|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Bach: I am sorry. I hope the noble Lord will sit down for a moment before he asks his question. I should remind the House, not because the noble Lord has just got to his feet but because there have been a series of questions to the Minister while he has been giving his reply, that we are on Report now, not in Committee. If I may read briefly from the Companion so that all noble Lords are equally aware of the position:
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, the last time I sought to ask a question on Report the noble Lord made the same point. I may be a slow learner, but I receive the message. Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. Given that the problems with Scottish fans misbehaving over the period he was referring to overseas were solved without legislation, why is it necessary to have legislation in order to deal with the problems afflicting English fans? Does he not think that the remedy might not lie elsewhere, as proved to be the case in Scotland?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord has raised a very good point. I do not dispute it. It is for that reason that we are setting up a football working group to look at the other range of issues that surround the issue. The noble Lord is a football supporter. The government of which he was a Minister introduced six measures to attempt, through legislation, to curb and deal with football hooliganism. Clearly, in the past he has supported legislation designed to tackle some of the problems we have identified which we are bringing forward to your Lordships' House today.
There is a myth that has survived that it is a problem with just a small minority. I do not believe that that is the case. The truth is that the Football Spectators Act 1989, the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act 1999 and other widely accepted measures in the Bill will provide the legislative framework necessary to tackle the known football thugs. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and others referred yesterday to the hooligans
The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, was one of a number of noble Lords who also drew attention to the absence--he did so this afternoon--of known football hooligans among the many hundreds arrested, detained and deported. He was right to draw attention to that point. The dedicated hooligan was effectively removed from the scene during Euro 2000. But, and it is at the heart of the debate, English football disorder was present with a vengeance. The evidence before us is stark. Removing or banning known football troublemakers will not tackle the problem unless--the noble Lord's point--supplemented by other measures.
The Government could not ignore the Euro 2000 experience. We had an obligation to analyse the data before us and determine the best means upon which to act. Noble Lords face a similar test today. The measures contained in new Sections 14B, 21A and 21B are the Government's response. They are not knee-jerk; they are calculated; they are measured; and they are a response to the problem of English football disorder based on the evidence. They are radical but necessary.
The information gleaned by the police from the Dutch and Belgian authorities confirms that a significant number of those arrested in Belgium and the Netherlands were known to the police, though not necessarily in a football context.
Many have criminal convictions in their own localities for violence and disorder. They come from that pool of disaffected white males who have increasingly opted to act in an anti-social and violent way in town centres. Many appear to have racist views and a distorted view of patriotism and Englishness. In their case, rioting in Charleroi and Brussels is a football manifestation of a wider social malaise. Alcohol can and does play a crucial part.
Of course, and as we have accepted, legislation alone cannot deal with the problem, but it has a key role to play. New Section 14B will enable the police to seek a banning order by complaint on those who have previously caused or contributed to violence and disorder as soon as evidence linking the individual with football becomes available. However, the reality is that the police will not always be able to make such a link in sufficient time to pursue new Section 14B proceedings before a match or tournament commences. England followers are notorious for making last minute decisions about travelling to watch the England team. Louts are no different. In many cases, local police will have no knowledge that a known hooligan with a propensity for violence, racism
We have to build in a long-stop measure designed to meet those circumstances. And that in essence is what new Sections 21A and 21B attempt to do--successfully in my view and in the view of the police. It is a vital component of the Bill. There are no other apparent means for empowering police to protect our national interest in this field and to ensure that innocent citizens abroad are not subject to abuse and violence.
The Government also recognise the need to put in place safeguards. We have already demonstrated our willingness to do so. We have listened and responded to the concerns aired in this House and in the other place. The safeguards may hamper police operations but they recognise, and we know, that the measures we propose must enshrine in law an appropriate balance between individual civil liberties and our national and international interests and responsibilities.
A number of noble Lords queried how new Sections 21A and 21B would operate. Of course, once enacted, it would largely be an operational policing matter. But I recognise that effective scrutiny of the Bill demands some understanding of how the measure would be pursued. I, and others, have already made clear that the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Superintendents Association, all strongly support the inclusion of new Sections 21A and 21B, a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. They would not, and have not, provided that endorsement without carefully thinking through how the measure would work and what it would deliver.
Your Lordships may wish to know that in anticipation of new Sections 14B and 21, the police are already examining what mechanisms they will need to put in place to ensure that new Section 21, in particular, will be effective. The focus will not be on targeting known football hooligans but on developing systems which gather information on individuals against whom there are unspent convictions for, or other substantive evidence of, violence or disorder once a link with football has been established. It will not feature football fans against whom there is no such evidence nor violent or disorderly persons with no connection with football. Local police forces will play a key role, particularly in the build-up to a big match or tournament overseas. They will need to gather information on local thugs and racists once it becomes known that these characters intend travelling overseas to a match. And, I repeat, that could be a matter of hours before the individuals arrive at their point of destination. That is why new Section 21 is so important.
Of course, the information gathered and used for new Section 21 purposes will still have to undergo a thorough examination in the courts. I should stress again that new Sections 14B and 21 provide the police and the courts with an effective means for preventing individuals who are known to be violent and disorderly, but who do not usually demonstrate their
I appreciate that this has been a long contribution on my part. I am sure that every one of your Lordships wishes that restricting the scope of the Bill in the way proposed would still leave us with a Bill that would empower the police and the courts to prevent a reoccurrence of the appalling scenes witnessed in Brussels, Charleroi, Copenhagen and many more places over the past few years. Alas, I do not believe that to be the case. The measures contained in new Section 21 are necessary because the alternative would be to ignore the Euro 2000 experience and the express wish of the police to have the means at their disposal to minimise the risk of those thugs being able to bring further shame on our nation and national game. I urge the House to oppose Amendments Nos. 3, 8, 9 and 35.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, was not able to be more supportive. He took the view that new Sections 21A and 21B were unlikely to be used to any significant extent. I am unable to agree with him. The Minister has made it fairly clear that the Government intend that the power should be used quite extensively. It is likely that for a period of at least several months there will be many arrests and detentions under new Sections 21A and 21B and that that will continue until it becomes apparent, as I suspect it will become apparent, that far too high a proportion of those who are arrested have the applications for banning orders against them thrown out by the magistrates' court.
The Minister's speech confirmed very much what I suspected the aims of the police would be and why the Government want to have new Sections 21A and 21B in their armoury. It is clearly intended that those who are suspected of having hooligan tendencies--there may be a great deal of evidence to show that they are hooligans--will not be made the subject of immediate banning orders under new Section 14B but will be kept under watch and proceeded against under new Sections 21A and 21B only at the point at which they show that they have decided and have taken steps to go to a match. All the troubles will result from that.
The provision--it is said to be a civil remedy but is plainly in reality a criminal remedy--will not satisfy the tests of human rights. The opinion by Clare Montgomery and Rhodri Thompson, which was referred to extensively in the Committee stage, stated:
In referring to hooliganism in the 1970s, the Minister said that there were no easy solutions then and that there are no easy solutions today. My problem is that I believe that the Government look on the Bill, and in particular the provisions in new Sections 21A and 21B, as being an easy solution. However, I believe that if they attempt to enforce those sections, they will find that this is far from being an easy solution.
The Minister has not moved in any way to satisfy the concerns expressed by myself and my noble friends and, indeed, others who hold similar views on these provisions. I therefore seek leave to test the opinion of the House.