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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I should hate to miss the noble Lord's attention because much hangs on this amendment. Effectively we are talking about the severe, pragmatic, likely consequences of proposed new Section 21A. It is common ground that the Government made strenuous efforts to prevent trouble at Euro 2000; it is common ground that NCIS spent an immense amount of time and effort trying to draw up a list of those who would cause trouble in a competition such as Euro 2000. The Home Secretary has let us know that of the 965 people arrested and deported from Brussels and Holland, only 30 were on that list of 1,000 most-wanted hooligans, if I can call them that. We also know that there were only four prosecutions of the 965, and only two of those for violence, of which one is currently being appealed.
Many noble Lords were not here at whatever hour we debated the matter this morning or last night, so I have to repeat my question to the Government--I have not yet had a reply--on the issue of how the people in the sights of the law enforcement agencies will be targeted? If they are the 1,000 most-wanted hooligans on the NCIS list, we know from the recent evidence in Belgium that they either escape the net somehow, or do not go there, or whatever else. Could it therefore be that the next most likely group to be targeted under the provisions of proposed new Section
How on earth can one target a group that is hundreds of thousands strong? That is what it boils down to. If 30 per cent of the population of that age group have convictions of this kind, it represents hundreds of thousands of people. How will the law enforcement authorities target them? We debated this sharp, practical point enough last night to leave many of us believing that the poor police will have a simply impossible task in seeking to utilise proposed new Section 21A. If it proves an impossible task and, as my noble friend Lord Goodhart said, if the exercising of it is likely to be so arbitrary against a particular group that it causes more trouble than it solves, then, besides being obnoxious in legal and civil libertarian terms, proposed new Section 21A is likely to prove ineffective in fact. On that basis--quite apart from the broader legal basis--the House would be well advised to remove this whole provision from the Bill.
Earl Russell: My Lords, we spent a lot of time last night trying to get an answer to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Phillips. It is a vital question in relation to any decision on the state of the Bill as a whole. Clearly, if prevention is to be attempted--which the Minister recommended at great length and with some virtue last night--one must be able to identify the group which is to be prevented. On the one hand, we are shown an NCIS list which is too narrow; on the other hand, a range of people with previous convictions which is too wide. Clearly neither of those will actually be used. Unless we can show some criterion for identifying these people which has some genuine correlation with their propensity to commit disorder, we shall have no way of telling whether the Bill is more likely to impact on the guilty or on the innocent. Unless the Minister can answer that question, the Bill as a whole should fall.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it may be useful if I clear up one of the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his interesting exchange earlier. I know that the noble Lord is concerned about civil actions; he has a long history of asking Written Questions on the subject in another place. I had some involvement in the subject earlier in my career when I was doing research as a law centre worker; I understand fully his point about the importance of a citizen being able to undertake and conduct a civil case in circumstances where they feel they have been wronged.
However, the noble Lord should understand that the provision in the Bill at proposed new Section 21D is designed to give immediate compensation without the need to make a separate application to the county court. Setting that provision into the legislation does nothing to compromise the individual citizen's absolute right--
I see the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, shaking his head in apparent disbelief. Having been in a rougher end of the trade than he for 30 odd years, I can tell him that these are the kind of issues that arise day by day in county courts up and down the country. Perhaps the Minister will address the question and give the House an answer in addition to the very helpful answer he has given already.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I always feel modest in the face of such legal knowledge and expertise. I cannot provide the noble Lord with an off-the-cuff response; I think he appreciates that. The point I am trying to make is that there is nothing in the legislation which compromises the individual citizen's right or ability to undertake a civil action where they feel they have been wronged.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I understand the Minister raising his eyes to the heavens; I promise not to interrupt again on this matter. But does not this illustrate the danger of bringing forth legislation in haste without considering what are not abstruse questions at all? I said to the Minister--and I mean it--that this is the kind of question that arises every day of the week in county courts up and down the land. Should not the Government bring forward legislation in which, at least in a Pepper v. Hart sense, they can resolve ambiguities which will come before the court--or should they not think about this provision again?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the compensation element within the legislation was brought forward in an effort to be helpful and also to indicate that we fully appreciated the seriousness, and measured the seriousness, which the proposals in the legislation might have for an individual citizen. They were, if you like, a balancing part of the package of provisions. I find it rather strange now that the noble Lord is almost advancing an argument which says, "Well, because you put this compensation clause in, it somehow compromises the individual citizen's right to take civil action in the county court". That is not our intention. Nor is it the intention of the legislation. No doubt people will continue, as they have done for many decades, to pursue civil action where they feel they have been wronged by a public authority--in this instance by the police service.
I turn now to the other issues which are very much at the heart of the debate. While I shall do that at length, I think that what I say will cover most of the issues raised during the debate. It has been a very useful debate. Most noble Lords' concerns in the debate this afternoon and earlier in the day have been
Earl Russell: My Lords, I hope the Minister can assist me. I heard the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. The question that we should like to have answered is what sort of grounds might it be thought reasonable to proceed upon? What type of evidence in a policeman's possession would warrant taking proceedings under the new section?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I said I would try to answer the questions. That is one of the issues to which I shall return. But, with respect, having listened to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, said, I think that he clearly understands the importance of the civil liberties issues. He has addressed also the implementation matters. It is right to concentrate first on what the debate in Committee only touched upon, perhaps almost in passing. That is the experience that has convinced the Government and the police that the measures proposed in Section 21 are a vital component of the Bill. Indeed, I argue that they are crucial if we are to seriously tackle the kind of mindless 'yobbery' and nonsense witnessed in Charleroi, Brussels, Copenhagen and elsewhere during the course of the last football season.
Some noble Lords--I hope many noble Lords--may have seen over the weekend a timely television documentary on football in the 1970s. It was a real trip down memory lane. It featured footage of the then Home Secretary, police and football authorities in a high profile meeting convened to discuss the scourge of football hooliganism. It was a timely reminder of the longevity of the phenomenon and the need for radical measures. These measures, like the extensive use of CCTV, were radical for the day. They attracted opposition and concern. But the nettle was grasped. It can be fairly argued that the domestic manifestation of football disorder was confronted head on and has been dealt with in good measure. Today, we can rightly be proud--as I have said in the past--of our domestic stadia. They are among the safest and most secure in the world. There were no easy solutions then; there are no easy solutions today.
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