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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I had not realised that this amendment would excite such great interest from the Liberal Democrat Benches at this hour. However, clearly this is a matter of which they speak in the valleys of Wales as they speak of nothing else, and we are all most grateful for that, are we not?
My speaking note says "Resist" and I am afraid that that is what I shall have to do, but I shall resist with a little good conscience. I believe that one noble Lord began to undermine his case by saying that there was no problem with hooliganism in Wales. I suppose that logically he could extend that point and say that, for that reason, perhaps we do not need to consult the Welsh on these matters. However, that would be unfair.
I fully recognise that the Welsh Assembly may have views on these matters, and I can assure your Lordships that any representations made to us by the Assembly will of course be listened to with the greatest respect. However, I do not believe that we need to have on the face of the Bill an amendment of this kind. Therefore, I am not minded to accept it. But we shall of course consult carefully with our colleagues in Wales so that potential problems can be dealt with.
I do not believe that it is quite the case that hooliganism is not present within Wales. There are, of course, the celebrated annual punch-ups between Cardiff City and Millwall. Unfortunately they are a regular feature in the hooligan fixture list. Obviously, we need to be diligent wherever the legislation is in force.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he accept my thanks for the courtesy with which he has responded to our debates today and yesterday? We have not always agreed with him, but we have always appreciated his courtesy and that of his noble friend and the way in which they have attempted to answer our points.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, in replying to the debate, first, I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that his point about hooliganism after a match between Cardiff and Swansea is absurd in the context of the Bill, which has no more application to a Cardiff-Swansea football match than to a Worcester-Hereford hymn singing competition. He ought to have produced something more worthy if he wanted to present a serious argument.
Secondly, as my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford said, the Government are viewed in Wales as increasingly bossy, increasingly untrusting of the public and increasingly authoritarian. Above all, they are viewed as increasingly London-centred. The Bill will be seen as a symbol of that bossiness. It is a matter for the Government whether they care about the sensibilities of the people of Wales.
Thirdly, the Minister asserted that the Government will listen very carefully and sympathetically to all points made by the National Assembly for Wales. The problem is that unless the issue is devolved by Act of Parliament to the National Assembly for Wales, it will not be a devolution issue. When a Back-Bencher in the National Assembly seeks to debate it on the Floor of the Assembly, they will be told that they are out of order, because this is not a devolution issue. That happens day after day in the National Assembly. I fear that the only representation that the Government will receive from the National Assembly for Wales will be anecdotal rather than from the Assembly's proceedings.
I am very disappointed in the Government's reply. I shall seek leave to withdraw the amendment, because it seems undesirable to vote on it at this late hour. I close by warning Ministers that, rather than dreaming tonight of the land of Heaven and the welcome that will await them, they are more likely to suffer nightmares of dragons breathing fire in their ears as a result of their attitude to the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Returned from the Commons with certain amendments disagreed to with reasons for such disagreement, with an amendment disagreed to but with amendments proposed in lieu thereof, and with the remaining amendments agreed to; the Commons amendments and reasons ordered to be printed.
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