Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, my noble friend raises another issue. Perhaps the Minister will explain what would happen if an individual decided to travel abroad directly from Scotland without coming to England to surrender his passport. Legislation ought properly to address such detail. As a result of devolution, there will be real problems as regards this and other issues.

If it were not for devolution, no doubt we should be addressing the matter on a UK-wide basis. But because of devolution, and because the Scottish Parliament rightly sees no need to impose these

26 Jul 2000 : Column 469

restrictions on the Scots, the Government may have a problem dealing with such issues. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.

6 p.m.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, perhaps in reply the Minister will deal with the question of the Irish. I know nothing whatever about football and the point had not occurred to me until I heard the speech of my noble friend Lord Lucas, but I understand that around Merseyside certain teams attract a heavy measure of Irish support. I have little doubt that a number of those Irish supporters will have Irish as well as British nationality.

I do not know whether any of them have two passports or the Government's intention in this respect. I am unsure of these matters while the Minister is sure-footed on them. Perhaps he can explain the implications of taking from a foreign citizen the passport which has been issued to him by a foreign government.

The point emphasises the untidiness of the legislation and how much easier it would have been had we had a little more time to consider these matters.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend's point about the amount of time we have been given to consider these matters. During our debates on the Bill, from Second Reading onwards, we have repeatedly come across the Scottish angle in the case of an Englishman travelling to a match overseas via Scotland. That would seem to be good for Scottish airports and so forth.

The amendment takes the matter a stage further because it extends to those resident in Scotland. I was surprised to realise that when I saw the amendment this morning but the Minister confirmed it a few moments ago. I am now in no doubt about it. It will be difficult for someone resident in Scotland to contemplate travelling at the time of a football match, never mind whether he is attending, if he believes that he might fall foul of this legislation. He certainly will not want to use Newcastle airport.

With respect to my noble friend, such an individual would be relatively unlikely to use Dover but he would be likely to use Newcastle or Teesside airport. He may there be served with a notice by the police, told he has to turn up at the magistrates' court in Newcastle the next day and be unable to return home. Assuming he is not detained by the police, he will then have to spend the night in Newcastle in an hotel. He will then have to turn up 40 times a year; 20 times a year to hand in his passport and 20 times a year to collect it!

He will be allowed compensation only if the magistrates refuse the order. His hotel bill will then be paid--assuming that he has not spent more than £5,000 on the hotel--as will his flight and so forth. However, he will be put to extreme difficulty. The result will be that he will stay in Scotland. I know of no extradition treaty nor way in which he can be made to turn up in the town of the airport he was using in order to hand in his passport, or whatever.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 470

In effect, we are setting up internal exile in Scotland. That means that not only will an Englishman be refused permission to go to Scotland if he falls foul of the legislation--at least for a period because he will be confined to England and Wales by the police notice--but now a Scotsman will not be able to come to England if he is not careful. In that sense, the measure is extremely divisive and we need a good explanation of why the amendment has been moved at the last minute to extend all the powers to Scotsmen.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, put his finger on the Irish issue. It is difficult to understand in this extremely badly drafted, badly thought-through Bill what happens to Irish citizens who also have British passports. If such a person shows his Irish passport, presumably the police can take no action. However, if he shows his British passport, it can be seized under the circumstances we have discussed.

As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, given the large number of Irish citizens who come to this country to watch Liverpool and Manchester United, it is important that the Minister clarifies the matter tonight.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I appreciate that not all Members of your Lordships' House like or appreciate the Bill or believe that it is the right legislation. I also appreciate that there may well be one or two interesting anomalies. However, by and large, it must be understood that the legislation is primarily aimed at dealing with a problem with English supporters, and English club supporters, travelling abroad. That has also been the primary purpose of other legislation introduced with this and previous governments in trying to wrestle with the difficulties associated with football hooligans.

I shall deal with the points that have been raised, in particular about Scotland. A banning order can be made after conviction in England and Wales regardless of nationality or permanent residence. A banning order could be made in relation to a Scot against whom the powers in new Section 21B are exercised. One effect of a banning order is to report to a police station in England and Wales. It is unlikely that an order would be made in relation to a Scot who lived in Scotland because the test in new Section 14(4)(b) is unlikely to be met in his case.

However, there is no reason why an order should not be made in relation to any of the many Scots who are resident in England and Wales, unlikely though in practice that may be. It is extremely unlikely that many Scots will travel with a hooligan intent in support of an English team, or perhaps an English club team--but perhaps the latter is more likely than the former.

In our view, the banning order is not likely to be made in relation to a Scot who is resident in Scotland. It is unlikely that the test of new Section 14(4) will be met. We believe that an order in this case is unlikely to help prevent violence at football matches.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 471

The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, raised one or two questions. There is no power under the Bill to take the passports of foreign nationals. The measure applies only to British passports. I believe that commonly we understand that. A person with dual nationality can be required to surrender only his British passport but he can be issued with a notice, prevented from travelling and summoned to appear in court. I believe that that answers the various questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, too. These amendments were moved in order to make the Bill more workable and more flexible. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 10, line 11, at end insert ("and subsection (1) of that section is to have effect as if the references to the chief officer of police for the area in which the person resides or appears to reside were references to that constable").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.11 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, this Bill puts four distinct powers on to the statute book. I shall list them in order of increasing controversy. The first is the combining of domestic and international banning orders. The second is the withdrawal of passports from those with banning orders. The third is the magistrates' power to issue banning orders on application by the police, even where there is no conviction for football offences or, for that matter, any conviction. The fourth is the power given to the police to detain a person for six hours for inquiries and to restrict his movements to England and Wales for up to 24 hours until he attends the magistrates' court in order to ascertain whether a banning order should be made or, in some cases, to detain him in those circumstances.

Broadly speaking, the first three are not matters of great controversy, but the fourth is. The longer the issue has been debated, the more doubts I must admit to having about it. My doubts relate, first, to how the power will work in practice. I refer to its practical effects, some of which we discussed a few moments ago. Secondly, I have doubts about how the power will work legally and whether it will stand up. I do not believe that we have heard arguments to demonstrate that it clears the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU treaties or the various other matters that have been raised. There is certainly doubt about its legality in that respect. Great doubts have also been expressed about its liberty aspects: it is a new "sus" law of a very specific kind.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 472

Originally, the Secretary of State justified the Bill as being a response to a wholly new phenomenon or, at least, a new angle to an old phenomenon; that is, that a large number of the individuals who caused trouble in Belgium were not known to the police in any form and had not committed an offence. We now know that the Belgian police returned to this country a good number of people--no one knows precisely how many, but a substantial proportion--by what can only be described as a "mistake". Those people had done nothing and did not deserve to be returned. Therefore, in that sense and in part, we are at risk of passing this legislation because of the errors of the Belgian police.

However, throughout the arguments we have all acknowledged that there is a national problem. We all hate to see television pictures of our compatriots rioting in the streets of foreign towns when football matches take place and we all want the Government to do something about it. The first two, or even three, of the powers under the Bill have been urged on the Government for some time. We ourselves have urged them on the Government and so have others. That is why I have done my best to live up to what I said at Second Reading; that is, not to stand in the way of the Bill and to allow the Government to have the powers for which they ask in order to attempt to deal with the problem.

As your Lordships decided yesterday, those powers will last for two years. In the meantime, we can consider whether to make them permanent and whether the controversial elements of the powers--the only parts to which the sunset clause applies--should be either refined and put back on the statute book or not proceeded with. That will depend on the legality, the practicality and the liberty aspects of them as they emerge in practice.

There is a great national problem. I believe that it is right that certainly three of the powers should be put on the statute book. I am prepared for the Government to operate the fourth power for two years and then for the matter to be considered further and a decision made on how we should proceed from there. It is possible that additional measures will need to be put in place. In the course of our debates, some have been suggested, such as extra-territoriality. In addition, we all know that there are non-statutory things to be done. The Minister has spoken about them at intervals during the debates and we are entirely supportive of his efforts in that respect.

It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us that the Government intend to accept the two-year period and will not attempt to reverse that amendment in another place. To my mind, it is an important element in deciding to put this legislation on the statute book. The unsatisfactory element--the fourth power to which I referred--is the one to which primarily the sunset clause refers. I believe that if we are to include these unsatisfactory powers, the least time that they are in force the better. I hope that the noble Lord can reassure me. However, in general, and certainly so far as concerns the first three powers, I support the Motion that the Bill do now pass.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 473

6.15 p.m.

Lord McNally: My Lords, it is 34 years since I first met Jack Straw at the Exeter conference of the National Union of Students. For a time earlier this afternoon I believe that we should both have recognised the atmosphere of a National Union of Students conference where regular debates were postponed while points of order to points of order to points of order were put by various barrack-room lawyers, some of them now in the Government.

I do not believe that in my experience in either House I have ever been part of such a lawyerfest as we have had over the past few days. If this were a lawyerfest, my prediction is that there will be further feasting from this Bill for my learned friends once the various appeal procedures get under way.

I do not attach any blame to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for what happened earlier. I believe that he had been dealing with points for approximately 15 out of 24 hours. The truth is that the fault lies with those who conceived the legislation in haste because they believed it to be populist. It was brought forward in response to No. 10's call for imaginative initiatives and a late-night phone call from Mr Tony Banks requesting quick action before the World Cup vote. When one considers what has taken place, it is quite understandable that the Government got into such a mess.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, pointed out that he had kept the promise he made at Second Reading, I should say that my promise at Second Reading was that I could guarantee the Government no smooth passage for the Bill. I claim that that pledge, too, has been redeemed over the past three days.

I was trying to think of the right words to sum up our position. I found them in tonight's Evening Standard in the column of Mr Mick Dennis. I shall not quote the whole column, although I ask the Minister to read it, because it is a good, sound article. One paragraph bears quoting. It says:

    "The only satisfactory way of identifying a hooligan is to arrest him, charge him and present evidence to a court of law. That way, he or his solicitor can challenge that evidence and call witnesses for the defence. It is the system we use for every other crime in this country".

That remains the position of the Liberal Democrats. We do not think that the Government have proceeded sensibly and we remain very concerned about the civil liberties aspects of the Bill. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I take great comfort from the sunset clause that has been adopted. Like him, I hope that the Minister will assure us that no attempt will be made to reverse it in another place. That would not bring credit to the Government or make the Bill any better.

The Bill needs to be put in perspective. It may help to deal with the problem of soccer hooliganism, but I do not think that it is the cure-all. I know that the Minister agrees that we have to ensure that the players, the media and the clubs play their part. All those parties need to think carefully before they kill the goose that is laying their golden eggs. Sponsors and

26 Jul 2000 : Column 474

advertisers will not continue to pay large sums for ever if, in the public mind, soccer is identified with the worst elements of behaviour in our society.

One of the most important things to come out of the Government's initiative is not the Bill or its fourth power, but the Minister's committee. I hope that he grabs that opportunity with both hands. Far too many people in the Government like to be associated with soccer for its ersatz glamour. They imagine themselves as football directors in camelhair coats, puffing on their cigars. However, I know that the Minister is a genuine soccer fan. I hope that his committee looks at issues such as the influence of drink on hooliganism, good policing practices as well as failures, the effectiveness of measures such as club life bans, as applied by Leeds, the importance of a vigorous prosecution policy--a real truth and consequences for hooliganism--and the theme of extraterritoriality.

There is also an urgent need for the appointment of a soccer regulator. I am not being frivolous when I say that our debates have shown that the Government have a candidate in the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds. I would have much more confidence if I thought that he was going to regulate soccer than I have in some of the names that have been bandied about.

We have gone through a rather fevered period for the Home Office. The Home Office works best when it is occupied by cool heads who keep matters in perspective, not by people seeking eye-catching initiatives. The Home Office should not be a ministry of internal security; it should be our first line of defence for civil liberties. We have had enough Home Office Bills that chip away at our civil liberties. We expect Home Office Ministers to be as conscious and wary as everybody else of short-term expediency that could have long-term consequences for civil liberties.

The sunset clause means that the Bill is experimental. Let the Government have their experiment and we shall return to these matters another day.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page