Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Astor: New Section 14E raises a general point on the period which banning orders last. My noble friend Lord Lucas said that these can last a considerable time. I do not see why they can be quite as long as he suggested, but he may be right. Therefore, I should be interested in the Government's response. Can a banning order last for five years? How long will it last? There is also the severe requirement in new Section 14E(2). It states:

The Earl of Onslow: I thank my noble friend for giving way. Under new Section 14E(3) the maximum is 10 years and the minimum is six years.

Viscount Astor: I should like to hear from the Government how they think the provision will be used.

New Section 14E(2) provides that someone must report initially. In new Section 14E(3), the word "must" is used again with regard to the passport. But some people have more than one passport. I have two British passports. In order to be correct, should not the provision state "passport or passports"; otherwise someone could hand over one and go off on the other? I do not suppose that one could do so, because one would be subject to both the provisions. However, the Government must clarify the position.

Perhaps I may return to the general point of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. If the banning orders are to be as long as has been suggested by both my noble friends, those who wish to go about their lawful business, which may mean going abroad on business or on holiday, will have to come back. That will be an imposition on them and, indeed, an imposition on the court. We are not trying to stop people travelling abroad. The purpose of the Bill is to stop prospective hooligans or people who are thought to be hooligans travelling abroad to go to football matches. That is the important point. Therefore, it is not a general power to prevent people travelling. The Government should look carefully at new Section 14E and come up with a justification for why these powers are needed.

3.45 a.m.

Lord Bach: I thought that the Conservative Opposition supported us on the taking away of passports, but obviously I was wrong about that.

Viscount Astor: I find it extraordinary that the noble Lord does not seem to listen to the arguments put forward from this side of the Committee. All we are

24 Jul 2000 : Column 249

asking the Government to do is to justify the powers sought in the Bill. We have said that we support the principles of the Bill. But we are now talking about the length of time of banning orders. The noble Lord really must listen with greater care and respond to the arguments being put forward. We want to know how these powers will work and why they are necessary. We do not necessarily support taking passports away from people for ever. We want the point to be made clear. We want the passports taken away if they relate to football matches.

Lord Bach: All I was asking is whether the noble Viscount and his party support the principle of taking away passports in order to stop people going to football matches. Perhaps he will come back at a later stage and answer that point.

Viscount Astor: Perhaps I may--

Lord Bach: Not now.

Viscount Astor: The noble Lord asked me a question. I should like to answer it.

Lord Bach: I am not giving way.

Noble Lords: Order!

Viscount Astor: The noble Lord asked me a question. I shall answer it. The answer is "Yes". The noble Lord is behaving in a most extraordinary fashion.

Lord Bach: The answer is "Yes". They do support us. One could be forgiven for being wrong about that.

The Earl of Onslow: I do not!

Lord Bach: I know that the noble Earl does not support us. We know where he stands on this issue.

Amendment No. 49, on which Amendment No. 53A is consequential, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, would remove the passport surrender condition from all banning orders. That condition is a key element of such banning orders and is one that has been widely welcomed. New Section 14E(3) makes provision for the court to exempt an individual from this condition in exceptional circumstances, as the European Convention on Human Rights in our view requires. Moreover, a person can appeal against such a condition and the enforcing authority can waive compliance with the condition in certain circumstances.

Section 19(2A) makes it clear that the enforcing authority under the Act, namely the football banning orders authority, can impose conditions only in relation to a particular person and a particular match if they are satisfied that it will reduce the likelihood of violence or disorder at that match.

Section 20 of the Football Spectators Act, which is unamended by this Bill, already provides for the individual to apply for exemptions from any

24 Jul 2000 : Column 250

requirement and for a right of appeal to the magistrates' court against a refusal. We believe the condition to be proportionate and its impact limited to relevant control periods. Without such conditions it would be much easier for people with banning orders to evade the controls that we are establishing.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, asked why it was necessary to seize a passport. One of the answers to that is that it will make it far more difficult for those who are minded to go abroad and cause trouble at football matches to do so. If their passport is taken from them, along with the other remedies such as the need to report, we believe that it will be less likely rather than more likely that such people will venture abroad.

For that reason, we believe that Amendment No. 49 moves right to the heart of what we are trying to establish. We know that the Conservative Opposition support us as far as this is concerned. I had that confirmation from the noble Viscount opposite just now. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, will also find that he is able to support us on this.

Viscount Astor: Before the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, replies, I should point out that the noble Lord opposite is always swift to put views into my mouth without listening carefully to the views that have been put forward in this debate. As a result, he has not answered those points. I wonder if the noble Lord is not trying to encourage these Benches to call a Division at this time of night. This kind of behaviour is extraordinary.

I asked a simple question: what will happen if someone holds more than one passport? However, I also asked a more important question of principle. We believe that people's passports should be taken away from them in order to prevent them attending a football match. However, the question that the noble Lord has not yet answered is: if someone's passport is taken away for a long period of time, what are they to do if other, perfectly reasonable and law-abiding reasons related to work and so forth mean that they need to use their passports? How will that work? How will people retrieve their passports? The noble Lord has not answered any of those questions.

Lord Bach: They may either argue that they have an exceptional case or they may appeal against the decision. I thought that I had already made those points clear.

Viscount Astor: The ban may last for a considerable period of time.

Earl Russell: Before we leave the matter, the Minister should bear in mind that almost all of us remaining in the Chamber feel a good deal less sympathetic to the Bill than we felt seven hours ago. After all, there is no point in holding a Committee stage if one does not probe the provisions of the Bill. Every now and then, one may change one's mind.

24 Jul 2000 : Column 251

Before the Minister accuses me, too, of inconsistency, he may recall that I said on Second Reading that I was, with some reluctance, prepared to accept the provision on passports. Since then I have had the privilege of listening to my noble friend Lord Goodhart, whose case I have found to be entirely and totally persuasive. The Government's refusal to engage with the argument for exceptions, which is, I think, unanswerable, has served only to make the arguments of my noble friend even more persuasive than they were before. I now recant what I said on Second Reading.

Lord Goodhart: I am grateful for the support that has been demonstrated for the amendment. I am afraid that I do not regard the response we have received from the Minister as being satisfactory.

If we were satisfied that the rules to prevent problems arising from the surrender of passports were properly effective, then we might take a different view on the issue itself. However, in our view, those rules are plainly inadequate.

Under proposed new Section 14E, the court may refrain from making an order for passport surrender as part of a banning order in "exceptional circumstances". The provision is inadequate for two reasons. First, it applies only to the circumstances as they are at the date when the order is made; secondly, it requires the circumstances to be exceptional. It must be said that, in the present day, the fact that someone is living and working abroad is by no means exceptional. Equally, an appeal can only be an appeal from the original order, and that again depends on the circumstances as at the date of the making of the order.

The real problem arises if someone, for example, gets a job offer to work abroad. The banning order will have a serious effect. The person can apply for an exemption under Section 20 of the Act, which the Minister said was unamended--it is amended, although in drafting terms rather than in substantive terms. But as I understand it, an exemption under Section 20 is an exemption from a particular notice and does not amount to either a permanent or temporary discharge of the banning order, or at any rate the requirement in the banning order for the surrender of the passport which would plainly be necessary where the circumstances had changed to that extent.

It seems to me that there is a problem that the Government have not dealt with. Before they could get our consent to surrender of the passport--which is not in any way a vital matter; it is almost entirely symbolic--the Government would have to put in position rights to apply for the discharge or modification of an order which had general application, and not merely something that was to be renewed whenever a notice was given.

Although I shall ask the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment now, it is a matter to which we shall almost certainly want to return on Report later today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

24 Jul 2000 : Column 252

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 50 not moved.]

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page