords, this is a remarkably civilised debate on a very intractable and shaming problem. I begin by indicating where my views coincide with those expressed earlier. I very much share the view of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about the talents of the late Sir Stanley Matthews. Born as I was in the potteries, I have always regarded Stoke City as first and last his natural home. I have always regarded the interregnum of his years at Blackpool with sadness, although it is surely mitigated by memories of the greatest 15 minutes in football at Wembley in 1953. If I remember rightly, Sir Stanley Matthews, like the late Billy Wright, was never cautioned, had a maximum wage of £14 a week and received a £50 ex gratia bonus for his deeds in that cup final.
I also share the views expressed by several speakers, notably the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lord Hoyle, about the undesirability of exporting our football hooligans. But we must remember that the civil liberties of real football supporters are undoubtedly inhibited in practice, if not sometimes in law, by actions which they disown and mar their pleasure in following a legitimate activity.
I also share the view that existing measures have simply not worked. I respect the support of the Association of Chief Police Officers for the measures in this Bill. It is police officers who have to deal at the coal face--the ports--with this immensely difficult problem. I am grateful to both the Home Secretary and the Minister for their willingness to debate the difficulties of this Bill. I do not believe that anyone who heard those debates would suggest that in bringing forward this Bill the Government in any way seek to be authoritarian.
For all that, I too share the view that the measures in this Bill give rise to serious issues of civil liberties; in summary, the potential to place people in custody before banning them without the accusation of a criminal offence. I simply do not know whether these measures will work. I have a fear that they may be operated--it is difficult to do otherwise--on a scattergun basis. It may be very hard for the police at ports, where a number of people may wish to travel, to differentiate between those against whom they might wish, on further inquiry, to seek a banning order and those against whom, once they know the true facts, they would not. These people may well be in crowds. Is there to be guilt by association, or by gear or garb, or simply because one is in the wrong place at the wrong time, to adapt the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester?
Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, who is to speak later, I am concerned about the standard of proof. So far the Government have dealt with it by saying that the standard of proof in criminal and civil cases is different. I agree. However, I do not find it easy to discover from the provisions of this Bill whether the Government regard this measure as falling within the criminal or civil law. In many ways it appears to be concerned more with the criminal law. The matter can be preceded by arrest and it then comes before a magistrates' court. The right of appeal is to the Crown Court, and there are serious penalties for breach of a banning order. This is either criminal or quasi-criminal in nature. I hope that the least the Minister will accept is that before a banning order can be imposed the standard of proof should be very high.
Like the noble Earl, Lord Russell, I think back to the old "sus" laws. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars the soldiery who returned unrewarded by a not very grateful nation sometimes resorted to vagabondage. In 1824 Parliament introduced an offence whereby someone could be charged as a suspected person loitering with intent. Through no fault of their own, the police had to play a game: they had to form a suspicion and a few minutes later they could decide that someone was loitering with intent. When I was called to the Bar that law had been utterly discredited, yet it remained on the statute book until its repeal in 1981. That is a good illustration of a law that is totally discredited because it provides for the imposition of a penalty without guilt. Who suffered that penalty? It was suffered by the socially unfortunate, the outcasts, minor drunks and those who wore shabby clothing. That law was regarded as deeply unfair, and towards the end of its time prosecutions were rarely brought. Yet nothing reminds me so much of the old "sus" laws as the characteristics which underlie this offence.
I, too, share the concern about the speed. This legislation is due to go through the House on the Government's programme in less than one full week. But I recognise that the Home Secretary gracefully and promptly accepted that the nature of the issues and the speed meant that the law should be experimental. The procedure for annual renewal by affirmative instrument is helpful. We all know that debate on affirmative instruments can be relatively cursory, so it is good that the House will receive an annual report on
On balance, and perhaps contrary to others who do not normally find themselves in the civil liberties camp, to which sometimes I feel proud to belong, I would give cautious support to this legislation on an experimental basis and with amendment but for one difficulty. That difficulty is the impact of European Union law and the European Convention on Human Rights, soon to become our own Human Rights Act. I am chairman of Justice, although the views I have expressed so far are purely personal and may not be shared by some of my colleagues in Justice whom I see here today.
On one issue Justice has, as it seeks to do on new legislation, taken the opinion of counsel, Clare Montgomery, QC, and Rhodri Thompson. Because of the haste with which it had to be obtained, that opinion has become available today. As the Minister knows it always does, Justice will communicate it promptly to the Home Office to be considered. But it is troubling in its conclusions. It concludes that this legislation is incompatible with both the European Union treaties and the European Convention on Human Rights. It considers, therefore, that the statement that the proposed legislation is compatible with convention rights is not accurate. It considers that if the legislation were brought in, new Sections 14B and 21A to 21C would have to be disapplied under European Union law and the United Kingdom Government would be at risk of action for damages.
I have had no real opportunity, and probably lack the specialist competence, to assess the validity of that opinion. However, in view of the care with which it is expressed and its strength, I would hope that the Minister will seek on it the views of the Attorney-General before we return to this issue in Committee. I know the convention that the Attorney-General's advice is never disclosed, although I have never fully understood the desirability of that. However, I think that with the help of that advice we should be given every reassurance in Committee that there is compatibility with both European Union law and the European Convention on Human Rights before we are asked to give our blessing to this legislation.
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