Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Russell: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, I wonder if he might concede for the record, lest it should show an inaccuracy, that a right reverend Prelate is sitting directly opposite him.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, of course that is right, and it is the more unforgivable since the right reverend Prelate is a very old and admired friend of mine from another jurisdiction.

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1229

7.34 p.m.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I am very happy to follow the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, particularly because I agree wholeheartedly with his last few remarks and his reference to Lord Atkin's speech in the course of the Second World War.

Some two weeks ago--it seems to me a short two weeks ago--the Government made a Statement which presaged the Bill which is before us today. On that occasion I ventured to express concern about what is still, though it has been amended, the fourth of the four elements that the Bill provides; that is, the summary measures available to the police.

I also expressed concern that Parliament was being rushed and would be unable, as I thought, to deal adequately with the detail, which detail is inevitable when a Bill is defining the borderline between a person's freedom of movement, for example, and the need to restrict that right so as to prevent violence and disorder.

Since that Government Statement two short weeks ago, and partly as a result of a number of points made at a meeting which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary had with parliamentarians, a number of distinct improvements have been made. During the passage of the Bill through another place a number of amendments were made, particularly with regard to that fourth element in the Bill. The police must now have "reasonable grounds" for suspecting that a person has contributed to violence or disorder in the past and they must have "reasonable grounds" for believing that a banning order would prevent violence or disorder at football matches.

There was also an amendment reducing the period of immediate detention from 24 to four hours, or six hours if an inspector approves. It is extremely welcome that the Home Secretary has shown himself willing to consider at the very least any amendments which are suggested. Indeed, he has indicated his willingness to consider further amendments that may emerge during the passage of the Bill in your Lordships' House.

In a way, the fact that we have had the Bill amended in key respects and that the Government intend to introduce other amendments here next week confirm my original concern about haste, because the normal gaps that there are in this House and in another place between the various stages of a Bill will not have occurred. The gaps are normally there for both Front Benchers and Back Benchers to give due consideration to the legislation, and we Back Benchers above all rely on a lot of people "out there"--interested organisations and so on--to help us by their briefings to improve Bills.

The Home Secretary said at Second Reading that he wanted to,

    "combine speed with careful scrutiny".

That is almost an impossibility, I would have thought, if this Bill is anything to go by. The Government have pointed out in their defence that this is a subject on which there has already been a great deal of discussion in a number of ways. However, there is a world of

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1230

difference between considering these matters in a broad way and the detailed word-by-word specification of a Bill, which is of course part of the vital scrutinising role of both Houses of Parliament.

This is the Second Reading of the Bill, and therefore I do not wish to go into detailed consideration of concerns at the moment, though several have been mentioned with which I agree. Perhaps I may select just two matters on which I would like to ask the Government for their responses, although not necessarily this evening. The first is: what exactly are the "reasonable grounds" for detention which a police constable must have when faced with, say, a number of young men, perhaps several dozen young men, whether in one group or several groups? What reasonable grounds must the police have to prevent persons departing for the Continent, suspecting that one or more of them may have contributed to or caused violence of some kind, somewhere, at some time in the past?

It was said in the other place that appearance, clothing and demeanour are not enough. So on what will the police rely? Since the Bill was first drafted, the word "behaviour" has disappeared--unless it is lost in a provision that I have not noticed--yet behaviour may be relevant to police suspicion.

As the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, indicated, the police will mainly rely on intelligence. They will have vast amounts of information about violent or potentially violent persons. At the port or airport--even given the availability of mobile phones and other technology--the police will have to relate and connect that mass of intelligence to persons seeking to go abroad for a football match. There is now a requirement that the police will have to give their reasons for detention in writing. I have a feeling that the police will not rush into making detention orders unless they are on very sure ground.

When a magistrates' court considers a banning order, it must be satisfied that the respondent has in the past caused or contributed to violence or disorder in the UK or elsewhere. That conduct does not have to relate to a football match. Nor does there have to be a conviction. The proposed Section 14C(4) states:

    "The magistrates' court may take into account ... any decision of a public authority ... deportation or exclusion from a country ... removal or exclusion from premises used for playing football matches, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere".

Even the football experts present would agree that the innocent are swept up with the guilty when they are removed from grounds and deported. Is it right for a magistrates' court to take account of that when deciding whether to impose a banning order?

The Bill's objective is to reduce significantly the disgraceful mayhem that British visitors tend to cause at international football matches. No matter how much the new law may be further improved in this House, it can be readily evaded by leaving for the Continent from Scotland or Ireland--which people living in the North of England might find easier in any case. The Government say that existing legislation and the non-controversial parts of the Bill are inadequate,

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1231

so the controversial, summary measures are needed. However, the Bill has been so amended and hedged around with conditions that neither the police nor magistrates will in practice be able to apply its measures very much.

Government amendments that we have not yet seen provide for compensation. If the police or magistrates get it wrong, they may have to pay compensation. That will be a further deterrent to any robust use of the powers that the Government must want to result from the Bill, otherwise it will in practice be ineffective. I share the Government's objectives but am doubtful whether the Bill will do much to achieve them.

7.45 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, last year or the year before, I threatened to behave like a football hooligan. I believe it was quite effective at the time, but that is not the kind of football hooliganism about which we are talking now.

At one moment, I thought there was an absolutely glorious thing in the Bill. We have a Minister who in his earlier life had gone squatting and attended courts with dongs on the end of his nose. He could have been told by Plod that he could not go to a football match in Zeebrugge. But now that he is older, wiser and more sensible, and has reached a great office of state, the Bill is being amended so that he cannot be done--unless of course the noble Lord was up to those antics less than 10 years ago. If that is the case, it is unfortunate that we must have the Bill at all.

The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said that the Bill will be unusable and unenforceable. The Law Society says of the Bill:

    "It is a clear erosion of the right of free movement within the European Union. It will be used arbitrarily and prejudicially. At its most serious the behaviour in question will be no more than semi-criminal. Like the old and discredited stop and sus laws, this is a superficial and potentially discriminatory method of pinpointing troublemakers. It is also contrary to Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression and free assembly. It will be simple to evade. It will lead to actions against the police. The Police Federation are well aware of this danger and have expressed their grave concern over this unworkable Bill".

I am an unashamed libertarian. A long time ago I went to an Anglo-French rugby match in Paris. We arrived without tickets, got quite tight and sang a lot of songs. The whole place was surrounded by the CRS. In 1968, the students used to chant "CRS--SS, CRS--SS" by way of making a comparison between the Compagne Republicaine de Securite, who are extraordinarily tough and fairly nasty, and the German SS. There was no trouble at that match. Why is it that things happen at football matches that do not happen at rugby matches? I do not know the answer.

I was told by a Belgian journalist that the events in Charleroi and Brussels were miles less serious than those reported and were caused by over-reaction on the part of the Belgian police. When the Home Secretary spoke to us the other day, he admitted that there was nothing wrong with at least 60 per cent of the people arrested. The Belgians had used an

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1232

administrative arrest, which allows them to lock people up just for fun. Only four crimes were committed--as the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said--yet we are rushing through legislation that is deeply offensive to human rights. I do not like the Human Rights Act; it is wretched. It is Parliament that should protect an Englishman's liberties, not somebody else.

But it appears that Parliament cannot do it. It is a perfect example of Parliament not protecting Englishmen's liberties. The liberty to protect is not mine or my noble friend Lord Astor's. That is dead easy. The liberty to protect is that of the fat-gutted, under-privileged, tattooed drunk who is not misbehaving. His liberty is the one that needs protecting because he is a minority and unpopular. Anyone can protect popular liberties.

We have gone through this Bill in quite some detail. There is provision in Clause 3, which, as far as I can make out, allows the Home Secretary to amend it at will in any way that he likes. Indeed, irrespective of what safeguards we put into the legislation, I assume that he can take them out again. It appears to be delegated legislation and we should perhaps look into that. The new Section 14B to the Football Spectators Act 1989, as set out under Schedule 1, allows a punishment to be imposed upon someone who the police think might have committed an offence.

A friend of mine was travelling home the other day with her husband. They got out of the car and were pounced on by three gentlemen wearing black hoods who mugged them. The police said to my friend, "We're pretty sure we know who those guys are, but we do not have the evidence to arrest them". But they will have in other respects. If those three men want to go to a football match, they may, under this legislation, be prevented from going to watch, say, Zeebrugge play Manchester United; but the police cannot arrest them for mugging Jan Morgan! This is a very odd way of making law.

Most of the other points that I had intended to make have been made with greater legal knowledge and expertise than I possess. However, I am completely convinced that this Bill is a combination of unworkability, illiberality and illegality. Surely the Government can do better than that. They now have a record of being an illiberal government. They want to hack about with the right of trial by jury; they took away the rights of people to shoot .22 pistols; they want to take away benefit from people who do not fulfil a probation order; and their recent Bill regarding the provision of information was attacked in The Times as being deeply illiberal.

This Government seem to want to pass nasty, illiberal Acts of Parliament, one after another. As long as I am in this Parliament, I shall do my level best to try to stop some of them. Of course, those on our side are not always perfect; indeed, they had dogs and pistol legislation in the last Parliament, so they are not as good as all that. However, as Back-Benchers we must stand up for the rights and liberties of Englishmen. That is what Parliament is for.

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1233

7.52 p.m.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds: My Lords, as this is a Second Reading debate I shall attempt to confine my remarks to Second Reading issues, and leave much of the detail for later debates. We genuinely face a difficult problem in both Houses of Parliament. We know that the problem is not an issue of just what happened in Brussels or Charleroi and whether it was extremely serious or merely serious. I must confess that the scenes I saw could never bear excuse; and, indeed, could never bear prosecution if they happened in this country. However, as my noble friend Lord Faulkner said in his excellent contribution, this is not a one off: this is something that happens year after year after year.

It is absolutely right to say that we have attempted many times to resolve this issue, without success. During my remarks I shall express serious reservations about some aspects of the Bill's proposals that I shall certainly want to see overcome in the coming days. However, judging by the noble Earl's speech, what I had understood to be a general consensus between the two principal parties seems to have disappeared. When the Minister made the Statement on 19th June following the problems in Brussels and Charleroi, I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, acknowledged that it was his right honourable friend David Maclean who proposed an amendment to a previous Bill to allow passports to be confiscated from unconvicted hooligans. He also said that there was general agreement that that would be better carried out by legislation in a government Bill. The noble Lord went on to quote a statement from UEFA:

    "The UK Government owes it to everyone concerned to take steps similar to those taken in other countries to stop these so-called fans from travelling abroad ... Other governments have shown that it can be done and we call on the UK Government to take the steps necessary as a matter of urgency".

The noble Lord asked for the Minister's comment on that statement and whether it was proposed to follow it up. He then said:

    "If that is the case, we shall continue to support proposals of that character".--[Official Report, 19/6/00; col. 43.]

I draw attention to the latter merely to make the point that there seems to be a consensus that there is a problem and that we need to address it. If we are concerned about some important principles in liberty that we must get right if we introduce new legislation, then such issues must be properly examined. However, if it is a matter of Second Reading principle that we should not be seeking to do so, I must confess that I cannot agree with the noble Earl.

After the events of Euro 2000, I was struck by the way in which leading figures from both major political parties dug themselves into a hole immediately--the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Home Secretary. Within days they had committed themselves to a tough line and "tough-speak" and could not then get off the hook. In the calmness of this Chamber, we now remind ourselves that that is not the way to make legislation. For my part, I would have sooner seen no tickets sold to England fans for the Paris game and no fans going

20 Jul 2000 : Column 1234

to European games for six or 12 months if that had given us time to consider legislation both carefully and properly. In my view, that option was pre-empted by the way in which all leading politicians from the two main parties spoke within hours of the events in Belgium taking place. What we must do now is to seek to make the best of that position.

For many years I was a director of Leeds United. It is a matter of irony to me that Leeds United caused eyebrows to be raised in recent days because it took the step of banning a large number of fans from its ground. That seems to me to be exactly what clubs should be doing. When I was on the board long ago, the existing chairman, Mr Peter Ridesdale, and the previous chairman, Mr Leslie Silver, took the decision to stamp this out: you cannot tolerate this on your doorstep. I hope and expect football clubs to do far more than they have done in this respect.

One of the many regrets that I have about the way in which events have gathered pace in the past few week is the fact that we have not created a sense of partnership with the football industry--the football clubs and the football supporters--so that there is agreement on what we are trying to do. This must be a whole-hearted, multi-pronged attack on the problem. We shall not overcome it by repressive legislation alone; indeed, there is no doubt about that. Other action is also required. Such action can only be taken by football clubs and by supporters' associations. In the main, the people about whom we are talking are well known. They are not people who are coming out of the woodwork.

The problem in the past, which this legislation seeks to address, has been that although such people were known, the existing legislation did not enable the authorities to act and do anything about them. That is a problem. Let us imagine that we had done nothing or that, as a result of our deliberations in this Chamber, nothing were done and the legislation remained unchanged. People would then be able to follow their football clubs to Paris or Europe and do exactly the same things again. The police authorities would say, "We cannot do anything. We knew that these people would be troublemakers, but they have not been convicted of any offence". In my view, we would look extremely weak in the eyes of the public.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page